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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Top 10 articles of our first spin around the sun

One-year roundup: Top 10 articles of 2023 

03.14.2024

We’re celebrating our first year of publishing money news and views on how we work, live, and play. Along the way, these are the stories that stand out – for starting conversations, for addressing questions, and for keeping current with the ways financial matters flow throughout our lives. 

1. Can money buy happiness? 

We asked, and 6 in 10 Americans (59%) told us “yes,” with the most resounding answer coming from Millennials (72%) and Gen Z (67%). If financial happiness were to have a price tag, the average person writes it up at $1.2 million.   

But financial happiness isn’t all about the headline figures: Even a little goes a long way, with our research showing that incremental money wins make a massive impact on Americans’ sense of wellbeing. 

Read more: Financial Happiness 

And on the topic of feeling financially confident... 

2. Why use net worth as a financial yardstick? 

To help gauge where you stand financially, it’s common to stack up your situation with others in a similar stage of life. These comparisons are often made on an income basis, but other metrics like net worth can paint a more accurate picture of financial health. That’s because it shows not only how much you’re earning but also what you’re doing with your money: Net worth is simply everything you own (your assets) minus everything you owe (your debts).  

Read more: The average net worth by age in America  

3. Gotta catch 'em all 

One year ago, we launched The CurrencyTM newsletter to give our take on the latest financial headlines to help empower your big money moves. 

In our very first edition, we covered Silicon Valley’s unicorns, Pokémon cards, and tax-loss harvesting. 

4. Read up on withdrawals  

Every year, millions of Americans contribute to a 401(k) plan to save for retirement: Empower data shows that most Americans contribute to a retirement plan (70%), with employer-sponsored 401(k) plans being the most common. But sometimes, unplanned circumstances force people to withdraw funds from their 401(k) before reaching retirement age. If done before age 59½, early withdrawals often come with hefty penalties and tax consequences; we cover the details in our comprehensive explainer. 

Read more: 401(k) withdrawal rules: How to avoid penalties 

5. Let’s have the money talk 

While 66% of Americans believe more open conversations about money are the key to financial freedom, money talk remains taboo. Americans are planning (64%) and dreaming (58%) about their future – but over six in 10 Americans (62%) don’t discuss their finances. 

Our Money Talks research explores the ways people talk – and stay silent – about financial matters.

6. How do your savings stack up? 

Again with the financial benchmarks, inquiring minds must know: How much do people have in their retirement accounts? This time we checked how much savers put toward their 401(k) plans, plus how this would compare to what they could potentially have by annually maxing out their 401(k) contributions. 

Take a look at anonymized data from Empower Personal DashboardTM  for the average 401(k) balance by age

7. Love, marriage & taxes 

If you’re married, you have two options for filing your taxes: jointly or separately. Married filing separately means that you and your spouse each report income, deductions, credits and exemptions on separate tax returns instead of on one return. 

Though tax code generally favors joint returns, there are a few scenarios when filing separately could be beneficial. In our financial explainer, we cover the reasons why couples may want to consider filing separately and how to do it. 

Read more: How married filing separately works & when to do it  

8. Cash is king 

That’s what nearly 1 in 5 (17%) Americans told us in a 2023 research study centered on ways we use dollar bills, particularly in times of market volatility and economic uncertainty. 

Sometimes the tangible sets us at ease: Almost a third of Americans (28%) say they feel safer when they keep money in cash. 

In this research piece, we cover the importance of cash within a diversified portfolio: It’s useful for everyday spending, emergency savings, and short-term financial goals. And with elevated interest rates, you can get a solid return on your cash savings. 

Then again, don’t forget about the historic returns of an investment portfolio,1 bringing us to our next important question... 

9. How can I succeed in the market? 

Volatility, inflation, and ongoing recession fears can make it challenging to manage an investment portfolio – not to mention the knowledge gap: Nearly 20% of adults grew up without practical investment education. 

In this piece, an Empower financial professional breaks down the twists and turns of investing as part of your financial plan, with “controlling the controllables” as a key principle to follow when investing your hard-earned money. 

10. Redefining the ideal retirement 

We’re all about reinvention. And in recent years, the face of retirement has completely changed: Over half (58%) of Americans (64% of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) are open to working indefinitely – but the reasons aren’t purely financial. Would-be working retirees are motivated by values like personal fulfillment (41%) and having a sense of purpose (37%), just as much as potential financial needs (40%), according to this Empower research

1 Visual Capitalist, “Visualizing 150 Years of S&P 500 Returns,” January 2024. 

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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. 

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