07-04-19 Columns

Celebrating the Fourth of July in Southwest Michigan July 4th is America’s Independence Day, a day many of us will enjoy with our families and friends watching fireworks, cooking at barbeques, and swimming at the lake. These are the hallmarks of a Pure Michigan summer. As we gather together to enjoy the weather, the beauty of Michigan, and to celebrate our Independence Day, let’s also take a moment to remember the sacrifices of our law enforcement officials, first responders, active military members, veterans, and their families. Their sacrifice is so that we may enjoy these freedoms, and we will forever be grateful. One of those freedoms is the freedom of folks to disagree with one another. That noble cause is protected by our First Amendment and is a value so many have fought to protect. It seems easy these days to disagree with one another, and vibrant democratic republic depends on vigorous debate — but also recognizes the importance of compromise and coming together. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, let’s come together as Americans to celebrate our nation, our freedoms, and everything that makes our nation great. I hope you and your family have a safe and wonderful Independence Day. 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).

Work toward your own financial Independence Day Once again, it’s time for fireworks, picnics and parades as the nation celebrates Independence Day. Collectively, we enjoy many liberties, but some freedoms can be elusive – and financial freedom is one of them. What actions can you take to help yourself eventually declare your own financial independence? For starters, you’ll want to determine what financial independence means to you. Is it the liberty to meet all your cash flow needs? The freedom to retire comfortably, at the age you choose? The ability to set up the kind of legacy you’d like to leave? If any or all of these things are important to you, consider the following suggestions: Liberate yourself from oppressive debts. The cost of living is certainly not cheap, so it’s hardly surprising that so many people incur significant debt. Yet, the higher your debt load, the less you’ll have available to invest for the future. Debt might be one of the biggest barriers you face on the road to your financial independence. To avoid piling on too much debt, live within your means. Take steps such as saving for a vacation, rather than putting it all on your credit card, and getting just one more year out of that old car. Look for bargains everywhere – and find out what you can live without. And if you have sizable debts, see if you can consolidate them and lower your interest payments. Free yourself from chaotic investing. The financial markets can be unpredictable – but that doesn’t mean your investment moves have to be chaotic. So, for example, instead of responding to a sudden plunge in stock prices by selling stocks that still may be fundamentally sound with strong growth potential, you might be much better off by holding your ground. And you’ll be in a better position to do nothing during periods of market volatility when you’ve already done something – namely, built an investment portfolio that reflects your goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. With this type of portfolio in place, you’ll be in a good position to overlook the day-to-day fluctuations in the market and keep your focus on your long-term goals. Unleash the potential in your retirement plan. Your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan is a great way to save for retirement. You can contribute pre-tax dollars, so the more you put in, the lower your taxable income, and your earnings can grow tax deferred. (With a Roth 401(k), you put in after-tax dollars, but your withdrawals are tax-free, provided you meet certain conditions.) But despite these tax advantages, your 401(k)’s full potential won’t be realized unless you fund it adequately. Try to contribute as much as you can afford each year and increase your contributions as your salary goes up. Another way to uncap your 401(k)’s potential is by choosing appropriate investments. Your 401(k) likely contains a dozen or more investment options, so you’ll want a mix that offers the greatest possibilities for growth within the context of your personal risk tolerance. Gaining your financial independence requires time and commitment. But once you’ve achieved this freedom, you’ll know it was worth the effort. And who knows? You might even want to wave a sparkler or two to celebrate. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Have a happy 4th After a rainy and dreary start to the season, summer has finally arrived to help ring in the 243rd anniversary of our Nation declaring its independence! The Fourth of July is a special time of the year where we set partisanship aside, and our Country celebrates all of the things that unite us as one people. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, “out of many one” rings truer today than it ever has before. While we may have our disagreements with one another, we are blessed to live in a county that embraces the opinion of the minority and that our government can freely be petitioned by the governed.

In the United States of America, a citizen can choose their own representation. A citizen has the right to worship freely, and our press has the freedom to write about whatever they choose. Until 1776, these freedoms were radical ideas. Our American flag has become the embodiment of these ideas and to this day represents the hope of Liberty and Justice for all in the darkest trenches of tyranny around the world.

As you enjoy the rest of your Independence Day weekend, I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on the ideals that make America what it is. The last best hope of man on earth.

I hope you and your family enjoy your weekend, and as always, if there is anything I can ever do to be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at 517-373-1403 or email me at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov.

National Ice Cream Month Summer is, finally, in full swing in Southwest Michigan. And as we dry out from the overly harsh, wet spring, many take to our favorite beaches, lakes and streams to bask in the warm sunshine. During these summer months, nothing satisfies quite like a cone or cup of fresh Michigan-made ice cream. About 98% of Americans eat ice cream, and our state is home to almost 1,800 family-owned dairy farms. The dairy products they produce are among the state’s top export commodities. So while you enjoy your favorite ice cream treat this summer, remember you may be helping support a local farming family as well as our state’s economy.

July and ice cream go hand in hand, and that is part of why this month is recognized as National Ice Cream Month. It was first established as such in 1984 by former President Ronald Reagan, and the third Sunday of the month is also recognized as National Ice Cream Day. Ice cream is a great American tradition — it’s been said that former first lady Martha Washington even served ice cream to her guests at Mount Vernon. In fact, no country on earth eats more ice cream than ours.

Whether you prefer your ice cream from a roving truck, a corner parlor, the grocery store, or homemade, every time you partake, you are helping to carry on this rich tradition. I hope that you and your family make time this summer to get out and enjoy our great outdoors and have some ice cream while you’re at it.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

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 fireworks 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° 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!