03-02-2017 Columns

EDWARD JONES

Investing in Your Future

Women must act to overcome financial challenges

International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, celebrates the social, cultural and political achievements of women. Yet, women continue to face many challenges. For one thing, women still encounter gender-specific obstacles to their important financial goals, such as a comfortable retirement. If you’re a woman, what can you do to get past these barriers?

First of all, you need to recognize them. Here are a few to consider:

Longer life spans – A 65-year-old woman is expected to live, on average, another 20.5 years, compared to 17.9 years for a 65-year-old man, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That’s another 2-1/2 years of life – and 2-1/2 years more of expenses.

Lower incomes – Women working full-time in the United States typically are paid 80% of what men earn, according to Census Bureau data.

More time away from the workforce – Men work an average of 38 years, compared to just 29 for women, according to the Pew Research Center and the Social Security Administration. The gap is largely due to women taking time off to care for young children and elderly parents. Women who work substantially fewer years than men will miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings and many years of contributions to 401(k)s or other retirement plans. These statistics certainly are sobering – but they don’t mean you are powerless to improve your financial security. In fact, you can do quite a lot, including the following:

Boost your retirement plan contributions – Put in as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, and increase your contributions whenever you get a raise. And even if you have a 401(k), you may still be eligible to contribute to an IRA.

Invest for growth – Some studies have shown that women may invest less aggressively than men. If you invest mostly in conservative vehicles, you may run the risk of falling short of your financial goals. To achieve these goals, you’ll need a reasonable amount of growth potential in your portfolio.

Extend your working life – If you like your job, you may want to consider sticking with it a couple of years past when you initially thought you’d retire. You’ll be able to add to your retirement accounts, and the extra years of work may help you increase your Social Security benefits. These payments are based on an average of your highest 35 years of earnings, so if you have a zero in some of these years, it will pull the average down. Consequently, your extra years of work may help erase those zeros. But even if you have a long, unbroken work record, your extended career can help you in regard to Social Security, because the extra money may mean you can afford to delay collecting benefits – and the longer you wait past 62, the bigger your checks will be – at least until you turn 70, when they “max out.” You’ll help yourself by becoming familiar with the special issues women face in meeting their long-term goals. As you know, women have met challenges successfully for a long time. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did – except backwards, and in heels.

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

Celebrate ‘March is Reading Month’ by reading with a child

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 hundreds of students at local elementary schools throughout Southwest Michigan. The book teaches children about the U.S. Capitol and how laws are made.

I encourage parents to join in the effort to help our children succeed through reading. Parents 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 that 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.

Explaining my first vote

The first bill introduced this session was HB 4001 of 2017, a bill that would have gradually rolled back the state’s income tax until it was eventually phased out of existence. But why do this now? Since 2011, Republicans have rebuilt Michigan’s economy, passed six consecutive balanced and early budgets, all while creating a $500 million budget surplus. To many in Lansing, it felt like the right time to give some money back to the people.

But the original bill would have jumped from the current 4.25 percent rate, to 3.9 percent which would have cost the state $680 million in the budget currently being worked on – and another $1.1 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, its first full year of implementation. Where would these cuts come from? There hadn’t been any budget areas identified. This fact gave many of my colleagues pause, me included. Nevertheless, last Thursday, the bill was put on the floor for a vote after a 12-hour marathon session.

The final amended version of the bill would have had the income tax rate drop to 4.15 percent in 2018 and 4.05 percent in 2019, but would not have continued to decrease unless the state emergency fund had a balance of $1 billion or more. If that balance existed, the tax rate would continue to decrease by 0.1 percent annually until it reached 3.9 percent. It was after this amendment, at 1:45 a.m., that I was resolved enough to vote yes.

I decided to vote yes because I fundamentally believe in tax relief for Michigan taxpayers. I felt the people in our communities deserve to have more money in their pockets provided the Legislature could do so in a financially responsible manner. Furthermore, as a Representative of a border county district, it is important that I work to keep Michigan as competitive as possible with neighboring states. Both Indiana and Illinois have income tax rates well below 3.9 percent, therefore I felt lowering ours was a step in the right direction.

HB 4001 ultimately failed 52-55, but I stand by my decision to allow hard-working Michiganders to keep more of the money they earn. While my first vote was not an easy one, you can always count on me to explain my position to the people I represent. I will always return your trust with transparency and accountability. After all, the people I serve deserve nothing less.

Keeping our promise to patients

Last week, I was proud to co-sponsor H.R. 1121, the Pre-Existing Conditions Protections Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, aims to guarantee access to coverage, prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions, and ban premium rating based off of health status. Specifically, it would amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit application of pre-existing condition exclusions and guarantee availability of health insurance coverage in the individual and group markets.

As I’ve traveled across Southwest Michigan in recent months, as I listened to folks during tele-town halls, and participated in public forums, I’ve heard a clear message: We need to guarantee our healthcare system works better for all Michiganders. This is why I’m committed to protecting patients living with pre-existing conditions. It’s only fair. We want to make sure we’re helping folks across the country get – and keep – healthcare coverage, regardless of how healthy or sick they may be.

As we continue listening and engaging in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, it’s important that as we repeal and replace Obamacare, we’re always doing right by patients and protecting our most vulnerable. I remain committed to patient-centered healthcare reforms that increase access to quality, affordable care for folks here in Michigan and across the country.

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).

Emergency preparedness

Imagine your family stranded without food, water, or electricity. Do they know what to do? Emergencies can happen due to severe weather such as snow storms, tornados, of extreme heat, or could be the result of something such as a pandemic flu outbreak. After a disaster, many people need help at the same time, and fire, police, and utilities staff may be stretched to their limits. The Red Cross and FEMA recommend that we prepare for three days to one week of self-sufficiency in case essential services are not available. Steps to be prepared for an emergency are as follows:

Step #1: Talk to your family about who will do what and how you would stay in contact with each other during an emergency. Agree on where to meet if a disaster happens, and how you will account for everybody in the family. Do not depend on mobile phones—they usually do not work during large disasters because circuits are overwhelmed!

Step # 2: Build an emergency kit. The basics are water, canned/dried food (remember a can opener!), first aid kit, tool/supplies such as a flashlight, radio, fire extinguisher, wrench for shutting off gas, soap and bleach for disinfecting, clothing/bedding appropriate for all seasons, and any special items such as items for babies or elderly family members, medications, and important documents.

Step # 3: Practice your plan. Make sure that your family knows what to do and where to go. Make sure everyone knows where emergency equipment is and how to use it, and that all supplies have the necessary batteries. Practice evacuating your home and drive your evacuation routes.

For more information, visit www.bchdmi.org or call 269-926-7121.

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