03-30-2017 Columns

Teach your children well… about finances and investing

High debt levels… lack of savings… the inability to budget – these problems all have several causes, but one of them is almost certainly financial illiteracy. Too many of us just never developed the money management skills necessary to cope with our complicated – and expensive – world. But if you have young children, you can teach them some money-smart lessons – and who knows? You could use the opportunity to give yourself a few valuable reminders, too.

Here are some suggestions for a financial “curriculum”:

Save for a goal. In our highly commercialized culture, it’s almost inevitable that your children will eventually become somewhat acquisitive. Obviously, it’s important to teach them that they can’t have everything – and they certainly can’t have everything right now. So, once they are old enough to receive an allowance or to earn money in some fashion, encourage them to set a goal for something they want, such as a toy or video game, and to put money aside every week for that goal. It’s also an excellent idea to model this behavior yourself. So if you are considering making a major purchase in the not-too-distant future, such as a car, show your children how you are setting aside money regularly for this purpose, rather than borrowing as much as you can or putting the entire purchase on a credit card. Establish a budget. It can be challenging to create a household budget and just as difficult to stick to it – but for most people, it’s worth the effort. You’ll be doing your children a favor by showing them how you have a certain amount of income and where it goes – mortgage, utilities, groceries, retirement accounts, etc. – each month. Explain to your kids that by staying within your budget, you can help avoid problems such as debt and extra fees tacked onto bills for late payments. You might also want to point out that, as your income rises, you can gain greater flexibility in budgeting. Here’s the key point: Living within your means pays off in the long run. Have fun with investing. It might surprise you, but even young children enjoy learning about the investment process, especially if you explain to them that they can be an owner of a company that makes a product or service they like. You might want to pick such a company and, along with your child, chart its course over time. You could give your child a pretend $100 bill to “invest” in this company and then see how its value changes, explaining along the way that various factors – such as the popularity of the company’s products, the skill of its managers, and so on – will affect the stock’s price. At some point, you may even wish to purchase real stocks for your child and place them within a custodial account. And you might also want to show your child how your own stocks and other investments are performing. The investment world can be fascinating, and by sharing your enthusiasm for it with your children, you can encourage them to invest throughout their lives.

Knowledge is power. And the more knowledge about finances and investing that you can impart to your children now, the more empowered they will be to make smart financial moves in the future.

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

Spring break travel

As winter’s hold weakens, hopeful spring breakers will make their way to balmy beach resorts, rugged rain forests, and coastal cruise ship destinations. Wherever your spring break plans take you, the Berrien County Health Department wants you to be informed and make smart choices. If international travel is part of your spring break plan, the CDC Travelers’ Health website is a great first stop to make sure that you are “Proactive, Prepared, and Protected” when it comes to your health while traveling.

Many popular spring break destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Pacific Islands, and Mexico have outbreaks of the Zika virus. CDC has issued Zika travel notices with recommendations for travelers to these destinations.

Because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, CDC recommends that travelers to any destination with Zika protect themselves from mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside; sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites; use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.

Sexual transmission of Zika is also possible, so travelers are encouraged to use condoms the right way, every time, you have sex.

Because Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman is linked to serious birth defects, CDC recommends that pregnant women not travel to an area with Zika. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

To learn more about the precautions you should take prior to spring break travel, visit www.bchdmi.org or like the Berrien County Health Department on Facebook.

My month of March

March has been an incredibly busy and productive month. I’ve enjoyed every moment.

My Courtroom Assault Prevention Bill received its first committee hearing where I was proud to testify on why increasing penalties for courtroom assaults are a necessary precaution after last year’s tragic events. Additionally, Rep. Dave Pagel and I introduced a package of bills to end the ability of out-of-state homeowners to illegally declare a homestead exemption on their second home here in Michigan.

My Higher Education Subcommittee wrapped up a busy month of meetings where all 15 university presidents came to Lansing to testify on behalf of their institutions. As promised, I have gone line-by-line through the Higher Education budget with the goal of eliminating waste and making college more affordable. With my recommended budget finalized, I will now enter into negotiations with the governor and the chair of the Senate’s Higher Education subcommittee.

My favorite part of the past month has definitely been our March is Reading Month Program. Helping students learn has been both a passion and profession for me, and thanks to this program, I was able to be in a classroom again. In fact, I managed to visit 10 schools over the course of the month and read to almost 1,500 students across 50 classrooms! Encouraging young people to learn is something I will continue to do as your state representative.

I also hosted a number of successful coffee hours throughout the district where I met with area residents and listened to their concerns about state government. You can visit www.RepLaSata.com for upcoming dates, times, and locations for the month of April.

Residents can also request a meeting by appointment through my office by calling (517) 373-1403 or emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Encouraging small businesses to hire Michigan’s veterans

We owe our veterans a tremendous debt for their selfless dedication and the enormous sacrifices they made in defense of our freedoms.

While this debt is one we can never fully repay, we must do all we can to express our appreciation for their service in a real, meaningful way.

As part of that effort, I am proud to co-sponsor proactive legislation in the Senate to encourage small businesses to hire unemployed veterans.

When our veterans return home they often face real challenges transitioning into new careers.

The “Hire MI Heroes” initiative is about standing up for our veterans by enlisting Michigan’s job-creating small businesses in the effort to give our veterans a chance to live the American Dream that they served honorably to protect.

Senate Bill 89 would provide Michigan small businesses that hire an unemployed veteran with a one-time tax credit of 25 percent of the veterans’ compensation up to $4,000.

To ensure accountability, SB 89 includes several safeguards, such as enabling the state to reduce or terminate the credit if the veteran the business hired to receive the credit is laid off within a year.

During my time in the Senate, we have achieved much to assist veterans entering the workforce by removing unnecessary barriers to getting a job.

This bipartisan legislation would build on those continued efforts and would represent a common sense way to help thank our veterans for their service while also doing something positive for the state economy.

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.

A new era for American energy

Last week, after nearly a decade of delays, the State Department approved the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline is a $7 billion private-sector infrastructure project that will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the United States. Keystone XL will carry Canadian crude oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico and will play a pivotal role in breaking our dependence on foreign oil. Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline means jobs, energy security, and lower gas and energy prices for American families.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Keystone XL would transport some 830,000 barrels of oil per day. Construction of the project would directly create 20,000 jobs and indirectly create tens of thousands of spin-off jobs. Keystone XL has already been subject to more than 22,000 pages of environmental review and is expected to be one of the safest pipelines ever built, adhering to the new pipeline safety standards I championed and where then signed into law in 2016. What’s more, pipelines remain the safest and most environmentally sound way to transport oil supplies.

A key component to modernizing our energy infrastructure and keeping up with the nation’s growing production of oil and gas will be ensuring projects aren’t bogged down in endless permitting delays. We’ve turned a new page under this administration. The days of government holding back energy development are a thing of the past. Now we can begin to roll-back red tape and enact common-sense policies that will create jobs and promote economic growth.

I am looking forward to continuing to work on enacting policies that promote American businesses and benefit American consumers.

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).

Rep. Griffin bills would help educate kids on opioid dangers

Legislation calls on Department of Education to develop curriculum

State Rep. Beth Griffin, of Mattawan, has submitted legislation to create a curriculum to educate children on the dangers of prescription opioid medication.

“Schools right now have lessons on the dangers of marijuana and heroin, but nothing on this new epidemic we’re trying to address in Michigan,” said Griffin, a former schoolteacher in two southwestern Michigan school districts. “Kids, and even their parents, may not understand the dangers, thinking if it’s prescribed by a doctor then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it. We must make sure the education program is prepared to talk about the dangers of all drugs.”

Griffin joined multiple representatives during a press conference on Thursday, March 23 with Gov. Rick Snyder to discuss what the State is doing to address the issue of prescription opioid addiction, based on updates from the Opioid Addiction Task Force.

Her legislation will direct the task force to make recommendations to the Michigan Department of Education for the development of age-appropriate curriculum on the dangers of prescription medications.

“Today was just another step in our state’s battle against opioid addiction,” Griffin said. “We need to continue to address this epidemic with educational information to help our children be aware of this problem.”

House Bills 4406 and 4407 were assigned to the House Health Policy Committee.