08-10-2017 Columns

Stay calm on the investment “roller coaster”

Unless you live near an amusement park that does a lot of advertising, you probably didn’t know that Aug. 16 is National Roller Coaster Day. Actual roller coasters provide people with thrills. But as an investor, how can you stay calm on the “roller coaster” of the financial markets?

Here are some suggestions:

Know what’s in front of you. If you’ve ever ridden a roller coaster in the dark, you may find it scarier than if you boarded it in daylight – after all, it can be unsettling not to know where you’re going. The same can be said about investing: If you have no idea what’s in front of you, you might find the journey unnerving – and if that happens, you could make panicky decisions, which are usually bad ones. So prepare for the inevitable market volatility – it’s a normal part of the investment landscape.

Buckle up. When you’re on a roller coaster, you need to buckle your seat belt or use a restraint. You want to have the excitement of the ride, but you certainly don’t want to take unnecessary risks. And you can enjoy some of the excitement of investing without incurring more risk than you are comfortable with, too. One way to lower your risk level is to diversify across a range of investments – stocks, bonds, government securities, and so on. That way, if a market downturn primarily affects just one type of investment, you’ll have some protection. However, although diversification can reduce the impact of volatility on your portfolio, it can’t protect against all losses or guarantee a profit.

Choose a strategy for the journey. Different people have different ways of handling a roller coaster ride. Some like to throw their hands up, enjoying the feeling of abandon, while others hold on tightly to the bar in front of them. When you invest, you also need a strategy that works for you, and the best one may be the simplest: Buy quality investments and hold them for the long term. How long is “long term”? It could be 10, 20, 30 years or more. Famed investor Warren Buffet says his favorite holding period is “forever.” If you’ve chosen a mix of quality investments appropriate for your risk tolerance, you may be able to hold them until either your goals change or the investments themselves undergo some transformation.

Stay for the whole “ride.” When you hop on a roller coaster, you’ve got no choice – you’re staying until the ride is over. As an investor, though, you can exit the investment world whenever you like. But if you take a “time out” from investing every time the market drops, you risk still being out of the market when it rallies – and the early stages of a rally are often when the biggest gains occur. Furthermore, if you keep investing during a “down” market, you’ll be buying shares when their price has dropped, which means your dollars can go further – and you’ll be following one of the basic rules of investing: “Buy low.”

You can’t take out all the twists and turns of the investment road, but by following the above suggestions, you can help make the ride less stressful – and possibly more rewarding.

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

Ensuring open lines of communication

There are many levels of government that serve you, and when those different levels work together cooperatively everyone in our community and state benefits. I believe one key component of governments working well together is open communication. That’s why I was proud to host my first local officials meeting last week.

Village, city, township, county, and school district officials from across the area were invited to get an update on state and federal government programs and resources. This meeting gave local officials a chance to speak with representatives from various state and federal offices about how different levels of government can work together to improve the lives of Southwest Michigan families. This type of meeting not only provides local officials with new information and resources, but also serves to make government more effective and help hold all levels of government accountable. No matter what part of government we work in, our end goal is the same, to serve the hardworking people of Southwest Michigan in an effective, efficient, and accountable manner.

Keeping an open line of communication between local officials and me is very important and helps all of us serve you better. Being accessible to you is also tremendously important to me, so I want to remind you that I hold local office hours on the fourth Monday of every month. Please contact my office for details. I truly value the opportunity to speak with you face to face about the issues that matter most to you.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any comments or concerns you have about legislative issues or if you ever need assistance working with state government agencies. You can reach me toll free at 800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.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 Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi to learn more about this and other health topics.

Giving our veterans the tools for prosperity

Last week, I had the chance to attend the Medal of Honor ceremony for South Haven native and resident, James McCloughan. James fought bravely in Vietnam and, like all our veterans, deserves recognition for his service. Unfortunately, many of our vets have a hard time when they get home. This isn’t right. To this end, last month the House of Representatives passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, which will expand GI Bill benefits granted to our veterans, their surviving spouses, and dependents. The bill passed by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 405-0.

This is the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade. By growing these education and workforce training opportunities we can help ease their transition from active duty to civilian life.

The bill eliminates the expiration date on educational benefits and increases money for thousands of soldiers serving in the National Guard and Reserves. The bill also provides additional funds for military students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, allowing them to prepare for the future of our economy. It also provides 100 percent GI Bill eligibility to post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients.

I applaud my colleagues for this legislation and urge the president to sign this bill into law.

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).

Watch out for summer tax scams

Scam artists are becoming bolder in their demands and cleverer in disguising who they are.

Cybercriminals are increasingly using summer tax scams that include impersonating state or federal tax officials, claiming residents owe taxes and demanding immediate payment.

I urge all area taxpayers to look out for phone tax scams this summer, especially targeted populations, like our seniors.

The best way to protect yourself from these schemes is to never give out credit or debit card numbers or other sensitive data to anyone claiming to be from the IRS or the Department of Treasury. They will never ask for that information over the phone.

The Michigan Department of Treasury says that it typically observes scam phone calls during the summer where scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be tax officials and asking for cash through a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card.

The scammers may leave “urgent” callback requests through robocalls or phishing emails and alter caller ID numbers to make it look like Treasury or the IRS is calling. Victims who refuse to pay the amount they are told they owe are often threatened with arrest or legal action.

Both state and federal tax officials will never initially contact residents by phone demanding immediate payment, and they will never threaten to have you arrested for not paying.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Treasury or IRS and asking for personal information or threatening you in any way, hang up! It’s a fraud.

Residents who suspect they have received a call from a scammer should report it at www.treasury.gov/tigta or call the hotline at 800-366-4484.

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan.