06-28-2018 Columns

Work toward your own Financial Independence Day We’re getting close to the Fourth of July, our national Independence Day. This celebration may get you thinking of the many freedoms you enjoy. But have you thought of what you might need to do to attain financial freedom? Your first step is to define what financial independence signifies to you. For many people, it means being able to retire when they want to, and to enjoy a comfortable retirement lifestyle. So, if this is your vision as well, consider taking these steps: Pay yourself first. If you wait until you have some extra money “lying around” before you invest for retirement, you may never get around to doing it. Instead, pay yourself first. This actually is not that hard to do, especially if you have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, because your contributions are taken directly from your paycheck, before you even have the chance to spend the money. You can set up a similar arrangement with an IRA by having automatic contributions taken directly from your checking or savings account. Invest appropriately. Your investment decisions should be guided by your time horizon, risk tolerance and retirement goals. If you deviate from these guideposts – for instance, by taking on either too much or too little risk – you may end up making decisions that aren’t right for you and that may set you back as you pursue your financial independence. Avoid financial “potholes.” The road to financial liberty will always be marked with potholes you should avoid. One such pothole is debt – the higher your debt burden, the less you can invest for your retirement. It’s not always easy to lower your debt load, but do the best you can to live within your means. A second pothole comes in the form of large, unexpected short-term costs, such as a major home or auto repair or a medical bill not fully covered by insurance. To avoid dipping into your long-term investments to pay for these short-term costs, try to build an emergency fund containing six months’ to a year’s worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. Give yourself some wiggle room. If you decide that to achieve financial independence, you must retire at 62 or you must buy a vacation home by the beach, you may feel disappointed if you fall short of these goals. But if you’re prepared to accept some flexibility in your plans – perhaps you can work until 65 or just rent a vacation home for the summer – you may be able to earn a different, but still acceptable, financial freedom. And by working a couple of extra years or paying less for your vacation home expenses, you may also improve your overall financial picture. Putting these and other moves to work can help you keep moving toward your important goals. When you eventually reach your own “Financial Independence Day,” it may not warrant a fireworks display – but it should certainly add some sparkle to your life. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Celebrate the birth of liberty this Independence Day The Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted on July 2, 1776 to approve a resolution of independence. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was adopted with the famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With brave voices, our Founding Fathers risked their lives and those of their families and friends to stand up against injustice and tyranny. To commemorate this courageous act that changed the world, we celebrate Independence Day each July 4. As we join together to honor America, I encourage everyone to keep summer safety tips in mind, such as being careful around fireworks, using sunscreen (especially on young kids) and drinking plenty of water.

There are fireworks displays set for the area, including June 29 at dusk at Hartford Motor Speedway, June 30 at dusk at Hays Park in Watervliet, and July 4 at dusk at Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph. The Fourth of July is a joyous time to celebrate our freedom, our country and the declaration that started it all. Let us also remember the founding ideals behind this celebration. The principles of self-determination and liberty were at the heart of America’s founding, have shaped our country for more than two centuries and will guide the decisions of future generations. I hope you all have a fun and safe Independence Day, and may God continue to bless America. 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.

Historic opioid crisis package advances Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance a major opioid crisis package. H.R. 6, the SUPPORT Act, is a bipartisan bill that will help in the overall efforts to combat the opioid crisis by advancing treatment and recovery initiatives, improving prevention, protecting our communities, and bolstering efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Included in this package are two bills that I authored: H.R. 5002, the ACE Research Act, co-authored alongside U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, and H.R. 5800, the Medicaid IMD ADDITIONAL INFO Act. This package follows two bills passed last Congress, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act, as well as the $4 billion appropriated in the omnibus earlier this year to help combat this crisis. This bipartisan effort will help stem the tide of addiction. We all know families and communities suffering from the pain of this unceasing epidemic. We’re working to do all we can to combat the opioid crisis and save lives. Our bipartisan efforts continue. 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).

State budget will strengthen education, infrastructure and workforce training This year’s state budget will quickly bear fruit, but just as important is the effect the 2018-19 budget is going to have for years to come. Investments in education, workforce training, and infrastructure will keep Michigan on the path to success. As a teacher, my focus is on getting money directly to our students and into classrooms. More than a quarter of the overall budget proposal goes to public K-12 schools with $14.8 billion establishing a new record for education investment. That adds up to $120 to $240 more per student and is the largest single-year per-student increase in 15 years. While Michigan has seen significant economic recovery from 10 years ago, we must continue to sustain and strengthen our workforce. Our state is already seeing increased demand for skilled and specialized jobs with higher pay. That’s why we continue to invest in skilled trades training for our students and adults. Bright futures begin with a quality education and the training needed to get better jobs. Other investments are bringing more orange construction barrels to our roads. That’s what happens when we’re scheduled to spend $4 billion on road upgrades and repairs over the budget year. We’re spending this money wisely and effectively, not just throwing money at the problem, but making certain that these investments lead to long lasting improvements. That said, our roads did not crumble overnight and we must remain committed to making these investments. This will continue to be a priority for me. Obviously, our state’s budget goes beyond these important areas. We’ve also invested in better family services such as mental health and public safety while looking for more efficient and effective ways to serve you. It’s through these investments that we are helping to make Michigan an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. For questions or concerns, you can reach me at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Hearing/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.

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