Spice things up ☕


Ready or not: Pumpkin-spice-everything is back.  

U.S. retail sales of pumpkin-flavored products bibbidi-bobbidi-boomed to $803 million* for the 52-week period through July 2023 – up nearly 15% from the prior year, according to NielsenIQ.   

Starbucks’ signature “PSL” pumpkin spice latte celebrates its 20-year anniversary on the menu with more than 600 million cups sold* — though many consumers prefer their drinks on ice. The coffee giant said in its earnings call earlier this month that cold beverages made up around 75% of U.S. drink sales.

Love or leave the long lineups of autumn-inspired sweets, treats, and eats (pumpkin Twinkies,* anyone?), consumers’ hunger for the gourd-geous “fruit”* continues to grow.  

— The Editors 


Someone call security: According to new analysis, by 2033 Americans could face a cut of more than $17,000 per year* to their expected Social Security benefits. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund could be depleted in “about a decade,” potentially trimming the annual payments of 70 million retirees, dependents, and survivors by 23%. Lawmakers are proposing several ideas to fix Social Security in the future, including raising full retirement from 67 to possibly 70. In the meantime, review and fine-tune your retirement income strategy (and we’re here to help you with that).  

Something to write home about: It’s not quite time for haunted houses, but mortgage rates are getting spookier. The average 30-year fixed mortgage now comes with an interest rate in the neighborhood of 7.20%,* the highest mark since 2001. As a result, applications for mortgages have gone in the basement, plummeting to their lowest levels since 1995. If you’re on the hunt for a new home, now may be a good time to consider options like a mortgage buydown, which can lower your interest rate for the first few years in exchange for an upfront fee.

Reaching a tipping point: Call it gratitude with attitude. A recent survey revealed two-thirds of Americans have a negative view of tipping,* especially when it comes to digital payment options and card readers that now suggest gratuity between 15% and 35% for each transaction. While leaving 20% on a tab is still the norm at standard sit-down restaurants, the “tip fatigue” trend has impacted quick-bite eateries the most, as gratuities from guests have fallen to a five-year low of 16.7% in 2023. It’s no wonder that more than half of Americans (54%) are unsure about tipping etiquette

Let’s ‘pump’ the brakes: We asked, you answered, and 37% of respondents would put the “me” in retirement and immediately hang ‘em up if they won the lottery. Meanwhile, 23% would pay off debt, followed by buying a dream home (14%) and taking a trip around the world (11%). Other kind souls said they would give back to families and friends in need or open an animal rescue.


Now we want to know … how do you like your cup of joe?

  • Extra pumpkin, extra hot, extra shot
  • Black coffee (no milk, no pumpkin, no nothing) 
  • Give me the fanciest, most sugary drink on the menu
  • Cold, frozen, or on the rocks
  • I’m waiting for peppermint  
  • It’s August, and I’m already tired of hearing about pumpkin



Not ‘Messi-ng’ around  

Football season may be just around the corner, but superstar Lionel Messi has already given fútbol enthusiasts across the U.S. a huge reason to cheer.    

Messi, widely regarded as one of the best soccer players in the world (and of all time), recently signed a blockbuster contract worth close to $60 million annually with Major League Soccer club Inter Miami CF in July after spending his entire professional career with Spain’s FC Barcelona and France’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), as well as internationally with Argentina. American sports fans aren’t “Messi-ng” around when it comes to emptying their wallets to see the legend on the pitch. In fact, ticket sales have “surged by over 1,700% on the secondary market”* compared to 2022, with home matches in South Beach costing anywhere from $152 to $864.  

Admission to watch Messi's MLS debut in a match against the New York Red Bulls averaged nearly $500 per person, with first-row seats setting people back as much as $3,600 (a staggering $15,000 for a group of four).* That’s almost 1,000% higher than the typical ticket to a New York game.

Talk about a game-changer.


TV no-show   

Now more than ever, Americans are turning off old-school television. (Gone are the days of waiting for the TV Guide Channel to scroll by, huh?)  

In July, traditional TV, which is made up of broadcast and pay TV, dropped below 50% in usage* for the first time ever as more Americans cut the cord on cable. During the second quarter alone, Comcast and Charter Communications are down 543,000 and 200,000 subscribers, respectively.  

On the flip-the-channel side, streaming isn’t necessarily getting any cheaper as many providers have recently raised their prices, including ad-free Disney+, YouTube TV, and Hulu, in an effort to boost overall revenue.*  This news comes on the heels of more than half Americans (59%) saying they’ll pull the plug on some of their discretionary spending to pay back student loans.


‘Four’ better or for worse  

Maybe less really is more.  

At least, that’s what the majority of professionals believe with 81% of U.S. workers* saying they’d be more productive on the job if they had a four-day schedule compared to the conventional five-day workweek. Most notably, individuals in healthcare, education, and retail — fields where burnout is highly prevalent — are in favor of shifting to shorter shifts, while many in legal, accounting, and finance would rather stick with the status quo. Global experiments have also shown that less time on the clock may lead to improved physical, mental, and financial well-being.  

Meanwhile, the wage floor for Americans starting a new job is sitting at a record of nearly $79,000,* up from about $72,900 a year earlier and $69,000 in July of 2021. If negotiating your salary is on your mind, “raise” the bar with these simple tactics before having a conversation about your career. 


As of August 31, 2023, EAG holds shares of Starbucks (SBUX), Disney (DIS), and Alphabet (GOOGL).

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

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