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The Retirement Group


Recent Posts

Lump Sum Payments May Have Peaked With ConocoPhillips Due to Rising Interest Rates

Mar 24, 2022 1:57:11 PM
written by The Retirement Group

ConocoPhillips employees considering the lump sum option on their pension payment, may have an opportunity to take advantage of lower interest rates in Q1 2022 before higher rates go into effect for Q2 2022. Over the course of 2020, interest rates dropped dramatically, which greatly increased many lump sum payments. However, interest rates spiked modestly through 2021. While the overall trajectory of interest rates has been higher, the slight drop in ConocoPhillips rates for Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 should have the effect of increasing lump sum amounts, momentarily, or at the very least delaying decreases.

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posted in Pension, Interest rates, ConocoPhillips

What Do Rising Interest Rates Mean for Your Money?

Mar 24, 2022 10:26:07 AM
written by The Retirement Group

On March 16, 2022, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark federal funds rate by 0.25% to a target range of 0.25% to 0.50%. This is the beginning of a series of increases that the FOMC expects to carry out over the next two years to combat high inflation.1

Along with announcing the current increase, the FOMC released economic projections that suggest the equivalent of six additional 0.25% increases in 2022, followed by three or four more increases in 2023.2 Keep in mind that these are only projections, based on current conditions, and may not come to pass. However, they provide a helpful picture of the potential direction of U.S. interest rates.

What is the federal funds rate?
The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other overnight to maintain legally required reserves within the Federal Reserve System. The FOMC sets a target range, usually a 0.25% spread, and then sets two specific rates that act as a floor and a ceiling to push the funds rate into that target range. The rate may vary slightly from day to day, but it generally stays within the target range.

Although the federal funds rate is an internal rate within the Federal Reserve System, it serves as a benchmark for many short-term rates set by banks and can influence longer-term rates as well.

Why does the Fed adjust the federal funds rate?
The Federal Reserve and the FOMC operate under a dual mandate to conduct monetary policies that foster maximum employment and price stability. Adjusting the federal funds rate is the Fed's primary tool to influence economic growth and inflation.

The FOMC lowers the federal funds rate to stimulate the economy by making it easier for businesses and consumers to borrow, and raises the rate to combat inflation by making borrowing more expensive. In March 2020, when the U.S. economy was devastated by the pandemic, the Committee quickly dropped the rate to its rock-bottom level of 0.00%–0.25% and has kept it there for two years as the economy recovered.

The FOMC has set a 2% annual inflation goal as consistent with healthy economic growth. The Committee considered it appropriate for inflation to run above 2% for some time in order to balance the extended period when it ran below 2% and give the economy more time to grow in a low-rate environment. However, the steadily increasing inflation levels over the last year — with no sign of easing — have forced the Fed to change course and tighten monetary policy.

How will consumer interest rates be affected?
The prime rate, which commercial banks charge their best customers, is tied directly to the federal funds rate and generally runs about 3% above it. Though actual rates can vary widely, small-business loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, home-equity lines of credit, auto loans, credit cards, and other forms of consumer credit are often linked to the prime rate, so the rates on these types of loans typically increase with the federal funds rate. Fed rate hikes might also put upward pressure on interest rates for new fixed-rate home mortgages, but these rates are not tied directly to the federal funds rate or the prime rate.

Although rising interest rates make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow, retirees and others who seek income could eventually benefit from higher yields on savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs). Banks typically raise rates charged on loans more quickly than they raise rates paid on deposits, but an extended series of rate increases should filter down to savers over time.

What about bond investments?
Interest-rate changes can have a broad effect on investments, but the impact tends to be more pronounced in the short term as markets adjust to the new level.

When interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds typically falls. Put simply, investors would prefer a newer bond paying a higher interest rate than an existing bond paying a lower rate. Longer-term bonds tend to fluctuate more than those with shorter maturities because investors may be reluctant to tie up their money for an extended period if they anticipate higher yields in the future.

Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original value, but when a bond is held to maturity, the bond owner would receive the face value and interest, unless the issuer defaults. Thus, rising interest rates should not affect the return on a bond you hold to maturity, but may affect the price of a bond you want to sell on the secondary market before it reaches maturity.

Although the rising-rate environment may have a negative impact on bonds you currently hold and want to sell, it might also offer more appealing rates for future bond purchases.

Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest rate, and credit risks associated with their underlying bonds. Thus, falling bond values due to rising rates can adversely affect a bond fund's performance. However, as underlying bonds mature and are replaced by higher-yielding bonds within a rising interest-rate environment, the fund's yield and/or share value could potentially increase over the long term.

How will the stock market react?
Equities may also be affected by rising rates, though not as directly as bonds. Stock prices are closely tied to earnings growth, so many corporations stand to benefit from a more robust economy, even with higher interest rates. On the other hand, companies that rely on heavy borrowing will likely face higher costs going forward, which could affect their bottom lines.

The stock market reacted positively to the initial rate hike and the projected path forward, but investors will be watching closely to see how the economy performs as interest rates adjust — and whether the increases are working to tame inflation.3

The market may continue to react, positively or negatively, to the government's inflation reports or the Fed's interest-rate decisions, but any reaction is typically temporary. As always, it's important to maintain a long-term perspective and make sound investment decisions based on your own financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

The FDIC insures CDs and bank savings accounts, which generally provide a fixed rate of return, up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured institution. The return and principal value of stocks and investment funds fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments offering the potential for higher rates of return also involve higher risk.

Investment funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the fund's objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

1–2) Federal Reserve, March 16, 2022
3) The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2022


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posted in Interest rates, Money

Watch Out for These Common Tax Scams

Mar 23, 2022 10:01:31 AM
written by The Retirement Group

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax scams tend to increase during tax season and/or times of crisis.1 Now that tax season is in full swing, the IRS is reminding taxpayers to use caution and avoid becoming the victim of a fraudulent tax scheme. Here are some of the most common tax scams to watch out for.


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posted in Tax, Scams

Chevron Interest Rates Jump, Lump Sum Payments Continue to Decrease

Mar 22, 2022 4:02:35 PM
written by The Retirement Group

Lump-sums are decreasing for Chevron employees who wait to commence their pension lump-sums.  With both short, medium, and long-term rates rising over the last month, the higher average rates will result in lower lump-sums for those retiring in May of 2022. When Chevron employees elect the month they would like to begin their pension, Chevron looks back to the third, fourth, and fifth month's rates to calculate the rates used for the pension disbursement. When interest rates move up or down, your pension lump sum amount will move in an inverse relationship. Through the pandemic, interest rates dropped dramatically which has greatly increased many lump sum payments. This trend culminated in record lows for individuals who commenced their benefits in December of 2020. However, since December 2020, rates have increased, causing a reduction in pension lump-sums.


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posted in Pension, Interest rates, Chevron

Global Finance: Kicking Russia Out of SWIFT

Mar 13, 2022 7:17:47 PM
written by The Retirement Group

Over the past days, the United States and other countries have imposed various sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. One sanction that was discussed initially but not implemented immediately was blocking Russia from the SWIFT global banking network. However, the United States and European allies eventually agreed to remove selected Russian banks from SWIFT. What does this mean?

What is the SWIFT financial system?

SWIFT, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a cooperative of financial institutions formed in 1973. Headquartered in Belgium, SWIFT is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium along with other major central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve System, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank.1


SWIFT isn't a traditional bank and doesn't move money like a traditional bank. Rather, it moves information about money, acting as a secure global messaging system that connects more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries and territories around the world, alerting banks when transactions are about to take place and facilitating cross-border financial activity.2


SWIFT communications are important to the global banking system. In 2021, SWIFT recorded an average of 42 million messages per day, an 11.4% increase over 2020.3


Blocking selected Russian banks from SWIFT is a drastic measure that could potentially result in significant economic pain for Russia, both immediately and over the long term. It essentially cuts Russia off from the global financial system.4

What was behind the initial delay in expelling Russia from SWIFT?

The United States favored blocking Russia from SWIFT at the outset, but couldn't do so unilaterally. Such a move required the support of other European nations, and some of the 27-member nations in the European Union (EU) were initially hesitant. Because Russia is a key energy supplier to Europe, some European nations worried that expelling Russia from SWIFT could potentially disrupt natural gas supplies and make it more costly and complicated to send payments for energy and other goods.5 Another reason for hesitancy was the fear of jeopardizing a fragile post-COVID economic recovery in Europe.6


Additionally, there were concerns that blocking Russia from SWIFT would cause it to find alternative ways to participate in the global economy by forging stronger ties with China, developing its own financial messaging system, and/or creating its own digital currency. There was also the risk that Russia could attempt to disrupt the global economy through ransomware attacks.7


While the United States waited for buy-in from all 27-member EU nations to block Russia from SWIFT, it focused on targeting Russian banks directly in an effort to limit their ability to raise capital and access U.S. dollars. Russia's financial services sector is heavily dominated by state-owned entities that rely on the U.S. financial system to conduct their business activities, both within Russia and internationally. By targeting Russian banks directly with sanctions, the United States attempted to isolate Russia from international finance and commerce.8


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated, "Treasury is taking serious and unprecedented action to deliver swift and severe consequences to the Kremlin and significantly impair their ability to use the Russian economy and financial system to further their malign activity."9

The road to SWIFT sanctions

Then on February 26, 2022, after intense international diplomacy and an impassioned plea by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that by all accounts moved world leaders to act, the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom agreed to kick selected Russian banks off the SWIFT financial network.10In making the announcement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated, "This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally."11


Not all Russian banks were cut off from SWIFT, though. As a compromise, some smaller banks were allowed to remain to allow European nations to pay for natural gas (the EU imports 40% of its natural gas from Russia) and to allow the United States to pay for oil.12


Along with blocking certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom also announced that they would take additional actions against Russia's central bank to prevent it from deploying its more than $600 billion in reserves in attempt to "sanction-proof" Russia's economy. Ms. von der Leyen stated, "We will paralyze the assets of Russia's central bank."13


This is a fluid situation, and ongoing diplomacy around sanctions is likely in the days and weeks ahead.

1-2, 4) nbcnews.com, February 24, 2022
3) SWIFT FIN Traffic & Figures, 2022
5) The New York Times, February 24, 2022
6) The New York Times, February 25, 2022
7) The New York Times, February 23, 2022
8-9) U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 24, 2022
10) The Washington Post, February 27, 2022
11-13) The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2022

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posted in Market Volatility, Finances

Colliding Forces: Russia, Oil, Inflation, and Market Volatility

Mar 8, 2022 2:38:25 PM
written by The Retirement Group

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has drawn condemnation and punitive sanctions from the United States, Europe, and their allies. The humanitarian cost of war cannot be measured, and the long-term economic effects could take months or years to unfold. However, the early stages of the conflict pushed oil prices upward and sent the U.S. stock market plunging, only to see stocks bounce back and drop again — with more volatility likely.1

For now, it may be helpful to look at how the Russia-Ukraine conflict might affect the global oil market as well as U.S. consumers and investors.


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posted in Market Volatility, Inflation, Oil

There's Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2021

Mar 2, 2022 3:50:18 PM
written by The Retirement Group

Even though tax filing season is well under way, there's still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2021. You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $6,000 for 2021 ($7,000 if you were age 50 or older on or before December 31, 2021). For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2021 is Monday, April 18, 2022.

You can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, or both, as long as your total contributions don't exceed the annual limit (or, if less, 100% of your earned income). You may also be able to contribute to an IRA for your spouse for 2021, even if your spouse didn't have any 2021 income.


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posted in 2021, IRA

Interest Rates Continue their Climb in 2022, What will this Mean for Future Lump Sums at AT&T?

Feb 22, 2022 4:16:50 PM
written by The Retirement Group

Could Lump-Sums for AT&T employees be on the decline? The November interest rates,  which AT&T uses to determine lump sum values for everyone who retires in 2022 were released in December. We now have new monthly segment rates which show that interest rates are continuing to rise. Rates have been steadily increasing over the past year and with the recent announcement of next year's interest rates we are very likely to see a reduction in lump-sum values for AT&T employees who retire in 2023. AT&T interest rates decreased in 2020 causing 2021 lump sums to hit record highs. Based on the current trend of interest rates and monetary policy announcements it is likely that rates seen in 2020 will be the lowest for the foreseeable future - meaning that the Lump Sum Values for AT&T employees who retired in 2021 will likely be the highest for the foreseeable future. When interest rates move up or down, your pension lump sum amount will move in an inverse relationship. 


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posted in Pension, Interest rates, AT&T

ExxonMobil's Lump Sum Payments may have already Peaked as Interest Rates Jump

Feb 21, 2022 12:18:00 PM
written by The Retirement Group

Interest rates are tending upward, if this trend continues it will decrease the value of ExxonMobil employees' pension lump-sums. The IRS has recently released the Segment rates for the month of January, recorded at: 1.41% / 3.02% / 3.36%. Over the course of 2021 and now into 2022, interest rates at ExxonMobil increased significantly, which greatly reduced many lump sum payments. With record low rates culminating in the first quarter of 2021, ExxonMobil employees have since seen a significant increase in interest rates. We saw rates rise consistently in 2021 and with the announcement of January segment rates those retiring in the second quarter will see an even further reduction in lump sums. This recent trend upward looks be an early indicator of bad news for ExxonMobil employees opting for a lump-sum in the future.


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posted in Financial Planning, Lump Sum, Pension, Retirement Planning

ConocoPhillips' Lump Sum Payments may have Peaked, With Jump in Newly Released Interest Rates

Feb 20, 2022 9:07:00 AM
written by The Retirement Group

ConocoPhillips employees considering the lump sum option on their pension payment, may have an opportunity to take advantage of lower interest rates in Q1 2022 before higher rates take into effect for the Q2 2022. Over the course of 2020, interest rates dropped dramatically, which greatly increased many lump sum payments. However, interest rates spiked modestly through 2021. While the overall trajectory of interest rates has been higher, the slight drop in ConocoPhillips rates for Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 should have the affect of increasing lump sum amounts, momentarily.

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posted in Pension, Interest rates, ConocoPhillips

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