Diamond in the rough 💎


Diamonds are forever. Their market value, on the other hand, isn't set in stone.  

Thanks in part to the growing popularity of lab-produced diamonds, the cost of natural, rough cut diamonds was down to $850 per carat in July* from $1,400 in June of last year. If you’re looking to purchase jewelry as an investment, note that both types of diamonds tend to depreciate as soon as they're purchased. Fortunately, their sentimental value should continue to grow as the years go on.  

Read on for the top news nuggets of the week and a few gems of financial insight.     — The Editors


The dollar is on the rise: According to the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index* – which tracks the value of the U.S. dollar against 10 leading global currencies – the value of the dollar is now at a five-month high, rising 4% on the index since mid-July. With a resilient U.S. economy, some analysts predict it may prompt the Fed to scale back future interest rate cuts.     Quitting time: The number of people resigning from their job, AKA the quits rate,* is down to its lowest level since January 2021. While the Labor Department reports just 2.3% of workers quit their job in July, it may have less to do with job satisfaction and more to do with a concern about finding a new position. Job openings and new hires also both dropped slightly in July, which means making a switch may be more difficult than it was a year ago.  

Pumped up: Labor Day usually marks the end of road tripping season, but gas prices (currently $3.81 a gallon) are at their highest level since 1994.* The U.S. government occasionally releases oil from an emergency supply into the market to help keep prices stable. But that store was depleted last year during another spout of record high oil prices.  


Gig work has come to the C-Suite 

Why be chief marketing officer of one company when you can work for three? That's the role of a fractional executive,* whose job description might look more like a pie chart.     Start-ups and companies low on cash are increasingly hiring senior leaders on a part-time basis. The companies get the strategic guidance of an executive for a lower cost, while the executive enjoys greater flexibility and variety in their workweek.    It’s not just a trend in the C-suite – the number of workers identifying as independent or freelance is up almost 10% since 2016 to reach 36%. Fast Company* recently called “fractional labor” the new version of gig work, and said Microsoft and Airbnb are among the major players testing out the strategy. In a recent survey of tech companies, 73% had integrated teams of freelancers and permanent employees, saying fractional labor helped keep their business agile.


Love all 

The U.S. Open tennis tournament is in full swing, and this year’s Grand Slam has a record $65 million* prize purse, volleying past the $60 million payout in 2022. 

By comparison, Wimbledon served up $56.5 million, the French Open $54 million, and the Australian Open $53 million. 

This is the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open becoming the sport’s first event to pay women and men the same. Both singles champions will score $3 million in 2023, a 15% upswing from last year. 

More than 888,000 spectators attended the Open in 2022, and USTA’s chief executive said economic activity filtered across the region, pointing to a decade-old study that put the annual economic impact at $750 million* for the New York City area. He estimated that a similar study now would double that figure. 

Over 40% of the 7,000 seasonal employees at the U.S. Open are event locals, hailing from Queens.


Welcome to the digital payment revolution 

According to Empower research, half of Americans (51%) are using digital payment apps weekly – and it’s shaping how people shop, spend, and save.  

Over a third of respondents (34%) leave home without their physical wallets, relying solely on digital payments thanks to the convenience of being used anywhere (69%), speed of transactions (66%), and the ability to go contactless (59%).    When it comes to managing their money, people say they trust AI to give them account balances or performance updates (65%), make suggestions on ways to grow their savings (60%), and assist with budget management (58%). 

Still, the human touch counts: 67% of Americans said they prefer a real-life advisor coupled with digital tools for financial and investing advice. 


🎃 Straight up 

Last week, we asked readers how they order their cup o’ joe: 31% drink their coffee black, 18% prefer their caffeine on ice, and 14% of loyalists opt for that sugary spice PSL. 


As of September 6, 2023, EAG holds shares of Microsoft (MSFT) in advisory client accounts. 

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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.

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.

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