6 min read

Beware of the Plastics… We Wear

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Happy December!

The holiday season is in full swing, evidenced by the energetic crowds that filled their favorite stores over Black Friday weekend. If you were among the 122.7 million Americans to visit a store in person, you might have even felt a bit of pre-2020 vibes as you navigated the swarming masses. Online shopping was up too, with retailers pulling in a record $11.3 billion in sales on Cyber Monday alone.

So, do the throngs of shoppers point to a strengthening economy, or is it evidence that everyone is searching for bargains amid rampant inflation? Mixed economic signals are making it hard to answer that question. On Tuesday, the Conference Board announced that US consumer confidence dropped in November to its lowest level since July. But then on Wednesday, the Commerce Department said that real gross domestic product (GDP) spiked 2.9% in Q3 — higher than previously estimated.

The mixed signals are just another sign of our wonky economy. Thanks to uncertainty, combined with protests in China, the looming potential of a rail worker strike, and tea leaf reading every time Fed Chair Jerome Powell speaks, stocks continue to wobble. In times like these, many investors find peace of mind by maintaining a steady focus on the long term. As we point out in our long-term investing guide, historical returns show the benefit of sticking it out through market dips.

Amid all the uncertainty, it’s inspiring to see that charitable giving remains strong, according to new numbers from Vanguard Charitable (not to mention the unofficial evidence in our social media feeds on Giving Tuesday). One particular stat from Vanguard caught our eye — Americans who included charitable giving in their annual budgets gave nearly four times more than those who did not budget. If you want to start giving more intentionally, including it as a line item in your 2023 budget is one way to stick to that goal.

Asking for a friend….

We know there is a lot to think about these days, and it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. To help with those nagging questions and so you have useful resources at your fingertips, here are few links to resources and past stories relevant in these turbulent times:

News you can use

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  • Are you ready for flask-to-table dining? The FDA has declared a lab-grown meat safe to eat for the first time. Bill Gates-backed Upside Foods, which is developing cultivated meat, poultry, and seafood, got the green light this month for the “chicken filet” they produced in a lab and will now work with the USDA to secure the remaining approvals before it’s sold to US consumers. So far, the only place you can eat what’s being called “clean meat” is Singapore.
  • Americans may soon have more options to align their retirement savings with their values, thanks to the Labor Department. Just before Thanksgiving, the agency issued a rule clarifying that employers can take into account ESG factors when selecting 401(k) investments and exercising proxy voting. Just 13% of 401(k) plans offer socially responsible investment options today, but industry experts expect demand for such investments to grow.
  • If you need more evidence that corporate culture is shifting, The New York Times reports that elite B-schools are adding ESG to their curriculums. Examples include Harvard’s Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society and the Wharton School’s new MBA majors in diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with ESG factors for business. Plus, nearly half of the Yale School of Management’s core curriculum is devoted to ESG.

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