☕ A $7 cup of happiness


The answer is “yes” for 6 in 10 Americans (59%), including 72% of Millennials and 67% of Gen Z. 

To put a price tag on it, people say they need a salary of $284,167 to be happy, and Millennials put that number at $525,947, according to new research from Empower

Based on this data, The Wall Street Journal reported that average Americans would need almost a 50% raise to feel content and less stressed, though employers are planning on an average pay increase of 3.9% in 2024* for nonunion employees.  

So what’s the secret to financial well-being? (Hint: just 17% say it’s net worth.) Check out the study findings and this week’s headlines to see the relentless pursuit of happiness in life, work, play – and of course, money.   – The Editors



💨 That was quick: Less than five days after Sam Altman was ousted in a board coup from OpenAI, considered one of the world’s most valuable startups, he was reinstated as CEO.* A quarter of people report switching jobs at least once in the last year (24%), including 45% of Gen Z. They may have been motivated by a cyber stressor: More than half (51%) of young Americans say AI developments make them worried about job stability

🔼 Gobbled up online: Consumers spent a record $9.8 billion* shopping online on Black Friday, an increase of 7.5% over last year’s high. Compared to sales in October, the most popular purchases were electronics (up 152%), apparel (up 136%), toys (up 132%) and jewelry (up 114%). This splurge may not be surprising to 1 in 5 Americans who say financial happiness means having nice things, which is particularly valued by younger generations (31%). 

💲 Crypt-uh oh: Changpeng Zhao, now former CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, pleaded guilty to criminal charges as part of a $4.3 billion* settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The news comes after FTX founder and (ex) CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in November. For investors looking for alternatives, a chat with a financial pro may be prudent: Americans rank getting good money advice (63%) as a key determinant to financial happiness. 

🏠 Real estate in the red: The number of homeowners selling their houses for less than they paid is moving: More than 3% of U.S. homes sold at a loss with the median deficit of around $40,000.* In San Francisco, 1 in 7 owners lost a median of $122,500; Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and New York closely follow. Though nearly half of Americans (45%) define financial happiness as owning a home, an ongoing inventory and affordability crunch has created challenges for sellers and buyers alike. 



I’ll take two 

Remember that $2 bill you have in your cash stash? Turns out it could be worth up to $5,000.* 

U.S. Currency Auctions estimates that uncirculated $2 bills from 1890 could sell for up to $4,500, and most bills between 1862 and 1917 for at least $1,000. 

That could come in handy – not only for your bank account, but for your well-being.  

Though 7 in 10 Americans (71%) believe more money would solve most of their problems, it turns out that a little goes a long way. For a third (32% overall, and 37% of Boomers) a relatively attainable gain of $15,000 would make a meaningful impact in their lives, boosting people’s feeling of financial happiness for six months. That number surges to 42% with a $25,000 windfall (50% of Boomers), and just $5,000 would do it for 17%.  

Search those old piggy banks, as incremental financial gains can bring a ROH (Return on Happiness).


💸  Speaking of things that make you smileDo you believe money can buy happiness? 

  • Yes
  • No
  • I'd like to try



Zooming in on a changing workforce  

A new generation is about to have more seats at the conference table: Gen Z is expected to overtake Boomers* in the workforce by next year, according to a new Census data analysis.  

Boomers were the largest generation* until 2011, and Gen Xers held that position until 2018. Millennials have been the biggest workforce since then and won’t be outpaced by Gen Z until the early 2040s.  

In addition to cultural shifts like creating new office lingo (main character energy only), Gen Z may already be having a significant influence on the workplace: According to new Empower research, 79% of Gen Zers say a better work/life balance would bring them more happiness. Overall, 75% of Americans see work as transactional and a majority (77%) say they work to live rather than the other way around.



A $7 cup of happiness  

For many, happiness is a cup of coffee. That, and the spending flexibility to buy that coffee as a daily treat: 62% of Millennials say they’re willing to pay $7 for a daily coffee because of the joy it brings. 

Just ask chains like Starbucks, whose holiday-themed drinks seriously serve up results, as the company saw a 20% surge* in visits on the day its Pumpkin Spice Latte launched earlier this year. Now in its 25th season, its “red cup” lineup of fan-favorite flavors helped the coffee brand brew up a record revenue with 10% comp growth* last year.  

One thing’s for sure: Better make it iced. Cold beverages at Starbucks accounted for 75% of drink sales in Q3 of 2023.


As of November 27, 2023, EAG holds shares of Starbucks (SBUX) in advisory client accounts.

*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, responsibility, or approval by Empower of the contents on such third-party websites.

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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.

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.

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