03-09-2017 Columns

Investing in Your Future


Plan for health care costs during retirement

When you retire, some of your expenses may go down – but health care is not likely to be one of them. In fact, your health care costs during retirement may well increase, so you may want to plan for these costs well before you leave the work force. How much can you expect to spend on health care during your retirement years? Consider these statistics:

A 65-year-old couple who retired in 2016 will need about $288,000 (in today’s dollars) during retirement just to pay Medicare Parts B, D and supplemental insurance, according to HealthView Services, a company that provides health care cost projections for financial services firms. If out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-pays, hearing, vision and dental are included, the lifetime figure rises to about $377,000 in today’s dollars.

The national average for a private room in a nursing home is more than $92,000 per year, according to a survey by Genworth, an insurance company. And the services of a home health aide cost more than $45,000 per year, according to the same survey. Medicare typically pays very little of these costs.

To cope with these expenses, you’ll want to integrate them into your overall retirement saving and investing strategies. Knowing the size of a potential health care burden may help motivate you to put as much as you can afford into your 401(k), IRA and other retirement accounts. Even when you’re retired, part of your portfolio should be devoted to growth-oriented investments, such as stocks, to help pay for rising health care costs. It’s true that stocks will always fluctuate, and you don’t want to be forced to sell them when their price is down. However, you can help yourself avoid this problem by also owning a good mix of other investments, such as investment-grade corporate bonds, government securities and certificates of deposit (CDs), whose value may be more stable than that of stocks.

Another way to help defray the costs of health care is to work part-time a few years after you had originally planned to retire. This added income can help you delay tapping into your IRA and 401(k), thus giving these accounts a chance to potentially grow further. Plus, you may be able to put off taking Social Security, and the longer you wait until you start collecting benefits, the bigger your checks will be, at least until they top out at age 70.

These suggestions may help you meet many of your typical medical costs during retirement, but what about long-term care expenses, such as an extended stay in a nursing home or the need for home health care assistance? As mentioned above, these costs can be enormous. Fortunately, the financial marketplace does provide some cost-effective solutions for long-term care – solutions that may help you avoid “self-insuring.” A financial professional can provide you with some recommendations in this area.

It’s probably unavoidable that your health care costs will rise, and possibly keep rising, when you’re retired. But by being aware of these expenses years in advance, and by following a diligent saving and investment strategy – one that may also include a long-term care component – you can improve your “financial fitness” for dealing with health care costs.

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

National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, which acts as a reminder that each bite counts. Making just small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest starting with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits – one forkful at a time. So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, “Put Your Best Fork Forward” to help find your healthy eating style.

Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.

Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.

How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.

Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.

Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

To learn more about National Nutrition Month, and how to create a healthy lifestyle, visit www.eatright.org for information, recipes, tips, and more.

Updating our graduation standards

As an educator, parent, and legislator, I place great importance on educating and preparing our children to succeed when they enter the workforce. As part of that process, we must ensure that we give parents and students flexibility and options when it comes to choosing what works best for them. That is why I was proud to join three of my colleagues in introducing a package of bills to update Michigan’s high school graduation standards. This package will help set the table for all Michigan students’ futures.

These updates will require students to complete at least three courses in 21st century skills, which includes foreign language, visual or performing arts, computer science or coding, or a formal career/technical education (CTE) program in order to graduate. These bills will allow the foreign language course requirement to be met by completing a CTE program or visual/performing arts course. They will also help prepare students for the workplace by allowing completion of a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration general industry or construction training program to fulfill a health education requirement, and allow statistics to be an alternative to Algebra II within current Michigan Merit Standards which require at least four mathematic credits to graduate.

This is a great step towards helping prepare kids for today and their future. This bill package gives students better choices and options to prepare for life after high school. It is crucial to help match educational opportunities with the careers and jobs that are out there today versus 20 years ago. As a teacher, it makes me feel good to know the classes students could be taking may lead directly to a future career. It is critical that we work to address our state’s job-skills gap. My colleagues and I hear from employers who say “we’ve got jobs but we can’t find employees with the skills we need.” Including 21st century skills in our high school graduation requirement is a great step forward for students, families and our communities.

As we continue to work together to prepare Michigan students to succeed after high school, I encourage you to contact me to share your thoughts about this and other issues facing our state. You can reach my office via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov or toll free at (800) 577-6212.

E-tracking continues to help law enforcement in battle against meth

Our communities have been hit hard by methamphetamine, or meth, which is a powerfully addictive, illegal drug that can be manufactured in homes using pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications.

The safest and surest way to protect our children from the harmful impacts of meth is to stop a producer’s access to the main ingredient. That is why I led the 2012 effort to have Michigan retailers and pharmacies consult the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) before selling products containing pseudoephedrine.

The real-time, electronic tracking system is provided at no cost to taxpayers or retailers. It is used to ensure buyers have not exceeded purchasing limits for pseudoephedrine and to allow law enforcement officers to identify suspicious purchases of over-the-counter medications.

The system is helping stop meth producers from going from store to store and buying up cold medications in small amounts at each location.

We recently learned about the continued success of the NPLEx system in Michigan. NPLEx has significantly reduced the amount of illegal purchases of cold medications and has lessened the amount of meth use in our state. In 2016, the number of cold and allergy medicine boxes sold in Michigan decreased by 2.5 percent (or 57,138 boxes), and the number of boxes that were blocked from purchase by NPLEx increased by 11.5 percent (or 8,744 boxes).

Our dedicated law enforcement officials risk their lives each day to keep us safe, and they are using this vital tracking tool to help decrease the dependence and abuse of meth in our communities.

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.

Protecting our Great Lakes

Whether it’s a lazy Sunday on the lake with family, fishing with friends, enjoying a sunset pontoon boat cruise, or any number of activities – Michiganders all have a deep, personal connection to our lakes.

This is why it was so alarming to see reports emerge last week outlining a proposed funding cut for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) by up to 97 percent under a budget request from the White House. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for our Great Lakes and have always worked in a responsible, bipartisan manner to improve the health and beauty of these precious natural resources.

This is the reason I recently joined my colleagues on the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force in sending a bipartisan letter to the new administration urging them to work with the task force in advancing priorities vital to protecting and promoting our Great Lakes. Among the initiatives highlighted was the GLRI. The GLRI is the main federal program tasked with forming a public and private partnership to protect and restore our Great Lakes. Since 2010, Congress has provided more than $2 billion in funding to GLRI to promote the cleanup of toxic hotspots, prevent the spread of invasive species, curb the growth of harmful algal blooms, and promote the overall well-being of the Great Lakes.

In short, the GLRI has proven to be a tremendous success. Not only has it helped our Great Lakes ecosystem, it has also helped Michigan’s economy. According to a recent University of Michigan study, more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes and Michigan has the highest number of jobs that depend on the lakes.

The good news? Congress has the final say on all budgetary matters and we’re only at the first step in the appropriations process that actually funds the program. As we move forward, I will be fighting hard alongside colleagues on both sides of the aisle so we can make sure our Great Lakes are properly protected.

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).