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Fed in the Headlines: Among the many headlines this week was a statement from the Federal Reserve officials who offered competing views of when they might begin to lower interest rates after Chair Jerome Powell suggested they were likely done with rate increases and that the potential of rate cuts was clearly in view for the front half of the year to come. Within 48 hours, one of Powell’s senior lieutenants said that central bank officials weren’t actively debating rate cuts in an effort to temper excitement following Powell’s comments. The Fed has a dual mandate to ensure prices are low and stable and that the economy has low unemployment. There is no doubt our markets are hanging on their every word right now.

Preparing for the New Year: While New Year’s Resolutions come and go quite quickly, the idea behind evaluating your goals and hopes for the new year likely has some value. Here are some thoughts about areas that you might want to consider:

Financial Literacy: In a recent article regarding financial preparedness, 57% of respondents said their lack of financial understanding has impacted their ability to be financially prepared for the future:

The article primarily regards state requirements in schools for financial literacy classes. A few states require 100% of all students to take a financial literacy class to graduate. Some states, like California, require less than 1% of graduates to take a course. What is one way you could aid your children in a better understanding of financial literacy in the coming year?

Retirement Preparedness: If you are on the other end of the spectrum and preparing for retirement rather than launching children into adulthood, considering your preparedness for retirement has value. People tend to underestimate their financial needs in three areas: home maintenance costs, long-term healthcare, and outliving their money. Is your financial plan adjusted for a realistic picture of retirement? Without pensions, saving for 20, even 30, years of savings is recommended to ensure you’re adequately equipped for retirement. Reach out to your advisor today if you’d like to discuss further.

Year In Review: We came across these stats and thought they were an interesting read. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a look into various areas of the economy and the culture at large.

Investing—

  • Berkshire Hathaway has grown its book value per share by 14,123x since 1955. (Source: SEC filings, published here)
  • “Did you know the market cap of the entire U.S. stock market in 1990 was only $2.8 trillion? That’s what one company, Apple, is worth today.” (Source: Strange Loop Canon)

Market Froth—

  • “Roughly 70 special-purpose acquisition companies have liquidated and returned money to investors since the start of December. That is more than the total number of SPAC liquidations in the market’s history.” (Source: WSJ)
  • “Combined, First Republic, Silicon Valley Bank, and Signature Bank held more in inflation-adjusted assets than the 25 U.S. banks that collapsed in 2008.” (Source: FDIC)

Inflation—

  • Burger King joined McDonald’s and Subway in removing tomatoes from menus in India as food inflation in August 2023 hit its highest since January 2020. (Source: Reuters)
  • InMarket … measured a 4% average increase in the share of dollar-store visits this year among those making more than $100,000, compared with the second half of 2022.” (Source: WSJ)

Personal Finance—

  • At some point between the ages of 25 and 60 (Source: Rob Henderson):
    73% of Americans will find themselves in the top 20 percent of the income distribution
    56% will enter the top 10%
    39% will enter the top 5%
    12% will enter in the top 1%
  • A record 2.8% of 401(k) participants run by Vanguard Group accessed their retirement savings in 2022 to cope with hardships such as medical bills, eviction or foreclosure, etc., which is up from 2.1% in 2021 and a pre-pandemic average of about 2%. (Source: WSJ)

Energy & Commodities—

  • The vehicles Rivian sold in the first quarter for roughly $83,000 on average cost about $150,000 each to manufacture. (Source: WSJ)
  • “We use enough crude to fill about 6,500 Olympic-size swimming pools every day. More than a third of those swimming pools would be needed to quench the thirst of two countries: the U.S. and China.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Company Specific—

  • Chick-fil-A generated $18.8 billion in sales in 2022, with $8.6 million in revenue per standalone location. (Source: Restaurant Business)
  • 87% of teens own an iPhone. (Source: Piper Sandler)

Sports—

  • The Super Bowl is the second-highest eating day for Americans after Thanksgiving. (Source: AS)
  • “In 1970, they (field box seats at Yankee Stadium) cost an inflation-adjusted $26 in 2019 dollars. The same ticket cost $300 in 2019 – more than eleven times as much.” (Source: An Economist Goes to the Game)

Media—

  • Almost 1 in 5 people in the U.S., aged 13 or older, listen to a podcast daily (double the rate it was in 2018). (Source: Edison Research)
  • At the start of the year, >50% of Disney+ subscribers were adults without kids. (Source: Statista)

Miscellaneous—

  • “21.8% of U.S. loan applications over the last month (June 2023) were denied—the highest rejection rate since June 2018.” (Source: Forbes)
  • The percentage of 16-year-olds with a driver’s license has declined from 43% in 1997 to 25% in 2020. (Source: Bloomberg)

Setting Goals: If you want to be motivated in your 2024 aspirations, consider the example of Junior Bounous, who is effortlessly skiing down steep and challenging terrain at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. A self-taught skier, he became one of Utah’s first certified ski instructors in 1948. As if tackling the slopes at 98 isn’t inspiring enough, the bond he and his son have is rather inspiring amidst all they’ve worked through as a family. Read the entire story here.