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February 01, 2022

Fortune 500: How Are Chevron Employees Impacted by Inflation & Rising Interest Rates?

Have you recently viewed the news? On every news website you visit, the headlines are identical.  As an Fortune 500 or Chevron employee nearing retirement, what does this truly mean for you?

Let's begin by defining what inflation is. Inflation is the increase in the general level of prices for products and services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the CPI, the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a gallon of whole milk will cost $3.66 in October 2021, an 8% increase from October 2020's price of $3.38 per gallon. Together with the other goods and services, we would determine the average price increase and calculate the price increase over a specified time period. The Federal Reserve normally aims for an inflation rate of 2%, and since 2016, it has been remarkably consistent, deviating by no more than half a percentage point. In contrast, the annual inflation rate in 2021 was 7%, a significant change from the 1.4% increase in 2020 and the 2.3% increase in 2019. From 2018 until the end of 2020, the CPI grew at a cumulative rate of 5.7%. Inflation grew quicker in a single year than it did in the preceding three.

Inflation is an anticipated occurrence, and many retirees anticipate a consistent rate throughout their lifetimes when calculating their retirement expenses. However, these calculations are rapidly altered by sudden inflationary increases. Inflation can have devastating effects on the savings of Fortune 500 and Chevron employees because it erodes purchasing power quicker than expected. Currently, you may be able to purchase groceries within a certain budget; however, during an inflationary surge, the cost of groceries will outpace your budget, and you will soon be spending significantly more than usual for a standard grocery bundle.

The Federal Reserve employs interest rates to dissipate inflationary pressures in order to control inflation's rapid ascent. In general, as interest rates rise, inflation falls. This relationship is due to the effect of interest rates on the cost of acquiring money. People will borrow money when interest rates are low because they will pay less in interest. This stimulates the economy and drives up inflation. As interest rates increase, individuals will borrow less, and markets will move more slowly because there is less fuel to contribute to the fire. In a balancing exercise of the economy, these elements are interdependent.

Considering that pension lump sum amounts are calculated using current interest rates, deciding between lump sum and annuity can be challenging. With interest rates remaining near historical lows, the single sum option has never been more appealing. However, with pressure mounting on the Fed to raise rates, this decision will be less straightforward. Since interest rates have a negative impact on lump-sum pensions, the higher interest rates rise, the less you will receive from your Fortune 500 or Chevron lump-sum pension. However, as interest rates rise, annuity pensions become significantly more attractive because they use current interest rates to determine your lifetime monthly payments.

Compared to the country's inflation rate of 7%, healthcare costs have only increased 2.5% over the past year. However, there is a labor shortage in the healthcare industry, which could contribute to an increase in wages in order to attract workers, which would ultimately result in higher patient prices and insurance premiums. Many Fortune 500 or Chevron retirees rely on Medicare to cover their healthcare costs; however, Medicare rarely covers all costs, and patients must pay a premium in addition to out-of-pocket expenses. As inflation continues to rise, these premiums will increase, leading to an overall increase in healthcare costs. Medicare Part B premiums increased by 14.5% for 2022, bringing the standard monthly premium to $170.10. Even though healthcare costs as a whole have not increased in tandem with inflation, those nearing or at retirement age have experienced extremely high inflation.

With rising drug costs and Medicare premiums, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (ERBI) found in its 2022 report that couples with average drug costs would need $296,000 in retirement savings to cover these costs, a 10% increase from the previous year. In order to cover their healthcare costs, couples with higher drug expenses would need $361,000. This is an increase of 11% from the previous year.

Overall, the economic landscape is shifting swiftly, and these recent developments have altered people's retirement expectations and projections. Understanding the impact of inflation and interest rates on your retirement is a crucial component of a successful retirement plan.

Added Fact:
As Chevron employees nearing retirement consider their financial strategies, it's important to note that the impact of inflation and rising interest rates can also affect Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are adjusted annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). If inflation continues to rise, it could lead to higher cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients, potentially providing some relief against the increased expenses associated with retirement. This dynamic should be factored into retirement planning, as it can influence the overall financial landscape for Chevron retirees. Source: Social Security Administration, "Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2023," October 13, 2022.

Added Analogy:
Just as a ship's captain navigates through turbulent waters, Chevron employees nearing retirement must steer through the changing tides of inflation and rising interest rates. These economic currents, akin to powerful waves, can reshape the financial landscape of retirement plans. Picture the ship's compass as Social Security benefits, swaying in response to the winds of inflation. Just as a seasoned captain adjusts the sails, retirees can factor in potential increases in benefit adjustments to help weather the financial storms. Meanwhile, rising interest rates act as the ship's rudder, influencing choices between lump-sum pensions and annuities. As the financial seas ebb and flow, Chevron employees charting their retirement course must ensure their strategies are resilient enough to navigate these changing waters.

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