💬 Double take


My, my: The U.S. is projected to capture 26.3%* of the global gross domestic product this year – the highest in nearly two decades – making it the world’s largest economy. 

It follows then that economic activity expanded in the first three months of 2024 at 1.6%,* still lower than anticipated but propped up by spending on services (think: healthcare, financial planning, insurance). 

And there’s more on the way: Consumers are expected to spend $33.5 billion* this Mother’s Day. On average, those celebrating plan to give $254 in presents and gatherings – second only to last year’s record high of $274. 

In the meantime, here’s a take on this week’s money news. 

— The Editors


🎨 Buy, buy: An unsigned, incomplete painting by Gustav Klimt sold at auction for about $32 million* – particularly noteworthy given the unclear storyline of the early 20th-century piece, including who’s depicted in the portrait and who sold it. Some 20% of consumers splurge regularly on artwork, according to Empower research, though these everyday luxuries average a more wallet-friendly $104 per purchase.

🤖 Hear, hear: It’s first-quarter earnings szn, and one thing keeps coming up – executives are talking about artificial intelligence. Between December and March, 179 companies in the S&P 500 mentioned “AI” an average of 13 times, while nine companies uttered it more than 50 times. In back-to-back calls, leaders from both Microsoft and Google* shared plans to expand their corporate interest in AI, primarily fueling their cloud computing programs, with Microsoft’s posting 31% gains this quarter and Google’s earning a $900 million profit.

👋 Choo, choo: Train company Brightline is breaking ground on a $12 billion* high-speed rail project connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, with a target completion of 2028 to ride out the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. On the fast track: Trains will make the 218-mile trip in just over 2 hours, beating driving time by about an hour (and that’s without the near-omnipresent traffic). Ticket pricing, yet unset, is expected to be on par with the cost of gas and parking* – a core consideration for travelers who put local transportation costs (24%) among their top trip-related financial stressors.

Extra, extra! Readers want to retire early: According to last week’s poll, on average people plan to retire at age 62 – slightly ahead of the average retirement age of 65 for men and 63 for women.


Home sweet home

Nearly half of parents with adult children (47%*) give them at least some financial support, providing an average of $1,384 a month, according to a recent study.

The same research found 61% of adult children living at home don’t contribute to household expenses – which can stack up with costs (utility bills, grocery receipts and the like).

One recent study found that stay-at-home parents of two kids spend about 200 hours monthly on tasks like cleaning, shopping, cooking and childcare – adding up to about $4,500* in monthly costs if outsourced in the U.S. Over 20 years, that would total $1 million in value within the American cities included in the study.

On the other side of the coin, just 18% of families consider support for aging parents in their financial planning; Gen Zers are starting earlier than other generations, with nearly a quarter (21%) already planning on it or doing so.


Hub and spoke

With 86%* of American workers desiring at least some amount of remote work, flexible arrangements are changing the landscape – literally – of office settings. 

Driven by the hybrid setups, spaces are being redesigned as social destinations for informal learning and relationship building, with some next-gen offices featuring lounges for collaboration and relaxation, as well as restaurants and bars for catching up with colleagues.

This evolving layout is also giving rise to a trend known in the commercial property industry as the “hub and spoke model,” where small, residential-area offices and coworking spaces support the larger office ecosystem. The driver? A reluctance for the daily commute. With many workers in professional services now at least partially WFH, 48% say they'd be willing to return to the office if their employer offered a four-day workweek.


Back again

How's this for a comeback: Vinyl records outsold CDs in 2023 for the second time since the late 1980s, with a 10%* revenue increase to $1.4 billion.

As consumer demand surges, musicians are cashing in on the trend; Taylor Swift’s latest album "The Tortured Poets Department" sold 859,000 copies* on vinyl in its debut, exceeding her previous record of 693,000 for "1989 (Taylor's Version)."

“On record” is one thing – “in real time” is another. And that’s music to the ears of fans, especially those open to going big on live entertainment (35%) while traveling this year.

infographic detailing the areas Americans are willing to splurge during travel

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As of May 2, 2024, EAG holds shares of Microsoft Corp (MSFT) and Alphabet Inc (GOOG) 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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