10-13-2016 Columns


It is National Save for Retirement Week – so take action

 Congress has dedicated the third week of October as National Save for Retirement Week. Clearly, the government feels the need to urge people to do a better job of preparing for retirement. Are you doing all you can?  Many of your peers are not – or at least they think they are not. In a recent survey conducted by Bankrate.com, respondents reported that “not saving for retirement early enough” was their biggest financial regret. Other evidence seems to show they have good cause for remorse: 52% of households 55 and older have not saved anything for retirement, according to a report from the US Government Accountability Office, although half of this group reported having a pension.  Obviously, you will want to avoid having either financial regrets or major shortfalls in your retirement savings. And that means you may need to consider making moves such as these: Take advantage of all your opportunities. You may well have access to more than one tax-advantaged retirement plan. Your employer may offer a 401(k) or similar plan, and even if you participate in your employer’s plan, you are probably still eligible to contribute to an IRA. You may not be able to afford to “max out” on both plans, but try to contribute as much as you can afford. At the very least, put in enough to your employer’s plan to earn a matching contribution, if one is offered, and boost your annual contributions every year in which your salary goes up. Create an appropriate investment mix. It is not enough just to invest regularly through your IRA, 401(k) or other retirement plan – you also need to invest wisely. You can fund your IRA with virtually any investments you choose, while your 401(k) or similar plan likely offers an array of investment accounts. So, between your IRA and 401(k), you can create portfolios that reflect your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. It is especially important that your investment mix offers sufficient growth potential to help you make progress toward the retirement lifestyle you have envisioned. Do not “raid” your retirement accounts early. If you start withdrawing from your traditional IRA before you turn 59-1/2, you may have to pay a 10% tax penalty in addition to normal income taxes due. (If you have a Roth IRA and start taking withdrawals before you are 59-1/2, the earnings will be taxed and may be subject to a 10% penalty – but contributions can be withdrawn without any tax and penalty consequences.) As for your 401(k) or similar plan, you may be able to take out a loan, but you will have to pay yourself back to avoid any tax or penalty consequences. (Also, not all plans offer a loan option.) More importantly, any money you take out early is money that no longer has a chance to grow to help you meet your goals. Try to do everything you can, then, to keep your retirement plans intact until you actually do retire. One suggestion: Build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, kept in a liquid, low-risk vehicle outside your IRA or 401(k).  National Save for Retirement Week reminds us that we all must act to help ourselves retire comfortably. By making the moves described above, you can do your part.  This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Making government more transparent and accountable


 Over the past six years we have made tremendous progress in reforming spending, balancing the state budget, paying down long-term debt, and investing in our children’s education. The result of that work is a state government that is working more effectively for you and your family. I also know that there is still more we can do to continue to improve state government. To that end, the House of Representatives recently passed a package of bills designed to increase transparency and accountability in both the Legislature and the Offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor.  House Bills (HBs) 5469-5478 subject the Governor and Lt. Governor’s offices to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and create the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA). LORA mirrors FOIA in many ways, but is designed to apply to the Legislature without violating the separation of powers under the Michigan Constitution.  Currently, Michigan is one of only a few states that do not subject either the Legislature or Governor’s office to some type of open records act. By removing these exemptions we can help to improve government transparency and promote a culture of openness and accountability in all parts of state government. This new transparency will help citizens to better participate in the democratic process by providing them with more complete information regarding the actions of their state elected officials. I was proud to vote for this legislation as I believe it is another important step in ensuring that Michigan has a state government that is open, accountable, and working for you. This package of bills is now before the State Senate for their consideration.  If I can ever be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office toll-free at (800) 577- 6212 or email me at AricNesbitt@house.mi.gov.


 Berrien County Health Department officials want to remind everyone in Berrien County to get their annual flu shot. It is recommended that every person six months and older get the flu vaccination every year, especially certain groups who are considered at highest risk, like young children, pregnant women, and adults over the age of sixty-five.  Residents are reminded that they can receive flu vaccinations at a variety of locations throughout the community, including at the Berrien County Health Department, pharmacies, and at their family doctor’s office. With flu season right around the corner, Dr. Rick Johansen, Berrien County Medical Director stresses that “getting vaccinated soon has advantages since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection that will last throughout the flu season.” The flu vaccine is still the single best protection against the flu and it is also helpful in reducing the length and severity of illness if someone does get the flu.  FluMist, the nasal spray vaccine, previously available for healthy people ages two through forty-nine is not recommended this year due to concerns about how well it worked during the previous flu season. Johansen reminds parents that, “while kids may not like it, getting stuck with a needle is a small price to pay to avoid having a fever, cough, sore throat and body aches for days, or even weeks.”  The Berrien County Health Department will offer flu vaccinations at their offices in Benton Harbor and Niles every Friday in October. Both locations will accept walk-ins, but residents are encouraged to make an appointment for their flu vaccination. 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.

Fighting for our manufacturing jobs


 Last week, I was honored to receive recognition from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) for my bipartisan efforts to fight for our local manufacturers. The award ceremony took place at the Robert Bosch Corp. manufacturing plant in St. Joseph. Bosch employs nearly 200 folks here in Southwest Michigan and manufactures parts for our Michigan auto companies.  I have long been an advocate for our local manufacturers like Bosch. They are the ones creating jobs paying a decent wage and helping to keep our economy moving in the right direction. We want to continue making sure our manufacturing industry remains strong throughout the state and continue to make good, quality products. We also want to help our manufacturers so they remain innovative and can compete fairly in the global marketplace.  In addition, last Friday was National Manufacturing Day. I was able to spend the morning in South Haven at Lake Michigan College participating in a roundtable discussion with students, manufacturers, and other elected officials about the importance of manufacturing. This event was hosted by Kinexus, a business and workforce development agency dedicated to our local economy. It was a thoughtful discussion about how we in Congress must work together to develop strategies that promote local job and manufacturing growth.  I will continue to fight for common-sense, bipartisan solutions that support our local manufacturers and the jobs that come with it.  To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov.


 Education is critical to the future of our state, and our local libraries provide excellent options for students and residents to access the knowledge they need to succeed.  I recently introduced a bill to open up library services to thousands of families in Michigan-Indiana border communities, who would be able to use library services across state lines.  The legislation is the result of direct feedback from a Southwest Michigan resident. William Corbett, a longtime Michigan resident, used to use an Indiana Library System because of its close proximity to his home and its large inventory.  He alerted us that Michigan residents have been told that they will no longer be able to use Indiana library services since our state is not currently part of the Interstate Library Compact.  I sponsored Senate Bill 1095 to fix that problem. My measure would enter Michigan into the Interstate Library Compact and allow residents of border communities to utilize services offered by libraries of other states that have also entered into the compact. These services would include the use of facilities, personnel, equipment and other materials. Libraries could also share these responsibilities by providing joint and co-operative services in effective areas.  There are currently 34 states entered into the Interstate Library Compact, including Indiana and Ohio. By joining the compact, our residents will have greater access to information and educational materials. It could also help Michigan libraries share the cost of providing these necessary services.  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.