09-19-2019 Columns

Can “AI” help you become a better investor?

For the past several years, artificial intelligence – or AI – has increasingly found a place in many walks of life. Almost certainly, you use some form of AI, whether it’s your time on social media, your use of mobile banking, the navigation system you rely on for directions, or any of the many other AI-driven applications relevant to your daily life. But AI has also become a significant part of the financial services industry. So, you might wonder if AI can help you become a better investor. To begin with, what is AI? Essentially, it’s the ability of a computer program or machine to think or learn. Using complex algorithms (a set of rules, or steps), computers and machines can mimic many of the thought processes of human beings. But how can you use AI to invest? And should you? In the financial services world, many companies use AI to select investments for specific funds. On an individual level, you can work with an AI-powered “robo-advisor” to build an investment portfolio. These robo-advisors are typically quite affordable, and they generally follow proven investment principles, such as diversification, in making recommendations. Yet, you are more than just the sum of your answers to a robo-advisor’s online questionnaire. Investing is a highly personal matter, which means that, in the following areas, you may well benefit from some human intelligence – and empathy: Understanding of your risk tolerance – A robo-advisor will ask you to identify your tolerance for risk – low, medium, high – and will plug in your answers when constructing a portfolio. But only a human financial advisor – someone who truly knows you, your personality, your family situation and your hopes for the future – can know how your sensitivity to risk might cause you to react to events such as sudden market declines. Armed with this knowledge, a financial advisor can talk through your options to help keep you on the road toward your goals. Answers to qualitative questions – A robo-advisor can provide you with many key data points – rates of return, projections of future accumulations, etc. But so can a personal financial advisor, who can also go beyond the numbers to help you answer qualitative, subjective questions: How can I save for college for my children and my own retirement at the same time? If I change jobs, should I leave my 401(k) in my former employer’s plan, move it to my new employer’s plan or roll it over to an IRA? What’s the best way to guard my financial independence if I ever need some type of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home? Guidance for the “big picture” – Your investments are important, but they’re also connected to other areas of your life, including your taxes and your estate plans. And while a financial advisor might not provide you with tax or legal advice, he or she may be able to connect you to other, appropriate professionals, and work with them to help you put together your “big picture.” That’s not something a typical robo-advisor is equipped to do. Artificial intelligence will support many of your activities throughout your life. But when it comes to investing, a personal touch may never become obsolete. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

An update on the State’s budget

As lawmakers, we owe it to Michiganders, local governments and schools to provide them with a budget that is balanced and approved on time and that prioritizes the programs, services and other things they care about and rely on most. Last week I spoke about my support of a joint decision made by legislative leaders and the governor to postpone discussions about formulating a long-term solution to fix our roads in favor of first approving the state’s next fiscal year budget, which we are constitutionally required to have enacted by Oct. 1. Unfortunately, the governor chose to walk away from the budget meetings that she had only days prior agreed to. Despite this, I remain confident we will have a new budget in place by the deadline, and members of the Senate and the House have continued to meet and reconcile budgetary differences so that we can pass a balanced budget and send it to the governor for her consideration. My colleagues and I are committed to continuing the progress that has been established in recent years of budgets, increasing investments in vital programs and services, like our children’s education, public safety, infrastructure needs, and protecting the state’s natural resources, including and especially, our drinking water supply. With only a couple of weeks until the budget deadline, the Legislature is doing its part to pass a balanced spending plan on time. I am hopeful that the governor will lend her support and sign the budget to avoid an unnecessary government shutdown.

Supporting School Safety

As a former teacher, I love back-to-school time in Southwest Michigan. With new classes, school supplies, teachers, and classmates, the new school year can feel like an exciting adventure. While there is much to look forward to, one of priorities as a legislator is to ensure the issue of school safety is not overlooked. Last term, I worked with my colleagues in the House to achieve several comprehensive school safety reforms. Through a bipartisan effort, we were able to set aside $25 million for statewide grants to improve building security through the purchase of technology and equipment. I’m proud to say the Van Buren ISD and Mattawan Consolidated Schools are two of 125 public school districts receiving funds through this grant program. Our reforms made possible increased school inspections, evaluation of emergency procedures, enhanced training for school staff and law enforcement, and increased exposure of Michigan’s OK2Say program. OK2Say is a confidential reporting system that encourages anyone who has information about a student or school safety threat to submit anonymous tips. Since its inception in 2014, OK2SAY has received more than 17,000 tips dealing with suicide threats, bullying, drugs, and more. In 2018 alone, it had a 40 percent increase in students using the OK2SAY program, generating nearly 6,500 tips in total. Students, teachers, parents, and neighbors can submit tips though any of the following ways: Call 8-555-OK2SAY, text OK2SAY, email OK2SAY@mi.gov, visit ok2say.com, or download the OK2SAY mobile app. Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By continuing to emphasize safety and raise awareness of this important tool, we can help create a safe and secure environment where students and teachers can focus on learning and continue their bright path to becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

Students invited to participate in the Congressional App Challenge

From now until November 1st, I am encouraging middle and high schoolers in our district to compete in the Congressional App Challenge. This fun national contest challenges students to think outside-the-box and show off their skills to the rest of the country.

The Congressional App Challenge accepts computer programs (or apps) written in any programming language, for any platform, such as desktop/PC, web, mobile, raspberry Pi, or other devices. This is an opportunity to highlight the value of STEM education and computer science – such important skills needed for so many 21st century careers and to maintain our nation’s competitive advantage. I hope to see a good number of students – regardless of skill level or experience – participate in this contest and look forward to seeing what they create.

Let’s make southwest Michigan proud and bring home a winner for this year’s Congressional App Challenge. For further information visit CongressionalAppChallenge.us. Any interested students should submit their apps and ask any questions by emailing: UptonAppChallenge@mail.house.gov

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).

Be Septic-Smart: Protect your septic system

In partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Berrien County Health Department is observing SepticSmart Week during the month of September to educate homeowners and communities on the proper care and maintenance of their septic systems. More than one-fifth of U.S. households utilize an individual onsite system or small community cluster septic system to treat their wastewater. When properly installed, operated, and maintained, these systems help protect public health, preserve valuable water resources, and maintain a community’s economic vitality. When it comes to septic systems, homeowners are encouraged to: Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should generally have their system inspected every three years by a qualified professional or according to their local health department’s recommendations. Tanks should be pumped when necessary, typically every three to five years. Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drain field. Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. For example, coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems. Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water-efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day – too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.

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