Retirement Planning Blog

Spotlight Series Interview – John Chopak spotlight series interview

The Spotlight Series highlights independent agents and financial advisors who are part of our tight-knit community of financial professionals across the country. They come from all walks of life, and each one brings rich life experiences, insights, and wisdom from their involvement in financial services and other professional pursuits.


We celebrate them as independent business owners, neighbors, friends, educators, and movers-and-shakers affecting positive change in their communities. Today, we are joined by John Chopak, a highly experienced, independent agent from Massachusetts. John is singularly unique as to the extent and breadth of his business experience before he jumped into financial services and opened an independent practice. He is very entrepreneurial, hands-on, and deeply involved with each client’s retirement planning. John handles all services for each client himself. Keeping things “human” in his practice is a strong focus for him.

He has an unyielding commitment to integrity and doing the right thing for all clients. We are proud to have him as part of our national network of financial professionals, which has been featured on major news outlets that reach 84+ million households across the U.S. In short, you can say that John brings a deep, practical insight and wisdom to every client he serves.

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Which Annuities Help with Inflation?


With inflation on the rise, many people in retirement are concerned about maintaining their lifestyle. How can they keep up with the rising cost of living while making sure they don’t run out of money? One option that can help with inflation is with an annuity.

Inflation can be a major problem for retirees, as the cost of living goes up while their income stays the same. Annuities can help protect against inflation by providing a set, unchanging, minimum income that can give you more flexibility with the rest of your money to counter changes in the cost of living. Some annuities also have benefits that pay increasing income over time.

In this article, we take a look at how annuities can help offset the effects of inflation, which specific types of annuities might be worth exploring for this, and how to choose the right annuity for your needs.

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Annuity Expert Advice — Finding the Right Guide to a Secure Retirement


Annuities are a great solution for guaranteed lifetime income and other contractual guarantees, but you want the right one for your situation. How do you navigate an annuity market with thousands of annuity products – and sometimes inferior choices, at that?

It starts with finding the right annuity expert advice – or in other words, professional guidance for your situation to locate the best-fitting annuity just for you. In this article, we will go over different things to keep in mind as you search for expert annuity advice that is right for your circumstances.

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Where Is the Safest Place to Put Your Retirement Money?


The ‘safest’ places to put your money are in low-risk investments and savings vehicles that provide guaranteed growth. These low-risk options include fixed annuities, CDs, Treasury securities, corporate bonds, savings accounts, and money market accounts.

You usually get the highest interest rates with fixed-type annuities of this bunch. There are other fixed-type annuities that can give higher growth potential than guaranteed-rate annuities, if that is something that appeals to you.

Retirement can be an uncertain stage in life. Markets go up and down, inflation rises and falls, and no one knows how long their retirement might last. You can explore options to grow your retirement savings with guaranteed interest earnings and then turn those funds into predictable income streams for retirement.

In this article, we will look at some of the more popular low-risk places to put your retirement money – and what each of those options can involve.

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567 Ways to Claim Social Security


Have you heard that there are over 560 ways to claim Social Security? Some experts peg it at 567 ways to take Social Security, to be specific. With so many options, how can you be sure that you have chosen the right Social Security claiming strategy for your situation?

To be clear, those are just numbers. Paul Simon knew 50 ways to leave your lover. Most sources cite somewhere between 567 ways, nine ways (for a single person), and 81 ways (for a couple).

However many ways there really are, and even the Social Security Administration doesn’t seem to offer a straightforward answer, the important thing is that you claim in the most productive way for you and your spouse if you are married.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you explore different options for when and how you will collect Social Security. These factors can help you make the most of your benefits, whether claiming early or delaying past your age of full benefit eligibility to let your benefit grow more.

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Retirement Planning Options for Small Business Owners

Retirement Planning Options for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you are used to taking the lead. But there is one frontier you may still need to master… the future of your retirement. That is a matter of doing what you can to ensure all your hard work leads to your ideal retirement lifestyle.

While a 401(k) plan is the dominant retirement bedrock for employed Americans, small business owners are in a different boat. You are your own employer.

So whether you have zero or 100 employees, you must make the choice to act toward building a strong financial future for yourself. Depending on the workplace benefits of your organization, you may also impact those aiding you in your entrepreneurial dream.   

And Social Security benefits can help, but only to a point. A motivating factor for building up retirement savings is the fact that, as an entrepreneur, you bring home a certain level of income. Portfolio holdings, personal assets, and savings most likely will play into your needs as a high-income household, as Social Security can only go so far.    

Not only that, chances are you make more than the income limit placed by Social Security. For 2024, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is $168,600, up from $160,200 in 2023.

And what is another focal point for small business owners? Over-relying on their business as their retirement safety net. But time and again, historical data has shown this to be true: It’s risky to put all of your eggs – namely, your retirement and financial comfort – into one basket. Read More

Common Financial Issues for Surviving Spouses

common financial issue for surviving spouses

Surviving spouses have a lot to deal with when their significant other passes away. There is much emotional grief. Many financial and life issues arise, requiring their attention. All of this can be even more burdensome in times when economic uncertainty is strong.   

For many people in retirement, this situation applies now. The cost of living is going up. Healthcare costs are often an ever-growing area of spending for many retirees, as their need for healthcare usually increases in later years. What’s more, surviving spouses are often left in a harder situation, as their expenses may not go down proportionately with their incomes.

Here we will look at some of the issues that surviving spouses can expect to face after their spouse is gone.

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Social Security Benefits COLA 2023: What You Should Know


The news for the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2023 is out. There will be a significant COLA for recipients in 2023, and it will be the largest boost in four decades. This is good news for retirees and others receiving Social Security benefits, as it means that their benefits will increase next year to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The COLA for 2023 will be a historic 8.7%, according to the Social Security Administration. This will be the largest COLA since the 11.2% boost in benefits that took place in 1982. To put things in perspective, last year Social Security had a 5.9% increase in benefit payments.

Keep reading to learn more about how the COLA is calculated and what it means for you, especially in this period of inflation.

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What Happens to My 401(k) When I Leave My Job?


At some point or another, you may have wondered about what happens to your 401(k) when you leave your current job. When the time comes for you to either retire or start a new job, you will have to decide on what to do with your retirement plan.

You may have accumulated a sizable amount of money in this plan over the years. The 401(k) plan’s investments may be performing well overall.

But does this mean that you should just leave your money in your 401(k) plan with your old employer? What else can you do with it? Here we will examine the different alternatives that you can choose from when it comes to managing your retirement plan at an old employer.

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Understanding the Annuity Aggregation Rule


Annuities provide tax-deferred growth and pay guaranteed income during retirement. If you own an annuity, then it’s good to know how to pay taxes on your withdrawals.

Of course, your annuity carrier will send you a statement at the end of the year showing how much you need to report as taxable income. Nevertheless, knowing what to expect can save you from an unpleasant surprise when you file your tax return. That is especially the case for non-qualified annuities, in which your funds aren’t subject to required minimum distributions. For that reason, tax hits on your non-qualified annuity withdrawals may be a little less familiar territory.

This article on annuities and taxes is a great starting point for understanding the fundamentals of how annuities are treated under different parts of tax law. In this article, we will focus on more on a breakdown of the tax rules for non-qualified annuity withdrawals.

There is one little-known rule that affects you if you own more than one non-qualified annuity, and that is called the “aggregation tax rule.” Let’s get more into that in a little bit.

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Next Steps to Consider

  • Start a Conversation About Your Retirement What-Ifs

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    Start a Conversation About Your Retirement What-Ifs

    Already working with someone or thinking about getting help? Ask us about what is on your mind. Learn More

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    Does for You

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    What Independent Guidance
    Does for You

    See how the crucial differences between independent and captive financial professionals add up. Learn More

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    Stories from Others
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    Hear from others who had financial challenges, were looking for answers, and how we helped them find solutions. Learn More

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