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04-12-18 Columns

If you’re a gardener, your busy season is at hand, as April has been designated National Garden Month. But could the skills you deploy at gardening be transferred to other areas of your life – such as investing? Here are a few ideas for doing just that: Establish a timeline. As a gardener, you typically follow a well-defined timeline. You need to get the soil ready a few months before you want to plant, and you need to plant at different times, depending on what plants you choose. You even need to set up a schedule for watering, feeding, weeding and other garden care. As an investor, you may also need to observe a timeline. During the early and middle stages of your career, you probably need to invest primarily for growth, so you can build resources for a comfortable retirement. Then, as you near retirement, you may want to lower your risk level by shifting some – though certainly not all – of your investment dollars from growth-oriented vehicles into more income-producing ones. And once you do retire, your focus will shift to preserving your money, so one of your key decisions will center on how much you can afford to withdraw each year from your investment portfolio. Choose “healthy” investments. Gardeners like to choose plants they know will really last. That’s why they look for things such as green leaves, as opposed to brown or yellow ones, and thick stems, which usually indicate a plant is strong, healthy and capable of surviving a transition from the pot to the ground. And when you invest, you, too, should look for signs of health in the investments you choose. For example, when picking stocks, look for companies with solid fundamentals, such as experienced management, strong earnings and the demonstrated ability to produce products and services attractive to consumers. Or, when considering bonds, consider those that independent rating agencies have awarded the highest grades, in terms of the financial strength of the issuer. Feed your investments properly. Things like fertilizer and plant food can be valuable, but the most important element in plant nutrition is water. Under-watered plants will not survive, but overwatering your plants can certainly damage them severely. When you invest, you also need to know the right amount of “food,” or “nutrients,” to apply. If you don’t put enough money into investments, they may not grow as much as you’d like. On the other hand, it is possible to “overwater” certain investments. For example, if you constantly put money into just one or two investments, they could end up crowding out others in your portfolio, causing you to lose the value of diversification. And if these particular investments are already growth-oriented vehicles, highly subject to market risk, they could take a big hit during a market downturn. Ultimately, seek a balance in how you distribute your investment dollars. Year after year, successful gardeners reap the rewards of their labors. And following some of their habits can help you work toward a long-lasting and fruitful investment garden, too. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

My Inquiry into MSU

In January, I was asked by the Speaker of the House to launch an inquiry into Michigan State University’s handling of the Larry Nassar case and to make informed policy and budget solutions to protect our children from predators. Since then, I have worked alongside members of my Higher Education Subcommittee, the Law and Justice Committee, policy advisors, and counsel, to find out what happened at MSU. We requested, received, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents from the University, as well as written answers to approximately 50 detailed questions. Some of what we found was shocking. Medical records were never kept for many of Nassar’s “treatments,” MSU did not have an adequate informed consent policy in place for much of the time Nassar worked there, and University policies did not require a chaperone to be in the room during sensitive examinations of minors. In some cases, MSU had destroyed victims’ medical records by the time they reported Nassar to university police. While the destruction did not violate state law or university policy, such records may have proven useful. As these findings indicate, there are clear gaps in current law, regulations, and policies that helped enable an environment which, unfortunately, proved ripe for abuse. While MSU has made many positive changes to its policies addressing these gaps, the Legislature must now act to correct these deficiencies on a broader scale to the greatest extent it can. In the end, we recommended more than 30 new laws to more comprehensively protect others from similar abuses and to change the very culture which allows for sexual abuse to occur. You can view our policy and budget recommendations by visiting I will fight to push these reforms through the legislature so that whether in a school, medical setting, or anywhere else in our communities, a tragedy like this will not happen again.

Last week, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s request for assistance for flood recovery costs in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties here in Southwest Michigan. In mid-March, I led a bipartisan effort in support of the Governor’s request alongside my Michigan colleagues who were also affected by the flooding. I also traveled with Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey to see first-hand the destruction this severe flooding has caused. The SBA disaster assistance program provides low-interest loans for uninsured losses incurred by homeowners, renters, businesses, and non-profit organizations to repair and replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed. The SBA tailors the repayment of each disaster loan to the borrower’s financial capability. This announcement is welcome news for our area. These loans will help our local businesses and residents recover financially from the tremendous impact of the recent flooding. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Congratulations to 2018 spirit tournament champions!

I want to extend my congratulations to the Coloma Comets for winning this year’s Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament championship. Coming off impressive Final Four victories, the final round matchup between the River Valley Mustangs and Coloma had the anticipation of an exciting championship match — and it lived up to that expectation. In the end, the Comets emerged as champions, earning nearly 10,000 points on Facebook alone. I sponsored this spirit tournament to give area students an opportunity to showcase their school pride in a manner that inspired creativity. The contest spanned five weeks and featured 31 area high schools, which were divided into four brackets named for features that characterize our region. Thousands of fans and students participated by voting in online polls and submitted photos on Facebook and Twitter to score points for their school. As the tournament champion, Coloma High School will be presented with a traveling trophy and will also receive a special tribute commending the school for the spirit of its students and community. The tribute will be signed by me; Rep. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township; Congressman Fred Upton; Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Gov. Rick Snyder. The people of Coloma should be proud of the spirit and community they displayed during the contest. It was awesome to see the tremendous response, and I want to thank everyone who shared their love for their school and their community. The phenomenal participation made this year’s contest such a wonderful success. 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.

Take charge of your sexual health

There’s no avoiding the statistics: the number of reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases are at an all-time high, and if you are sexually active, you are at risk of infection. So what can you do? Arm yourself with the facts about STDs and talk with your healthcare provider—that’s always an important place to start. When it comes to protecting your sexual health, the best offense is a good defense. A relationship between patient and healthcare provider emphasizing teamwork and communication is key: when the relationship works better, sexual health works better. The Berrien County Health Department’s Sexual Health Clinic is here to help you plan for a healthy future. The clinic offers accessible, non-judgmental, and supportive services to women, men, and teens regardless of income, insurance status, background, or sexuality. Services are low/no-cost, are 100% confidential, and include birth control, STD testing, and annual wellness exams and testing for men and women. Services available include: Recommended annual wellness exams (pap smears, pelvic exams, breast exams, and testicular exams); STD testing and treatment and rapid HIV testing and counseling; pregnancy testing; birth control methods including the pill, the patch, Depo-provera shot, and emergency contraception; free condoms; immunizations, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for men and women; education and support to help you plan for a healthy future and take control of your sexual health. Sexual Health clinical services are provided at little-to-no cost. Most major insurance plans are accepted, including most Medicaid plans. Costs are based on a sliding-fee scale determined according to your income and no one is turned away for inability to pay. Sexual Health Clinic services are available at all Berrien County Health Department locations (Benton Harbor, Niles, and Three Oaks) by appointment only. To make an appointment for any location or for more information, please call (269) 926-7121. More information about the Sexual Health Clinic can be found at

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