09-28-2017 Columns

Here’s your retirement countdown

If you want to enjoy a comfortable retirement lifestyle, you don’t need to have been born rich or even to have earned scads of money during your working years. But you do need to make the right moves at the right time – which means you might want to start a “retirement countdown” well before you draw your final paycheck.

What might such a countdown look like? Here are a few ideas:

Ten years before retirement – At this stage of your career, you might be at, or at least near, your peak earning capacity. At the same time, your kids may have grown and left the home, and you might even have paid off your mortgage. All these factors, taken together, may mean that you can afford to “max out” on your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. And that’s exactly what you should do, if you can, because these retirement accounts offer tax benefits and the opportunity to spread your dollars around a variety of investments.

Five years before retirement – Review your Social Security statement to see how much you can expect to receive each month at various ages. You can typically start collecting benefits as early as 62, but your monthly checks will be significantly larger if you wait until your “full” retirement age, which will likely be 66 (and a few months) or 67. Your payments will be bigger still if you can afford to wait until 70, at which point your benefits reach their ceiling. In any case, you’ll need to weigh several factors – your health, your family history of longevity, other sources of retirement income – before deciding on when to start taking Social Security.

One to three years before retirement – To help increase your income stream during retirement, you may want to convert some – but likely not all – of your growth-oriented investments, such as stocks and stock-based vehicles, into income-producing ones, such as bonds. Keep in mind, though, that even during your retirement years, you’ll still likely need your portfolio to provide you with some growth potential to help keep you ahead of inflation.

One year before retirement – Evaluate your retirement income and expenses. It’s particularly important that you assess your health-care costs. Depending on your age at retirement, you may be eligible for Medicare, but you will likely need to pay for some supplemental coverage as well, so you will need to budget for this.

Also, as you get closer to your actual retirement date, you will need to determine an appropriate withdrawal rate for your investments. How much should you take each year from your IRA, 401(k) and other retirement accounts? The answer depends on many factors: the size of these accounts, your retirement lifestyle, your projected longevity, whether you’ve started taking Social Security, whether your spouse is still working, and so on. A financial professional can help you determine an appropriate withdrawal rate.

These aren’t the only steps you need to take before retirement, nor do they need to be taken in the precise order described above. But they can be useful as guidelines for a retirement countdown that can help ease your transition to the next phase of your life.

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

Head lice

Back to school means an increased sharing of classroom space and social interactions for our kids; it can also lead to an increased concern about 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.

Head lice are extremely contagious. Close contact or sharing personal belongings puts people at risk. Children ages 3-11 and their families get head lice most often. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. Head lice have not been shown to spread disease.

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 and bedmates should be treated at the same time.

To prevent the spread of head lice, do not share combs, brushes or clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons or barrettes. It is important to wash clothing and bedding in hot water and dry on high heat, vacuum all carpets and upholstery. Seal all toys and stuffed animals the child has been close to in a plastic bag for one week.

For more information, call the Health Department at 269-926-7121 or visit www.bchdmi.org.

Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities

Last week, the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities Association held their annual legislative day on September 20 where students and staff from independent colleges across the state came to the Capitol to meet with their legislators and discuss the impact their schools have on their communities and on the state as a whole.

Michigan is home to 25 independent colleges and universities serving over 120,000 students; and while Michigan’s student population has declined overall, enrollment at Michigan’s independent colleges and universities has increased by 30 percent in the last 16 years. This growth can be attributed to two things: affordability and academic success.

Over eighty percent of students attending a Michigan independent college or university receive some form of financial aid via an institutional scholarship or grant. Additionally, half of their undergraduate students receive need-based Pell grants. These opportunities allow many students to achieve their academic goals by placing higher education within their means.

In 2015 alone, Michigan Independent College students earned over 20,000 diplomas and over 80 percent of these graduates chose to live and work in the state after graduation. This retention of talent is a testament to the key role these institutions play in our state’s workforce training and development programs.

As Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, I am especially aware and appreciative of the essential role they play within the fabric of our state’s educational system. Therefore, it was my privilege to recognize the success of these institutions by sponsoring a resolution to declare September 17-23, 2017 as Independent Colleges and Universities Week in the state of Michigan. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.RepLaSata.com.

House advances all 12 funding bills on time

Two weeks ago, I joined my House colleagues in advancing H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018 by a 211 to 198 vote. Passage of this legislation marks the first instance since 2009 that the House advanced all 12 appropriation funding bills on time. The appropriations process is important because it authorizes the expenditure of government funds.

The passage of all 12 of these appropriations funding bills marks a big win for Michigan taxpayers. They fund priorities important to Michigan such as full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, efforts to combat the opioid crisis and ensuring no regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offices shut-down. We also raised the pay for our men and women in uniform, made investments in our infrastructure, and funded FEMA for disaster relief. I want to commend the Appropriations Committee for their tireless work to move this funding bills through regular order here in the House and urge the Senate to do their job as well.

H.R. 3354 is the second appropriations package voted on this year after the Make America Secure Act passed the House in July. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advance common-sense, fiscally responsible funding packages that keep Michigan moving forward.

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).

Summer photo contest top 10 finalists

The Pure Michigan Summer Photo Contest was created as a way for residents to showcase their artistic talents and the amazing outdoors and activities that make our state such a great place to live.

We received more than 100 wonderful photos and selecting the top 10 finalists was difficult. I look forward to seeing which one the people pick to display in the Michigan Capitol.

The finalist photographers are: Maria Dahn of Coloma, Connie Hartwig of Stevensville, Molly Pate of Berrien Springs, Camie Green of Union, Doug Weingart of Bridgman, Madeline Gordon of Edwardsburg, Mark Coulston of Eau Claire, Russell Szwabowski of St. Joseph, Randy Willis of Benton Harbor, and Bruce Wrenn of Berrien Springs.

The finalist photos have been posted to my Facebook page, John Proos Supporters Page, and to the Pure Michigan Summer Photo Contest page at www.SenatorJohnProos.com.

Visitors to the pages will be able to vote for the photos they like the most. Each finalist photo will receive one vote for each “like” it gets on Facebook and one vote for each vote it garners on a poll on my website.

The finalist photos will also be displayed in the district for viewing and voting. The Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers will exhibit the photos from Nov. 12 to Dec. 15. The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph will display the exhibition from Nov. 17 to Jan. 6.

Voting will end on Dec. 2 both online and in the galleries.

I encourage Southwest Michigan residents to check out these amazing photographs and vote for your favorite image.

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.