10-12-2017 Columns

International investing: Still a journey to consider

Columbus Day was observed on October 9. And while it may be true that Leif Erikson and the Vikings beat Columbus to the New World, Columbus Day nonetheless remains important in the public eye, signifying themes such as exploration and discovery. As an investor, you don’t have to “cross the ocean blue,” as Columbus done, to find opportunities – but it may be a good idea to put some of your money to work outside the United States. So, why should you consider investing internationally? The chief reason is diversification. If you only invest in U.S. companies, you might do well when the U.S. markets are soaring, as has happened in recent years. But when the inevitable downturn happens, and you’re totally concentrated in U.S. stocks, your portfolio will probably take a hit. At the same time, however, other regions of the world might be doing considerably better than the U.S. markets – and if you had put some of your investment holdings in these regions, you might at least blunt some of the effects of the down market here.

Of course, it’s also a good idea to diversify among different asset classes, so, in addition to investing in U.S. and international stocks, you’ll want to own bonds, government securities and other investment vehicles. (Keep in mind, though, that while diversification can help reduce the effects of volatility, it can’t guarantee a profit or protect against loss.)

International investments, like all investments, will fluctuate in value. But they also have other characteristics and risks to consider, such as these:

Currency fluctuations – The U.S. dollar rises and falls in relation to the currencies of other countries. Sometimes, these movements can work in your favor, but sometimes not. A strengthening dollar typically lowers returns from international investments because companies based overseas do business in a foreign currency, and the higher value of the U.S. dollar reduces the prices, measured in dollars, of individual shares of these companies’ stocks. The opposite has happened in 2017, when the weaker dollar has helped increase returns from international investments.

Political risks – When you invest internationally, you’re not just investing in foreign companies – you’re also essentially investing in the legal and economic systems of countries in which those companies do business. Political instability or changes in laws and regulations can create additional risks – but may also provide potentially positive returns for investors.

Social and economic risks – It is not always easy for investors to understand all the economic and social factors that influence markets in the U.S. – and it’s even more challenging with foreign markets. U.S. markets are now worth less than half of the total world markets, and growth in the rest of the world is likely to keep expanding the number of global opportunities. You can take advantage of that global growth by putting part of your portfolio into international investments, including developed and emerging markets.

In any case, given the more complex nature of international investing, you’ll want to consult with a financial professional before taking action. If it turns out that international investments are appropriate for your needs, you should certainly consider going global.

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

Breast Cancer

Each year, over 100 women in Berrien County are diagnosed with breast cancer.  While cancer can be deadly, early detection is key to survival. The five-year survival rate among women whose breast cancer has not spread beyond the breast at the time of diagnosis is 97%.  However, that rate drops to below 50% if the cancer has already spread.  There are many types of treatments available depending on how soon the cancer is discovered, so the important thing to remember is that the sooner the cancer is detected, the better the outcome.

To assure early detection, all women over 20 should perform monthly self breast exams and get yearly clinical breast exams, and women over 40 should have yearly mammograms.  All women are at risk of breast cancer, but some women are at a higher risk, including women after menopause, those with a family history of breast cancer, and those who have never given birth.

Fortunately, the Berrien County Health Department’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) provides clinical breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams and pap smears to eligible women 50-64 years of age. You may be eligible for the program if you are a woman age 50 or over, do not have Medicare, HMO, or PPO insurance, and meet certain income limits.

You can lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the fol