04-20-2017 Columns

Be an “environmentally friendly” investor

 On April 22, we observe Earth Day, a worldwide event focusing on protecting the environment. As a citizen of this planet, you may want to take part in Earth Day activities. And as an investor, you can learn some valuable lessons from the environmental movement. Here are a few ideas to consider:

“Recycle” proven strategies. Over the past few decades, we have discovered ways of bringing new life to objects we would have previously thrown away. When you invest, you also don’t need to discard things you’ve used before – such as proven investment strategies. For example, one tried-and-true technique is to simply purchase investments appropriate for your needs and risk tolerance, and then hold these investments until either your situation changes or the investments themselves are no longer the same as when you bought them. (To illustrate: You might have bought stock in a company whose products or services are not as competitive as they once were.)

Avoid “toxic” investment moves. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we have had some success in identifying and eliminating toxins in our air and water. You can also find – and avoid – “toxic” investment moves. One such move is chasing a “hot” stock. By the time you hear about this stock – from a friend, relative or even a television or internet commentator – it may already be cooling off. Even more importantly, it might not be suitable for your needs, either because it’s too risky or because you already own several similar stocks. “Hot” stocks aren’t so hot if they aren’t right for you.

Reduce “excess” investments in your portfolio. Environmentalists stress the need for all of us to reduce our “footprint” on earth – that is, we can help improve the environment by owning less “stuff.” The same idea can also apply to investing. If you took a close look at your portfolio, you might find investments that you’ve held for years but whose purpose is no longer clear to you. Some may even be duplicates, or near-duplicates, of other investments. You might be able to improve your financial picture by getting rid of this “clutter.” By selling investments you no longer need, you could use the proceeds to purchase new investments that may be far more effective in helping you meet your objectives.

Plant “seeds” of opportunity. Many Earth Day lesson plans for students emphasize the value of planting gardens and trees. As an investor, you, too, need to look for ways to plant “seeds” of opportunity so that you can eventually harvest the results. Specifically, look for those investments that, like trees, can grow and prosper over years and decades. Of course, growth-oriented investments carry investment risk, including the possible loss of principal. Yet, to achieve your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement, you will need some growth potential in your portfolio. You can reduce the level of risk by owning a mix of investments – including less aggressive vehicles, such as bonds – in your portfolio.

Each year, Earth Day comes and goes. But its messages have had a profound impact on generations of people interested in preserving our environment. And translating some of these lessons to the investment arena can have a powerful effect on your financial future.

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

Giving parents access to critical child abuse information

 April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is a time to acknowledge the importance of working together to prevent child abuse.

No child should have to suffer abuse, and no parent should be left in the dark about whether a caregiver has been convicted of child abuse.

That is why I am proud to be co-sponsoring bipartisan measures to help ensure parents have access to this critical information.

Senate Bills 261-263, known as “Wyatt’s Law,” would create and maintain a registry for those convicted of child abuse.

Inspiration for the bills came when the mother of Wyatt, the bill’s namesake, approached the legislature following the abuse of her 18-month-old son at the hands of his father’s girlfriend.

Wyatt suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome and almost died. He suffered a fractured skull, permanent brain damage and was left blind in one eye.

The mother had petitioned for sole custody due to unease about the father’s new girlfriend, but there was no way for her to check if the woman was a danger to her son. She was unable to find out until it was too late that the woman had twice before been convicted of child abuse.

A searchable database could give parents free access to important information to help keep their children safe and prevent tragedies like what happened to Wyatt.

Indiana recently passed a similar law, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring this additional layer of protection to Michigan.

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.

Listening to the community

 Over the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you at my in-district office hours. I want to thank all of you who attended and shared your thoughts and concerns with me. I am always interested to hear what is on your mind, and even if we do not always agree, I truly value your concerns and suggestions.

I heard concerns from many people about education, the condition of our state’s roads, and the high cost of auto insurance, among other things. I will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf in Lansing and hope you will continue to reach out to me whenever I can be of assistance to you.

I will be having more opportunities for you to meet with me in the community in the coming months, and I encourage you to contact my office for more information.

Please also mark your calendars for the annual Senior and Veteran Expo hosted by state senators Tonya Schuitmaker and Margaret O’Brien and me on Monday, May 8. The expo takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Antwerp Township Activity Center located at 24821 Front Avenue in Mattawan. This is a free event and we will have over one hundred exhibitor tables, a display of military memorabilia, and free health and vision screenings. This has become a very special annual event in our community and I hope you will attend.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact my office toll-free at 1-800-577-6212.

Childhood vaccination

 Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. The same goes for childhood immunizations. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.

Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended. There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough. Since 2010, we have seen between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of whooping cough each year in the United States. And, up to 20 babies die from whooping cough each year in the United States. Most whooping cough deaths are among babies who are too young to be protected by their own vaccination. Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age 2.

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 or for more information about vaccines, visit www.bchdmi.org.

Introducing legislation to improve cancer care

Last month, alongside U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, we introduced H.R. 1920, a bill that would ensure cancer patients across the country continue to have access to life-saving treatments and care. H.R. 1920 addresses a flawed Medicare reimbursement formula that results in some providers not being adequately paid for their services.

Community-based cancer centers provide treatment to more than 80 percent of the nation’s new cancer patients. Ensuring more appropriate payment amounts for cancer drugs under Medicare Part B would help protect these cancer centers. So-called “prompt pay” discounts are contractually provided terms from pharmaceutical manufacturers to drug distributors. Prompt pay discounts compensate distributors for the costs of shipping, handling, and distributing drugs to providers. Under current law, the inclusion of these discounts in Medicare’s payment formula artificially lowers reimbursement rates for providers, which harms patient access to high-quality care. H.R. 1920 would fix the Medicare reimbursement formula by removing customary prompt pay discounts from the calculation to ensure that providers receive fair reimbursement.

Here in Michigan we have 19 dedicated cancer centers including the Lakeland HealthCare Marie Yeager Cancer Center in St. Joseph. Our common-sense, bipartisan legislative fix corrects the Medicare reimbursement formula that currently threatens the distribution of cancer care drugs across the country. This will ensure patients continue to receive the highest quality cancer care available.

These bipartisan efforts enjoy the support of patient groups such as the Association of Community Cancer Centers, the National Patient Advocate Foundation, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Community Oncology Alliance.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle here in the House and in the Senate to move this bill forward.

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).