06-29-2017 Columns

Declare your financial independence day

We’re getting close to the Fourth of July, when we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this country. The U.S. constitution grants us many of these liberties, but we have to earn others – such as our financial freedom. What steps can you take to achieve the financial independence you need to reach your long-term goals?

For starters, always work to build your resources. Contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered. If you don’t take advantage of this match, you are essentially leaving money on the table.

While how much you invest is an essential factor in gaining your financial freedom, how you invest your money is equally important. So make sure you have sufficient growth potential in all your accounts. While growth-oriented investments, such as stocks and stock-based vehicles, carry investment risk, you can help moderate this risk by also including other investments, such as bonds.

Another way to gain your financial independence is to liberate yourself from the shackles of debt. This isn’t always easy, of course – most of us have experienced times when our cash flow simply wasn’t sufficient to meet our expenses, so we had to take on some type of debt, either through a credit card or a loan. But the more you can control your debts, the more money you’ll have to save and invest for your future.

One way to manage your debt load is to build an emergency fund, containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, which you can use to pay unexpected costs such as a major car repair or a large medical bill. Ideally, you should keep this money in a liquid, low-risk account, so you can access the funds quickly and without penalty. Aside from possibly helping you control your debts, an emergency fund also may enable you to avoid dipping into your long-term investments to pay for short-term needs.

Thus far, we’ve only discussed achieving your financial freedom through methods of saving and investing. But you also need to consider your protection needs, too. If you were to become ill or suffer a serious injury, and you could not work for a while, your financial security could be jeopardized. Your employer might offer you disability insurance as an employee benefit, but it may not be enough for your needs, so you might need to purchase some additional coverage on your own. And to help ensure your family’s financial security, you’ll also need sufficient life insurance.

You also might want to protect yourself from the catastrophic costs of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay. The average annual cost for a private room in a nursing home is more than $92,000, according to the 2016 Cost of Care Study issued by the insurance company Genworth. And Medicare generally covers only a small percentage of these expenses. You may want to consult with a financial professional to learn about ways you can protect yourself from the long-term care burden.

By following these suggestions, you can go a long way toward declaring your own financial independence. Consider taking action soon.

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

Fireworks safety

The Berrien County Health Department wants to make sure everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July.

While the Berrien County Health Department encourages attendance at one of the many public fireworks displays this summer, they also caution any person who uses fireworks. Fireworks cause an estimated 30,100 fires each year, 7,000 injuries, seven deaths and about $34 million in direct property loss.

Minimize your risk of harm from firework with these tips:

The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.

Make sure kids never have access to fireworks. Even sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold.

Steer clear of other people while lighting fireworks — they have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.

Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.

Think about your pets. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they’ll run loose or get injured.

Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed, but you’ll enjoy them much more knowing your family is safe. Take extra precautions this Fourth of July and your holiday will be a blast!

State budget reflects priorities

Passage of the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year will help fill skilled-trades job openings and fund road and bridge repairs throughout Michigan. The budget also makes record investments in K-12 education that include increases in per pupil funding and more funds to help at risk students.

One of my budget priorities was increasing funding for career and technical skills instruction, which will help people obtain in-demand jobs that pay good wages. Job providers are in need of skilled trades employees, and we are not keeping up with the demand. In recognition of that, there is a 30 percent increase in this budget to assist in career and technical training so we can connect people to those openings, giving them an opportunity to take part in our growing economy.

Fiscally sound budgeting will enable us to put a record amount of money into our transportation system, helping to make roads and bridges safe for Michigan families and more efficient for commerce. This has been and will continue to be a priority after repairs and maintenance of the system were previously ignored.

Other highlights include:

Restraining growth in spending so it does not exceed the rate of inflation. Like families across Michigan, we are tightening the state’s belt by cutting inefficient programs and eliminating waste.

Increasing funding for senior in home services with the goal of eliminating our state’s wait list for these services.

Making life better in communities across Michigan by adding money for public safety departments, parks, and other programs to improve our daily lives.

Paying down millions of dollars in debt, helping lower state liability, and opening the door for a more secure financial future.

Increasing funding for public safety and ensuring communities will be safer with 150 more Michigan State Police troopers.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. You can reach me by phone at 517-373-0839 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Taking action to stop Asian Carp

With the recent news that an 8-pound, 28-inch adult silver Asian Carp was discovered beyond the electric barrier and only nine miles from Lake Michigan, I have implored the Trump administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to release the Brandon Road Study and take immediate action to stop this potential disaster. The Brandon Road Study will provide critical guidance on how to best prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.

If the Army Corps does not release this important study voluntarily, Congress will have to act because failing to do so will needlessly jeopardize our Great Lakes and our economy. This is why I am also a co-sponsor of the Stop Asian Carp Now Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would call for the release of the Brandon Road Study within seven days after the bill is enacted.

The Michigan Congressional Delegation, both republicans and democrats, are all working together because clearly, the time to act is now. Lake Michigan, and all of our Great Lakes are not only national treasures; they are the heart of our economy here in Southwest Michigan. Asian Carp have the potential to decimate the Great Lakes we all love and depend on. It is absolutely imperative we step up our efforts to further protect our lakes.

I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle here in the House and the Senate to take action to stop Asian Carp from entering our waterways.

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).

Have a fun and safe Independence Day

The Fourth of July is a joyous time to celebrate our freedoms, show our pride in our country and remember the declaration that started it all.

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 30 at dusk at Hartford Motor Speedway, July 1 at 10:30 p.m. at Hays Park in Watervliet, and July 4 at 10:30 p.m. at Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph.

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.

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