Let's see, what are some words that describe 2020?

Crazed. Confused. Deadly. Stressful. Unbelievable. Demented.

Could any year be any worse?

But at least we're rounding the corner. Or are we?

No one truly knows what 2021 is going to be like, but some across the societal structure have some ideas. We reached out to some local experts to get their predictions. Here, in their own words, they share what they see.



Nicole Watson, Government Relations, Waller Law Firm

Tennessee Williams once said, "The future is called 'perhaps,' which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you."

There may never be a better time than the present to heed Williams' advice, especially in an era when everything from face masks to toilet paper is being politicized. Political forecasting used to be much easier and folks were capable of making sound, founded assumptions. In the time of COVID-19, however, predictions of almost any kind can be both difficult to make while also completely obvious — and yes, that's a big ol' dichotomy.

One political prediction certain to come to fruition in 2021 is "change." It's a dreaded word for some, but a word that elicits excitement for others.

At the federal level, there will, of course, be change. With the COVID-19 pandemic and a vaccine in its first stages, the first quarter of 2021 could bring another round of recovery stimulus legislation and health care reform by Congress. If COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout 2021, we will likely see more direct federal directives from the Biden administration, such as shutdowns and mask mandates. And yes, Congress and many states will push back strongly, a political dynamic that probably won't change any time soon.

At the state level, with this year's elections for the state House and Senate, I suspect there will be notable policy level changes, including an even more conservative budgeting process. There will be proposed health care legislation focused on drug pricing along with a million and one ideas on education during COVID-19, such as maintaining public education funding based on enrollment levels and addressing student testing results.

In spring 2021, Chattanooga will elect a new mayor. The field of those running is crowded, and the candidates have staked out a number of common campaign themes such as infrastructure improvements, safety and affordable housing. Four years ago, fewer than one in five registered voters went to the polls in the election, but I expect that number will be somewhat higher this year with the lingering energy of the Trump-Biden contest and the lure of non-incumbent mayoral candidates.

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Nicole Watson



Josh Cropp, HHM Wealth Advisors

My expectation for 2021 is that financial headlines will continue to be dominated by the impacts of COVID and the hopes of an effective vaccine accompanied by additional stimulus to businesses and individuals.

With many Americans out of work and an economy that seems disconnected from the stock market, the ability to get a vaccine to as many people as possible is key for continued economic recovery. Assuming a vaccine becomes widely available, I would expect to see a rebound in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy such as travel, leisure and energy.

The Federal Reserve has clearly stated its expectation of keeping interest rates low for the next few years. This creates a low expectation of returns for new-issue bonds, as well as market-price sensitivity when rates do return to previous levels. This hurts savers but could potentially be a benefit for stock investors as bond investors continue to reallocate in the hopes of additional return.

I also expect 2021 to be a year filled with conversations regarding tax-law changes. As with any presidential administration change, the Biden administration has many proposals for corporations, retirement plans, individuals and estates that may require changes in one's personal financial plan. While there are still two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia that will have a major impact on the administration's ability to enact changes, the proposals alone have created challenges for investors.

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Josh Cropp



Robert Backer, 2021 president of Greater Chattanooga Realtors

No one can know exactly what 2021 will bring, but since the pandemic came on the scene back in March, we've seen home sales outperform the previous year every week. That means that more homes have sold each week in 2020 than a week in 2019.

While people have been purchasing property more than 2019, the available inventory is definitely lower. In other words, fewer individuals are listing their property for sale, and that leaves less for people to choose from. This inventory also creates a seller's market, which reflects the increased home prices over the past few years.

These increased prices are being offset by record-low mortgage rates, and these rates are expected to remain low, at least for the short term.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, nationally is forecasting a 21% jump in new-home sales and a 9% jump in existing-home sales in 2021.

In 2020, we were taught that no one knows what's around the corner. Real estate was certainly a large factor in keeping the economy moving during the pandemic, and also a big contributor to jobs with so much new construction being built trying to keep up with demand. But for now, I see a very strong housing market that will be advantageous to sellers while inventory remains somewhat lower than usual.

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Robert Backer



Renee Murley, Director of the School of Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Over the past eight months, education at both the K-12 and higher-education levels have shown tremendous flexibility, innovation and commitment to students. Individuals supporting students during a global pandemic have been asked to change and pivot frequently as the numbers of COVID cases rise. While the pandemic has driven many decisions and modifications in today's education, it has allowed for educators to reflect upon changes we should consider moving forward.

The integration of technology as a tool for remote communication has been one of the positive results of COVID, and it will change how we move forward in 2021. Technology has always been important in both K-12 and higher education, but through recent experiences shared among our community, its purpose has been integrated daily for all students and educators.

Video technology allows for remote learning, professional development and communication among peers. Not only have educators gained more experience through its implementation, now students are familiar and comfortable working with one another on projects, presentations and meaningful communication. Students unable to participate in a face-to-face setting may now have the opportunity to continue their education through the use of technology when before they would have missed out on instruction and interaction with their classmates.

While we must recognize the positive changes that will be sustained in 2021, we also must be prepared to support students through mental health challenges as a result, which will be the focus of 2021. Many students feel isolated, alone and anxious because their "normal" learning environments have changed so drastically in such a short period of time.

A student's social, emotional and mental health is critical to their overall well-being. Young people have a need to socialize and build community, and that need has been limited through the implementation of technology-only learning. These limitations cause anxiety and depression, especially among adolescent and young adult students.

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Renee Murley



John Daum and Gena Ellis, First Things First facilitators

There is no shortage of people predicting gloom and doom for marriages and for families, but much of the research related to the impact of the events of 2020 on relationships has been surprisingly positive and counterintuitive: Teens spending less time on social media. Families spending more quality time together and reaping the benefits that come from it.

It's possible families will emerge from this time stronger and more resilient. People are learning the importance of addressing their mental and relational health, which would be some great lessons to take into the next year.

What will you choose to prioritize in the new year?

You can't make up all the things we missed in 2020. You only can move forward with purpose and promise.

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First Things First Facilitators



Joan Coltrane, Beauty of Ra Spiritual owner/psychic

There was a major conjunction of planets on the 21st of December. Saturn and Jupiter are moving into Aquarius, which signals the beginning of an auspicious new 200-year cycle. The last time this cycle occurred was in 1802 when Jupiter and Saturn moved into Earth signs, which paralleled the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Jupiter and Saturn are now moving into Air signs, heralding a cycle of technology by way of the internet and the Cloud.

This particular conjunction on the 21st of December has not been seen in the sky since something like 1228. It is recognized as the Christ Star because the two planets will be so close together as to appear as one giant star — thought to be the same alignment by heavenly bodies when Christ was born.

All these events herald a time for taking mental responsibility, for thought patterns that are positive. Consciousness of change needs to be thought of as powerful and good.

This will be a time like never before to manifest what you want in your life. The energy can be used for negative or positive influence. People will feel overwhelmed because a powerful shift will take place that will bring confusion. Better to recognize that change can be painful, but necessary. It will be an opportunity to challenge one's self to flow with change and not resist it.

There will be unidentified viruses, confusion by authority figures about decisions, and a continual effort to keep our economy afloat.

Our president-elect will have challenges that will take a pioneering thought process to achieve the desired outcomes. Strength and perseverance will be needed if he is to execute his plans with some success. His vice president-elect will be outspoken and show a powerful intelligence.

For many people, mental stability will be a continual challenge. Churches will put in place a new order to enable them to survive. The education of children will be one of the greatest challenges faced by our educational system.

Change brings chaos, but after many years, order will be birthed. A birth of travail, but worth it all, for change is inevitable. It will take years, I am certain.

It's actually a grand and wonderful time. If one can move gracefully with the "The Great Change," then wisdom is assured.

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Joan Coltrane