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11-01-18 Columns

Consolidating accounts leads to clear financial strategy None of us can completely control all the things that happen to us. Yet, when it comes to achieving your long-term financial goals, including a comfortable retirement, you do have a great deal of power – as long as you follow a clear, well-defined financial strategy. And one way to help build and maintain such a strategy is by consolidating your financial accounts. Over the course of their lives, many people pick up a variety of financial accounts from multiple sources. They might have a few IRAs from different providers, a couple of old 401(k) plans from past employers, an insurance policy (or two) purchased many years ago, and a scattershot of stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit and other investments. If this picture describes your situation, you may want to think about consolidating. For one thing, having a variety of accounts can run up a lot of fees. Furthermore, you’ll have lots of paperwork to keep track of all your accounts, including several different tax statements. Plus, just by having so many accounts, you risk forgetting about some of them – and if you don’t think you’d ever forget about your own money, consider this: Well over $40 billion in unclaimed cash and property, including 401(k)s, pensions and IRAs, is awaiting return to the rightful owners, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. But beyond reducing your possible fees, paperwork and potential for lost assets, consolidating your accounts with one provider can give you a centralized, unifying investment strategy, one that can help you in the following ways: Diversification – If you own several different financial accounts, including IRAs, 401(k)s and online accounts, you might have many similar investments within them. You might even own a cash-value insurance policy containing investments that closely track the ones you have in the other accounts. This type of duplication can be harmful, because if a market downturn primarily affects one type of asset, and your portfolio is dominated by that asset or similar ones, you could take a big hit. But if you have all your investments in the same place, a financial professional can review your holdings and recommend appropriate ways to diversify your investment dollars. (Be aware, though, that while diversification can reduce the impact of market volatility on your portfolio, it can’t guarantee profits or protect against all losses. Staying on track – With all your accounts in one place, you’ll find it easier to keep the big picture in mind and make the moves necessary to help you progress toward your financial goals. Two main actions include buying or selling investments and adjusting your portfolio to make it more aggressive or conservative, depending on your situation. Avoiding mistakes – If you own several separate accounts, you could see a loss in one or more of them and overreact by selling investments that could still be valuable to you. But with a consolidated investment platform, you can see more clearly that the impact of a loss may be small, relative to the rest of your holdings. As we’ve seen, consolidating your investment accounts with a single provider can have several advantages. So think carefully about bringing everything together – you may find that there’s strength in unity. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Eliminating burdensome driver responsibility fees Earlier this month a new law eliminating punitive driver responsibility fees in Michigan went into effect, bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of Michigan motorists. I was glad to join a strong bipartisan group of my colleagues in voting for the plan, which was signed into law in March as part of a multi-bill package ending the fees and offering full forgiveness of outstanding debt. It was long past time for Michigan to end these costly and meaningless fees. They left too many hard working Southwest Michigan families struggling to pay off crushing debt, without making anyone a better or safer driver. These fees were enacted by past politicians hoping to fill a budget hole they had created. Thanks to sound budgeting practices and responsible spending, we no longer need to resort to these types of money grabs to balance the state’s budget. Giving people the ability to get their driving privileges back will make it easier for them to get to work and provide for themselves and their families. With the elimination of the fees, about 305,000 Michigan motorists will be relieved of driver responsibility fee debt that caused hardship. Changes to the law also permitted about 27,000 motorists to have their fees immediately waived this year because they had enrolled in a qualifying payment plan before Feb. 1. Another 13,500 were granted relief because they had participated in a workforce development program. To learn more about eliminated driver responsibility fees, visit or contact the Department of State Information Center at (888) 767-6424. As always, you can also contact my office for assistance at 517-373-0839 or via email at

Opportunity Zones can spur economic opportunity for all Opportunity Zones are a new bipartisan community development tax incentive program established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Designed to spur long-term investments in low-income communities, the new program has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in capital for investment where demand is high and talent is readily available, including neighborhoods throughout Michigan – from Wayne County to Van Buren County. I am pleased to join Maurice Jones, President and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), to promote this game-changing tax incentive program that can spur opportunity for all. LISC has been active in tapping bipartisan tax incentive programs to harness capital for major development projects in Kalamazoo, and Opportunity Zones are a new tool in the development toolbox for LISC and other community leaders operating in the newly designated zones. Hartford Township is one of twenty-four Opportunity Zones in Southwest Michigan, presenting new opportunities for community leaders in the Tri-City area. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Let your voice be heard by voting The freedom to choose our leaders makes us the beacon of liberty in the world, yet voter turnout remains low. In 1960, nearly 73 percent of the voting age population in Michigan voted. That figure dropped to 54.5 percent in 1996 and has since rebounded to 63 percent in 2016. Although a 63 percent turnout is lower than we would hope to see, it is huge compared to the 41.6 percent turnout in the 2014 election. I encourage all citizens to let their voices be heard by getting out to vote. Election Day is Nov. 6, and the polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. If you do not know where you’re supposed to go to vote, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at Enter your first and last name, date of birth and residential ZIP code, and the website will give you the address and a map of your polling location. The site also allows voters to view a sample of their ballot online. Southwest Michigan voters may also get their polling location information by contacting their county clerk’s office at 269-983-7111 ext. 8264 in Berrien County or 269-657-8218 ext. 6 in Van Buren County. I would also urge area voters to learn as much as possible about the candidates and the issues. We continue to face challenges, and we need effective leaders at every level who are able to deliver results. Please exercise your constitutional right to vote. Your voice could help determine the future of our state, our nation and our local communities. 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.

Diabetes awareness November is National Diabetes Month. Make it your time to take charge of your type 1 or type 2 diabetes for a longer, healthier life. Preventive care for people with diabetes—and for the risk factors that cause related health problems—has improved significantly over the past 20 years, and people are living longer and better with the disease. But living longer can mean having other health problems longer, too. Good management over a lifetime is the key, starting with the day you’re told you have diabetes. More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 doesn’t know they have it. Most people with diabetes—9 out of 10—have type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. If you have any of these risk factors, ask your doctor if you should be tested for diabetes. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future. Risk factors include: Being overweight; being 45 years or older; having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes; being physically active less than 3 times a week. Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. Managing diabetes from the beginning can mean fewer health problems later on. It’s a balancing act—food, activity, medicine, and blood sugar levels—but one you can master. Manage your diabetes throughout the day by: Following a healthy eating plan, including eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and salt; getting physically active—10 to 20 minutes a day is better than only an hour once a week; taking diabetes medicine as prescribed by your doctor; testing your blood sugar regularly to understand and track how food, activity, and medicine affect your blood sugar levels. Living with diabetes is challenging, but it’s important to remember that making healthy choices can have a big effect on the course of the disease—and your quality of life.

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