10-19-2017 Columns

Put lessons from “Retirement Week” to work

 To raise public awareness about the importance of saving for retirement, Congress has designated the third week of October as National Save for Retirement Week. What lessons can you learn from this event?

First of all, save early – and save often. Too many people put off saving for retirement until they are in their late 40s – and even their 50s. If you wait until you are in this age group, you can still do quite a bit to help build the resources you will need for retirement – but it will be more challenging than if you had begun saving and investing while you were in your 20s or early 30s. For one thing, if you delay saving for retirement, you may have to put away large sums of money each year to accumulate enough to support a comfortable retirement lifestyle. Plus, to achieve the growth you need, you might have to invest more aggressively than you’d like which means taking on more risk. And even then, there are no guarantees of getting the returns you require.

On the other hand, if you start saving and investing when you are still in the early stages of your career, you can make smaller monthly contributions to your retirement accounts. And by putting time on your side, you’ll be able to take advantage of compounding – the ability to earn money on your principal and your earnings.

Here’s another lesson to be taken from National Save for Retirement Week: Maximize your opportunities to invest in the tax-advantaged retirement accounts available to you, such as an IRA and a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. If you have a 401(k)-type plan at work, contribute as much as you can afford every year, and increase your contributions whenever your salary goes up. At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered.

Apart from saving and investing early and contributing to your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, how else can you honor the spirit of National Save for Retirement Week? A key step you can take is to reduce the barriers to building your retirement savings. One such obstacle is debt. The larger your monthly debt payments, the less you will be able to invest each month. It’s not easy, of course, to keep your debt under control, but do the best you can.

One other barrier to accumulating retirement resources is the occasional large expense resulting from a major car repair, sizable medical bills or other things of that nature. If you constantly have to dip into your long-term investments to meet these costs, you’ll slow your progress toward your retirement goals. To help prevent this from happening, try to build an emergency fund big enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Since you’ll need instant access to this money, you’ll want to keep it in a liquid, low-risk account.

So, there you have them: some suggestions on taking the lessons of National Save for Retirement Week to heart. By following these steps, you can go a long way toward turning your retirement dreams into reality.

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

Lead poisoning prevention

 Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children living in the United States have elevated blood lead levels that may damage their health. They can develop behavior and learning problems such as hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and aggressive patterns of behavior. Stopping a child’s exposure to lead from leaded paint, house dust, or any other source is the best way to prevent the harmful effects of lead.

To raise awareness of the consequences of lead poisoning among parents and caregivers, especially those who live in homes built before 1978, the Berrien County Health Department is recognizing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) October 22-28.

This year’s NLPPW theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future,” underscores the importance of testing your home, testing your child, and learning how to prevent lead poisoning’s serious health effects.

Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead and prevent lead poisoning in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:

Get your Home Tested. If you live in a home built before 1978, you may want to consider getting a lead inspection.

Get your Child Tested. If you suspect your child might be exposed to lead, talk to your doctor or local health department about lead testing. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) covers testing for children on Medicaid, and local health departments offer lead testing for free for all children.

Get the Facts. For more information, contact the MDHHS Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program by visiting www.michigan.gov/lead or for more information locally, visit www.bchdmi.org.

Increasing accountability for legislators

 Last week, I was pleased to join a number of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, in co-sponsoring House Joint Resolution (HJR) X, which would require the Michigan Legislature to present a balanced budget to the governor by July 1 each year.

HJR X proposes amending the Michigan Constitution to establish the July 1 deadline and ensure future legislatures adhere to it. If legislators fail to complete the budget in time, they would forfeit their daily salaries until the governor receives the budget.

Local governments and schools rely on state funding to operate and deserve clarity about funding levels before their fiscal years start in July. If we, as a Legislature, cannot do our job and deliver a budget on time for local schools and municipalities, we don’t deserve our paychecks until we do. My time as a teacher and serving on the Van Buren County Commission has given me perspective on how critical it is for the state budget to be completed in a timely fashion.

We all remember years in the not-so-distant past where we were a quarter of the way into many local government and school fiscal years before the state spending plan was finalized. I want to make sure our schools and communities are never put in that position again. Thankfully, over the past seven years the legislature and governor have been able to get budgets completed on time. We must ensure this trend continues.

If House Joint Resolution X is approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, the measure would be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. HJR X has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

Bringing consistency to our auto industry

 Last week, I introduced bipartisan legislation that would harmonize separate sets of fuel economy regulations at the state and federal level into one consistent standard. U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, is the lead co-sponsor and similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The most important aspect of this bill: Affordable autos for all Americans. The high cost of the current conflicting regulatory requirements automakers are facing drives up manufacturing expenses, which are then passed along to consumers. Our common-sense, bipartisan legislation would help deliver on the promise of a strong national fuel economy standard, replacing the current patchwork of federal and state laws.

Despite attempts from the Obama administration to harmonize the various fuel economy programs as fully as possible currently automakers and manufacturers still contend with two different sets of fuel economy regulations at the federal and state level. Those include the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Corporate Fuel Economy (CAFE) program and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) vehicle carbon dioxide (fuel economy) reduction program.

Our Fuel Economy Harmonization Act would help deliver on the promise of creating one national fuel economy program, making it easier and less costly for manufacturers and automakers to meet the important goals of federal fuel economy programs. I continue to support one strong national standard that increases fuel economy, reduces carbon emissions, creates jobs here in Michigan, and ensures affordability and choice for all.

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).

Protect your personal information

 October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and it’s a time to remind us of the steps we can take to protect our critical information.

The Internet has increased our access to the world and also expanded the reach of identity thieves.

To help residents protect themselves, I sponsored legislation that was signed in 2013 to require all three major credit reporting agencies to allow Michigan residents to place a security freeze on their credit information.

This summer’s Equifax security breach is an example of criminals targeting our personal information. The breach exposed social security numbers, birth dates and addresses of more than 145 million Americans, including more than 4.6 million Michigan residents. In some cases, credit card and personal identifying information were also stolen.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued a consumer alert about the Equifax breach with details that residents need to know and steps that consumers can take to protect their identity, including free services that Equifax is offering.

Another alert, “Credit Freeze; Fraud Alert; & Credit Monitoring,” can help consumers understand the different protection measures they can take after a security breach. Both alerts can be viewed at www.michigan.gov/ag under the Consumer Protection tab.

The National Cyber Security Alliance offers easy-to-use resources at StaySafeOnline.org. The site is a one-stop shop for online safety awareness and education.

At www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect, the Department of Homeland Security offers useful advice and toolkits for everyone from families to businesses.

I urge all Southwest Michigan families to take steps to protect your personal information online.

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.

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