06-22-2017 Columns

Don’t let your investments take a “vacation”

 It’s summer again – time for many of us to take a break and possibly hit the open road. But even if you go on vacation, you won’t want your investments to do the same – in summertime or any other season. How can you help make sure your portfolio continues to work hard for you all year long?

Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid owning too many “low growth” investments. As you know, different investments have different characteristics and can help you in different ways. For example, you typically own stocks because you want them to grow in value so that you can eventually sell them for a profit. Other investments, such as certificates of deposit (CDs), provide you with a regular source of income and stability of principal – two valuable contributions to your portfolio.

However, investments like CDs don’t offer much in the way of growth. So if you own too many of them, you might be slowing your progress toward your important financial goals, such as a comfortable retirement.

You can maximize the productivity of your portfolio by owning a variety of investments – domestic stocks, international stocks, corporate bonds, U.S. Treasury securities, CDs and more. How much of each investment should you own? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including your age, income, risk tolerance, family situation and specific objectives. Over time, your ideal investment mix may change, but you’ll likely need at least some growth potential at every stage of your life.

Don’t let your portfolio go “unsupervised.” Your investment portfolio can be subject to “drift” if left alone for extended time periods. In fact, without your making any moves at all, your portfolio can move in directions that may not be favorable to you. Suppose you think your holdings should be made up of 70% stocks, but due to strong gains, your stocks now make up 80% of your portfolio. This development could lead to a risk level that feels uncomfortably high to you. That’s why you should review your portfolio at least once a year, possibly with the help of a financial professional, to check your progress and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t stop at the nearest “resting place.” Some people hope that if they can get that one “winner,” they will triumph in the investment arena. But the ability to “get rich quick” is much more of a myth than a reality. True investment success typically requires patience, persistence and the resilience to continue investing even during market downturns.

In other words, investing is a long-term endeavor, and you need a portfolio that reflects this reality. The investment moves you make today may pay off for you decades from now. You need to establish your goals and keep them constantly in mind as you invest. And you will never really reach the end of your investment journey, because you’ll need to make choices and manage your portfolio throughout your retirement years.

Hopefully, you will enjoy a pleasant vacation some time this summer. But your investment portfolio shouldn’t take time off.

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

Hearing and vision screenings

 School may be out for the summer in Berrien County, but it’s never too early to start thinking about making sure children are ready to learn next school year. Recent studies have found that undiagnosed and untreated vision and hearing issues in children are associated with significantly worse early literacy scores and other learning challenges. Children with undiagnosed hearing or vision problems will often have trouble learning to read, write, or even struggle to follow instructions.

To avoid any potential learning problems, parents of children ages 3-1/2 or older with children entering preschool or kindergarten this coming fall are encouraged to attend free hearing and vision screenings throughout this summer so that there will be enough time to receive treatment, if necessary, before school starts. Not only will the screening identify issues with a child’s hearing and vision, but Michigan State Law also requires that all children entering kindergarten must have their hearing and vision tested before the first day of school.

“Because children have nothing to compare their hearing and vision to, they may have problems with their eyes or ears and never even know it,” says Dawn Mitchell, a Hearing and Vision Technician for the Berrien County Health Department. “This makes early detection of these problems so important.”

No appointments are necessary to attend the free hearing and vision screenings. Additional information regarding the Michigan hearing and vision screening requirements and a full schedule of preschool/kindergarten screening dates, are available at the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

Filing fees

 Last week I introduced legislation as part of a six-bill package to increase filing fees for candidates seeking election to various offices.

The fees have not been adjusted since 1954, when they were set at $100. If the $100 fee was adjusted for inflation, it would be nearly $900 today. While we are not seeking to make the fee that high, we are increasing them and making the fees nonrefundable.

I firmly believe elected officials shouldn’t be treated any differently than Michigan’s taxpayers. Taxpayers are paying more for everything and their public servants should, too.

The bill package introduced today would make the following adjustments to the filing fee candidates are allowed to pay in lieu of circulating a nominating petition:

Increase the fee for candidates seeking the office of state representative or state senator to $400.

Increase the fee for candidates seeking the offices of county clerk, register of deeds, treasurer, prosecuting attorney, sheriff, surveyor, coroner or county road commissioner to $200.

And establish a $150 filing fee for candidates seeking the township offices of supervisor, treasurer, clerk and trustee. These positions previously did not have a filing fee option and could only get on the ballot by circulating a petition.

As mentioned, the bill package will establish that the fees are nonrefundable and shall remain in the general fund of the county or township where they are filed. Under current law, the fee is refunded to the nominated and runner-up candidates.

An important thing to note is that no one is required to pay filing fees. All candidates seeking election have the option to circulate a petition. Therefore, no one will be excluded from running for office because they can’t afford it.

House Bills 4745-4750 have been referred to the House Elections and Ethics Committee for consideration.

Serving the people of Berrien County is very important to me, and I encourage residents to contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.RepLasata.com.

Honoring one of our own

 Last week, President Trump announced that on July 31 he will award the Medal of Honor to Vietnam War veteran, and lifelong South Haven resident, James C. McCloughan. The Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military honor.

Then-Private First Class James McCloughan is an American hero – there is no doubt about that. During close-combat, when his fellow soldiers were in dire need, PFC McCloughan stepped up. Fighting against enemy forces near Don Que, Vietnam, in 1969, McCloughan voluntarily risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue wounded and disoriented comrades. He suffered wounds from shrapnel and small arms fire on three separate occasions, but refused medical evacuation to stay with his unit where he continued to brave enemy fire to rescue, treat, and defend wounded Americans. His selfless actions saved lives.

When he was done serving our country, James McCloughan quietly returned home to South Haven where he dedicated his life to helping others as a coach and teacher at South Haven High School.

Last year, I joined with Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters in sponsoring legislation to nominate James for the Medal of Honor. As a native of Southwest Michigan, I am proud to see one of our own receive the recognition he deserves and I remain forever thankful for his service.

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).

Providing a sustainable, secure retirement for teachers

 The Senate has approved a reform to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) to address a nearly $30 billion unfunded liability and ensure our teachers have a quality retirement.

Similar to refinancing a mortgage, the reform would help us pay off our debt sooner and ensure that we can still meet the obligations to our current teachers and retirees.

To be clear, retirees and current school employees will see no change to their pensions.

Senate Bill 401 would close the current hybrid plan and enroll school employees hired after Feb. 1, 2018 into a new defined contribution retirement plan. All employees would have the chance to opt into a new hybrid plan within a 75-day window.

Under this measure, new teachers would receive a competitive and portable 401(k) retirement plan, just like legislators and state employees.

The 401(k) plan would include a required 4 percent employer contribution plus an optional 3 percent employee contribution that would be matched by the state — for a total of 10 percent of the employee’s salary.

In just a little longer than my oldest daughter’s lifetime, the MPSERS pension debt has increased by more than 11,000 percent from $246 million to $29.1 billion. Growth like that is unsustainable and unaffordable.

We owe it to our teachers, students and taxpayers to address this growing problem, which is already negatively impacting our schools and threatening resources meant for the classroom.

This long-overdue reform will provide our hardworking teachers with a sustainable and secure retirement while also ensuring that we protect critical school funding.

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.