01-11-2018 Columns

How can you improve your financial fitness this year?

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get healthier, you may already be taking the necessary steps, such as improving your diet and increasing your exercise. Of course, physical fitness is important to your well-being – but, at the same time, don’t forget about your financial fitness. Specifically, what can you do to ensure your investment situation is in good shape?

Here are a few “healthy living” suggestions that may also apply to your investment portfolio:

Build endurance – Just as exercise can help build your endurance for the demands of a long life, a vigorous investment strategy can help you work toward your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. In practical terms, this means you will need to own some investments with the potential to provide long-term growth. These are the investments that, ideally, you can hold on to for decades and eventually reap the benefits of capital appreciation. Of course, growth-oriented investments, such as most types of stocks, will rise and fall in value over the short term, and there’s no guarantee of profits, or even preserving principal. But if you choose wisely, and you’ve got the patience and discipline to hold on to your investments through the market’s ups and downs, you may well be rewarded.

Maintain an ideal “weight” – You can help yourself stay healthy by maintaining your ideal weight. This can be challenging – as you know from the recently finished holiday season, it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds. And, just as inadvertently, your portfolio can tack on some unneeded weight, too, in the form of redundant investments. Over time, you may have picked up too many similar investment vehicles, resulting in an overconcentration, or “flabbiness,” that can work against you, especially when a market downturn affects the asset class in which you’re overloaded. So, you might be better off liquidating some of your duplicate, or near-duplicate, investments, and using the proceeds to help broaden your investment mix.

Get proper rest – Many studies have shown that we need adequate rest to stay alert and healthy. In your life, you’ve probably already found that if you over-tax your body, you pay a price in your overall well-being. If you look at your investment portfolio as a living entity – which, in a way, it is, as it certainly provides life to your goals and aspirations – then you can see that it, too, can be weakened by stress. And one of the main stress factors is excessive trading. If you’re constantly buying and selling investments in an attempt to boost your returns, you may rack up hefty fees, commissions and taxes – and still not really get the results you wanted. Plus, if you’re frequently moving in and out of different investments, you’ll find it hard to follow a unified, long-term strategy. So, confine your trading to those moves that are really essential – and give your portfolio a rest.

To enjoy your life fully, you’ll want to take care of your physical and financial health – and, as it turns out, you can make similar types of moves to help yourself in both areas.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Cervical cancer awareness

In recognition of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) is reminding all women to stay current on their cervical cancer screening to improve their health in 2018, and to prevent cervical cancer in the future. In 2017, an estimated 370 Michigan women were newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and in 2017, approximately 110 Michigan women died from this disease.

About 70 percent of cervical cancer in the United States could be prevented through human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Three doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for girls and boys at 11-12 years of age, but the vaccine can be given up through age 26. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and produces better immunity when given at the recommended age of 11-12 years.

The simple, affordable, and easy-to-administer screening test to detect cervical cancer – the Pap test – has been widely available for 70 years. Still, more than half of cervical cancer deaths are seen in women who have either never had a Pap test, or have not had testing in more than five years. Along with lack of screening, the most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV infection – 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Screening for cervical cancer is recommended to begin at age 21. Through the Healthy Michigan Plan, women’s preventive health care – such as screenings for cervical cancer, mammograms, prenatal care, immunizations, and other services – is covered without co-pays. Pap tests are available at the BCHD Sexual Health Clinics, and for women ages 40-64, Pap testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP).

There are many programs that provide free vaccines for children and uninsured individuals. For more information regarding HPV and cervical cancer visit www.michigan.gov/hpv or www.bchdmi.org.

Continued focus on career technical education

At the end of 2017, my colleagues and I in the House voted again to enhance skilled trades education in Michigan schools. We approved a bipartisan five-bill package that will provide important opportunities for Michigan’s students.

Continuing to ensure that we match our children’s education with the careers and jobs that are out there today is critically important to their success and the future of our state. This type of legislation and continued investments in CTE and skilled trades through the budget will ultimately help our state’s students, while giving them better access to post-high school programs and careers.

The legislation was developed from the recommendations of the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance, which includes state K-12 educators and local employment leaders working together to help strengthen Michigan’s future. This legislation will give our local school districts more course flexibility, better access to experienced instructors, and the ability to work closely with local business owners. Ultimately, these bills give more opportunities to Michigan children to learn skilled trades and participate in CTE programs.

The legislation: Creates a K-12 model program that emphasizes career learning and themes for each grade level, while focusing on engaging with parents, community businesses, and industry interests; provides continuing education and professional development credit for teachers who spend time engaging with local employers and professional trade centers; allows proprietary schools, community colleges, and skilled trade employers access – with parental consent – to high school pupil directory information for the purposes of recruitment and career opportunities; permits schools to more readily hire professional trades instructors to teach classes that align with their expertise.

The bills in the package were House Bills 5139-5142 and 5145. They now advance to the Senate for consideration. As we move into 2018 enhancing CTE and skilled trades programs will remain a priority for me.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.


Tax reform working already

As you know, at the end of 2017 our Tax Cuts & Jobs Act legislation was signed into law. Despite near-constant hyperbole about the “Armageddon” surrounding the passage of this common-sense legislation, the positive effects are being felt already.

When I was in Kalamazoo in November meeting with local small business leaders about tax reform they told me directly that our efforts would lead to wage increases for Michigan workers and more investment in our Southwest Michigan communities. We are seeing that play out on the national stage as well.

Already, more than 100 American companies so far are paying employees more as a result of our historic legislation. Michigan middle-class families, too, will soon begin to see benefits as we lower rates, nearly double the Standard Deduction, and double the Child Tax Credit. As a result, the average family will see a tax cut of $2,059. Doubling the Standard Deduction also serves to simplify tax filing for millions of Americans.

The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is just one more example of how we’re working to get our economy moving, and putting more dollars in your paychecks.

To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Combating opioid abuse

The growing abuse of prescription drugs and heroin is now the deadliest drug epidemic in American history.

We have seen the terrible impacts in our local communities and throughout the state, where it is killing thousands of Michigan residents every year.

Thankfully, new Michigan laws will help combat the state’s rising opioid addiction problem, protect our communities, save lives and ensure that patients in severe pain have access to necessary medications.

A key part of this battle is teaching our children about the dangers of prescription painkillers and the risks of addiction.

Public Acts 246-255 of 2017 include two bills sponsored by Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan, that require the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission to develop student curricula recommendations on the risks associated with prescription drug abuse and require the state to develop a model program of instruction on prescription drug abuse that is grade- and age-appropriate based on the commission’s recommendations.

We must ensure that children know that there is no such thing as harmless sharing of prescription drugs. I want to thank Rep. Griffin for her leadership in protecting our next generation from opioid addiction.

We also must address the oversupply of these medications. The laws require increased use of the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) that tracks certain controlled substances.

These reforms are an effort to stop abusers from getting access to excessive amounts of dangerously addictive drugs, while maintaining access to pain medications for patients who truly need them.

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.


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