Best of Jackson

by Caitlin Koppelman

Once all the holiday twinkle lights have been taken down and the Christmas carols aren’t playing on Home.FM anymore, winter can get pretty gray here in Southern Michigan. But Jackson has a host of fun activities to take advantage of this season. 

Visit a local restaurant, vineyard, or brewery. — There are many locally owned establishments to choose from. Just about every culinary option you could desire is featured downtown, or within a short drive from the city. If eating out isn’t your thing just yet, call ahead and order curbside. 

Take a class at a local dance studio or art venue. Local studios like Jackson School of the Arts offer adult classes, even ones for those of us who aren’t so coordinated! If dance isn’t your thing, try painting, crafting, or join a fitness class! Get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions for date nights away from the kids or getting fit in 2022. 

Walk or Snowshoe at the Dahlem center –– the trails of this beautiful preserve are open dawn to dusk. You can even bring your dog along! If you happen to visit Tuesday through Friday during the day you’ll be able to take in the exhibit areas and the Nutshell Gift Shop. Be sure to make a donation during your visit. Fun fact: Dahlem has a nature preschool! 

Try your hand at ax throwing – Axe Play invites patrons to visit downtown Jackson and try something new! Your one-hour time slot even includes a session with an Axe Master. If throwing sharp objects isn’t your idea of a good time, check out the owners’ other establishment: EpIQ Escapes – Jackson’s first escape game center! 

Stroll through outer space at the Ella Sharpe Planetarium — Virtual or in-person tours are available by request. This beautiful venue is even available to rent for private events. Call ahead to make reservations. 

Take in a show at the Michigan Theatre – show schedule is available online. Some events even feature local artists!

Don’t choose to let the gray get you down! You can find fun things to do on your own or with friends and support local business along the way. Enjoy!  

Moving Into a New Job? Consider this:

As you’re preparing to launch into your career, there are a few important things to consider in a compensation package. The wage or salary you’ll earn is just one piece of the puzzle. With student loans breathing down your back and housing expenses on the rise, it’s tempting to take a package with good dollar signs attached and ignore the other pieces. Do your future-self a favor and consider the following:

  • Does your potential employer provide disability insurance? There may come a day when you’re sick or hurt and can’t work. Do they provide short-term and/or long-term coverage if you’re disabled? Look into what percentage of your income the policy will replace (60% is common), and how long it will take the insurance company to begin paying. Make sure you have enough savings to (at least) cover the gap before they’ll start to pay.
  • Is there life insurance available? Some companies provide basic life coverage as a part of the compensation package. You may also be able to buy more for a reduced rate as a part of the group plan. Make sure you know how much insurance you can opt into when you’re hired, the costs to purchase additional coverage, and that you coordinate any policies you own personally with what is available from your employer. Some companies will even let your spouse or children be covered up to a certain amount for a reduced rate.
  • What health insurance coverage options are available? Are they offering a traditional HMO or PPO plan? Or is there a high-deductible health plan available? Some employers offer multiple plan options. Think about which would work best for you. Consider your typical medical expenses for the year, any medications you take, and any procedures or treatments you may be anticipating. Don’t just look at premium prices – although that’s important! – look at coverages, deductibles, co-pays, etc. Potential employers will provide more information on these plan offerings, but you must ask! Do the research so there aren’t any surprises after your hiring date.
  • Does the employer have a retirement plan? If they do, find out if you must maintain a certain numbers of hours to have access to the plan, or if you are only eligible after some specified numbers of days. Look into the plan type and the rules associated with it. Does the employer do a match? Or employer contributions? How long does it take to be vested (meaning you can take the employer’s money with you if you get a new job)? Again, if you have questions – ask! They have a plan administrator or a Human Resources coordinator that can get you the answers you need to be able to make an informed decision.

If you find yourself in the position of having multiple offers on the table, that is an especially good time to consider all these details. What appears to be the best at first glance, may not be the best overall choice. Good luck in your pursuit!

Financial Advisor as a Coach

by Scott Blakemore

Pete Pultz was my Jackson High School swim coach.  As a student, I was certain there were training days he actually enjoyed watching us suffer through a rigorous workout.  But now, as an adult, I can appreciate that he made us better physically and mentally.  In my opinion, that is a sign of a great coach – one that pushes you, helps you see things you cannot and builds your confidence. 

The best athletes and musicians in the world have coaches because they know there is always more to learn.  Consistent training and having a great coach matter in your financial life, too.

How does a Financial Adviser act as a coach?  I’m glad you asked.

A Financial Adviser, acting as a fiduciary in your best interests (not theirs), can help you understand your financial future, anticipate things you may not have considered, and educate you on important issues.  But probably the most important ‘coaching’ moments occur during the difficult and emotional times that come with investing and life. 

Of course, it is rewarding to see a client accomplish more than they imagined.  Every coach loves those moments.  But coaches also deal with losses too, and it is sobering to help someone whose plan didn’t turn out as they had hoped.  In my experience, it is in the moments of illness and death that having someone help you navigate your critical financial decisions proves most valuable. 

Coach Pultz helped me be a better swimmer, but more importantly, a better person.   My life is blessed because he was in it.  I am sure you have people that have influenced you, too.  Don’t be afraid to seek help and coaching from professionals that will push you, help you see things you can’t, and build your confidence in your future.  Remember the best in the world still use coaches, so why shouldn’t you? 

Wisdom For The Ages

Wisdom For the Ages
by Mark Olson

What the world needs now are people and businesses that know how to live well in this fascinating, exasperating world. Eugene Peterson described it as living in robust sanity. Anyone for robust sanity these days?

The road to living well in robust sanity is paved with wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships using practical knowledge and experience. I believe the high wisdom is always accompanied by heavy doses of empathy and humility. Through the centuries, wisdom is associated with attributes such as justice and compassion and virtues such as integrity and benevolence.

What follows is a collection of 20 paraphrased wise sayings that originated thousands of years ago and have stood the test of time.

• When you grab all you can get, the more you get, the less you are.

• Set your heart on a life of understanding.

• Find all the good trails.

• Keep your feet on the tried and true paths.

• Don’t lose your grip on love and loyalty.

• Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth.

• A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart.

• Good character is the best insurance.

• The world of the generous gets larger and larger.

• A life devoted to things is a dead stump.

• The more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.

The diligent find freedom in

their work.

• The thinking of principled people

makes for justice.

• Truth lasts.

• A plain and simple life is a full life.

• The mark of a good leader is loyal followers.

• Never walk away from anyone who deserves help.

• Sell everything and buy wisdom.

• The ways of right-living people glow with light.

• Never take love for granted.

My personal favorite is “find all the good trails” because it reminds me that every day, we each have the opportunity to learn and grow from all who have come before us. My hope is that each one of these wise sayings spurs you on to do and be more.

See you along the way.

A reprint of the June letter that went to our clients with investment accounts…

Our minds are racing these days. The arrival of the coronavirus has added unprecedented health and economic challenges to our everyday lives. Racial tension, cries of injustice, civil unrest, and protests have further challenged the status quo in America. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with such large issues and no easy answers. 
We could all use a bit more faith these days. Faith takes our eyes off the here and now and gives us much needed perspective. It is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith gives us hope that science will bring a solution for coronavirus, just like it did for smallpox. Faith also gives us hope that we will triumph over injustice. 
You have placed great faith in GuideStream Financial to help guide you financially through uncertain times. You have trusted us to help you make wise long-term decisions regarding how to invest for future needs. We help you steward your resources for decades, or even generations, to fulfill your financial and legacy goals. Keeping this perspective is critical for success. 
In the midst of all that is happening today, did you watch the SpaceX/NASA launch? What an amazing display of human creativity and ingenuity! It was an exciting and proud moment for innovation, collaboration, and our nation. Just one small example of this was the way the rockets returned to earth and landed themselves perfectly on a drone ship near Ireland, despite challenging choppy seas. 
Creative individuals working together enabled to SpaceX/NASA launch to happen. What was once thought impossible became possible due to a long-term plan and individuals committed to overcome the hardest obstacles they encountered along the way.  
Your financial plan has no knowledge of current events; it is oblivious to the “news of the day.” Instead, it thrives on long-term planning and a steady hand. At GuideStream Financial, our counsel is never based on emotion or the “news of the day.”  It is rooted in discipline, patience, faith in the future, and time-tested financial principles. We are here to provide you with wise counsel and the best opportunity for success. Remaining steady in uncertainty is our specialty.
We are already seeing glimpses of hope in these unprecedented times. Humans are created in God’s image and are therefore amazingly resourceful. We will get through all of this and come out better on the other side. If you are uncertain of your plan, let’s talk. We want you to have the faith, hope, and confidence that comes through understanding your needs and concerns. We are here for you.
With patience and faith in the future,
Your Team at GuideStream Financial

Purpose, Priorities & Return on Life

Purpose, Priorities and Return on Life
by Mark Olson

Throughout our flawed and complex world, there is a consistent downward drift away from the elements in our lives that matter most. Slowly, over time our best intentions often become distorted by a wide range of influences that include the urgent, our culture and our own predispositions.  Most of us yearn for excellence, alignment and fulfilment but often find ourselves being complacent, confused and frustrated because we fall short of all we can be.

One dominant illusion created by our world of finance is that we will be fulfilled and content if we maximize our income, portfolio returns and net worth.  While industries spend massive amounts of time, money and energy promoting those outcomes, deep in our hearts we know those portrayals just aren’t true.

I’m hopeful the following two recommendations will spur you on as you fight against the downward forces in your circumstances and maximize the return on your life . While both may be simple and familiar, they represent missing links in most of our lives.

Clarify your purpose

Author Rick Warren has highlighted that “personal fulfilment, satisfaction and meaning can only be found when we realize that it’s not about us and we discover our purpose by figuring out what on earth we are here for.”

Helping people find hope after loss, loving God and loving others, or teaching and inspiring students to be more than they thought they could be, are some examples of a compelling purpose.

Determine what life priorities matter most to you

It’s amazing how even the most intelligent and gifted individuals often go through life without slowing down long enough to define the life priorities that matter the most to them.  They are not alone as mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal stated, “The last thing one knows is what to put first.”

Honoring God, leading your family and caring for others are examples of meaningful life priorities.

When life priorities that matter most are defined, they provide guidance at every fork in the road, which increases the probability that what matters most is accomplished.  Without those priorities in place, critical decisions are often based upon urgent, shifting, less important factors which can lead to regrets about “what might have been.”

Commit to clarifying your purpose and determining what life priorities matter most. If you do, it will direct your actions, counter the downward drift and maximize the return on your life.

Planning Your Estate

by Scott Blakemore

What is your dream sportscar? Corvette, Mustang, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, McLaren? Now, imagine you own it and decide to give it to your son or daughter … but they don’t know how to drive … because you never taught them. You just hand them the keys and say, “Good Luck!”

I think we can agree this strategy is a little crazy and unwise.  However, when you and your spouse are deceased, and your heirs inherit your estate without understanding how it was managed and for what purpose – it is the equivalent of handing a sportscar to an untrained driver.

I speak with clients daily about retirement cash flows, portfolio allocations, distribution timing, and taxes.  And while those things need to be understood and managed for a successful retirement, planning for the transition of an estate is equally crucial – especially if you’re concerned your heirs may not be ready to manage it or worse, you fear it might destroy them.

I know talking about death can be uncomfortable, and kids rarely want to discuss a future where their parents are gone.  But that day will come whether we like it or not. Talking about death with your children is like talking about sex – always a bit awkward, but the earlier the better.

So how do you prepare to talk to your children about your estate?  Here are several simple ideas to get the conversation started and a few that dig a little deeper.

First, the easier items to implement:

  • Talk about your funeral.  Write down your wishes and share them with your family.
  • Keep your bank, investment account(s) and insurance beneficiaries up to date.
  • Introduce your family to your Financial Advisor, CPA and/or Attorney.
  • Use Estate planning tools.  Let the family know if you have a Will or Trust as well as Durable and Health Care Power of Attorney (POA) documents.  Make sure your designated representative is willing to serve, understands your wishes, and knows where your documents are located.

Second, the more involved items to consider:

  • Have an annual family meeting to discuss any changes you have made to your financial or estate plan.  Be sure to allow time for questions.
  • Bring heirs into the conversation with organizations where you volunteer or provide financial support.
  • Create a family foundation or donor advised fund to give together during your lifetime. This is a great teaching tool.

These items will obviously require some work.  However, with your heirs being part of the discussion, and doing the work alongside you, you can be confident they not only hear and see your values but participate in them as well.  They will experience the legacy you are trying to create while learning valuable lessons about managing the resources that will one day be under their stewardship.

Remember, learning to drive isn’t accomplished through watching a YouTube video, and neither should learning how to manage an inheritance. I encourage you to work through the fear and discomfort and invite your children into the conversation to create a legacy impacting them and our world for good.

Financial Education Basics

by Kirk Hoffman

For many children, basic financial education is not part of their school curriculum.  Many adults didn’t have this offered either and generally learned from their parents or on their own.  Here are some financial education basics that you can share with your children to help them be better prepared.

Clarify your financial experience
Share your own perspective on money, including how you got to where you are now, your views on cash management, debt and liquidity, and how your outlook has changed over the years.  Sometimes the discussion of financial matters is uncomfortable or considered taboo.  Being open about financial issues is a great benefit for your children and can help them avoid mistakes that you might have made.  Let them know if you’ve managed things yourself or if you’ve had a financial advisor.  

Establish and maintain a simple budget
Budgeting in its most basic form is just a plan for spending.  Teach your children to think about how their purchases impact one another and how the budget can help them make better spending decisions.  You can use anything from a simple spreadsheet to an online tool like

Encourage savings and investing
Saving and investing are tools for reaching financial goals.  Explain different saving and investing alternatives.  Share the choices you’ve made in your own plan.

Establish a bank account
Help your children learn what a savings and checking account are.  Show them how to view the accounts, how to make deposits, withdrawals, transfers, and how to write a check.  Explain how to balance their checking account.  Teach them how to read a bank statement.  Get them in the habit of reviewing their account regularly.

Learn about credit
Explain how credit cards work and how you feel they should be used.  Explain how mortgages, car loans, and personal loans work.  Discuss how to build a positive credit history.

Stress the importance of insurance
Encourage your children to establish an emergency fund. Help them understand the importance of homeowners and auto insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and long-term care insurance.  Share how you have used insurance in your own plan.

Encourage retirement planning
The earlier you start planning for retirement, the more funds you will accrue.  Explain how Roth and traditional IRAs work.  Talk to your children about company sponsored retirement plans like Roth and traditional 401(k) plans and how to take advantage of company match offers. 

Develop financial relationships
If you have a financial advisor, give your children the opportunity to meet with him or her on their own. This can give them the opportunity to ask questions they may be embarrassed to ask when you are there.  Use your financial advisor as a resource to help explain any of these issues.

Don’t take for granted that your children know the basics.  Discussing these with them is a good way to see how much they already understand and it allows you to share your values in these important areas.

Keep Reaching For Your Financial Goals

Few things are able to motivate us like self-improvement. However, despite initial enthusiasm, our personal goals can seem like impossible challenges after just a few days.

Financial goals are particularly difficult to accomplish. Spending money is inherent in modern life, and financial goals can easily get lost in other money issues. What’s worse, the feedback from financial goals is blunt and immediate. As soon as we get started, our finances begin to define our success with clear positives and negatives. Financial goals also remember our mistakes. A one-time slip-up, like a costly purchase, can disrupt progress towards a goal for months or even years.

The success of a goal often comes down to the strategies and tools used to support them. However, valuable techniques are often abandoned as soon as a little bit of progress is made. Use some of these steps to help make your goal a reality:

Be reasonable – It’s always important to be realistic; In regards to financial goals, it is essential. If you make your goals too extreme, you set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. It’s better to have an attainable goal you can more easily reach than an impossible goal that discourages you and could lead to giving up on the goal entirely. Once you have a little success, you can raise your expectations.

Set solid milestones and celebrate them – Milestones are a great way to track progress and boost your morale, but you need to make them an important part of your life. If you’ve made it halfway to your goal, celebrate in some way and give yourself a taste of what success will feel like. Stay positive; milestones are meant to show you how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go.

Find some accountability – Telling someone else about your goals and having them check up on your progress can massively boost your discipline. Even if your confidant only asks for occasional updates, being accountable for your actions can provide a lot of encouragement to stick to your plan.

Automate what you can – Constantly trying to make the right choices can wear down your motivation. Automating your target savings or debt payments can help you avoid the potential mistakes and will allow you to save your energy for other challenges.

Break and build habits – It’s often said that it takes 21 days to break a habit or build a new one. While the psychology isn’t exact, it’s clear that our habits are a lot easier to change than we usually imagine. If you can force yourself to stick to a plan for just three weeks, progress should become much easier.

Limit the number of goals – Reaching goals can be difficult, so don’t try to accomplish several of them simultaneously. Only start one or two financial goals at a time and don’t create new ones until your current efforts have become second nature.

Bend so that you don’t break – Interruptions are inevitable. Much like setting a realistic goal, it’s important to have realistic expectations for your progress. If there is an unavoidable problem, adjust your goal accordingly and keep trying. Don’t give up on a goal just because of an unplanned setback.

Reaching goals is a skill that takes practice and experience. In accomplishing one goal, you learn which strategies work best with your personality. Even when you fail, you’ve learned more about what it takes to reach success. The important thing is being willing to try again.

Remember that past performance may not indicate future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, strategy, or product referenced directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. You should not assume that any information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of personalized investment advice. If a reader has questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to their individual situation, they are encouraged to consult with a professional adviser.

This article was written by Advicent Solutions, an entity unrelated to Guidestream Financial, Inc.. The information contained in this article is not intended to be tax, investment, or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Guidestream Financial, Inc. does not provide tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor or attorney regarding specific tax issues. © 2014-2017 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

Three Financial Myths and the Straightforward Truth

-by Mark Olson-

A myth is a popular belief that is false or unsupported.  I have observed the following three financial myths and appreciate this opportunity to highlight and counter each one.

Myth #1:   I don’t need a financial plan

The straightforward truth is everyone needs a financial plan.  A financial plan is one of the most powerful yet neglected tools available for managing your resources.

Effective planning defines what matters most.  It answers important questions and provides guidance for decision making.  Appropriate investment allocations naturally roll out of a well-crafted plan.  Byproducts of a thoughtful plan include increased understanding, harmony and a sense of peace.  Who can’t use more of those in their life?

Unfortunately, we all have behavioral tendencies that often keep us from doing what is best.  While most conscientious individuals sincerely intend to focus on the big picture and develop some type of plan in the future, the inertia of the status quo normally prevails.

To increase the probability of acting on your good intentions, get some help.  There is wisdom in listening to and taking good advice.   Identify and contact a qualified, experienced, unconflicted financial planner to begin a conversation and develop a plan.

Myth #2:   A competent investment advisor should have the insight to consistently predict the market

The straightforward truth is the most knowledgeable and sophisticated investment advisors humbly acknowledge market timing is not successful over the long term.  They allocate portfolio holdings across the broad range of asset classes.  Those asset classes include non-US developed equities, emerging market equities, US equities, real estate, fixed income and often hedge strategies plus other alternative investments.  Each of these asset classes provide different sources of return which all help capture returns and mitigate risk.

Despite the steady flow of inputs from the media regarding attention-grabbing, timing related investment tactics, disciplined asset allocation remains the wisest approach over the long term.  Thoughtful asset allocation is like the quote about democracy attributed to Winston Churchill. He stated emphatically, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”  Asset allocation, like democracy, is far from perfect, but over the long term provides an extraordinary way to generate returns and manage risk that surpasses all the other schemes.

Myth #3:   Giving decreases wealth

The straightforward truth is giving increases wealth because true wealth is linked with well-being.

Giving is perhaps the most powerful antidote for the toxic elements of self-indulgence and self-promotion permeating our culture.   Giving is an investment that benefits the giver as much or more than the receiver.  An added dividend for true givers is a dawning awareness of contentment that develops along the way.

Unfortunately, fear and anxiety often restrict openness to giving opportunities and options.  The long-term solution for increasing the level of giving is to develop a financial plan.  The plan will help clarify values, priorities and giving potential.


To better manage your resources, be a planner, invest in well allocated portfolios that flow out of your plan, and be a giver.  If you embrace those initiatives, you will never regret it and most likely will be surprised by joy along the way.

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