Updated November 27, 2023
Adam Damko, CFA
The Piggy Bank
📈 Stocks melt up during Thanksgiving week.
Black Friday Red Flags: Consumer spending has remained strong throughout 2023, despite persistent inflation pushing up the price of everyday goods. However, dwindling savings and high credit card debt might finally be starting to catch up with consumers as retail sales slipped in October for the first time in months.
According to a 2023 Black Friday analysis by Mastercard, in-store sales rose just over 1% year-over-year, while online sales increased 8% over the comparable period.
The National Retail Federation — the nation’s largest retail trade group — forecasts that US holiday sales will rise 3% to 4%. This would be a mild decrease from 5.4% growth last year, but still much preferred to a year-over-year decrease.
📰 In Other News
OpenAI CEO Gets Fired and Rehired: Within a span of a week, the board of OpenAI unexpectedly fired CEO Sam Altman — only to rehire him a few days later. The creator of ChatGPT has been responsible for one of the most successful startups ever, already valued at roughly $80 billion despite launching its generative AI chatbot a year ago.
Following Altman’s firing, hundreds of OpenAI employees vowed to quit in solidarity and follow their CEO to Microsoft, which announced Altman would head up its new advanced AI research team. But ultimately, OpenAI reversed its decision and brought Altman back on, along with a reconfigured board.
The in-depth reasoning behind the initial termination was not given, but it’s rumored that Altman’s firing might have had to do with diverging opinions on the future of AI. Nevertheless, the direction of OpenAI, its 49% owner Microsoft, and its once and future CEO are now fully aligned.
Stay-or-Pay Clauses: Stay-or-pay contracts are employment agreements in which an employee agrees to stay with a company for a set period of time. Traditionally, these contracts have been used in industries that require significant upfront training, such as airline pilots. These clauses can help companies protect themselves from investing in an employee’s training, just to have them leave.
Since the pandemic, these clauses have become more common, appearing in contracts for jobs like roofers, social workers, truckers, teachers, government employees, and more. Stay-or-pay contracts are now possibly found in sectors that employ a third of the American workforce. Be sure to keep an eye out for this clause before you sign your next contract!
Turbulent Skies for American Airlines: The union representing American Airlines flight attendants requested permission to strike from federal employees. If approved, this strike could potentially occur before the end of the busy travel season. Leaders at the Flight Attendants' Union say they are disappointed with the limited progress made during negotiations for a new contract for employees who haven't received a pay increase since 2019.
🚀 Gen Z’s Got the Entrepreneurial Bug
Out With the Old
It's no secret that Generation Z is disillusioned with the traditional way of working.
Instead of spending 9-to-5 at the office, today’s youngest workers crave a lifestyle that offers flexibility and creativity. According to a survey by Morning Consult and Samsung, for roughly 50% of Gen Z, this means one thing — becoming an entrepreneur by starting their own business.
For older generations, starting a business usually meant leasing a storefront, taking out a loan to buy inventory, and opening up a physical shop. It was an effort that required a decent amount of capital investment, making it very risky.
But these days, almost any 20-something-year-old with a smartphone can leverage the internet, artificial intelligence, social media, and thousands of other tools to start a global business with minimal money upfront.
Modern Day Entrepreneurs
For Generation Z, even the word “entrepreneur” has started to take on a new meaning. Historically, the word entrepreneur meant a person who develops a new product or service. But for Gen Z, becoming an entrepreneur can be as simple as creating content on social media.
Content creators are a new class of entrepreneurs who create and monetize content on social media platforms. Regardless of the social media platform that they use, the recipe for becoming a content creator stays fairly consistent:
Create a profile and dedicate time to creating high-quality content.
After building up a following, monetize the social page(s) by sourcing endorsement deals from brands. On some platforms, like YouTube, content creators can advertise directly through the platform.
From there, creators can earn consistent income while also getting to flex their creative muscles.
Not every content creator follows this exact process, but this is the basic idea.
Making a Difference
Another major motivating factor for Gen Z is their desire to make a difference. Without entrepreneurship, most members of Gen Z would have to wait 20 or so years of climbing the corporate ladder to be in a position of influence.
But social media, along with a handful of other tools, gives many people in their 20s and 30s the ability to have their voices heard and make a difference while still making a living.
Moreover, social media has long since transitioned from a fun time waster to a serious money maker. The world’s most famous YouTuber — Mr. Beast — is worth roughly $500 million according to The Street. He got started simply making fun YouTube videos with his friends and has scaled this into an empire that’s worth more than many businesses.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that so many members of Gen Z are looking at someone like Mr. Beast and thinking, “Why can’t that be me?”
😀 How Much Money Do People Need to Be Happy?
Happiness and Cash
Many people often claim that 'money can't buy happiness.' But this statement is not entirely true since having more money can help solve day-to-day troubles. With an excess of cash, many pressing needs of the day are solved — there's no fear of going hungry, becoming homeless, or not being able to get healthcare.
Additionally, having plenty of money can help one live comfortably, provide for loved ones, and eliminate the stress of paying bills. Just on the surface level, having money can improve many factors that influence happiness.
In fact, many studies have found that money can help increase satisfaction. But this raises another question: exactly how much money do you need to be happy?
The financial services provider, Empower, attempted to answer this question by surveying 2000 people and asking them exactly how much money they’d need to be happy.
How Much Is Enough?
The general takeaway from Empower’s survey is that almost everyone wants a raise. Another key takeaway is that the more money you have, the larger of a raise you’d need in order to feel happy.
Respondents with a median salary of $65,000 stated that $95,000 would make them happier — a raise of $30,000.
Respondents with a median salary of $250,000 stated that $350,000 would make them happier — a raise of $100,000.
In a separate study from 2018, roughly 50% of respondents with a net worth of $10 million or more said they would need their salary to increase by 50% or more to be happy.
This phenomenon of spending more as income increases is known as “lifestyle creep.” Lifestyle creep states that a person’s discretionary consumption will increase on non-essential items as their standard of living improves. In other words, when the overall standard of living improves, they tend to spend more on non-essential items.
No matter how much money one makes, there's usually a lingering feeling that life would be better with just a bit more.
Can Money Buy Happiness?
Roughly 70% of respondents in Empower’s survey agreed that having more money would solve most of their problems. This response was common for people in all income brackets, including those earning over $200,000 annually. In general, most people said that a 50% raise would suffice in making them happier.
But unfortunately, employers are only planning to bump salaries by 3.9% on average in 2024 — nowhere close to 50%. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that an employer will ever increase an employee's salary by 50%, all at once.
Controlling how much money one makes can be very challenging. Instead, experts recommend focusing on two other aspects of financial life to enhance happiness:
Focus on optimizing the use of available funds. Prioritize spending on things that hold significance to maximize the impact of spending on overall happiness.
Prioritize time over money. Time is the one resource that cannot be purchased. Those who prioritize time often tend to experience greater happiness compared to those who don't.
In the end, while having more money can contribute to a more enjoyable and stress-free life, it's essential to remember that the most valuable asset is time.
Roughly 40% of homeowners in the U.S. now own their homes outright. Baby boomers led the trend toward outright homeownership by securing low-interest rates to refinance their mortgages.
Many economists are now expecting an interest rate cut at some point in 2024. But the Fed cutting interest rates could also be a sign that the economy is slowing.
”Choiceful” is corporate America’s new favorite word, appearing in 15 earnings calls so far in 2023. The word describes consumers who are trying to cut back on spending but are willing to splurge on things that are worth it.
60% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, according to LendingClub. Despite this, roughly 96% of shoppers still plan to overspend this holiday season.
57% of Americans admitted to tipping 15% or less at restaurants. “Tip fatigue” could be causing tip values to decline in recent months.
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