🐤 Making ends meet

Today's retirees are facing a big problem that will probably be much worse for the next generation.

Saturday | April 29th, 2023
Early Chirp

Welcome to the weekend, chirpers! Everybody’s focused on artificial intelligence these days, and we’ve got a story in today’s newsletter about how it might help you save money at the store.

But on a larger scale, one architect in India recently found out how AI might help redesign the skylines of the future.

In response to a search for “futuristic towers,” the image generator Midjourney produced skyscrapers that don’t resemble the cold buildings covered by steel and glass that you might expect. Instead, they’re covered in vertical forests and their shapes mimic those found in nature. Pretty cool, huh?

-Chris Agee

$84.34 (0.69%)
Dow Jones
$272.00 (0.80%)
S&P 500
$34.13 (0.83%)
-$0.00 (-0.07%)
-$143.79 (-0.49%)
-$0.00 (-7.69%)
*Market data for this issue is from April 28th, 2023 at 4:31pm EST

🏦 Markets: Yesterday marked the final trading day of April on Wall Street — and it was a good one for the Dow Jones. With gains of 0.8%, the index concluded its best month since January.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also up a fraction of a percent on generally positive news in the form of tech-industry earnings reports. Amazon, Snap, and Pinterest saw their respective stock values decline, though.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the week’s biggest winner, chalking up a 1.3% increase over the previous Friday, but its monthly gains were the smallest of all three major indexes.


The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

The Breakdown Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

🚭 No smoking: The number of American adults who smoke cigarettes has hit an all-time low of just 1 in 9, according to U.S. government data. That number was as high as 42% in the 1960s, but it has been falling steadily in the decades since then. This is clearly good news from a health standpoint since smoking is linked to cancer, heart disease, and other serious issues, the same study showed that the number of e-cigarette users is on the rise.

💰 Bank rules: After Silicon Valley Bank collapsed earlier this year, a crisis within the nation’s banking industry impacted virtually all aspects of the nation’s economy. Now, a Federal Reserve report has determined that regulators — including itself — didn’t do enough to avert the crisis. Calling on the appropriate entities to enact new, stricter rules, Fed executive Michael Barr wrote that “there are weaknesses in regulation and supervision that must be addressed.”

🎓😁🏅 Overachiever: High school senior Dennis Maliq Barnes is just 16, but he’s already racked up 27 college credits and he’s set to graduate with a GPA of 4.98. Colleges across the country are eager to recruit him. At last count, 130 schools have made him an offer, and the total value of all the scholarships he has to consider is more than $9 million. Now his high school is doing some research to see if he has set the all-time record for most college scholarship offers.

The single life: A growing number of people have sworn off marriage for any number of reasons, but many of the world’s religions still place a priority on the institution. That’s changing within the Church of England, however, as evidenced in a recent statement by the archbishops of Canterbury and York. They issued a report that declared, in part: “Jesus’ own singleness should ensure that the Church of England celebrates singleness.”

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Don’t Let The Mirage Of Falling Gas Prices Fool You This Year

Here's why we might be reaching an annual peak.

Gas Prices Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The price at gas pumps across the country has been pretty high for a while now, but there might be some (temporary) relief on the way. That’s because costs tend to reach their annual peak and start coming down a bit around this time of the year.

Gearing up for summer

There are a few main reasons for the yearly cycle of rising and falling gas prices, but a major contributor is the fact that summer gas is different than what’s in pumps during other seasons.

Here’s what you should know about the summer blend:

  • It’s a higher grade that limits evaporation during warmer months.
  • The blend typically adds about 15 cents to the cost of each gallon.
  • Gas stations are required to use it between June 1 and Sept. 15.

So if summer gas costs more, why do prices tend to come down in May?

GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan explains: "Typically, the summer is frontloaded and the highest prices are before or just as summer starts. The lowest prices are as summer is setting in September because the supply of gasoline builds up over the course of the summer."

Where we are right now

If 2023 follows the example of previous years, the peak price will come somewhere around May 2. In the years since 2020, the cost of a gallon has increased roughly 50 cents between the beginning of February and the beginning of May.

The national average for regular unleaded on Wednesday was just under $3.65 per gallon — about 4 cents lower than a week ago but nearly 21 cents higher than a month ago.

While we’ll likely see some relief over the next several weeks, De Haan noted that $4-per-gallon prices could return if there’s a major hurricane or an unforeseen refinery issue.

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dad joke

What did the ocean say to the beach?

Nothing it just waved.


Here’s How AI Might Help You Get Better Deals At Walmart

The retail giant is taking humans out of the negotiation process.

Here’s How AI Might Help You Get Better Deals At Walmart Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Artificial intelligence has sparked public debate over whether it will be a positive or negative influence on society. For now, however, we’re in that phase where people and businesses are testing AI out to see what it can do.

And as inflation continues to take its toll on personal budgets and corporate profits, Walmart is hoping that it can use the latest tech to secure the lowest prices for itself and its customers.

The art of the deal

As Walmart Senior VP for International Operations Darren Carithers explained, the retail giant has started using a specially designed chatbot to take over negotiations with vendors.

“We set the requirements and then, at the end, it tells us the outcome,” he said.

The strategy appears to be paying off already, though it’s worth noting that Walmart hasn’t started using the chatbot to negotiate deals on the items you’ll find on the aisles. Instead, the company is using it to get the best prices on equipment that stays in the stores — like shopping carts.

Nevertheless, AI has been able to reach a deal in more than two-thirds of the negotiations for which it’s been used and it’s resulted in savings of about 3%.

Replacing human jobs

While it’s arguably a good thing for companies like Walmart to get the best deals on merchandise and supplies (assuming they pass on the savings to customers), these negotiations were previously handled by human beings whose jobs are now in jeopardy.

Amazon is also starting to automate negotiations, though Target hasn’t adopted such a policy … yet.

Dutch researcher Tim Baarslag seems to think the trade-off is worth it, explaining: “The huge potential is that any kind of company can soon use AI for a problem that normally requires an entire procurement team to handle.”

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Why It’s So Hard For Today’s Seniors To Set A Budget

For many retirees, there's no such thing as guaranteed income for life.

Why It’s So Hard For Today’s Seniors To Set A Budget Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images

In previous generations, Americans who worked hard for several decades could look forward to a fairly comfortable retirement. Along with income from Social Security, many jobs offered a pension that would provide reliable monthly income in the later years of life.

Both of those safeguards are waning these days, though, which has left older Americans struggling to find some consistency in their budgets.

Retirement accounts just aren’t the same

You might be thinking: “What about those who socked money away in 401(k) or IRA accounts?”

While such saving is undoubtedly a smart part of any retirement strategy, it’s not the same as a guaranteed income over the course of one’s retirement.

Instead of being able to count on a set amount of money coming in each month, these individual retirement accounts require retirees to determine how much to withdraw while hoping that they have enough available to pay their bills for the rest of their lives.

Since it’s impossible to know how many more years you’ve got on Earth, there’s no way to accurately predict how much you can safely take out in order to make your savings last. That’s a big problem for today’s retirees — and it’s likely to become even worse for those in younger generations.

Many seniors are living in constant fear

As inflation eats away more and more of the money tucked away in retirement accounts, it’s easy to see why so many retirees are being confronted with an uncertain future.

Here are a few facts to consider:

  • More than half of retired individuals are surviving on less than half of the amount they made before retirement.
  • Roughly half (more females than males) said their financial situation has become somewhat or very stressful.
  • About one-third said their retirement spending is behind schedule.
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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

90 N Church St, The Strathvale House
Grand Cayman KY1, 9006, Cayman Islands

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