06-13-2019 Columns

Father’s Day: Tools are great for Father’s Day – and for investors

If you’re a dad, you may well be pleased to unwrap some tools as Father’s Day gifts. Of course, it might be a stereotype that all men are handy at repairs; women certainly can be every bit as good when it comes to building and fixing things. In fact, the construction process is valuable for anyone to learn – and the same skills that go in to creating and mending physical objects also can be applied to financial projects – such as working toward a comfortable retirement. Here are a few of those skills: Diagnosing the challenge – A good craftsperson knows that the first step toward accomplishing any outcome is to assess the challenge. So, for example, if you want to build some bookshelves right into the wall, you’ll need to locate the wall studs, determine if you have adequate space for the shelving you want and allow room for future expansion. Similarly, if you want to retire at a certain age, you need to consider the key variables: your current and future income (How much can you count on from your retirement plans?), where you’ll live (Will you downsize or relocate? Will you rent or own a house or condominium?), and what you’ll do as a retiree (Will you travel extensively or stick close to home? Will you do some type of work for pay or pursue your hobbies and volunteer?). Assembling the right tools and materials – To put together your bookshelf, you will need the right tools – saw, hammer, drill, sander and so on – and the right building materials – plywood, nails, screws, glue, brackets, moldings and so on. And to work toward a comfortable retirement, you’ll also need the right tool – in the form of a long-term financial strategy, based on your specific retirement goals, risk tolerance and time horizon – along with the appropriate materials – the mix of investments you use to carry out that strategy. These investments include those you’ve placed in your IRA, your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, and those held outside your formal retirement accounts. Ideally, you want a diversified mix of investments capable of providing growth potential over time, within the context of your individual risk tolerance. Review your work – Once you’ve finished your bookshelf, you occasionally may need to make some minor adjustments or repairs in response to slippage, cracks or other issues that can develop over time. As an investor, you also may need to tweak your financial strategy periodically and adjust your investment mix – not necessarily because something is broken, but to accommodate changes in your life, such as a new job, new family situation and new goals. Furthermore, over time, your risk tolerance may change, and this needs to be reflected in your array of investments. Consequently, conducting an annual portfolio review with your financial professional should be a priority. Tools are a big deal on Father’s Day. But the construction-related tasks they represent, physically and symbolically, go beyond any one holiday and can be used by anyone interested in working toward a solid financial future. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

E-cigarette legislation signed into law

Minors have long been vulnerable to the dangers of under-age nicotine use, but with the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and other vapor products they are even more likely to start smoking at a young age. The amount of teenagers who use e-cigarettes has continued to rise since they were introduced in 2007 and a recent study found that one in five Michigan high school students admitted to having used an e-cigarette in the last month. E-cigarettes have become the most commonly used nicotine product by youth in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has even declared e-cigarettes an epidemic that is quickly spreading through schools and affecting more minors than ever. It’s critical that we find ways to protect children from the dangers of smoking because of the serious risks it poses to developing children. This is why I supported legislation that will prohibit those under the age of 18 from purchasing, possessing, or consuming vapor and alternative nicotine products. Under this legislation, sellers of these products will also be required to post a sign from the Department of Health and Human Services that outlines the penalties minors can incur if they attempt to purchase tobacco or nicotine products, which is intended to help further deter minors from attempting to purchase them. Many minors believe that vaping is a safe, risk-free alternative to cigarettes. However, vaping can stunt brain and lung development and often leads to addiction. This legislation will help school districts combat the growing use of e-cigarettes in schools and make it more difficult for minors to obtain any alternative nicotine devices. These reforms, in Senate Bills (SBs) 106 and 155, were signed into law by the governor last week. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Internet Safety Month

It is hard to believe that the modern smartphone is slightly over a decade old. In that time, the prevalence of and reliance upon these devices has seemingly overtaken society. And, for as much as they are helpful in myriad ways, there are also serious downsides to being constantly tied to them — not the least of which is device “screen time” and the effect it has on our children. Depending on what study you read, the average age a child gets his or her first smartphone is anywhere between 6 and 10, and by 13 one study suggests 83% of youth have their own phone. Arguments against children using these devices notwithstanding, for those who do have them, parents should at least be mindful of what their kids are doing online and the real threats that exist. Social media apps and the World Wide Web that enables them could very well be described as the wild, wild west — an open field for predators seeking to bully, “dox,” steal identities or worse. Children are particularly vulnerable as they are less likely to discern threats. June is National Internet Safety Month, and it was established to help raise awareness of these dangers and steps that can be taken to mitigate them. The Michigan State Police is a leader in cybersecurity and has compiled a list of internet safety tips for kids. Part of its efforts also includes a “Pledge for Online Safety” that is designed for parents to go over with their kids to ensure they practice safe behavior. Another tool available for parents to help protect their kids online is the ProtectMIChild registry. This free service is a “frontline defense in blocking adult-theme content from reaching your child or teen on their phone, tablet or other electronic device.” By signing up your kids’ phone numbers, email addresses and instant message IDs, parents can help prevent certain adult content from reaching them. For even more information on online safety, visit the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative website at Michigan.gov/csi and the National Cyber Security Alliance at StaySafeOnline.org. Despite the threats, the web is an incredible, educational, and fun resource. By staying vigilant, we can help keep our kids and ourselves safe online. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the important issues facing Southwest Michigan. You can reach me at 517-373-6960 or SenKLaSata@senate.michigan.gov.

Tick bite prevention

As the weather gets warmer, the tick population activity in Berrien County begins to increase. As residents spend more time outside, the Berrien County Health Department would like to remind people, especially those spending time outdoors and children at summer or day-camps, to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses by taking a few precautionary steps. Ticks can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease, the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the U.S. In Michigan, 220 cases were reported in 2016 with the most exposures occurring in the Upper Peninsula and along Michigan’s western shoreline, including Berrien County. The number of Lyme disease cases has slowly increased over the years in Michigan. Ticks are typically found in wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Prompt recognition and treatment is essential to prevent serious illness and death. Residents can prevent tick bites by doing the following: Avoid tick-infested areas; use insect repellent. Spray repellent containing DEET or Permethrin on clothes and on exposed skin; bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you; perform daily tick checks. Always check for ticks after being outdoors, even in your yard. For more information about diseases carried by ticks, please visit www.bchdmi.org or www.cdc.gov/ ticks.

Providing quality care for our veterans

For the 650,000 veterans living in Michigan – many of whom live in southwest Michigan – last Thursday represented the beginning of a new chapter. The VA Mission Act and the new Veterans Community Care Program went into effect, allowing our veterans to receive health care when and where they need it. This new program will allow veterans to seek community and urgent care if the VA does not offer the care or services necessary for these brave veterans.

Furthermore, the Veterans Community Care Program will provide veterans who live more than 30 minutes away from a VA medical facility for primary care or 60 minutes away for specialty care the ability to seek non-VA health care services for their needs. This bipartisan effort to provide quality care to our much-deserving veterans will ensure that Southwest Michiganders who served in our Armed Forces are given the best care possible.

Last Thursday represented a new chapter for America’s heroes, and I just want to say, ‘Thank you’ to our veterans. Thank you for your service and for everything you and your families have done to protect our nation and our freedoms. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).