Bye bye birdie 🐤

The Currency newsletter - issue 22

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07.27.2023

“If someone has a crystal ball…DM me on Twitter.” 

No, Elon Musk wasn’t talking about the future of the famous bird logo, now rebranded to “X.”  

He was commenting on the economy.* The billionaire isn’t the only one looking for clarity: 1 in 4 millennials say they turn to a fortune teller for advice – and yet only a third of Americans have spoken with a financial advisor. 

We can help with that. And while we may not be able to predict what’s around the corner, Empower’s quarterly market outlook is here to shed some light on your money moves.  

– The Editors

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Is “X” for the birds? Let’s chirp about it.  

Do you like “X” as the new name for Twitter? 

  • Yes, it’s very on brand.
  • No, I’ll miss the bird.  
  • I don’t know, it’s all moving so fast!
  • I like birding (birdwatching) outside. 

Take this week’s poll and let us know what you think. 

Coming in hot: The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by a quarter of a point. This marks the 11th increase in 17 months, lifting interest rates to their highest level in 22 years. The hike indicates a concern from the Fed* that the economy is still growing too fast for inflation to fall back to the target of 2%.  

Recession-free as a bird: Last summer, economists were calling it a vibecession* – saying it only feels like a recession, without the economic downturn showing up in the numbers. Since then, we’ve heard warnings of stagflation* and the perk-cession,* too. “It’s complicated,” may sound like the Facebook relationship status of yesteryear but has a ring of truth when it comes to today’s economy. Some reports say a hiring boom* is hiding a recession signal but, for now, forecasters are cutting back recession expectations.  

No “Bad Blood” here: Since Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour took off in March, her concerts have helped boost local economies.* Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay saw spikes in hotel stays and local tourism that exceeded pre-pandemic numbers, with one study projecting Eras could help add $5 billion to the worldwide economy. No surprise there, as Taylor's $tar power is something that Swifties know “All Too Well.”  

As long as the hot dogs stay $1.50: Costco is the latest company cracking down on membership sharing after noticing nonmember shoppers* were using another person’s card or QR code at self-checkout lanes. A regular membership at the retailer costs $60 a year, and Costco says that it’s able to keep prices low because membership fees help offset operational expenses. Costco's annual revenue has risen by 129% over the past 10 years,* but a food court staple has remained largely unchanged: During the pandemic and amid inflation, Costco continues to offer its cult favorite hot dog and drink combo for just a buck fifty. 

Lessons learned from student debt  

A new reality is setting in for the 43.6 million borrowers* with federal student loans, whose debt has been put on forbearance since early 2020 as part of pandemic-relief measures. 

According to new Empower research, 1 in 3 households expect upcoming student loan payments of $1,000 per month. During the pause, 31% of borrowers didn’t make any payments, using the reprieve to pay down credit card debt, save up for discretionary spending, and build up their emergency savings.  

To afford their student loans once repayments resume in October, 32% of Americans say they plan to take on more credit card debt. And regret may be setting in, as almost 1 in 4 adults with student loans (18%) wish they invested the money to grow it in the market instead of taking on debt. 

Are you trying to plan out your next step for paying down student loan debt? Our repayment resources and tips on The Currency™ may help

Workers in the prime of life are boosting the job market  

New data suggests that Americans working in their prime* – which economists define as ages 25 to 54 – are flooding the job market at rates not seen in two decades. Prime-age workers (when most Americans are done with their formal education but aren’t ready to retire) now exceed pre-pandemic levels by almost 2.2 million. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the resurgence of midcareer workers – a trend helping to counter the exit of older baby boomers – is driven by women, whose labor-force participation rate was the highest on record, 77.8% in June (up from 73.5% in April 2020). 

Employers have added about 280,000 workers per month* so far in 2023. That growth could help the Federal Reserve’s efforts to lower inflation by keeping wage growth in check.

The “Autocado” is extra 🥑🤖 

A robot may be coming to a Chipotle near you! The fast casual chain is testing out a prototype called Autocado* to help speed up how long it takes to make guacamole.  

The “collaborative robot” cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand-mashed by staff, cutting preparation time in half. Chipotle’s other automation efforts include Chippy, a robot that makes tortilla chips. 

With high inflation and a tight labor market, the restaurant industry has been embracing automating tasks to streamline operations, from taking drive-thru orders to preparing food like french fries. 

If you’re wondering how to balance the rise of artificial intelligence with your own financial goals, check out this article by Empower financial professional Courtney Burrell.

As of July 24, 2023, EAG holds shares of CMG and COST in advisory client accounts and does not hold TWTR. 

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The Currency editors

Staff contributors

The CurrencyTM, a publication from Empower, covers the latest financial news and views shaping how we live, work, and play. Our team of writers, editors, and contributors are here to keep you current on ways to play, save, and invest for life.

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