Skip to content
Home » The 10 Most-Searched Economic Words and Phrases of 2023

The 10 Most-Searched Economic Words and Phrases of 2023

  • Published
  • 9 min read
What were we searching for in 2023?

Each year—while we are busy celebrating holidays and buying gifts—Investopedia (a financial media website founded in 1999) releases a list of the most searched financial words and phrases for the year. It’s an interesting (and sometimes surprising) look back on the top financial stories of the year. It also offers insight into the collective economic psyche.

In 2022, for example, the top searched term was “Poison Pill”, a term we can credit Elon Musk for adding to the list when he first made an unsolicited offer to purchase Twitter (now known as X) and the board responded with “Poison Pill defense strategy”. Unsurprisingly, the top-searched term for 2020 was “Stimulus Check”.

The 2023 Investopedia Terms of the Year List, however, paints a picture of fear and uncertainty. It showcases spikes in treasury yields, bank failures, and the rise of artificial intelligence. The shift toward uncertainty is, perhaps, understandable given that in 2023, investors saw a surprising recovery in the stock market despite the persistent three-year bear market in bonds. The overall economic climate this year prompted many of us to reevaluate our investment principles. It also, apparently, caused some Americans to doubt whether their previous financial goals were even possible.

#1. American Dream

The term “American Dream” may not feel like it belongs on a list of economic terms, but it tops the list for 2023. For some, the phrase evokes poetic images of picket fences, happy homes, and cars parked in driveways next to manicured lawns. The term originated during the Great Depression and was coined by James Truslow Adams in his book Epic of America. He describes the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

For generations, the American Dream has been defined by milestones like buying a home, starting a family, and retiring with a nest egg. Lately, however, inflation, rising mortgage rates, and the rising cost of education have made that particular dream unachievable for many of us. In fact, according to a recent Investopedia analysis, the modern American Dream costs about $3.4 million to achieve over the course of a lifetime. That is about a million short compared to what most Americans (across all education levels) make in a lifetime.

#2. Bank Failures

Second on the Investopedia list is a phrase that brings us back to March of 2023 when Silicon Valley Bank was abruptly shut down by California regulators. Soon after that same spring, Signature Bank in New York City and First Republic Bank in San Francisco also shut down (and the latter was purchased by JPMorgan Chase). The news of these failures sparked fear that an economic crisis was brewing. Suddenly, the news cycle was full of speculations about bank runs—like a scene out of It’s a Wonderful Life—and stock market crashes. The crisis was fueled by post-pandemic inflation, rising interest rates, and a looming recession, but the actual bank failures were more likely caused by deficiencies in risk management and a lack of proactive supervision.

#3. Artificial Intelligence

Years ago, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the stuff of science fiction, but the technology went mainstream in 2023. Suddenly, everyone everywhere—from researchers in hospitals to game designers and climate scientists—is using AI to advance their research and innovate their practices. For better or worse, AI is now a part of our everyday lives, and it touches every industry. So, as we get cozier with the technology, it is understandable that many of us went searching for news stories about how artificial intelligence is growing and changing.

#4. Certificate of Deposit

Why are CDs trending in 2023? To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates 11 times since March of 2022. Every time the fed rate went up, so did the rates on high-yield savings accounts and CDs. For many Americans, the fixed rates that CDs offered in 2023 looked like guaranteed returns (at least for terms of a few months or years)—and those savvy savers weren’t wrong. Locking in a high CD rate meant earning strong yields even if the economy entered a low-rate environment. Now, forecasters are predicting the Fed rate will maintain or drop in 2024; and if it does, CD rates are likely to follow suit. So, if you find a good CD rate, now may actually be a great time to it lock in. Those rates are likely to drop in the coming weeks and months.

#5. Inverted Yield Curve

In 2023, the phrase “inverted yield curve” gained significance as a financial indicator due to its historical association with economic downturns. An inverted yield curve occurs when short-term interest rates surpass long-term rates, signaling investor concerns about the near-term economic outlook. This phenomenon is crucial because it has often preceded recessions, with investors seeking the safety of long-term bonds amid economic uncertainty. Policymakers and market participants closely monitored the inverted yield curve in 2023 as it provided insights into potential economic challenges, influencing decisions related to monetary policy, investment strategies, and broader economic planning.

#6. Debt Ceiling

On January 19, 2023, the United States hit its debt ceiling—prompting many Americans to Google, “What is a debt ceiling?” The debt ceiling is the legal limit on the amount of borrowing the Treasury can do. When this limit is reached, Congress is faced with a choice: raise the debt ceiling or suspend the debt limit for a specified amount of time. Doing nothing would force the government to take “extraordinary measures” to keep paying the bills like suspending certain investments to federal employee retirement funds or cashing out some of its own investments earlier than normal. On the other hand, raising the debt ceiling is controversial because while some feel it should be a routine practice, others feel it puts the solvency of the U.S. government at risk and does little to rein in spending. As of now, the debit limit is currently suspended until January 1, 2025.

#7. Treasury Bill

As treasury prices slid into a third year of a bear market, wary investors who couldn’t stomach the stock market began to consider safer investment options like, treasury bills (or T-bills). T-bills are short-term U.S. debt securities issued by the federal government that mature over a period of 4, 8, 13, 17, 26, or 52 weeks. They may seem old school, but since the U.S. government backs T-bills, they’re typically considered lower-risk investments—and the appeal is not hard to understand. When you purchase a T-bill, the U.S. government effectively writes you an IOU and you agree to lend the U.S. government money (in the form of the bill) for the duration of the term. When the term ends, you get your money back—plus interest. What’s more, T-bills can be sold before they mature at face value or at a discount. This is an attractive feature because investors do not have to tie up their money for long periods of time before getting an attractive return on their investment. But according to Investopedia, the Fed’s unwinding of its balance sheet “put trillions of dollars of Treasury Bills (T-Bills) back onto the market as part of its quantitative tightening regime.” Since T-bills were once considered the safest and most widely held asset on the planet, this disturbance drove curious investors to learn more about how the treasury market actually works.


BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The term “BRIC” was initially created in 2001 by Jim O’Neill, an economist from Goldman Sachs. He believed that Brazil, Russia, India, and China would dominate the global economy by 2050 (South Africa was added to the acronym in 2010) and felt we needed a term to define the emergence of those countries as global superpowers.  Why was it trending in 2023? The term became a common part of the 2023 lexicon as the dominance of the U.S. dollar fluctuated and tensions between the United States and Russia as well as tensions between the United States and China heightened.

#9. Assumable Mortgage

An assumable mortgage is a type of home loan that allows a buyer to take over the existing mortgage of a seller, assuming responsibility for the remaining loan balance and terms. This can be advantageous for the buyer if the original mortgage has favorable terms, such as a low-interest rate. In 2023, assumable mortgages made it into the economic spotlight thanks to the uncertain economic conditions which made securing affordable home financing more of a challenge. Instead of waiting for things to change, some hopeful buyers got creative and assumed an existing mortgage. Not all home loans are assumable and there are major risks, but the strategy is a valuable alternative for homebuyers seeking cost-effective financing options in a dynamic real estate and financial landscape.

#10. Racketeering

Racketeering refers to unauthorized illegal business activity and is often (but not always) associated with organized crime. In federal courts, racketeering is commonly referred to as a “RICO” charge—which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act”. Whether it referred to illegitimate businesses (known as rackets) or illegal activity within a legitimate business, the term made it into our 2023 Google search histories for several reasons. At the top of the list are the racketeering charges brought against Donald Trump by a Georgia court, but there were several other high-profile cases that sent curious readers to the search engines. For example, SHEIN (a popular e-commerce fashion platform), was sued for racketeering by three independent designers who claim the company stole their designs.

So, what does it all mean? Like any snapshot of an era, this look at 2023 is far from all-encompassing, but this list paints a curious picture. It has been a year unlike any other and the path to economic recovery is far from over. That said, after years of pandemic-related disruptions, the U.S. economy seems to finally be stabilizing. Inflation shows signs of moderation, interest rates, although elevated, remain steady, the labor market is cooling down, and consumer spending is slowing. In other words, we appear to be coming in for a landing. What remains to be seen is how soft that landing will be.

You are now leaving Maps Credit Union

Modal called incorrectly.