It's been a long year in the world of money

It's been an amazing year - if you cast your mind back to January, America was facing the fiscal cliff and much of their government was at a standstill as the politicians argued over the debt ceiling.

You would have been a brave person to forecast then that both our stock market and our property markets would produce above average returns in 2013, and that the year would end with the Dow Jones at a record high.

As my good friend Ashley Owen of Philo Capital Markets points out "Stock market volatility has been incredibly low again this year, on any measure - in Australia and around the world. The annualised standard deviation of daily returns on the global stock market index has averaged an amazingly low 9%, and has been below 10% for 74% of the year. This is almost "dead calm".

The remarkable thing is how the scare-mongering financial media continue to come with almost daily headlines bemoaning these "volatile times" in this "low return" world - when stock markets continue to post strong, consistently above-average gains with ultra-low volatility."

The main success story would have to be how Angela Merkel has managed to keep control of Germany and Europe, and how she has continued the careful shift away from hard-line deflationary austerity toward fiscal and banking integration, and allowing more time and money for growth and inflation. What is remarkable is how she has done this in the face of rapid fragmentation into extreme left and right wing political movements across Europe, and through several major setbacks - in particular in Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.

For me, 2013 was the year when I quit most of my residential property and put the proceeds into quality managed funds. That decision is already paying off.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email: