03-01-2018 Columns

Be financially prepared for natural disasters Just this past year, we’ve seen natural disasters in Texas, California, Florida and Puerto Rico – and looking back even further, it’s not hard to spot other traumas in virtually every part of the country. Whether it’s a tornado, hurricane, flood or wildfire, you may be at least potentially susceptible to a weather-related event that could threaten your physical – and financial – well-being. How can you protect yourself? As far as your physical safety is concerned, you’re probably already aware of the steps you need to take to shield yourself and your family. And now that many alerts can be sent directly to your smartphone, you’ve got an even better chance to prepare for an approaching threat. But when it comes to safeguarding your financial situation, you’ll need to be ready well in advance – and the following moves can help: Strengthen your home. Your home is probably your biggest asset, so you’ll want to do everything you can to keep it safe. In the face of a truly calamitous event, such as hundred-mile-per-hour winds or the advance of uncontrollable fire, there may not be much you can do, but in less dire circumstances, your actions can help. Your insurance professional can offer tips on protecting your residence. Maintain sufficient insurance. It’s a good idea to review your existing homeowners or renters insurance periodically to make sure you are sufficiently covered for all possible hazards. Keep in mind homeowners insurance does not typically cover flooding, so you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. (Depending on where you live, this coverage may be required when you get your mortgage.) Also, in conjunction with maintaining your insurance, you should document your possessions, so you may want to make a video inventory as well as a written list containing descriptions and values. Create an emergency fund. A natural disaster can lead to a wide array of unanticipated costs: appliance repair or replacement, hotel and restaurant bills, insurance deductibles – the list could go on and on. Consequently, you’ll help protect yourself and your family by building an emergency fund. Some of this money should go into a liquid, low-risk account, but you may also want to keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place, as ATMs and credit cards may not work during or following a disaster, when you must purchase needed supplies. Protect your documents. As you go through life, you’ll accumulate a lot of documents – mortgage papers, insurance policies, financial accounts, tax statements and so on. If disaster strikes, you may need these documents. You’ll want to store paper copies in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe at home, in a bank safety deposit box, or with a relative or close friend. Of course, we’re now living in a digital age, so you can store electronic copies of important documents in a password-protected format on a removable flash or external hard drive. Better yet, you might want to use a secure cloud-based service. With luck, you can avoid being victimized by a natural disaster. But, as the old saying goes: “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” From a financial perspective, that’s good advice. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

March is reading month Reading can help engage our children in new ideas and open their eyes to new adventures. Most importantly, reading is vital to a rewarding future. Learning to read at a young age has been shown to increase a student’s ability to remember facts, comprehend information and be successful in both school and his or her career. March is celebrated as National Reading Month as a time to encourage children to pick up a book and read. To help promote the importance of reading I will be handing out bookmarks and reading “House Mouse, Senate Mouse” to students at local elementary schools throughout Southwest Michigan. The book teaches children about the U.S. Capitol and how laws are made. I encourage teachers who would like me to read to their class to contact my office about scheduling time. All parents can join in the effort to help our children succeed through reading. They can check with their children’s school and local libraries about activities and programs and ask about ways they can take part in reading activities along with their kids. A simple way parents can help is by picking up a book and reading to their children each night. My wife and I read a book every night to our children when they were younger, and we continue to make reading a priority in their lives. Reading to or with a child helps them learn language skills and gives parents an opportunity for quality interaction with their children. Highlighting the importance of reading to children is about helping our students succeed in life and develop a love of reading they can pass on to their children. 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.

Fixing our roads One thing everyone can agree on is that Michigan’s broken infrastructure is blight on its residents. I, like many of you, am sick and tired of dodging potholes every time I back out of my driveway, go to our local grocery store, or travel across the state. The situation is only going to get worse after this erratic winter. For those reasons, I have worked hard to invest more of the money we pay in taxes into road repairs. The House recently allocated $175 million in currently available funds to local, county, and state road repair and construction projects across Michigan, including $1.15 million in Berrien County. This breaks down to: Benton Harbor receiving $79,805, Bridgman receiving $18,604, Coloma receiving $12,879, Saint Joseph receiving $59,446, Stevensville receiving $11,391, and Watervliet receiving $13,745. The funds are left over from last year’s budget and are currently