09-22-2016 Columns


Want to retire early? Start planning now

 The average American retires at about age 63, according to data from the US Census Bureau. If you enjoy your work, of course you may want to go well beyond that age. But what if you do not want to wait until 63 or so? Can you afford to retire early?  Possibly – if you follow these suggestions.   Research the costs involved. What will you do during your retirement years? Will you travel the world or stay close to home, pursuing your hobbies? Will you downsize from your current home? How will you pay for health care until you are old enough for Medicare? You will need to answer these and other questions to determine how much you will need to sustain a comfortable lifestyle as an early retiree.  Invest more – and invest for growth. One big advantage in retiring at the usual age, or even later, is that it gives you more time to invest. But if you are determined to retire early, you will almost certainly need to accelerate your investment rate – which, in practical terms, means you will likely have to contribute more each year to your IRA and 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan than if you were going to retire later on. Plus, you may have to “ratchet up” the growth potential of your investment portfolio. However, because growth-oriented investments typically are more volatile than other investments, you will be taking on more risk than you might otherwise. If you are truly uncomfortable with this risk level, you may need to re-evaluate your plans for retiring early.  Cut down your debt load. It is always a good idea to enter retirement with as few debts as possible – but if you want to retire early, you may need to be even more diligent in controlling your debt load.  Know the rules governing retirement plan withdrawals. If you want to retire before age 59-1/2 and begin taking distributions from your IRA or 401(k) plan, you will generally be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty, plus normal income taxes. (To withdraw your earnings from a Roth IRA tax and penalty free, you generally must have owned the account for at least five years and have reached age 59-1/2. You can withdraw your contributions at any time tax and penalty free.) However, you may be able to avoid the 10% penalty if you take “substantially equal periodic payments,” which are calculated based upon your age and other factors. Once these distributions begin, they must continue for five years or until you reach age 59-1/2, whichever is longer. Other rules apply to these distributions, so before taking any, you will want to consult with your tax and financial professionals. And keep in mind that if your withdrawal rate is too high, you risk seriously depleting your retirement accounts, especially if your investments decline in value during the years you are taking these payments.  Most importantly, do everything early; Plan early, invest early (and do not stop), and lower your debt load early. Getting a jump on all these activities can go a long way toward turning your early retirement dreams into reality. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Head Lice

 Head lice are parasitic wingless insects. They live on people’s heads and feed on their blood. An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed. The eggs, called nits, are even smaller – about the size of a knot in thread. Lice and nits are easiest to detect at the neckline and behind the ears.  Head lice are extremely contagious. Close contact or sharing personal belongings, such as hats or hairbrushes, puts people at risk. Children ages 3-11 and their families get head lice most often. Personal hygiene has nothing to do with getting head lice. Head lice do not spread disease. Head lice are most active in the dark.  Symptoms include: tickling feeling in the hair; frequent itching; sores from scratching; irritability and difficulty sleeping.  To inspect for head lice use a magnifying glass and good lighting. Look for small grayish white eggs (nits) on the hair close to the scalp, usually around the nape of the neck and behind the ears.  Treatment for head lice is recommended for people with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked. Anyone who has an active infestation should be treated. All infested people and their bedmates should be treated at the same time.  To prevent the spread of head lice, discard combs and brushes used on the child with lice, wash clothing and bedding in hot water, vacuum all carpets and upholstery, seal all toys and stuffed animals the child has been close to in a plastic bag for one week, and be sure your child does not share combs, hair accessories or hats.  For more information, call the Health Department at 269-926-7121 or visit www.bchdmi.org.

Right Thing to Do

 This morning and every morning they strap on their equipment, hug and kiss their kids and spouses, and head out the door to protect and serve. Or perhaps they go to work and when the siren goes off or the text message comes, they hustle to the fire hall. Or perhaps they grab lifesaving medicine and race to an accident or injury scene. Or maybe they are locked behind steel doors protecting the public from criminals who are being punished for crimes. They are our law enforcement and first responders – police, fire, EMS, corrections workers. When others run the other way, they rush in. When they leave for their shift, they do not know if they will return. It is not for the pay or the benefits, it is because of a deep sense of service. Last week the Michigan House approved a bill that provides health care benefits for up to five years for surviving spouses and dependents of first responders killed in the line of duty. The health benefits are available if no other insurance is provided; a small price for the responsibility and service that we as citizens are provided by the brave men and women who serve us. Senate Bill 218, authored by Senator Wayne Schmidt was simply the right thing to do. Not everyone voted for it, some said this was a local issue, or that we did not know exactly the total liability, or that we were involving ourselves in collective bargaining. I respect my colleagues’ opinions, but sometimes issues punch you in the gut. This is one of those. When you look at what is happening around the country with some of the disrespect shown our police and firefighters, I felt society in some way needed to step up and send the right message. I strongly supported this bill, worked it through my committee in the House, and on the floor. All of us remember September 11th, and in Berrien County we will all remember July 11th. It is always alright to do the right thing.

 Hunting remains a favorite tradition and pastime of many Southwest Michigan families, and I will continue to protect your hunting rights. In 2015, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), more than 600,000 hunters harvested about 335,000 deer and contributed more than $2 billion to Michigan’s economy. Also, area residents last year purchased nearly 74,000 hunting licenses. While regular firearm season on November 15-30 is the most popular deer hunting season, it is not the only one. Archery deer season runs Oct. 1 to Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 to Jan. 1; disabled veterans and hunters with disabilities can hunt Oct. 13-16; muzzle loading deer season is Dec. 2-18 in southern Michigan; and late antlerless deer firearm season is Dec. 19 to Jan. 1. This information and more is included in my 2016 Hunting Update, which is available on my Senate website at SenatorJohnProos.com; click on “Publications.” Hunting guides, including all rules and regulations, can be found at michigan.gov/hunting. Click on “Where Can I Hunt” to create and print customized maps on seven million acres of public lands. On the site, visitors can also buy hunting licenses online 24 hours a day. Smartphones can enhance the outdoor experience and improve convenience. That is why I recently co-sponsored legislation to have the DNR create applications that enable hunters to show proof of a license on their smartphones. Other services that could be on the app include information on points of public access, nearby trails, descriptions of game species and hunting boundaries. Happy hunting! I hope everyone has a safe and successful season. 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.

House Acts to block transfers of Guantanamo Detainees

 Last week, the House of Representatives advanced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 5351, by a vote of 244 to 174. This bill has a simple aim: Prohibiting the transfer of any individual detained at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay through the end of the president’s term in office or until the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act is signed into law, whichever happens first. Our national security must take priority and those held at Guantanamo are not ordinary criminals – they are hardened extremists in the midst of an endless war against our country, our citizens, and our values. President Obama should instead try working with us to bolster our national security and combat terrorism. Freeing any of these additional detainees would put American lives at risk. Just this year, in June, it was reported that at least 12 detainees released from Guantanamo have been implicated in attacks against the United States or allied forces, killing about a half-dozen Americans. In fact, just last week it was reported that two more former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the fight. In all, according to a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 30 percent of all former detainees are known or suspected to have reengaged in terrorist activities. Our top foreign policy goal must be to defend our citizens and our country from foreign threats. I am proud to support these efforts to block the Obama administration from prematurely freeing any more detainees from Guantanamo. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website upton.house.gov.


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FAX: 269-463-8329

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