📈 Taking stock

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Inflation status: It’s complicated – and very much on consumers’ minds, according to Empower’s most recent capital markets perspective.

One key measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, grew 3.7%* from last year. Some shoppers are turning to social* to lament the price of groceries, which has increased nearly 17% over the past two years.

In this issue, we’ll take stock of some figures on the rise, including the price of snail mail, discounts for paying in cash, plus how the new Social Security bump adds up for Americans.

– The Editors


This week’s fun in numbers

🗝️ 123 years 

... after first recommending restaurants around the world, Michelin Guide will soon hand out “key” ratings* to hotels based on several core factors: local character, individuality, architecture and design, service and comfort, and value. Look out for the Michelin keys in 2024, when hotel prices are expected to spike* in major cities worldwide, most highly within the U.S. in Boston by more than 11%.

💌 24% 

... is how much the price of Forever stamps will increase* compared to the cost set in 2019 (55 cents vs. 68 cents in January 2024). Pending a favorable review by the Postal Regulatory Commission, snail mail and handwritten letter enthusiasts will likely face other expenses: Domestic postcards will increase 51 cents to 53 cents; mailing an international letter will rise from $1.50 to $1.55 and metered mail postage will see a 1 cent uptick to 64 cents. As the fourth rate hike in less than two years, the USPS cites “inflationary pressures on operating expense” for the change. 

🎥 $1 billion 

... is the amount Apple plans to spend annually* on movies that will show in theaters before debuting on the company’s streaming service. The first is this month’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which cost Apple upwards of $250 million, with at least $25 million going to Leonardo DiCaprio. In the age of streaming, this stint on the silver screen indicates a bid for the best filmmaking talent, as well as theater-going Apple TV+ converts.


Is cash the new coupon?

Retailers around the nation are offering a new discount for shoppers. No, it’s not the tried-and-true coupon, but instead a reward for paying in cold hard cash. To avoid rising credit card transaction fees, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses are striking up to 3.5% off the list price for those with dollar-dollar-bills in hand.

According to the Federal Reserve of Atlanta, all cash transactions that came with a discount climbed 66%* between 2015 and 2022. Perhaps some of the 1 in 5 Americans who agreed “cash is king” in a recent Empower study had this purchasing perk in mind.

💰 Interested in putting extra cash to work? Consider these different investment strategies.


A small bump for Social Security recipients

Starting in January, seniors will receive a 3.2% increase* in benefit checks. It’s a smaller boost than the past two years as inflation cools from its highest rate in four decades.

For almost 67 million Americans, this cost of living adjustment amounts to an additional $59 per month on average. Among Americans ages 65 and older, 40% rely on Social Security for half or more of their income. About 14% of recipients in that age group depend on their benefits for nearly all their income.

💼 Start getting retirement ready by developing an income plan for your golden years – from choosing your asset allocation to maximizing Social Security benefits.


Boomers' spending boom

Baby Boomers are shoring up a record share of spending, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that last year, Americans 65 and up doled out 22% of the annual consumer spend,* though they account for only about 17% of the U.S. population.* In fact, Americans age 70 and older now hold nearly 26% of household wealth, the highest since records began in 1989, according to the Federal Reserve.

As compared to previous older generations, this class of seniors is living (and spending) actively; most Americans we surveyed would prefer to travel, garden, and hike in retirement.

Those are just a few ways to spend a cumulative nest egg of $75 trillion.*


We’ve got beef: Last week’s poll revealed 27% of our readers are LTOP lovers (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle), closely followed by cheese as the topping of choice on their patties at 25%. While the burger enthusiasts battle it out, 4% weren’t too chicken to say, “I’ll have the tenders.”

👻 Trick-or-treat: With everyone getting into the holiday spirit (re: a $12.2 billion seasonal splurge*), we want to know your spooky spending habits. What’s your Halloween candy budget this year?

  • I don’t put out candy (sorry, kids!)
  • I try to spend $20 or less
  • I get the big variety bags for $30
  • I spend $50+ (full-sized candy bars, boo!)

Let us know.



As of October 19, 2023, EAG holds shares of Apple Inc (AAPL) in advisory client accounts and does not hold Michelin ADR (MGDDY).

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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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