08-01-2018 Columns

Consider these financial tips for single women If you’re a single woman, most of your financial challenges and aspirations may resemble those of single men. Men and women face the same economic stress factors of modern life, and both groups have similar financial goals, such as the ability to retire comfortably. But women still face specific obstacles. You need to be aware of these challenges – and do everything you can to overcome them. For example, women still face a wage gap. In 2017, women earned 82% of what men earned, according to the Pew Research Center. However, the wage gap narrows among younger workers, and may even disappear for highly educated women, especially those in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Another financial concern for women is connected to their role as caregivers. Women spend an average of 12 years out of the workforce to care for children, elderly relatives and even friends, according to an estimate by the Social Security Administration. Other studies report different figures, but all the evidence points to women being the ones who take time off from work to care for loved ones. This means fewer contributions to Social Security, 401(k)s and other retirement plans. Faced with these and other issues, what can you do to help yourself move toward your important goals? Consider these steps: Develop good financial habits. Establishing good financial habits can pay off for you throughout your lifetime. These habits can include maintaining a budget, keeping your debts under control, and putting aside some money for a “rainy day.” Take advantage of available opportunities. If you work for an organization that offers a 401(k) or similar plan, contribute as much as you think you can afford. At the very least, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered. And every time your salary goes up, increase the amount you invest in your plan. Also, think about opening an IRA, which, like a 401(k), can offer tax-advantaged investment opportunities. If you have children, you’ll also want to explore college savings vehicles, such as a 529 plan. Educate yourself about investing – and get professional advice. Some people think investing is just too complex and mysterious to be understandable. Yet, with patience and a willingness to learn, you can become quite knowledgeable about how to invest, what you’re investing in and what forces affect the investment world. And to help you create an investment strategy that’s appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon, you may also want to work with a financial professional. Discuss financial issues with your future spouse. If you get married or re-married, you’ll want to discuss financial issues with your new spouse. Specifically, you’ll want to answer questions such as these: What assets and debts do each of you bring to the marriage? Do you plan to merge your finances or keep them separate? Are your investment styles compatible? Do you have similar long-term goals? You and your new spouse don’t need identical views on every financial topic, but you both need to be willing to work together to advance your common interests. Ultimately, you have a lot of control over your own financial future. And making informed choices can help make that future a bright one. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Enjoy National Family Fun Month! Summertime may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean an end to the fun. We are blessed to have great natural and cultural resources that make our state a wonderful place to live and raise a family. August is National Family Fun Month, and I encourage area residents and out-of-state tourists to celebrate by enjoying one of numerous Michigan outdoor activities. Families can relax on a beautiful beach, take a family bike ride along miles of Michigan trails or have old-fashioned fun at a local county fair. The Berrien County Youth Fair will run from Aug. 13 to 18 at the fairgrounds in Berrien Springs. Residents can discover upcoming Michigan festivals and county fairs at www.michigan.org/fairs-festivals. The site includes useful links to help you plan a Pure Michigan vacation, including details on places to eat and stay. Also available to help plan a family outing is the Pure Michigan 2018 Spring/Summer Travel Guide, which can be downloaded for free at www.michigan.org/travel-guide. In just a few weeks, summer will come to an end and our kids will again begin returning to school. Thankfully, August offers us a chance to have a great time with our families before our kids go back to school. It is not just about having fun. Spending time together strengthens family bonds, improves academic performance in children and helps kids develop positive parenting skills. I hope you have a great summer and have a chance to get out and enjoy all the awesome activities available throughout our state and region. 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.

Water safety Here in Southwest Michigan one of our greatest natural blessings is Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, this blessing can also be one of the most dangerous components of our community. With this in mind, this week I would like to take a moment to discuss water safety. My oldest daughter has worked for the Sheriff Department’s Marine Division for three summers now. She frequently comes home after work and tells me stories where water safety was ignored, leading to both tragic and nearly tragic circumstances. Through this, I have been reminded of some water safety tips that we all often forget. First, always go out with a lifejacket. If you are on a boat, realize that it is both a safety issue and illegal to have your lifejacket stowed and not with you on deck. If you are in a canoe or kayak, realize the safety benefit and consider wearing a lifejacket, instead of simply having it with you. Secondly, we all must remember the threat that our beautiful piers pose. It seems that nearly every year a life ends due to pier jumping. It can seem innocent and safe, but what so many do not realize is how the piers change the flow of water, creating a dangerous current system that can hold down even the strongest swimmers. Finally, if you plan on boating often, take a boater safety class! I have heard so many lifelong boaters