03-16-2017 Columns

Time for some financial spring cleaning

Spring is in the air, even if it’s not quite there on the calendar. This year, as you shake off the cobwebs from winter and start tidying up around your home and yard, why not also do some financial spring cleaning?

Actually, you can apply several traditional spring cleaning techniques to your financial situation. Here are a few ideas:

Look for damage. Damage to your home’s siding, shingles and foundation can eventually degrade the structure of your home. Your investment portfolio is also a structure of a sort, and it, too, can be damaged. Specifically, you may have deliberately constructed your portfolio with an investment mix – stocks, fixed-income vehicles, cash instruments, etc. – that’s appropriate for your goals and risk tolerance. But over time, your portfolio can evolve in unexpected ways. For example, your stocks may have grown so much in value that they now take up a larger percentage of your holdings than you had intended, possibly subjecting you to a higher degree of risk. If this happens, you may need to rebalance your portfolio.

Get rid of “clutter.” As you look around your home, do you see three mops or four nonfunctional televisions or a stack of magazines from the 1990s? If these items no longer have value, you could get rid of them and clear up some living space. As an investor, you also might have “clutter” – in the form of investments that no longer meet your needs. If you sold these investments, you could use the proceeds to fill gaps in your portfolio.

Consolidate. Do you keep your lawnmower in a shed, a rake in your garage, and your gardening tools in the basement? When working on your outdoor tasks, you might find it more efficient to have all these items in one location. You could also have your investments scattered about – an IRA here, a new 401(k) there, and an older 401(k) someplace else. But if you consolidated all your investments in one place, you might cut down on paperwork and fees, and you wouldn’t risk losing track of an asset (which actually happens more than you might think). Even more importantly, when you have all your investments with one provider, you’ll be better positioned to follow a single, centralized investment strategy.

Prepare for a rainy day. As part of your outdoor spring cleaning, you may want to look at your gutters and downspouts to make sure they are clear and in good repair, so that they can move rainwater away from your home. Your financial goals need protection, too, so you’ll want to ensure you have adequate life and disability insurance.

Seal leaks. In your home inspection this spring, you may want to investigate doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Your investment portfolio might have some “leaks” also. Are investment-related taxes siphoning off more of your earnings than you realize? A financial professional can offer you recommendations for appropriate tax-advantaged investments.

This spring, when you’re cleaning your physical surroundings, take some time to also tidy up your financial environment. You may be pleased with the results.

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

Adults and arthritis

According to recently released estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Michigan adults has been diagnosed with arthritis, putting Michigan in the top ten states for arthritis prevalence.

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability and in Michigan, 42 percent of residents with arthritis say it limits their ability to work while more than half say it limits their activities overall. To address this, the MDHHS is encouraging Michigan residents with arthritis to find a local free or low-cost program near them today to help manage arthritis pain and symptoms.

All across Michigan, programs exist within our communities that help people with arthritis engage in physical activity safely. Workshops like Personal Action Toward Health help people learn strategies to confidently manage their symptoms, maintain an active and fulfilling life, and feel better.

Additionally, the National Arthritis Foundation offers an online program called “Walk With Ease” to help people with arthritis get moving, so that they can stay active. The program features online tools, resources and videos, as well as a mobile app.

To find an EnhanceFitness program or Personal Action Toward Health workshop near you today, visit www.mihealthyprograms.org. For more information about additional community supports for those with arthritis, call the Michigan Arthritis Program at 517-335-3188, or the Arthritis Foundation of Michigan at 248-649-2891, or visit www.michigan.gov/arthritis.

Protecting Michigan hunting and fishing rights

Michigan’s abundance of game birds and animals attracts the third-most hunters in the nation, and our vast number of rivers and lakes draws the fifth-most anglers.

Anglers and hunters help with conservation efforts and wildlife management by purchasing licenses and controlling animal and fish populations. Every year, they also contribute billions of dollars to Michigan’s economy.

I will continue to protect your hunting and fishing rights. I recently co-sponsored Senate Joint Resolution G to protect our state’s rich heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping by establishing this fundamental right in Michigan’s constitution.

By declaring in the constitution the people’s right to hunt, fish and trap animals that are held in the public trust — and require aggressive enforcement of laws protecting those rights — we would ensure that these rights are preserved for future generations.

As we work to protect your rights, I encourage area families and out-of-state visitors to get outdoors and enjoy some of the world’s best fishing and hunting in our state.

For more information on hunting and trapping in Michigan, including guides and details on all rules and regulations, residents can visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Visit www.michigan.gov/fishing for information on Michigan fishing, such as materials on seasons, regulations and fish identification.

I hope you all have a chance to experience Michigan’s great outdoors. It is truly one of the things that makes our state such a great place to live and raise and family. Have fun and be safe.

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.

My first bill as your State Representative

Many in our community can still remember where they were when they first heard the news about the Berrien County Courthouse shooting last July.

I vividly recall knocking on doors in the heat of my Primary campaign when I received a phone call I will never forget. After hearing the news, my mind dashed through who those victims could be. My husband Charlie and many of our good friends work in that courthouse and it had already been reported two victims were dead and two more were injured. Sadly enough, one ended up being my husband’s bailiff, Officer Ron Kienzle.

Had it not been for the brave sacrifices of bailiffs Ron Kienzle and Joseph Zangaro, that day could have ended with more casualties.

My heart goes out to the Kienzle and Zangaro families. I hope they know the legacy of their loved one lives on in the lives of those they saved. They spent their lives making the community and courthouse as safe as possible, and I felt a responsibility as a new legislator to try and honor that legacy.

Therefore, I joined Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing) and House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) in introducing a bipartisan, three bill package to deter courtroom assaults.

My bill increases the penalties from a maximum of 10 years in prison to 15 years when the assaults result in the serious impairment of bodily function. Mr. Schor’s bill would add attempted assault to the section of law that penalizes assaults on courtroom personnel including law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, and court reporters and Mr. Singh’s bill would update the sentencing guidelines.

The safety of courtroom personnel is essential if we expect our justice system to be effective. What happened in Berrien County was a tragedy, but out of that tragedy we have the ability to lead the charge in making courtrooms safer for communities across the state.

It is my sincerest hope that these increased penalties deter future tragedies, like ours, from occurring in the first place.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517)373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.RepLaSata.com.

It is an honor to serve you.

Self-driving cars: The future of safety and innovation

Forget about “The Jetsons.” The future of the automobile is here and the automotive industry is completely revolutionizing how we will get around for decades to come. Thanks to new technological leaps and bounds from automakers, vehicles today are bolder, more fuel-efficient, interconnected, and, in some cases, able to drive themselves. It’s an exciting time for automakers, innovators, and consumers alike. Here in Michigan, we’re leading the way in developing, testing and deploying the cars and trucks of the future.

As the birthplace of the automotive industry, Michigan is a well-known home to innovative suppliers and manufacturers that make our cars and trucks safer, more efficient and more affordable. But Michigan also has a dense nexus of engineering talent, automotive research and development centers, and universities that are developing cutting-edge vehicle innovations.

These technologies also have the potential to stop accidents before they happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 35,000 Americans died in traffic accidents last year—a seven percent increase in fatalities on our roadways from the previous year. NHTSA also found that 94-percent of roadway fatalities are tied to human error. Connected and automated vehicle technologies have tremendous potential to cut congestion, strengthen our economy, increase consumer access, and save thousands of lives.

As automakers and developers test and validate these technologies to get them ready for our roads, government must work to ensure that federal policies are keeping pace with the exponential advances in innovation. The rapid emergence of crash avoidance and driver assistance tools available to consumers today are the building blocks that will lead to fully autonomous vehicles in the next few years. Moving forward, Congress must continue to build on these efforts to encourage further innovation and development of self-driving vehicles, and ensure consumers are informed about their capabilities.

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).