11-8-18 Columns

The key to consistent investing? Paying yourself first Consistency is a key ingredient of success in many activities – including investing. And one technique that can help you become a more consistent investor is paying yourself first. Many people have the best of intentions when it comes to investing. They know how important is it to put money away for long-term goals, especially the goal of a comfortable retirement. Yet they may only invest sporadically. Why? Because they wait until they’ve taken care of all the bills – mortgage, utilities, car payments and so on – before they feel comfortable enough to write a check for their investments. And by the time they reach that point, they might even decide there’s something more fun to do with what’s left of their money. How can you avoid falling into this habit of intermittent investing? By paying yourself first. Each month, have your bank move money from your checking or savings account into the investments of your choice. By taking this hassle-free approach, rather than counting on your ability to send a check, you can help ensure you actually do contribute to your investments, month after month. By moving the money automatically, you probably won’t miss it, and, like most people who follow this technique, you will find ways to economize, as needed, to make up for whatever you’re investing. You already may be doing something quite similar if you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work. You choose a percentage of your earnings to go into your plan, and the money is taken out of your paycheck. (And if you’re fortunate, your employer will match some of your contributions, too.) But even if you do have a 401(k), you’re probably also eligible to contribute to an IRA – which is a great vehicle for your pay-yourself-first strategy. You can put in up to $5,500 per year to a traditional or Roth IRA (or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older), so, if you are able to “max out” for the year, you could simply divide $5,500 or $6,500 by 12 and have either $458 or $541 moved from your savings or checking account each month into your IRA. Of course, you don’t have to put in the full $5,500 or $6,500 each year, although some IRAs do require minimum amounts to at least open the account. You might think such modest amounts won’t add up to a lot, but after a few years, you could be surprised at how much you’ve accumulated. Plus, you may not always be limited to contributing relatively small sums, because as your career advances, your earnings may increase significantly, allowing you to boost your IRA contributions continually. In any case, here’s the key point: When you invest, it’s all right to start small – as long as you keep at it. And the best way to ensure you continue investing regularly is to pay yourself first. If you do it long enough, it will become routine – and it will be one habit you won’t want to break. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Open enrollment for state services Its heating season and this week I wanted to make sure my constituents are aware of programs offered by the Michigan Agency for Energy and utility providers to help them stay warm this winter. Heating season, also known as crisis season, is from November 1 through May 31. This is the timeframe that you may be eligible for assistance with your energy bills through the Department of Health and Human Services State Emergency Relief and the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. For more information you can go to www.mibenefitsaccess.org, call 2-1-1, or contact your utility provider to see what programs they have available. We also have Programs and Protection for Senior Citizens. If an individual in the household is of the age of 65, they are eligible for the Senior Shutoff Protection Program, which would forestall future shutoffs during the heating season. Furthermore, this program ensures that if a shutoff occurred outside the heating season, service would be restored by November 1. To enroll, please contact your utility provider. Additionally, this is an important enrollment period for health care coverage. The marketplace is open from November 1 through December 15. If you need to apply for health care insurance through the state or would like to switch your plan, please go to www.healthcare.gov. Michigan residents with health insurance questions can also visit www.michigan/gov /hicap. If you have any questions about these programs or need help applying for them, please use my office as a resource. I understand navigating bureaucracy can be challenging at times and I am always available to help you. As always, it is an honor to serve you! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at either 517-373-1403 or KimLaSata@house.mi.gov.

Celebrating STEM education Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is key to our future because it prepares students for careers in critical fields. National STEM Day is Nov. 8. It’s a day to inspire kids to explore these important subjects. To help in this effort, the governor signed my legislation to provide students with important career outlook information and reward students for taking extra STEM courses. Senate Bill 344, now Public Act 241 of 2018, allows Michigan students to receive a STEM certification on their diploma or transcript as an incentive for taking extra STEM classes. Michigan is one of the first states in the nation to allow this STEM certification opportunity. It is a great way to reward students who have taken the initiative to complete additional STEM classes and to highlight their accomplishments. We owe it to all Michigan high school students to provide them with valuable career information so they can make the best decision for their future. SB 343, now PA 242 of 2018, requires schools to provide students with the most recent available analysis of in-demand occupations for their economic forecast region. On a regular basis, the state compiles “Regional Hot Jobs” outlooks for all of Michigan’s 10 prosperity regions. The outlooks are available online at www.milmi.org/research. National STEM Day and these new laws are about ensuring students succeed by ensuring they have the information needed to make career decisions and giving them an advantage in landing a great job. 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.

Carbon monoxide awareness When power outages occur after severe weather, using alternative sources of power can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside. Every year, at least 430 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning. CO is found in fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. There are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your household from CO poisoning: Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one soon; never use a gas range or oven to heat a home; never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage; never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high; never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper. CO poisoning is entirely preventable. You can protect yourself and your family by acting wisely in case of a power outage and learning the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Strengthening Southwest Michigan’s economy One of my top priorities is promoting job creation and economic growth here at home in Southwest Michigan. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 250,000 jobs were created in October and U.S. workers are seeing their highest wage growth since 2008. Unemployment rates are nearing record lows at 3.7% and continue to drop– further proof of the strong state of our economy.

I have worked to grow our economy by rolling back burdensome regulations on small businesses, keeping our Great Lakes harbors open and operational, and enacting pro-growth tax reform. In September, I was awarded the “Guardian of Small Business” Award from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) recognizing my ongoing support and dedication to small businesses in Southwest Michigan.

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).