11-17-2016 Columns


 The Great American Smokeout is a nationwide event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.  Held on the third Thursday of November (November 17, 2016), it is a day where smokers are asked to put down their cigarettes, cigars, spit tobacco, or any tobacco product and prove to themselves that they really can live without them for one day.  More Americans try to quit smoking on this day than any other day of the year, including New Year’s!  While smoking rates have gone down considerably, there are still 27% of Berrien County residents who smoke every day, and another 11% smoke on some days. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health.  In fact, smoking is responsible for the most cancer deaths in the U.S.

The majority of people who do smoke have attempted to quit at least once, but sometimes it can take some extra support. Once you have decided to quit, it is important to have a plan, and make sure others are supporting you.  The first thing to do is set a date to quit (the Great American Smokeout is a great one!).  Then, you should decide on a method to help you quit (cold turkey, patches/gum, medication, counseling, classes). The Berrien County Health Department has a variety of cessation resources available for you to get started or even to help someone you love get started on the journey of living tobacco free.  Smoking Cessation classes are also available through Lakeland Health Community Health & Wellness.

For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org or call 269-926-7121.

Competition is good

 Six years ago when I was given the opportunity to write this column, I mentioned my relationship with my Grandfather Henry Krause. He was tight with a buck, a veteran, and a retired firefighter who had a small apple farm. He also believed in competition. That meant you fought hard and did your best; you played to win, and treated your opponent with respect. He would not have been popular with the “everyone gets a ribbon crowd” that is part of today’s culture.

He liked to win; so much so that my cousins and I would occasionally catch him not following suit in a friendly game of euchre. By not understanding the consequences of winning and losing, we have sheltered people from realizing the difference. After the recent election, we saw people protesting the outcome and asking for a do-over because they did not like the result. I certainly defend anyone’s right to protest, but in this case it appeared like many folks did not understand the consequences of competition.

Some of the people also admitted they did not bother to vote, but it hurt their feelings that the person they liked did not win. There is a simple answer to that – vote. You can also get involved in a campaign and work for a candidate or cause. Our democracy depends on the peaceful transition of power. That means we recognize winners and losers. And Grandpa Krause’s lessons on respecting your opponent and doing your best come in handy.

In the end we are all Americans and we can disagree without government interference. And that kind of freedom is certainly worth going to the polls and casting a vote.

If you have any issues with state government contact us at 888-656-0079 or by e-mail at alpscholka@house.mi.gov.

Investing in Your Future

Put Thanksgiving lessons to work in your financial plans

Edward Jones

 Thanksgiving is here. Over the years, this holiday has taken on a variety of meanings, most of them centered on family, caring and sharing. You can carry these same values past Thanksgiving into your daily life – and you can certainly incorporate them into your financial strategies for taking care of your loved ones.

So, here are a few suggestions:

Protect your family. If something were to happen to you, could your family pay the mortgage? Could your children still afford to go to college someday? To protect your family’s current lifestyle and long-term goals, you may well need to maintain adequate life and disability insurance. Your employer may offer these types of protection as employee benefits, but the coverage might be insufficient for your needs. Consequently, you might need to supplement your employer-paid insurance with additional policies.

Invest in your children. If you have young children, and you would like to see them go to college someday, you may want to start putting money away toward that goal. You can save and invest for college in a variety of ways, but one popular method is through a 529 plan, which offers high contribution limits and potential tax advantages. Plus, a 529 plan gives you significant control and flexibility: – if you establish a plan for one child, but he or she decides not to go to college, you can name another child as the recipient.

Be generous. You do not have to be a millionaire to make meaningful financial gifts to your family. For example, if you have grown children, consider helping them fund their IRAs. You cannot contribute directly to a child’s IRA, but you can write checks to your children for that purpose – though, of course, they are then free to do whatever they want with the money. It is not always easy for a young person to “max out” on an IRA, which has an annual contribution limit of $5,500 for workers under 50, so any help you can give your children in this area should be greatly appreciated.

Safeguard your own financial independence. Almost certainly, one of the most undesirable outcomes you can imagine is to become financially dependent on your grown children. Even if you save and invest diligently throughout your working years, you could still be vulnerable to financial dependency if you need an extensive period of long-term care, such as a nursing home stay. These costs can be enormous, and Medicare typically pays only a small percentage, and usually for just a limited time. To protect your financial freedom, you should explore ways of addressing long-term care costs. A financial professional can explain those alternatives that may be appropriate for your situation.

Communicate your wishes to your family. At some point in your life, you will need to draw up your estate plans, which could include a will, a living trust, a durable power of attorney, a health care directive and other documents. To be fair to your children and other family members, and to avoid hurt feelings, you should clearly communicate your plans and your wishes while you are still around. Thanksgiving means more than turkey and football. And if you can successfully apply the lessons of this holiday to your financial plans, both you and your family will have reason to be thankful.

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


 Public transportation has traditionally been viewed as solely an urban resource or for those who have no other viable option. As we move forward, it is being further recognized as a critical asset by universities, business leaders, economic developers, tourism experts, and local governments as a vital link for the entire population to unlock our vast regional resources.

A region can have everything its population may want; natural beauty, great jobs, a strong workforce, family entertainment — but if we cannot efficiently move people from one place to another, then we will never reach our full potential as a region, or state.

The transportation industry, in both the private and public sector, is increasingly evolving. Rapid technological advancements coupled with a surge of younger residents moving to more urban areas, the way we address this issue has the potential to benefit regional needs beyond just transportation.

The relatively new ridesharing business model is another essential piece of a modern transportation infrastructure. The ability to connect through smart phone apps paves the way for businesses like Lyft and Uber to meet regional transportation needs in an entirely new way. This level of mobility can be a game-changer for a region like ours.

The vision of county-wide public transportation will be the subject of a groundbreaking new study beginning this month. This development is extremely encouraging for those who believe that public transportation has a critical place when it comes to regional transportation options.

Both public transportation and private ridesharing companies are advancing in ways that completely re-envision our entire outlook on regional transit. We owe it to our students, our young professionals, our business leaders and our workers to find a modern, efficient, safe and affordable way to move throughout Southwest Michigan.

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.

Improving rural call service

 This week, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in advancing bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2566, the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2015, by a unanimous vote. This legislation will address persistent problems folks have in Southwest Michigan and across the country with rural call completion issues. These call completion issues have a negative impact on local small businesses and can pose a threat to public safety when important messages go undelivered.

H.R. 2566 requires intermediate telecommunications providers to register with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and comply with the service quality standards set by the agency. It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure the integrity of voice communications and to prevent unjust or unreasonable discrimination among more rural areas of the United States in the delivery of such communications. H.R. 2566 was previously advanced by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

For many living in the more rural parts of our Southwest Michigan community, communication issues persist. It is time we set higher standards for the integrity of our networks and for the benefit of folks who need it here at home. This bipartisan legislation takes meaningful action to address this problem, I am proud to support it, and I am hopeful that the Senate will take a close look at it soon.

To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov.

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