There are, of course, plenty of "if"s involved in reading the Fed tea leaves. Recovery could be strong and accelerating by 2014, or it could remain in the doldrums—no deal or even a late deal on this year's so-called "fiscal cliff" could be a profound drag on future growth.
There's even the possibility, however slim, of another Bernanke term. He can serve one more four-year stint as central banker, and President Barack Obama already reappointed him once, after all. But then, Bernanke is a Bush appointee, and Obama reappointed the Republican in 2010 to maintain continuity amid economic crisis. With the worst of the crisis past and the opportunity to select anew, it's easy to imagine the president wanting to handpick his own central banker. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said that he would not reappoint Bernanke if elected president.
Yes, it's a year and a half off, but it's a conversation that the nation should be ready for.
"Certainly at this time next year or maybe even next fall...markets will go, 'Right! Bernanke's term ends in January 2014. What happens next?'" says Canally.
As for now, it's not just the U.S. central bank at the center of the financial world's attention. Even more immediate than next week's Fed meeting are questions about what the European Central Bank, or ECB, will do next. Stocks have spiked on comments from ECB President Mario Draghi, who said in a speech in London today that "the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro."
Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at email@example.com.