08-08-2019 Columns

How does Social Security fit into your retirement income strategy? It might not be on your calendar, but Aug. 14 is Social Security Day. Since it was enacted on Aug. 14, 1935, Social Security has provided some financial support for millions of Americans during their retirement years. While Social Security benefits, by themselves, probably aren’t enough to enable you to retire comfortably, they can be a key part of your overall retirement income strategy – if you use them wisely. To help you make decisions about Social Security, you will need to answer these questions: When should I start taking my benefits? You can take Social Security once you reach 62, but if you wait until your full retirement age, which will probably be between 66 and 67, you’ll get much bigger monthly checks, and if you wait until 70, you’ll get the biggest possible payments. Before deciding when to begin receiving your benefits, you’ll need to weigh a few factors, including your estimated longevity and your other sources of income. How should I consider potential spousal benefits? If you are married, or if you’re divorced but were married for at least 10 years, you could receive up to half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit (offset by your own benefit, and reduced if you claim early). If you outlive your spouse, you could claim survivor benefits, which can provide either your own benefits or 100% of your deceased spouse’s, whichever is larger. Consequently, the higher-earning spouse might want to postpone taking benefits for as long as possible to maximize the survivor benefit. How much can I earn without reducing my Social Security benefits? If you are younger than your full retirement age and you are receiving Social Security, the Social Security Administration will withhold $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn over a certain threshold (which, in 2019, is $17,640). For the year you reach your full retirement age, your benefits could be withheld by $1 for every $3 you earn over $46,920. But once you reach your full retirement age, you can earn as much as you want without your benefits being withheld, although your benefits could still be taxed, depending on your income. How much of my pre-retirement income will Social Security replace? Generally speaking, you should expect Social Security to replace slightly more than a third of your pre-retirement income. However, the higher your income during your working years, the lower the replacement value of Social Security will be. What other sources of retirement income should I develop? Contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. You may want to consult with a financial professional, who can look at your entire retirement income picture and recommend moves to help you achieve the lifestyle you’ve envisioned for your later years. Keep in mind that your decisions about Social Security filing strategies should always be based on your specific needs and health considerations. For more information, visit the Social Security Administration website at socialsecurity.gov. One final word: You may have concerns about the stability of Social Security. While no one can predict the future, many potential solutions exist to put the program on more solid footing. Consequently, try to focus on the actions you can control. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. This information is believed to be reliable, but investors should rely on information from the Social Security Administration before making a decision on taking S.S. benefits.

Resources for veterans This week I want to share with you a few resources for our veterans. In Van Buren County, veterans along with their spouses and dependents are eligible for dental care, inoculations, and hearing and vision care through our local health department. Each individual is eligible for $1,000 in care. You can call 269-621-3143 ext. 1336 for assistance through September 30. Van Buren County’s Veterans Service Officer, Karee Krause, is also available to help you through any questions or problems you have in navigating your benefits and can be reached at (269) 657-8200 ext. 1612. The Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center, operated by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), is another great resource for veterans and their families. MVAA, together with the Legislature, has been working over the last several years to ensure that veterans are able to more easily learn about, and access, the various state and federal benefits they have earned. Veterans and their families can reach the Veteran Resource Service Center by phone at 1-800-MICH-VET or 1-800-642-4838. The MVAA website at www.michiganveterans.com is also a great resource. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have served our great nation. When they return home from defending our freedoms, it is our duty to provide them with the resources and services they have so rightfully earned. For these reasons among others, helping our active military members and veterans is a top priority of mine. While the state and county have made strides towards better programs and care for veterans, it is incumbent upon us, especially elected officials, to keep our commitment to our veterans and military personnel. If you ever have any questions about veteran services or benefits, or other questions about state government, I encourage you to contact me via phone toll free at 800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

National Water Quality Month Michigan is unique in that it is mostly defined by water. Thanks to the Great Lakes, our state enjoys the longest freshwater coastline in the country and, combined, the five lakes account for 20% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. No matter where you are in our state, you’re on average no more than six miles away from a body of water. In many ways, our water is our lifeblood. It supports tourism, mining, the auto industry and oil and gas distribution, to name only a few. There are also physiological benefits our waterways provide in terms of exercise and being in nature. And of course, having a safe, clean drinking water supply is as vital as anything. It could be said that we take this abundant resource for granted. But, as many communities throughout the state are experiencing, a water quality issue, like lead or PFAS, can serve as a reminder as to how important clean water is to everything we do. August is National Water Quality Month, which is a good time to highlight some of the actions the Legislature has taken to preserve and protect our water, as well as to help address ongoing issues. The state dedicated approximately $90 million for clean water programs, including addressing PFAS, in the current fiscal year budget, and the Senate’s fiscal year 2020 budget approved earlier this year included nearly $190 million for clean water programs and for PFAS response. And state funding dedicated to address the water crisis in Flint over the last three years totaled $577.8 million. There are also simple steps our families can take at home to help protect our water. These steps may include picking up pet waste; avoiding draining toxic chemicals, like fertilizers, pesticides and cleaning solvents and detergents; and volunteering in our communities to help clean up area streets, beaches, rivers, and wetlands. Together we can help ensure our water is clean and safe for generations to come, and I remain committed to doing my part as your state senator. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

Staying healthy at the Fair Interacting with animals at the Berrien County Youth Fair can be a wonderful experience, both for children and adults. However, even healthy animals can carry bacteria and other organisms that can sometimes make people sick. People can catch these organisms where animals are present, especially when contact with animals is encouraged. The primary mode of transmission is hand to mouth after touching animals’ fur, hair, skin and saliva that has become contaminated with fecal organisms. These animals may show no signs of illness and the bacteria can live months or years in the environment. Therefore, it is important that all visitors to the Fair take precautions to avoid illness. Be sure to supervise children in animal areas, and do not allow them to touch animals and then put anything in their mouths. No one should eat or drink in an animal area. Washing your hands is the simplest way to prevent the spread of infection. Proper hand washing techniques need to be practiced at all times, but especially when in contact with animals. To properly wash your hands, wet your hands under warm water, create lather with soap, and scrub vigorously for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Then rinse the soap off and dry your hands with a disposable paper towel. Use this paper towel to turn off the sink, as the handles may still be contaminated. Hand sanitizers can also be effective if soap and water are not available. Do not use hand sanitizers with water. Visit the BC Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi to learn more about this and other health topics.

My thoughts on this past weekend’s shootings It is a sad time for all Americans as we have seen the two most recent mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH claim the lives of more innocent Americans. The time to act is now to end these tragedies. Today, I want to highlight two pieces of legislation that I’ve co-sponsored this Congress that would encourage red flag laws. Those bills are the Jake Laird Act of 2019 (H.R. 2786) and the Protecting Our Communities and Rights Act of 2019 (H.R. 744). These pieces of legislation seek to protect our communities in southwest Michigan and all over the country from unsafe gun ownership. The Jake Laird Act would enable local law enforcement, with probable cause, to temporarily remove and retain firearms from individuals who are determined to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

I was encouraged to hear President Trump on Monday call for the passing of red flag laws, and I am committed to working with any member of Congress, no matter what party, to find a bipartisan, common-sense bill that the President can sign into law to help end these senseless mass killings. To learn more about other 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).

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