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09-20-2018 Columns

Women business owners: Don’t forget about your retirement plan American Business Women’s Day is celebrated on Sept. 22. And there is indeed cause for celebration, because, in recent decades, the number of women business owners has risen sharply, to the point where nearly 40 percent of all businesses are now woman-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you are one of these owners, or thinking about becoming one, you’ll always have a lot to think about when running your business, but there’s also an area you can’t ignore – your retirement. Specifically, you need to consider establishing your own retirement plan. Most plans available to you are fairly easy to establish and maintain, and are not terribly costly to administer. Here are some popular options: Owner-only 401(k) – This plan, also known as an individual or solo 401(k), is available to self-employed individuals and business owners with no full-time employees other than themselves or a spouse. For 2018, you can put in up to 25 percent of your annual income as an “employer” contribution, and you can defer up to $18,500 (or $24,500 if you’re 50 or older). The sum of your employer contribution and your salary deferrals cannot exceed $55,000 or $61,000 if you’re 50 or older. You can make elective contributions on a pre- or post-tax (Roth) basis. Pre-tax contributions reduce your taxable income for the current year. Roth contributions don’t offer any immediate tax benefit, but any qualified withdrawals will be 100% tax-free. SEP IRA – If you have just a few employees or are self-employed with no employees, you may want to consider a SEP IRA. You’ll fund the plan with tax-deductible contributions, and you must cover all eligible employees. As an employer, you can contribute the lesser of 25% of your compensation (if you’re also an employee of your own business) or $55,000. Solo defined benefit plan – Pension plans, also known as defined benefit plans, are less common than in previous years, but you can still set one up for yourself if you’re self-employed or own your own business. This plan has high contribution limits, which are determined by an actuarial calculation, and your contributions are typically tax-deductible. SIMPLE IRA — A SIMPLE IRA, as its name suggests, is easy to set up and maintain, and it can be a good plan if your business has fewer than 10 employees. However, while a SIMPLE IRA may be advantageous for your employees, it’s less generous to you, as far as allowable contributions go, than an owner-only 401(k), a SEP IRA or a defined benefit plan. For 2018, your annual contributions are generally limited to $12,500 or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older by the end of the year. You can also make a matching contribution of up to 3% of your compensation. As an employer, your contributions are fully deductible as a business expense up to certain limits; as an employee, your pretax contributions reduce the amount of your taxable income for the same tax year. Before opening any of these plans, you’ll want to consult with your tax advisor on the tax issues and a financial professional on the investment aspects. But don’t wait too long. You will need to work hard to keep your business thriving – so choose a retirement plan that works just as hard for you. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

The most valuable school supply:a library card Getting a quality education is still the most important step toward a rewarding future, and local libraries provide tremendous options for students and residents to access the knowledge they need to succeed. I encourage all area families to visit the local library to see the range of educational resources they offer and pick up the most valuable school supply: a library card. September is Library Card Sign-up Month, and it’s a good reminder for parents and students that a library card can be a key to a lifetime of learning and high academic achievement. Today’s libraries are much more than just places to check out books. Libraries offer a great spot to get work or studying done without distractions, and most libraries offer free or low-cost movies and CD rentals and allow residents to download audio and e-books with their library card. Many libraries often offer card holders access to advanced (and expensive) research resources like LexisNexis and the Adobe Creative Suite. Last year, the governor signed my legislation to have Michigan join the Interstate Library Compact. This allows residents to use services offered by over 650 Michigan libraries and by libraries of other states in the compact, like Indiana and Ohio. Libraries provide access to the internet and digital information, offer safe havens and activities for kids, and promote reading and creativity. In this effort, they help improve our state and prepare both current and future generations for success — and it all starts with getting a library card. 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.

PFAS Federal Facility Accountability Act On Monday, I was pleased to introduce the PFAS Federal Facility Accountability Act alongside Debbie Dingell, (MI-12), Tim Walberg, (MI-7), and Dan Kildee, (MI-5). This bill would urge federal agencies to cooperate with States as PFAS contamination is detected in communities near federal installations, such as active or former military installations or National Guard facilities. Specifically, this bipartisan legislation would facilitate testing, monitoring, removal, and remediation when these chemicals are detected in the water and soil. Federal agencies would be required to come up with a plan of action with affected States within one year of a request from the state. We must increase cooperation between the states and the federal government so that everyone is on the same page in their response to PFAS contamination issues. Michigan is leading the way and coming together in a bipartisan way to hold our government accountable for the contamination they have caused. Please visit to learn more about my work on this issue. To learn more about other important legislative issues, please visit my website: or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Be SepticSmart: Protect your septic system In partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Berrien County Health Department is observing SepticSmart Week (September 17-21) 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 drainfield. 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. Shield your field: Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow. Pump your tank: Routinely pumping your tank can prevent your septic system from premature failure, which can lead to groundwater contamination. Test your drinking water well: If septic systems aren’t properly maintained, leaks can contaminate well water. Testing your drinking water well is the best way to ensure your well water is free from contaminates. For more information visit .

Serving our veterans As Americans and Michiganders, we are exceptionally blessed to have had generations of men and women who have answered the call to defend our great nation at home and abroad. We enjoy the many blessings of freedom because of their dedication to our country and their sacrifices. One of our most important duties as their fellow citizens is to continue to find better ways to serve and assist our veterans.

With that goal in mind, I am pleased to announce that on Monday, October 1, I will be hosting a veterans roundtable from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at the Paw Paw American Legion Hall located at 115 N. Niles Street, Paw Paw.

Deputy Director Tim Loney of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) will also be joining me. He will share information about the MVAA, what it can provide, and who Michigan veterans can contact to get more information specific to their situation. My hope is that having an open forum for veterans to share their ideas and concerns will help to drive continued improvements in how state government serves Michigan veterans.

All veterans are encouraged to attend and to ask questions that they may have regarding veteran benefits and state services. Veterans who would like to attend are encouraged to RSVP to my office via email to or by phone to 1-800-577-6212.

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