🦅 Red, white, and blue


America’s birthday is coming up, which means we’re celebrating freedom with food, fireworks, and fun. 

But what does it mean to be financially independent? According to Empower research, Americans say it’s not having to rely on family or friends for money (47%); it's hitting milestones in their net worth (44%) and contributing to a 401(k) (42%). 

Achieving financial freedom is important to 67% of people, though nearly a quarter (24%) say they haven’t achieved it just yet. 

Next week, we’ll pause The Currency™ newsletter to celebrate Independence Day. For now, spend some of your free time catching up on the latest money headlines.  

— The Editors


🔴 Red hot deals: Consumers have cause to celebrate beyond the Fourth of July: Costs are dropping at major retailers. Target is rolling back prices for 5,000 items.* Americans can find relief at fast food chains that have recently introduced $5 meal options.* Starbucks also debuted a “Pairings Menu” that will cost customers between $5 - $7.* Empower research shows 76% of shoppers are doing as much as they can to save money, and companies are taking notice with value-adds and lower prices.  

⚪ White picket fence: 1 in 5 Americans are scrolling for their dream home or next apartment, according to Empower research. Zillow data shows new listings from home sellers jumped in May, up 13%* from a year ago, so there is more inventory to go around for buyers. But for those looking for a brand-new house, there may be a wait time. In the last five years, the average duration from initial authorization to construction kickoff increased by 45% to almost 500 days. 

🔵 Blue dreams: Looking for a new job and daydreaming about beating the summer heat? Swimply, the online platform for pool sharing, is offering the best of both worlds in a search for a Chief Pool Officer to test and review pools in all 50 states.* Beyond fun in the sun, the splashy compensation package, worth a total of $100,000, includes up to $50,000 in performance-based bonuses (Empower data shows bonuses are important to 75% of workers). Since its founding in 2018,* the startup has raised about $51.2 million* in funding and reported a revenue of $25 million in 2022. 


Take me out to the ballgame eat 

Fireworks aren’t the only thing booming this summer: It's an explosive year for the restaurant industry, with the National Restaurant Association projecting an unprecedented $1.1 trillion* in sales by the end of 2024. 

The latest CPI report shows menu prices at sit-down restaurants rose 0.4%* from April to May. Year-over-year, costs at full-service restaurants rose 3.5%, while prices at fast food and fast casual eateries jumped 4.5%. The average Empower Personal Dashboard™ user spent $896 on restaurants in May 2024, compared to $763 in January.  

The price hike might not be stopping foodies: Empower research shows that while traveling, Americans are most likely to splurge on dining (57%).  

🌭 Got beef? According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend an average of $90.42* on food during the Fourth of July. The price of hot dogs has surged 7.1%,* but that’s not stopping Americans from enjoying about 150 million* during the holiday. Winners of Nathan’s Famous annual hot dog contest have eaten a total of 1,509* franks since 1972. 

After 16 wins and hundreds of hot dogs, Joey Chestnut is breaking tradition to join a new Netflix competition: He’ll go stomach-to-stomach with former rival and fellow competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi during a live streamed event on September 2.* 


Summer Friday szn? 

Summer Fridays — that time of the year when the workday ends at 2 p.m. — may be a thing of the past: Only 11% of workers* enjoy this perk, a decline from the 55% of organizations who offered it back in 2019.  

Some offices have evolved the benefit into work-from-home Fridays. A recent report found that two-thirds (66%) of employees with one of these summer options say it improves their productivity. 

Finding the right flex is important for many American workers: Nearly half (48%) would be willing to return to the office if their company offered a four-day work week, according to Empower research.


Fireworks on the court  

It's game on for the WNBA, as last season generated a revenue of more than $200 million,* up 200% from the previous year. 

The WNBA has slam dunked a record-breaking start of its season, making history in TV ratings by averaging 1.3 million viewers* per game. The league also saw the highest first month game attendance since 1998, with more than half selling out. Merchandise sales have jumped 236% compared to the previous year as basketball fans buy jerseys and other gear to rep their favorite players. 

Given the league’s increasing popularity, a few games were even relocated to larger arenas – Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever recently played in front of a sellout crowd of over 20,000,* at an NBA arena rather than the WNBA stadium that fits 4,200. 

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*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.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.