Feature

A mandatory 4-day week?

And more of the week's best financial insight

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

A mandatory four-day week?

California lawmakers proposed a bill to make a four-day workweek standard for large companies, said Jennifer Kingson in Axios. According to a new law making its way through the state legislature, companies with more than 500 employees would be required to pay time-and-a-half to workers whose hours run over 32 per week. "The legislation is a long shot," but it comes as more companies, including Kickstarter, Shopify, Toshiba, and Shake Shack, "have been giving the four-day workweek a go." Proponents point to experiments in countries like Iceland and Japan that have found the reduced hours "boost worker productivity, work/life balance, and mental and physical health." However, Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economist, called the proposal "terrifying," saying businesses would drastically reduce their employment if it was implemented.

A big COLA for Social Security

Social Security recipients could see the amount on their monthly checks bumped by almost 9 percent next year due to inflation, said Lorie Konish at CNBC. Many seniors cheered Social Security's 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for this year, "the highest increase in about 40 years." But with inflation at 8.5 percent last month, retirees are nonetheless "feeling the pinch." An analysis by the Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan advocacy group, found that even with benefits boosted by $92 per month this year, retirees will be $55 short of what they'll need to keep up with rising prices, meaning inflation has already cost beneficiaries $162 this year. The group expects that the 2023 COLA will wind up closer to 8.9 percent.

Inflation-linked savings bonds

There is one investment available to individuals that's clearly benefiting from inflation, said Dion Rabouin in The Wall Street Journal: "The interest rate on inflation-adjusted U.S. savings bonds will approach 10 percent in May." These U.S. Treasury Series "I Bonds" compound their interest every six months, paying a fixed rate set by the government and an inflation-adjusted rate determined by the change in the consumer price index. With prices soaring, "I Bonds have become a top-yielding asset, even though they carry virtually no risk of principal loss." The downside: The fixed interest rate has been zero percent since May 2020, so I Bond investors are making a big bet that inflation will remain elevated.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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