12-20-18 Columns

Michigan children safer following passage of needed reforms As we approach the end of the year, the Legislature has been in “lame duck” session wrapping up important policy items before we officially adjourn. House Bill 5539, legislation I sponsored that would expand the capacity of the OK2SAY hotline to accept reports on sexual abuse, assault and rape, was recently passed unanimously in the Senate and presented to the Governor. In light of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal at Michigan State University it was clear more needed to be done to protect our young women and men from future assault. I was proud to work with many colleagues on a large package of bills designed to increase protections for Michigan’s children and young adults in our schools and on our college campuses. Additionally, I assisted a legislative inquiry into MSU’s handling of the Nassar scandal. OK2SAY was originally established in 2014 as a method of reporting criminal activity at school anonymously. The 24-hour system has been expanded to include other crimes and received 10,734 reports as of December 2017. The OK2SAY program has been an effective tool to examine potential crimes and expanding its capability to include other forms of harm committed against children was a commonsense next step. The confidential nature of the reporting system also takes into account the sensitivity surrounding these situations for victims and assures their privacy to feel comfortable coming forward about their abuse. It is critical that our students feel protected. I am hopeful these reforms will create a safer environment for our kids for years to come. It has been a distinct honor to serve the 79th State House district and I am excited to continue serving you as State Senator of the 21st Senate district next year. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and blessed holiday season.

Consider some New Year’s financial resolutions As the year winds down, you may want to look ahead to see which areas of your life you can improve in 2019. Perhaps you’ll decide to exercise more, eat healthier foods, reconnect with old friends or volunteer at a school or charitable organization. All these goals are certainly worthwhile – but you also may want to add some New Year’s financial resolutions to your list. Here are a few ideas to consider: Boost contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Good news! Contribution limits will be increasing for many employer-sponsored retirement plans. For 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 (up from $18,500 in 2018), or $25,000 (up from $24,500 in 2018) if you’re 50 or older to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. It’s usually a good idea to contribute as much as you can afford to your employer’s plan, as your contributions may lower your taxable income, while any earnings growth is tax-deferred. (Keep in mind that taxes are due upon withdrawal, and withdrawals prior to age 59-1/2 may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.) At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered. Try to “max out” on your IRA. Even if you have a 401(k) or similar plan, you can probably still invest in an IRA. For 2019, you can put in up to $6,000 in a traditional or Roth IRA (up from $5,500 in 2018), or $7,000 (up from $6,500) if you’re 50 or older. (Income restrictions apply to Roth IRAs.) Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, depending on your income, and any earnings growth is tax-deferred. Roth IRA contributions are not deductible, but earnings growth can be withdrawn tax-free, provided you don’t start taking withdrawals until you are 59-1/2 and you’ve had your account at least five years. You can put most types of investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, government securities and so on – into an IRA, so it can expand your options beyond those offered in your 401(k) or similar plan. Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money held in a low-risk, liquid account. This fund can help you avoid dipping in to your long-term investments to pay for unexpected costs, such as a major car repair. Control your debts. Do what you can to keep your debts under control. Ultimately, the less you have to spend on debt payments, the more you can invest for your future. Don’t overreact to financial market volatility. In 2018 – especially the last few months of the year – we saw considerable market volatility, with huge drops and big gains in rapid succession. What will 2019 bring? It’s always difficult – and usually futile – trying to forecast the market’s performance over the course of an entire year. But, in any case, try not to overreact to whatever ups and downs we may experience. Instead, continue pursuing an investment strategy that’s appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Following these suggestions can help you become a better investor in 2019 – and beyond. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.