Sad to say, there are readers out there who don't take my annual Fearless Forecasts seriously. Well, just to prove the incredible prescience of this annual list, you should know that my first forecast came true before this went to print.

The Presidential election of 2000 will be over no later than November 7, 2004.

I had every confidence in this one and stand by it. Recent events virtually guarantee misery for one man, the President Elect, for the next four years. What it means for the rest of us is less clear. But I'll be daring and guess that we will discover is that gridlock in Washington isn't nearly as painful as gridlock in city traffic.

The greatest hope for the economy is more shopping

It has always been this way, but we may have a nice up tick in retail now that everyone isn't talking about Florida and chads instead of shopping and buying automobiles on 30-year loans. Our new economic mantra will be "Less Talking, More Shopping." Millions of foreign observers--- the sort who snickered at our election snafu--- will repeat the mantra as the United States is internationally recognized, once again, for its irreplaceable power to consume. We will continue to sell other nations guns to deal with their election snafus, but weapon sales won't offset our purchases of electronic pets and other essentials.

The easiest way to make a small fortune will continue to be the old fashioned way--- Start with a large one.

Millions of investors, in possession of freshly minted large fortunes only 12 months ago, proved to be quick studies this year, creating small fortunes at speeds once thought impossible. Faster, for instance, than you can say Priceline, Dr. Koop, Mortgage.com, Garden.com, PlanetRX.com, E-Stamp, MyPoints.com, or Caredata.com. Even the shareholders in iParty, down 97 percent year to date, have precious little to celebrate.

Keeping your day job will make a big comeback

Day jobs have seemed pedestrian compared to serial mega-fortunes in employee stock options, but the popularity of conventional jobs will soar as they become harder to find or keep.

The Internet will continue to prove that you can't save your way to wealth

No amount of commission savings, even fabulous all electronic e-broker savings, will make up for wipeouts on bad stocks.

Whenever possible, insult will be added to Injury

Merrill Lynch wins the first annual Charles Wilson Award for its brilliant marketing decision, announced December 11th, to raise the annual fee for its "Unlimited Advantage" accounts to 1.5 percent of assets from 1.0 percent of assets. The announcement was made as the S&P 500 index raced toward its first loss in 10 years, about 10 percent, and as the NASDAQ index headed for its worse loss in a quarter century. As a consequence of asset losses, many Merrill clients will find that their bill for 2001 is no higher than their bill for 2000 in spite of the 50 percent increase in the rate. (The award is named for Charles Wilson who intoned, decades ago, "What's good for General Motors, is good for America.")

Your phone number will inflate by 10 percent

Yes, we are heading for 11-digit phone numbers, up from 10 digits. Soon, none of us will be able remember our phone numbers. (I can hardly wait, having had difficulty with mine for years.) You can understand how inevitable this is by considering the number of Americans (276 million) and that 10 digits represents a mere billion possible phone numbers. With nearly every American now in possession of a wireless phone number, a home phone number, and a multitude of other numbers we're well on the way to needing a larger number range.

We will worry about money

This one is a lead pipe cinch. So just remember one thing: the easiest problems any of us face are the ones that can be solved with money.