05-03-2018 Columns


A few generations ago, it was not uncommon for workers to stick with a single job for their whole careers. But for many of us today, frequent job changes are a fact of life: The average employee tenure is just over four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, assuming you’re going to switch jobs a few times, you’ll want to be prepared. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to smooth these transitions and help your financial situation: Build an emergency fund. Some of your job changes may be involuntary, so you’ll want to have a cash cushion handy – just in case. One smart move would be to build an emergency fund, containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. Consider your options for your former employer’s 401(k) plan. If you had a 401(k) plan with your former employer, you have three main options: You could leave your money in the plan, if the employer allows it; you could move the money into your new employer’s plan, if permitted; or you could roll the funds over to an IRA. You’ll want to weigh the “pros” and “cons” of these choices carefully before making a decision. Choose investments from your new retirement plan. If your new employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, you’ll need to choose the investments within the plan that are most appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Contribute as much as you can afford to the plan, and consider increasing your contributions every time your salary goes up. Make sure you’ve got health insurance. The health insurance offered by your new employer may not begin the minute you start your job. Given the high costs of medical care, you’ll need to make sure you are protected until your coverage kicks in. So, for that interim period, you may need to consider the federal health insurance marketplace, COBRA continuation coverage or private medical insurance. You might also be eligible to be covered under your spouse’s health insurance. And you may want to learn what your options are for health savings accounts (HSAs), if available. Review your new benefits package – and take steps to fill gaps. Your new benefits package may include life and disability insurance, but these group policies may not be enough to fully protect you and your family. A financial professional can help you quantify your protection and insurance needs and offer guidance on how much coverage you may require. Understand your income tax considerations. Getting a new job may involve income tax implications, such as changes in your tax bracket, severance pay, unused vacation and unemployment compensation. And if you are thinking of exercising stock options, be aware that this, too, can be a taxable event. Finally, if you have to move to take a new job, you may incur some relocation and job hunting expenses that could be deductible. You will need to discuss all these issues with your tax professional. Starting a new job can be exciting – and challenging. But you may be able to make your life easier by putting the above suggestions to work. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

$18.65 million for school safety

As a parent of children still in school, I know the importance of ensuring that every Michigan child has a safe place to learn and grow. That is why I recently supported increased funding to make critical school safety improvements. This immediate funding would give our schools and our community first responders the tools and resources they need to keep our children safe. While many schools have already made vital school safety upgrades, this bill would provide $15 million for grants for schools to buy technology and equipment or conduct school assessments to enhance security. The funding is included in Senate Bill 601, a supplemental appropriation bill for the current 2018 fiscal year. It includes $3 million for a statewide school emergency notification system that would be available to all Michigan schools. The system app would allow users to call 911 while simultaneously providing alerts via text message, email and push notifications to school staff and area first responders. SB 601 also features $500,000 more to promote Michigan’s OK2SAY hotline and $150,000 for the Michigan State Police to add staff for the program. Attorney General Bill Schuette’s OK2SAY program does a fantastic job in helping protect our children and save lives by providing students with a 24-hour confidential tip line to report concerns or threats. It is great that Michigan already has a proactive program to help keep schools safe, and I am proud to double the promotion of OK2SAY to raise student awareness about this initiative. This funding is the first part of a comprehensive school safety effort, and I look forward to enacting sensible, long-term solutions to protect our students. 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.

Bipartisan effort to increase flight safety & boost local airfields

Last week, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in passing the FAA Reauthorization Act by a vote of 393 to 13.

As one who flies home nearly every week, I applaud this bipartisan effort to ensure continued safety and stability in American aviation. Importantly, we also help smaller airfields here in Southwest Michigan by making smart infrastructure investments that improve reliability and safety. More specifically, this legislation reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) to carry out activities related to civil aviation for five years. It provides long-term stability for the Nation’s aviation community ensuring continued investments in airports large and small across the country, improving America’s competitiveness in the global aviation sector, ensuring passenger protections, and more.

It also provides stable funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which issues grants to public use airports for planning and development purposes and is an essential part of maintaining long-term sustainability of airports of all sizes. This bipartisan effort will help keep us the world leader in aviation: putting American jobs, innovation, and the traveling public first. 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).

Nutritious food for families

WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. It is a Supplemental Nutrition Program that serves income eligible pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to age five. The program provides a combination of nutrition education, supplemental foods, breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. WIC foods are selected to meet nutrient needs such as calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamins A and C. Food benefits are loaded on an Electronic Benefits Card that can be used at WIC approved stores. In Berrien County, an average of 4,000 women, infants and children are enrolled in WIC each month, and provides $30-$112 or more per month for each participant. WIC participants have been shown in studies to have lower infant mortality rates, lower rates of anemia, and lower rates of pre-term and low birth weight babies as women of similar incomes not participating in WIC. The WIC Program strongly encourages and provides support for breastfeeding. For babies who are not fully breastfed, iron-fortified infant formula is available for the first year of life. Infants may also receive infant cereal and fruit juices at age six months. Pregnant and postpartum women and children under 5 receive financial assistance to buy foods like milk, cheese, eggs, cereal, peanut butter or dried beans or peas, and fruit and vegetable juices. Women who are exclusively breastfeeding their babies receive extra food, including carrots and canned tuna. For more information about WIC or to see if you qualify, call the Berrien County Health Department at (269) 926-7121 or visit us online at www.bchdmi.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

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