Jaime Westenbarger

Jaime Westenbarger

When Jaime Westenbarger bought his first stock while still in High School, he was unaware the large influence that the purchase would have on his future. Always interested in finance and economics, Jaime enrolled at The University of Michigan shortly after completing his service to our country in the United States Marine Corps. In 1999, he officially entered the financial services industry and worked in a number of capacities including but not limited to managing a team of financial advisors until he decided in 2006 it was time to build his own company, Forest Hills Financial. Although the entrepreneurial spirit was partially responsible for the endeavor, it was also driven by his desire to create a company he would want to be a client of. His concern lied in the belief that the financial industry was focused more on sales goals than in truly helping the client, resulted in the founding Forest Hills Financial, Inc. in 2006.


Perspective

 

Since starting Forest Hills Financial in a small one person office in 2006, Jaime Westenbarger has made his mission to turn the financial world on its head. Through his nationally syndicated radio show, The Keeping Your Money Show, he has helped thousands of people filter through the salespeople of the financial services world and focus on the information that actually matters. Jaime’s style of simple explanations of complex problems helped grow his business in only seven years to include clients in 15 states, advisors in four offices, and The Keeping Your Money Show continuing to grow its listening audience. Forest Hills Financial was able to grow revenue over 300% during one of the most devastating recessions in recent memory. Additionally the company continues to develop in size and influence in the financial community on a local, state and even national level. Recently honored with speaking to entrepreneurs at an event hosted by Steve Forbes and authoring a chapter in Mr. Forbes latest book Successonomics, the reach of Jaime’s message continues to grow across the country.

 

Personal

 

Jaime resides with his amazing wife, Hillary and their two children in the Forest Hills community of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Well it is finally over. No more political advertisements interrupting my enjoyment of the World Series. My Facebook feed has finally started to get back to cat pictures, fake news, and 12 people I need to wish a Happy Birthday. The question on everyone’s mind now is, “what does this mean?”. The reality is for some time we may not know exactly and uncertainty is not fun for anyone. A few things are certain and those are what we need to concentrate on right now, especially when it comes to our retirement planning.

  • Have you planned for the possibility of a market sell off?
  • Many thought this would happen immediately if Trump won the Presidency but as we have seen the opposite was the immediate reaction as the most indexes roared for 7 straight days higher. That’s not to say the danger is over or likewise that a collapse is pending just around the corner. One thing we do know for sure is that we are at all-time highs in most indexes and that alone should have you making sure you have prepared your portfolio. The number of people we see for initial consultations that tell us they are moderate or even conservative in their risk tolerance only to be shown the way they are investing is sometimes quite a bit more aggressive, is still surprising to me. Many of you are investing still like it is 1999 or maybe more appropriately like it’s 2007. Make sure you know your risk tolerance and your portfolio reflects it properly.

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By the time you are in your 30’s you should be on the road to building a solid financial future. Whether you think you don’t have the means to save or continue putting it off and will “save later” keep this in mind; more than one-third of American’s don’t have anything saved for retirement. (US Department of Labor) Many of you that are younger may find investing interesting, but not sure where to begin. Below are six great ideas of what you should be doing to prepare for retirement as young as 30. 
 
1. Paychecks Save at least 15% of your income on an annual basis. You can even automate it, so saving is systematic. 
 
2. Guard against lifestyle inflation. As your career grows, your salary is likely to grow. Yet, just because you have more money in the bank, doesn’t mean you should spend it all. Each time you get a salary bump, increase the amount you save.
 
3. Start envisioning your retirement. Your retirement may be years away, but having an idea of the kind of life you want during retirement is extremely important. Do you want to travel the world or spend time with family? Really think about the things you may want to do and the lifestyle you want. Keep in mind that you are saving now for the life you want later. 
 
4. Pay attention to taxes. Taxes are not only a significant amount of your income, but they are a sure thing. Take a solid look at your accounts and options, and do the math. Paying taxes today rather than in the future may be more beneficial.
 
5. Rebalance your investments every 6 months. Invest in a well-diversified portfolio allocation based on your time horizon and risk tolerance. Every six months do a rebalance and make sure you are back in line with your intended allocation. Six months is a good check in to make sure you are sticking to your plan to reach your retirement goals.
 
6. Learn to negotiate. Research what similar companies and positions are paying as well as what added skills people in a similar position may have. Take the time to continuously invest and hone in on your skills. Negotiate and strategize with your employer to build the income you desire. Whether you have a salary of 30 or 300 thousand, the numbers will run the same. It is pivotal to not only start saving for retirement as early as you can, but to also understand how much you really need. Call today to meet with an Independent Financial Advisor for your complimentary review.

The student debt crisis is completely out of hand.  It has become one of America’s biggest financial mistakes not only topping $1.3 trillion, but growing more than $2,000 every second.  This is leaving millions with crippling debt that will follow them for decades to come.  How did we get here? 

We all have financial goals, and one of the most common goals for parents is paying for their son or daughter’s college education.  Although admirable, when someone wants to help foot the bill you can’t, and shouldn’t if you are putting aside your own retirement plans. CollegeCalc, says the average public university in Michigan will cost between $8,000-$12,000 dollars per year which is just for tuition. That doesn’t include the high interest rates backed by the government or any of the extra costs that come with higher education.

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Both, Clients and Financial Advisors, need to be on the same page in order to work together effectively. The start of the New Year is a good time to discover whether your resolutions are compatible.

So, whether you are looking for a financial advisor for the first time, reassessing the one you’re working with or looking to work with someone new, be sure to ask to speak with current and past clients of the advisor you are considering working with.  Get as much information about the successes, experience, education and ongoing training of the advisor that you can. If you are reassessing, be honest and tell your current advisor why you are reconsidering the relationship if appropriate. It’s your life and your money, so be committed to understanding everything your advisor suggests before diving in to a specific course of action. If you don’t understand something, keep asking questions until you do understand.

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The beginning of a New Year is the best time to establish your investment strategy for the year. If you work with a financial advisor, it’s important that you are both on the same page, so this is a great time to see if your resolutions are aligned.

If you are the client of a Financial Planner or are looking to hire one, the first and most important step is to set a resolution to Get a Plan. That means establishing your financial objectives, deciding where you want to end up and how much you can comfortably contribute to your plan on a regular basis along the way.

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For the first time in its history, changes being made to Social Security law will actually eliminate benefits currently being received by spouses, divorced spouses or children on the work record of a spouse, ex-spouse or parent who has taken advantage of the long used File and Suspend strategy. Those Social Security benefits will only continue when the worker restarts his/her retirement benefit.

This one change alone will cost millions of households tens of thousands of dollars by forcing those who have suspended their benefits in order to collect higher benefits at age 70 to restart their benefits at permanently lower levels. Most will have to do this in order to maintain their family’s living standards.

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Some married and divorced couples may face retirement feeling a little less secure in light of some pending changes to Social Security. Congress is fiddling with eliminating two strategies that have been employed for decades that will have a significant effect on couples at or nearing retirement age.

File and Suspend

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December 15th is right around the corner. Time to make your healthcare coverage selection is running out fast. If you haven’t selected your health coverage yet, don’t put it off a moment longer. Review the checklist of items below that I’ve adapted from a list on Forbes.com. I’ve included the most important points for your consideration in order to help break down the process for you and make your decision making process faster and easier. Print it out, take it to the office and go over each point carefully and completely.

1.Evaluate Your Medical Coverage Offerings

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The government deadline for picking health care coverage falls right smack in the middle of the holiday season; December 15th. If your company offers benefits, the election deadline could be even sooner. With the distraction of the holidays it is easy to miss deadlines or miss opportunities by not spending the necessary time to consider the best options.

Rushing through the election process could end up costing you more money and could have an impact on your health. The results of a 2014 Aflac study reveal that a whopping 46% of people spend just a half hour or less reviewing their health-plan offerings. 

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It’s probably the last thing you want to be doing as we head into the last quarter of the year. However, if you spend some time now reviewing the year and how you might take advantage of some opportunities that are available now, you could be very happy come the time to file your taxes during the first quarter of the 2016. USA Today provided a great overview of items to consider at the end of 2014. Many of those same opportunities are still viable as we move into the end of 2015. The article provides year-end tax strategies to use before December 31st.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/12/16/taxes-w-2-strategies-tips/19903397/)

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We are just three months shy of the New Year and this is a great time to get a jumpstart on coming out ahead at tax time. A little strategic thinking, planning and taking action now could give you a reduction in your tax bill come April, perhaps boost your retirement savings and college fund savings. You might even see a significant reduction in any debt you might owe.
 
A great place to start is to take a close look at your investments. Your portfolio may benefit from a rebalance, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve made any changes. With the recent volatility in the market you might discover that your allocations may not match your risk tolerance. 
 
If you have a 401(k) look into maxing out your contributions before the end of the year. If you’re under 50 years old, you can contribute a total of $18,000. That’s a $500 increase over last year. If you’re over 50, you can contribute up to $24,000.
 
Are you enrolled in a Flexible Spending Account? If so, now is the time to see if you have excess funds that must be used before year’s end. Even if your employer lets you carry over an unused balance, you may be better off stocking up on eligible items that can round out your first-aid kits. Some eligible items include sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, diabetic testing kits, and hot and cold packs. 
 
Other items to look at include your credit rating and any high-rate credit card balances. If your credit score is good, you could benefit from a zero percent balance transfer offer since the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates in the near future. When the Fed raises interest rates credit card companies usually follow suit.
 
Making these adjustments now will help you breathe easier at tax time. And that’s always a relief.
 

Greece, China, Puerto Rico, the sudden long drops, followed by the upside down turns of the global marketplace is not thrilling. In fact as an investor it is a time when many people scream, “Stop the ride I want to get off!”
Before you get off the ride, though, you might want to review your asset allocation along with your risk tolerance. Getting off the ride when the market is down means you’d be selling low.
This might be the time to sit down with your financial advisor and rebalance your portfolio. If you haven’t done that in awhile, or never, it is that counterintuitive process where you sell winners and buy losers in order to achieve and/or maintain the desired asset mix. Do you have enough cash on hand? Are you properly allocated between stocks, bonds and alternative assets?
Even if your gut is telling you that you want off the roller coaster, don’t let fear be your guide. If you sell now, you may have miscalculated your risk tolerance in the first place. That’s common when the market is performing well and novice investors think they’ve got the stomach for the long-term ride.
You have to understand that market volatility is a constant. The cacophony of the current events in Greece and China should be ignored unless you’re heavily invested. However for the most part, these two countries represent at most 1 or 2 percent of the most investor’s portfolios. Don’t let the panic of other markets influence your decisions. Talk with your advisors. Get a real picture of what’s going on.

As a matter of fact, the 10 largest diversified international funds have less than 9 percent of their portfolios allocated to Chinese stocks and even lesser amount to Greek equities, according to Morningstar, a mutual fund research firm.
Keep in mind your investment objectives before you decide to jump out of the market. And also take into consideration that rebalancing your portfolio comes with trade-offs. While doing so can cut the risk of your portfolio and may help you stick to your financial plan, you could also incur capital gains taxes from selling appreciated assets in taxable accounts as well as transaction costs to execute your strategy.
According to a 2010 study on the benefits of rebalancing by the Vanguard Group, "Just as there is no universally optimal asset allocation, there is no universally optimal rebalancing strategy. The only clear advantage as far as maintaining a portfolio's risk-and-return characteristics is that a rebalanced portfolio more closely aligns with the characteristics of the target asset allocation than with a never-rebalanced portfolio. As our analysis shows, the risk-adjusted returns are not meaningfully different whether a portfolio is rebalanced monthly, quarterly, or annually." (http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/10/time-to-rebalance-your-retirement-portfolio.html)
If your investment strategy is still in line with your objectives, you may just want to hang on and see the ride through. Doing nothing in volatile times is often the very best thing to do.

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When the DOW opened down 1,100 points on August 24th, did your heart take a nosedive into your stomach?  And if you’re one of those investors who have decided to save a few bucks and trust your investments to a robo-advisor, what kind of guidance or reassurance did you get from that advisor? Did you panic and sell out of the stock market fearing it would continue to plummet? If so, you weren’t alone.

If you had a real financial advisor to talk you back from the ledge, you may have rallied later in the day just like the stock did. You could have saved a lot more than you lost.

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We’ve entered an age where yet another industry is slowly beginning to give way to robots. It makes sense when you’re dealing with repetitive actions that can be accomplished precisely and without damage to human muscles. However, when you consider the volatile and personal nature of finances, it’s difficult to reconcile a world where “robo-advisers” will be handling investments. Yet, robo-advisers are here and robo-adviser companies are growing by leaps and bounds. 

The very phrase “robo-adviser” conjures up images of the Star Wars character, R2D2, but that’s not exactly the correct image. Just what is a robo-advisor and can they really serve investors better than a trained, experienced and educated living human being?

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A quiet revolution is happening in the financial world and it’s starting to get a lot of buzz. The role of the investment adviser may be in danger of being taken over as young investors turn their money-management over to robo-advisers.

Robo-advisers present prospective clients with a series of online questions to determine risk tolerance. Then, based on the answers, they select investments that are supposed to meet a individual clients’ specific temperaments and goals.  The question is, are robo-advisers going to be able to generate the stable wealth for clients that can see them through the unpredictable ups and downs of life events and prepare them for retirement?

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Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in record numbers. The question many have is, when is the best time to claim Social Security benefits?

Several things must be taken into consideration when making this decision. The most important is one of life expectancy. Do you take your retirement benefits at the earliest possible age of 62 or at the very latest possible age of 70?

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The Social Security Administration has made an assumption about what retirees should want that could reduce your Social Security benefits by 4% annually. On top of that you’ll also lose out on an entire half-year of Social Security income.

How this happens is as follows. Say you come in to the Social Security office to apply for your benefits just a few months shy of your 70th birthday as you are directed to do by the SSA. You’ve decided to delay your retirement benefits until the latest possible date in order to get the most Social Security. You fill out the application. Then you go home thinking your full benefits are going to kick in when you turn 70. Much to your surprise, you receive a lump sum check for six months of what they refer to as “retroactive benefits.” You may think nothing of it or you may pick up the phone and call. If you’re a numbers person you will also notice that the amount they’ve sent is not the full amount you expected.

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Even if you have millions of dollars set aside to see you through life, the toll of long-term healthcare can derail even the best financial plans. Establishing a solid plan for long-term healthcare is essential no matter your income level.

Recent polls indicate that nearly half of wealthy individuals have not done much, if any planning for the potential need for long-term care. They do however feel secure about being able to meet their medical costs now and in retirement, while the less wealthy are more concerned about how they’ll meet their medical costs.

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A vast majority of Americans don’t give much thought at all to long-term healthcare.  Across the board, the wealthy are like most other Americans when it comes to this subject. They just don’t think about it.

One reason many do not consider provisions for long-term care is because it can come with a hefty price tag. However, the cost of not considering it can be financially devastating.

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Retirement age sneaks up on us before we know it! And it’s happening to as many as 10,000 Americans every day. Prepared or not, many employees are often forced to take early retirement due to economic setbacks and other corporately conceived reasons.  While some people start planning for retirement with their very first jobs, many don’t think about planning till the eleventh hour. Some don’t plan at all. Hopefully you’re somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

No matter what, unless tragedy strikes and you become disabled or die, retirement will become a reality for everyone at some age. How you meet retirement says a lot about how you’ll spend your retirement years.  I have prepared a list of steps to address before you retire that will help you meet this stage of life with dignity and grace. Hopefully you will also arrive with a portfolio that will keep you financially and psychologically secure through the rest of your life.

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