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Where Did Employees Go?: The U.S. is still missing 4.3 million workers. Scarce labor is becoming a fixture of the U.S. economy. The workforce is being reshaped, firms adapting by raising wages, services are reinvented and investing in automation. Employers are struggling to fill 10 million job openings and meet soaring consumer demand. Some economists are concerned that worsening worker shortages reflect longer-term shifts, such as the pandemic-driven acceleration of retirements, that won’t reverse. Time will tell. In addition, the rate of employees leaving their jobs voluntarily has been steadily increasing since September 2009.

Giving is Good for the Soul: Evidence suggests that spending money on other people, rather than yourself, can boost your emotional well-being and provide other health benefits. For example, a journal article suggested that spending money on charities was linked to an increased happiness level, while money spent on personal experiences or new stuff had no effect on one’s personal happiness level. As we turn the corner to the end of the year, it might be a good time to consider where you can donate for the benefit of others … and boost your own happiness.

It’s Never Too Early: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is suggesting that high school isn’t soon enough for students to get personal financial education. He states, “When I talk to students now, they talk about the need for financial literacy learning in a practical sense—how to look at debt and how to plan for a financially secure future.” A personal finance course is required in 21 states, but Cardona suggests that weaving a better personal finance education curriculum into classrooms makes a lot of sense coming out of the pandemic that has caused money questions for many.

Triple Threat: It seems people are finally realizing the power of health savings accounts (HSA). Participants can contribute tax-free dollars, take them out tax-free (in some cases), and let them grow tax-free. At the end of June, roughly 2 million HSA accounts had at least some of their funds invested (rather than just sitting in a savings account). Those investment assets reached an estimated $30.4 billion, up 73% from 2020.

Weekly Highlights:

  • Early last week, William Shatner became the oldest person to visit space. At 90, Shatner jetted off to space onboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket.
  • Biden announced a 90-day sprint to fix the problems in the twisted global supply chain, particularly at major ports, as it threatens to disrupt holiday consumer spending.
  • A pair of German investors are taking cryptocurrency trading tips from a hamster. The hamster, Mr. Goxx, runs on an “intention wheel” that selects a currency to trade, then enters one of two tunnels—one for buy and one for sell—automatically triggering a trade. The anonymous owner said the experiment was inspired by seeing others “throwing a lot of their savings on the crypto market without having a clue what’s going on there.” He thought he’d see whether his hamster would “make smarter investment decisions.” Mr. Goxx’s portfolio is up nearly 20 percent since June—outperforming Warren Buffett and the S&P 500.