03-08-2018 Columns

Women’s Day – How can women make financial progress? On March 8, we observe International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Press for Progress,” and events around the world will celebrate women’s advancements in the political, social and cultural arenas. But right here in the United States, women still face barriers to their financial progress. If you’re a woman, you need to recognize these challenges – and respond to them. So, what are the key obstacles to financial security for a woman? Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the gender wage gap: Women generally earn around 80 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But women also face other threats to their financial security. For one thing, they are far more likely than men to take time away from the workforce to raise a family – and time away means smaller Social Security payments and significantly lower balances in 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts. And women’s roles as caretakers don’t end when their children are grown – in fact, women are twice as likely as their male siblings to end up caring for an elderly parent, according to a Princeton University study. What, then, can you do to help ensure a comfortable retirement and achieve your other financial goals? Here are a few suggestions: Take full advantage of your employer’s retirement plan. If your employer offers a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, take full advantage of it. Invest as much as you can afford each year, and every time you get a raise, increase your contributions. At the very least, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered. Invest for the long term. Some evidence shows that women may be more conservative investors than men. But if you want to reach your long-term goals, you will need to consider some growth-oriented investments in your portfolio, factoring in your risk tolerance and time horizon. You may want to consult with a financial professional about the best way to invest for the long term. Maximize your Social Security. If your spouse is the higher earner, you may want to consider how you can use this disparity to your advantage when you collect Social Security. Specifically, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s earnings and Social Security record. You’ll want to consult your tax advisor before making any moves. Protect yourself from long-term care costs. More than two-thirds of nursing home residents are women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And the median rate nationwide for a private room in a nursing home is over $97,000 per year, according to the Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Survey. Medicare generally pays very little for long-term care, so if you ever need these services, you’ll have to find other ways to pay for them. A financial professional can suggest some ideas. As a woman, you face special financial challenges, and striving to overcome them will be a lifelong activity. But it’s worth the effort. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Boosting road funding this year by $175 million Southwest Michigan residents are keenly aware of the difference between the condition of our roads and those of our neighbors. We also understand the importance of having quality roads. We use our roads to take our children to school and to get to work. Businesses and farmers depend on the roads for transporting their goods and products and enabling customers to get to their stores. Also, thousands of people in Southwest Michigan and throughout our state depend on tourism for their livelihoods. We want out-of-state visitors to return home touting their wonderful vacation, not talking about our potholes. That is why I recently voted for legislation to invest $175 million more this year to improve roads and bridges. The governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 recommended moving up a scheduled $175 million increase in 2020 to 2019 — in addition to already planned increases for next year. House Bill 4321 would use existing resources to accelerate the $175 million boost in state and local road funding this year — on top of $600 million in additional road funding already in this year’s budget. Our roads need this increased investment now. Thanks to smart budgeting and a growing economy, we have surplus funds available now that we can put into improving our aging roads and bridges. This responsible and efficient use of hardworking taxpayer dollars would benefit Michigan families and job creators for years to come. As we complete the fiscal year 2019 budget, I will also work to ensure that we build on this road funding commitment going forward. 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.

Another tool to fight online sex trafficking Last week, I joined with my colleagues to pass H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 388 to 25. Online sex trafficking is a heinous crime that, tragically, occurs on a daily basis. Enough. This legislation will provide new tools for our law enforcement officials to prosecute criminal websites that knowingly facilitate illegal prostitution and sex trafficking. It also allows victims to keep much-needed restitution. This will make a real difference in helping their recovery. H.R. 1865 creates a specific new federal anti-trafficking law to target bad-actor websites that promoted or assisted prostitution yet escaped criminal and civil liability. Under current law, interactive computer services, also known as entities that enable or provide access by multiple users to a computer server, are not treated as the publisher or speaker of information provided by another information content provider. This immunity has barred civil challenge even when courts find that the interactive computer service has tailored its website to facilitate sex trafficking. I was proud to stand with my colleagues – Republicans and Democrats alike – to take much-needed action against online sex trafficking. We must continue to work together on this vitally important issue. 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).

National Nutrition Month Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast or fueling before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a real difference. Preparing your foods to go further by planning meals and snacks in advance can also help reduce food loss and waste. March is National Nutrition Month, and this year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges everyone to “Go Further with Food.” Preparing several meals on the weekends can provide balanced meals that can easily be reheated throughout the week. It’s also a great way to eat healthy, save time during the week and reduce food waste. After you choose a day to prepare meals, decide which recipes you want to use and create a grocery list. When possible, choose meals made with ingredients you already have at home to get the most out of your food. To find a personalized plan that works best, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs. At the Berrien County Health Department, low-income women, infants, and children can find nutrition counseling and food assistance benefits as well as access many health services through the Women, Infants, and Children program, also known as WIC. For over 40 years, the WIC Program has been providing nutrition education and counseling. Registered Dietitians help families develop lifelong healthy eating habits through one-on-one counseling where they learn: What to eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding; how to feed infants and growing kids healthy foods; how to successfully breastfeed; shopping for healthy foods on a budget; how to cook healthy, delicious meals. To learn more about the WIC program or healthy eating through National Nutrition Month, contact the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 or www.bchdmi.org.

Better protecting children from abuse Last week I was proud to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing legislation to better protect Michigan children from child abuse, neglect, and sexual conduct or abuse. My bill, part of a 10-bill legislative package to better protect Michigan’s children and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, increases the number of authority figures who must report evidence of abuse. This legislation mandates coaches, assistant coaches, and athletic trainers working with youth leagues, K-12 school sports, and college athletic activities to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities, including law enforcement. As someone who has coached youth sports and was required to be a mandatory reporter as a teacher, I believe that increasing the number of adults who must report abuse or neglect will help keep our children and student athletes safer. Coaches and trainers are sometimes in the best position to identify abuse. It is important we require them to report it to provide better protection for children. This legislative package: Expands the criminal statute of limitations to enable prosecutors to hold offenders accountable; increases criminal penalties and expands definitions related to the possession of child sexually abusive material; ends immunity for abusers and enablers of abuse; preserves anonymity for survivors in civil lawsuits; expands the civil statute of limitations for survivors; increases criminal penalties for mandatory reporters, such as coaches and athletic trainers, who fail to report child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse. The legislation is inspired by the recent sexual assault allegations against former physician Larry Nassar, who has been sentenced to up 175 years in federal and state prison for his crimes against more than 200 victims. His heinous crimes made it clear that we must do more to protect our children and student athletes from abuse. As always, reach me at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

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