Cold hard cash


In an era of hyper-digitalization, there's a palpable sense of security in what’s real. Tactile. Owned and earned. 

At least, that’s what the 28% of Americans who “feel safer” keeping money in cash seem to think. But hey, every wallet has its limits: 51% of consumers also say they use digital payment apps every week. (More on both below.) 

Stack these cash transactions against national credit card balances, which just topped $1 trillion* for the first time in history. All together, credit card holders have $3.6 trillion in additional credit availability, indicating that consumer debt may continue to climb. 

– The Editors



🤑 What do you pay for in cold hard cash?

  • Tips
  • Huh? I never use bills
  • Scratch-off lotto tickets
  • Lunch bill
  • All – everything in a day’s receipt 

Take our one-question poll.



Away, but on the clock: Today’s youngest workers may be setting themselves up for burnout; some 35% of Gen Zers say they feel guilty* not working when they’re on vacation, versus 29% of Americans as a whole. But career experts say unplugging is a great way to get fresh ideas. (Take a cue from this CEO, who took 30 OOO days* to explore Paris.) 

We(hope to)Work: Once a startup darling, WeWork, Inc. has now expressed “substantial doubt” in its ability to continue operating. The company has promised to focus the next 12 months on reducing rental costs, negotiating more favorable leases, increasing revenue, and raising capital. This may be a symptom of remote-work headwinds, including rising office vacancies and declining property values. One study estimates that the nation is facing a $500 billion value destruction* in this sector following the pandemic.   

Cashing out: The 401(k) can be a pillar of wealth building. Just ask the millionaires who use the Empower Personal Dashboard™; retirement accounts – like 401(k) plans and IRAs – make up 55% of high-net-worth individuals’ overall wealth. But some people may be chipping away at their long-term savings when they switch jobs and cash out, facing associated taxes and penalties. While Gen Z accounts for nearly 40% of new hires, nearly as many (37%) left their jobs  last year – often shuffling their retirement plans, too. Get tips on what to do with your workplace retirement account when you move on.


Today's reigning asset class is ... 

... cash, according to the nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of Americans who told us “cash is king,” perhaps in loyalty to its convenience and minimal risk.   

Inflation is ebbing, but prices on daily commodities like groceries are still higher than they were before the pandemic; since February 2020, the cost of food at home is up more than 23%*

Enter cash, which plays an important role in a diversified financial strategy: It’s useful for everyday spending, as well as emergency savings and short-term financial goals. 

👛 Get the POV of an Empower financial professional on how much cash to consider keeping on hand.


Feeling like Ri¢hie Ri¢h 

Are you rich? To some degree, it’s all a matter of perspective (even if you don’t have your own theme park*). 

America’s “regular rich” don’t feel wealthy, according to a new Bloomberg survey. Of high-income earners – those who make at least $175,000 a year, or roughly the top 10% of U.S. tax filers — a full quarter describe themselves as “very poor,” “poor,” or “getting by but things are tight.” Half say they're just “comfortable.” A majority of high earners say they worry about money. 

Very likely, the mindset of the mass affluent hinges on where they live; housing costs vary widely according to your location, location, location.

That’s why thoughtful financial planning can help set you up for success – and perceived prosperity. 

💵+🧠 Know someone who’s just getting started? Share tips on financial planning for young adults


Debit goes digital   

The definition of “cash” now extends beyond physical dollar bills, and alternative payments are on the rise globally*

Consumers we recently surveyed say the appeal of digital payments lies in a few areas:   

  • Ability to use anywhere (69%)
  • Quick and seamless payment process (66%) 
  • Contactless payments (59%) 

On average, Americans stow $247 in their digital wallets to make purchases and manage spending. 

For some, digital payment platforms also serve a money-based social network: 22% of Americans confess to peeking at others’ financial activities through their apps. Gen Z leads the peep with a 64% higher likelihood of tracking other's spending habits.


As of August 17, 2023, EAG does not hold shares of WeWork Inc. (WE) in advisory client accounts.

RO3064510-0823 WF2799700-0823

As of August 17, 2023, EAG does not hold shares of WeWork Inc. (WE) in advisory client accounts.

RO3064510-0823 WF 2799700-0823

Empower Personal Cash™ Program is offered through Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“Empower”). Empower is not a bank. Bank deposit products provided by UMB Bank n.a., Member FDIC (“UMB”). To participate in the program, you must open an account at UMB, through which your funds will be placed in accounts at participating program banks (which may include UMB). The advertised interest rates are paid by participating program banks, including by UMB in its capacity as a participating program bank. Your funds will be FDIC insured up to applicable limits while in transit through UMB. UMB receives a fee from each program bank (except UMB) in connection with the program that is based on the aggregate daily closing balance of deposits held in program accounts by such program bank. The fee may vary from program bank to program bank and will generally increase as the aggregate amount of funds held in program accounts with the program bank increases. 

The Empower Personal Cash™ Annual Percentage Yield (APY) as of 8/1/23 is 4.70% APY (4.602% interest rate). The calculation for APY is rounded to the nearest basis point. Both the interest rate and APY are variable and subject to change at UMB’s discretion at any time without notice. 

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. We keep you current on ways to plan, save, and invest for life.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. No part of this blog, nor the links contained therein is a solicitation or offer to sell securities. Compensation for freelance contributions not to exceed $1,250. Third-party data is obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, Empower cannot guarantee the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or fitness of this data for any particular purpose. Third-party links are provided solely as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement or approval by Empower of the contents on such third-party websites. 

Certain sections of this blog may contain forward-looking statements that are based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions. Past performance is not a guarantee of future return, nor is it indicative of future performance. Investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate and you may lose money. 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements. 

Advisory services are provided for a fee by Empower Advisory Group, LLC (“EAG”). EAG is a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and subsidiary of Empower Annuity Insurance Company of America. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training.