10-10-2019 Columns

Not too soon for end-of-year financial moves

We’ve still got a couple of months until 2019 draws to a close, but it’s not too early to make some end-of-the-year financial moves. In fact, it may be a good idea to take some of these steps sooner rather than later. Here are a few suggestions: Boost your 401(k) contributions. Like many people, you might not usually contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k), which, in 2019 is $19,000 or $25,000 if you’re 50 or older. Ask your employer if you can increase your 401(k) contributions in 2019, and if you receive a bonus before the year ends, you may be able to use that toward your 401(k), too. Add to your IRA. You have until April 15, 2020, to contribute to your IRA for the 2019 tax year, but the more you can put in now and over the next few months, the less you’ll have to come up with in a hurry at the filing deadline. For 2019, you can put up to $6,000 in your IRA, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. Review your portfolio. It’s always a good idea to review your investment portfolio at least once a year, and now is as good a time as any. But don’t make any judgments based solely on your results over the past 10 months. Instead, look carefully at how your portfolio is constructed. Is it still properly diversified, or has it become over weighted in some areas? Does it still fit your risk tolerance, or do you find yourself worrying excessively about short-term price swings? These are the types of factors that might lead you to make some changes, possibly with the help of a financial professional. Don’t forget about your RMDs. Once you turn 70-1/2, you generally need to start taking withdrawals – the technical term is “required minimum distributions or RMDs” – from your traditional IRA and your 401(k) or similar plan. After the first year in which you take these RMDs, you must take them by the end of each year thereafter. If you don’t withdraw at least the minimum amount (calculated based on your age, account balance and other factors) you face a penalty of 50% of what you should have taken out – a potential loss of thousands of dollars. So, take your RMDs before Dec. 31. The financial services provider that administers your IRA or 401(k) can help you determine the amount you must withdraw. Think about next year’s opportunities. It happens to almost all of us: A year has passed, and we haven’t taken the actions we had planned. So, start thinking now about what you want to do in 2020 from a financial standpoint. Can you afford to ratchet up your investments in your retirement plans? If you have children or grandchildren, have you started saving for college? Have you considered ways to protect your financial independence if you ever need some type of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay? If these or other items are on your financial to-do list, start planning now to get them done next year. Time goes quickly – so don’t get left behind without having taken the steps to keep moving toward your financial goals. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

The governor’s budget mess

After taking our state to the brink of a shutdown for the first time in nearly a decade and refusing to work with the legislature, Governor Whitmer used her veto pen like a meat cleaver to viciously attack Southwest Michigan and communities throughout our state. The most striking of the one hundred and forty-seven vetoes is the nearly half a billion dollars in road repairs. As someone who ran on “fixing the damn roads”, this veto proved the governor is more interested in raising taxes than getting the job she was elected to do done. Governor Whitmer single handedly gutted school safety grants, local police funding, health care for children, autism services, money for clean water, and so much more simply because the legislature refused to give her a 45-cent gas tax increase. This is wrong, unacceptable, and the people who rely on these critical programs shouldn’t be used as pawns in her political games. In this process, the governor took advantage of an arcane power and used an administrative board to shift funds around departments. This wasn’t right when Governor Engler tried to do it and it isn’t right for Governor Whitmer to do it now. Our Constitution is clear. The people’s branch of the government, our legislature, holds the power of the purse. After shifting around nearly $650 million in funds, it’s clear that the governor’s vetoes weren’t an accident. Had these programs been a priority for Governor Whitmer, she would have used the administrative board’s power to ensure that funding was shifted instead of cut. It’s become more and more clear that these programs were meticulously targeted. This was an attack on vulnerable members of our Southwest Michigan community and rural communities across our state. The bottom line is this: the legislature properly funded the priorities of Michigan residents and the governor slashed them and is trying to use them as leverage for her gas tax. I simply will not allow her to bully Michigan residents. Not on my watch.

Highlighting the need for bipartisanship and civility

Last week, I spent a day on the east side of the state with my good friend and colleague in Congress, Rep. Debbie Dingell, discussing with folks the importance of bipartisanship and the need to restore civility to the American political system. This has been an issue we have talked about a number of times. Our event last week was the third such event this year where we highlighted the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together on more issues facing the country. Rep. Dingell is a Democrat and I am a Republican, but that does not mean we can’t come together to solve important issues that affect all Michiganders. We are cleaning up PFAS, protecting our Great Lakes, combatting the opioid epidemic, and keeping our communities safe. We are tackling the issues that impact all Michiganders regardless of whether you have an R or a D next to your name. Often what you hear in the news is about what divides us. But we would do well to remember that we are the United States of America, and what unifies us as Americans is a lot more important than what divides us. 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).

Berrien County health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against the flu. Every person six months and older should get the flu vaccine every year. Vaccination against the flu is emphasized for certain groups who are considered at highest risk of getting the flu virus, including young children, pregnant women, and adults who have chronic health conditions or are over the age of sixty-five. The Berrien County Health Department will offer walk-in flu vaccinations in its clinic locations in Benton Harbor and Niles every Friday starting in October. Anyone can get the flu, including healthy children and adults. Receiving a flu vaccine is the most effective method of preventing the flu. If you receive a vaccination and still get the flu, the vaccine may make flu symptoms milder and the length of illness shorter. The vaccine will also prevent you from spreading the flu to others, including those at risk of more serious illness. According to the CDC, during the 2018-2019 flu season, the virus caused upwards of 60,000 deaths nationwide, including 136 influenza-related pediatric deaths, and over 600,000 hospitalizations throughout the United States. Because it takes approximately two weeks for the flu shot to provide full protection against the influenza virus, it is recommended that residents receive their vaccine before the end of October. There are many locations where residents can receive a flu vaccine, including the Berrien County Health Department, area pharmacies, and through their family doctor’s office. Most insurance plans fully cover the cost of the annual flu vaccine. In addition to vaccination, everyone can help prevent flu with frequent hand washing and by covering coughs and sneezes. If you do get sick, it is recommended that you stay home from work, school, or other public gatherings to help reduce the spread of illness. The Berrien County Health Department will offer walk-in flu vaccinations at their offices in Benton Harbor and Niles every Friday starting in October. High-dose flu vaccinations and pneumonia vaccinations are also offered for those over age sixty-five. Most insurance plans will cover the cost for these vaccines, but no one will be turned away for an inability to pay. For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org or call (269) 926-7121.

Kim’s Coat Drive for Kids

Kim’s Coat Drive for Kids is off to a great start — with the generous support of our area’s public libraries and Harding’s Family Markets there are 13 locations across Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties where you can give a kid a coat. Through no fault of their own, too many children throughout Southwest Michigan find themselves without a warm coat as the temperatures begin to cool, and area school leaders my office has communicated with agree. Going without a warm coat can have negative health effects. Cold weather exposure forces the body to work harder to stay warm. The added physical stress and inability to regulate body temperature predisposes people — and especially the vulnerable, like children — to illness. That’s why I am inviting Southwest Michigan residents to join me this month for Kim’s Coat Drive for Kids to collect new or gently used coats for children in the 21st Senate District. Take a look through your closets and consider donating your gently used coats and jackets. If you feel compelled and have the means, also consider donating new coats at participating locations in our communities. You can find a complete list of drop-off locations on my website at StateSenatorKimLaSata.com. Also, if your family or a family you know of is in immediate need of a coat or other clothing items, there are several great organizations in Southwest Michigan, like the Harbor Country Mission, that provide clothes and other items free of charge year-round. Southwest Michigan is a wonderful place to live, and it’s made even greater by the generous spirit of those who help make it home. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.


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