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11-28-2019 Columns


New at investing? Follow these suggestions

If you’re fairly new to investing, you might be wondering what sort of rules you should follow or moves you should make. And while everyone’s situation is different, there are indeed guidelines that make sense for all investors. Here are some to consider: Learn the basics. The investment world can seem confusing, but the more you know about the basic components, the more confident you’ll be when you begin to invest. For starters, you’ll want to be familiar with the essential types of investments: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, government securities and so on. And it’s also important to know that some investments are designed to provide growth – an increase in the investment’s value – while others provide income in the form of dividends or interest payments, and still others may offer growth and income. Set your goals. You need to know why you’re investing – and that means you must clearly define your goals. Do you want to retire early? When you do retire, what kind of lifestyle would you like to have? Are you planning on helping your children (or grandchildren) pay for college? Once you’ve established your goals, you can create the appropriate investment strategy for achieving them, taking into account your time horizon and risk tolerance. Invest regularly. At first, you may only be able to afford to put in small amounts to your investment accounts, but even so, try to contribute regularly. You’ll get into the habit of investing and, later on, when you earn more money, you can ramp up your contributions. If you have a 401(k) or similar plan at work, the money can come out of your paycheck before you even see it. Think long term. As you begin investing, it’s important to have the right attitude. Specifically, don’t look for the “hot” investments that will make you a “bundle” in a matter of weeks. Investing just doesn’t work that way – instead, it’s a decades-long process of carefully choosing, managing and adjusting a diversified portfolio that’s suitable for your individual needs. And by maintaining a long-term focus, you’ll be less susceptible to making ill-advised moves in response to short-term market events. Don’t get scared off by downturns. If you invest for many years, it’s inevitable that you will experience sharp drops in the financial markets. But these declines are actually a normal part of investing. If you overreact to them by selling investments just because their price has dropped, you’ll not only be breaking a cardinal rule of investing – to buy low and sell high – but you’ll also be disrupting the type of cohesive, continuous investment strategy that’s necessary to help you achieve your goals. Get some help. You may find it easier to navigate the investment landscape if you get some help from a professional advisor – someone who understands your goals and family situation and who can make appropriate investment recommendations. A financial advisor can also suggest changes to your portfolio in response to changes in your life (new job, child graduating college, etc.) and in your goals, such as a new date for retirement. When you invest, there aren’t many guarantees. But by following these suggestions, you will know, at the very least, that you’re taking the steps that can lead to success. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Nesbitt praises MCCA assessment decrease

State Sen. Aric Nesbitt announced Wednesday, Nov. 13, to residents that the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) will be lowering the per vehicle assessment for the period of July 2, 2020 through June 30, 2021 to $100. “This is fantastic news for Michigan drivers and families,” said Nesbitt, R-Lawton. “The reforms approved earlier this year were specifically aimed at reducing costs and giving options to Michigan drivers. Today’s announcement will surely bring a breath of relief to many families across the state.” The decrease announced November 13 is a 55% reduction from this year’s $220 assessment. Insurance companies will charge the $100 assessment only to people who choose to maintain unlimited lifetime personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. Those who choose other levels of coverage under the new reforms will see even lower fees or possibly avoid the assessment altogether, as long as the MCCA is not in a deficit position. According to the MCCA, this reduction is a direct result of savings created by cost controls for medical treatment and other changes made to Michigan’s no-fault insurance law earlier this year. Starting July 1 of next year, drivers will be able to choose from a variety of coverage options to fit their budgets. These choices range from unlimited lifetime medical benefits to a complete opt out for people with Medicare or private health insurance. “I introduced Senate Bill 1 in January with the goal of providing Michigan drivers with some true, meaningful relief,” Nesbitt said. “These reforms were a long time coming — people across the state were being priced out of driving and having their livelihoods drastically impacted. I am happy that my colleagues and I were able to come together for the people of Michigan.”

Let’s end surprise medical bills

The health care system in our country can often be confusing. When people have a medical issue, many are left wondering what procedures their health insurance plan covers, or what hospital system or physician is approved by their insurance company to be considered “in network.” As members of these insurance networks through health insurance plans, people receive medical coverage for various procedures when they are sick or otherwise need care. Typically, patients seek treatment, pay any required amounts under their health plan, which usually come in the form of co-payments and deductibles, and the insurance company covers the rest. Insurance companies make contracts with health care systems that make contracts with providers for administering health care services. Sometimes services provided do not result in a covered health care service, because either the service itself is not covered or because the provider rendering the service was not in the network of the patient’s plan. Unfortunately, this can lead to surprise medical bills that are as expensive as they are unexpected. These bills often come at the worst times and because they are unexpected and costly, leave people in the lurch, grasping for answers and the money to pay the bill. This is a problem in need of a solution, and I am happy to support a bipartisan effort to help fix it. The proposed legislation would help improve transparency in the health care payment and billing process and help customers make more informed decisions. It would require that health providers get written consent from a patient before any nonemergency care is given that would result in a bill not covered by their insurance. The plan would also help provide financial protections when patients seek out-of-network emergency care by setting limits for so-called reimbursement rates, which would prohibit out-of-network providers from charging unreasonable fees. The health care industry is a complex web of deals and contracts that often leaves patients confused and stuck with surprise bills. I think it’s time we did something to help make the system easier to understand and more affordable. The legislation is currently making its way through both the Senate and House of Representatives, and I am hopeful that they will become law soon.

A season of giving thanks

This week I want to address the meaning of Thanksgiving and the role it plays in our great country. Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and remembrance. It is a time to pause and spend time with our loved ones. We gather to enjoy each other’s company, laugh, and share stories.

When Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday under President Lincoln, it was created to celebrate all that makes our nation great and to really give thanks for all of the blessings we have in our lives. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve in Congress. I am thankful for my wife and best friend, Amey. We are so grateful to be spending this year’s Thanksgiving with our wonderful family.

Thanksgiving also offers another opportunity for us to remember as Americans, we have more that unites us than divides us. We are living in divisive times, and it is more important than ever to come together to find solutions to challenges that affect us all. While some find Thanksgiving stressful with talk of politics at the dinner table, President Ronald Reagan said it best, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

I wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving.

To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Hartford’s Police Department “Shop with a Cop” offers some help at Christmastime

CHRISTMAS HELP… The Hartford Police Department is looking for support in their annual “Shop with a Cop” Holiday Toy Drive. Chief Tressa Beltran and Sergeant Jim Coleman are ready to receive new unwrapped toys at donation boxes located throughout the city at City Hall, the Fire Department, Harding’s, Dollar General, Family Dollar and all Hartford Public Schools buildings. Donations will be accepted until Friday Dec. 20 at remote locations and right up until Christmas Eve at City Hall. Those in need may visit the hall to “Shop with a Cop” starting Monday, Dec. 23. Call the HPD non-emergency line (269) 621-3225 for more information. Cash donations are always welcome as well. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)

Antibiotic awareness

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result. Antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. About 30 percent of antibiotics, or 47 million prescriptions, are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States, which makes improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. We rely on antibiotics to treat serious infections, such as pneumonia, and life-threatening conditions including sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection. Effective antibiotics are also needed for people who are at high risk for developing infections. Some of those at high risk for infections include patients undergoing surgery, patients with end-stage kidney disease, or patients receiving cancer therapy (chemotherapy). Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green. Antibiotics are only needed for treating infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antibiotics save lives, and when a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects and antibiotic resistance. Talk with your healthcare professional about the best treatment for you or your loved one’s illness. If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your healthcare professional about the best way to feel better and get relief from symptoms while your body fights off the virus. To stay healthy and keep others healthy: Clean your hands; cover coughs; stay home when sick; get recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.

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