Edward Jones

Small-business owners must protect their futures

 If you’re a small-business owner, you think a lot about today. Is your cash flow sufficient … today? Are your products and services competitive … today? Are you confident in your marketing and advertising efforts … today? And because you are so focused on today, you may be neglecting a key aspect of tomorrow – your retirement. Specifically, do you have a good retirement plan for yourself? Given that your personal finances are so tied up with your business, your plans for the business will obviously greatly affect your financial situation when you retire. Whether you want to transfer the business to another family member, sell it outright to someone else, or possibly just wind it down, you’ll need to plan ahead and consult with your legal and tax advisors. However, you can take steps now to help ensure you can enjoy a comfortable retirement. You have access to a variety of retirement plans appropriate for small-business owners, including these:

  1. Owner-only 401(k) – This plan, also known as an individual or a “solo” 401(k), is available to self-employed individuals and business owners with no full-time employees other than themselves or a spouse. As the owner, you can contribute to your plan as both an employer and an employee; your total contribution limit for 2016 is $53,000, or $59,000 if you are 50 or older.

  2. SEP IRA – If you have just a few employees or are self-employed with no employees, you might consider a SEP IRA. You’ll fund the plan with tax-deductible contributions, and you must cover all eligible employees. (Employees themselves cannot contribute.) You can contribute up to 25% of compensation, up to $53,000 annually. (Contributions for a self-employed individual are limited to 25% of compensation minus one-half of self-employment taxes.) And you can fund your SEP IRA with many different types of investments. Plus, you can establish a SEP IRA for 2016 until April 17, 2017.

  3. Defined benefit plan – Pension plans, also known as defined benefit plans, have become less prevalent in recent years – but you can still set one up for yourself if you are self-employed or own your own business. This plan has high contribution limits, which are determined by an actuarial calculation, and as is the case with other retirement plans, your contributions are typically tax-deductible.

  4. SIMPLE IRA – As its name suggests, a SIMPLE IRA is easy to set up and maintain, and can be a good plan if your business has fewer than 10 employees. Still, while a SIMPLE IRA may be advantageous for your employees, it’s less generous to you, as far as allowable contributions, than an owner-only 401(k), a SEP IRA or a defined benefit plan. For 2016, your annual contributions are generally limited to $12,500 or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older by the end of the year. You can also make a matching contribution of up to 3% of your compensation.

You need to establish a SIMPLE IRA between Jan. 1 and Oct. 1 of any year. In fact, if you’d like to set up any of the retirement plans we’ve looked at, don’t delay. The sooner you open your plan, the more years you will have to contribute – and, as you know, time is often an investor’s best friend.

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Companies in Van Buren County and across the state are ready  to go global By Jamie Clover Adams, director, MI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

 Van Buren County helps play a pivotal role in growing Michigan’s food and agriculture businesses. These homegrown companies offer employment and often act as the foundation within a local community. Now these companies can go global through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s International Marketing Program. Exports of Michigan agricultural products continue to grow — reaching $3.2 billion in 2014. The top five agricultural exports were soybeans, other plant products, dairy products, corn, and fresh and processed fruit. Exports help boost farm prices and income, and support 26,000 jobs across the sector. Every $1 in export activity generates another $1.22 — meaning our total agriculture exports have a local impact of an additional $3.88 billion. If you’re travelling to countries like Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, or South Korea, you may be getting a taste of Michigan when eating a meal or having a snack. Ingredients like apples, dry beans, tart cherries, blueberries and more are shipped from your local farmer to manufacturers around the nation and across the globe every day. Are you a food or ag-based business looking to break into the international marketplace? Contact MDARD’s International Marketing Program at 517-284-5738 or online at

A library card could be the key to fun  in the outdoors

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 We are blessed to have numerous ways to have fun in our great outdoors, and I encourage Southwest Michigan families to get outdoors and enjoy our state’s amazing natural wonders.  You can bike on more than 1,300 miles of dedicated trails, kayak over 36,000 miles of streams and rivers or explore all 3,288 miles of Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline.  Residents with a library card can take advantage of a wonderful program that enables them to get free or discounted access to hundreds of Michigan’s state parks, historic and cultural sites, campgrounds and recreation areas.  The second annual Michigan Activity Pass program allows library cardholders to print a free, one-day pass to use at 102 state parks or 138 state forest campgrounds. The program also offers free or discounted admission to 170 Michigan historical and cultural destinations.  This year, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the program is providing a new opportunity for parents and teachers of fourth graders to access national parks and lakeshores in Michigan — at no charge — through the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.  More information is available at:  For a list of ideas on how you can enjoy our state’s natural beauty, visit:  Our state is home to many tremendous state and national parks. Exploring one of these areas through the Michigan Activity Pass program is a great way to stay healthy and have fun.  For anyone heading out to splash in the water, camp in the woods or simply take in the sun, one thing is clear: Nothing beats summer in the outdoors!  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.

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 On Monday, we joined together with friends, neighbors, and family in celebration of our Independence Day and the enduring powers of the principles upon which America was founded. I was lucky enough to be able to spend the special day at home with my family.  It’s hard to believe that 240 years ago our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence – marking their vision for our democracy. In the face of persecution – or even death – they stood up for the noble ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We strive now to remember not only their bravery, but their vision for a nation where mankind could be free to live without persecution for their beliefs. It is this unshakable ideal that allows us to openly discuss our views and opinions without the fear of repercussion. In our current political climate, it can be easy to get lost in partisan politics, but we must remember, and celebrate, that our unique perspectives have helped to create a truly revolutionary nation. As long as we continue to listen to each other, we will continue to grow a better tomorrow.  We must also remember the brave men and women who have made, and continue to make, sacrifices to protect our freedoms. May we never forget the countless who have paid the ultimate price. We keep our active military personnel, their families, and our veterans in our thoughts every single day, but especially during special days like the Fourth of July.  After a relaxing Fourth of July, I’m excited about getting back to work on your behalf.  To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website:

Health Dept Keeping kids safe this summer

 Hot weather provides opportunities for kids to enjoy the outdoors. Take steps to keep them safe and healthy, both indoors and outdoors.

Master Water Safety

 Swimming and other water activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life.

  1. Parents and caregivers play a key role in protecting children from drowning. When kids are in or near water, closely supervise them at all times.

  2. Help prevent recreational water illnesses, which is illness caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim in. Keep the pee, poop, sweat, and dirt out of the water. Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–not poolside–to keep germs away from the pool.

  3. Stay safe while boating by wearing a life jacket. Properly fitted life jackets can prevent drownings and should be worn at all times by everyone on any boat.

Be Sun Smart

 Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Adults and children need protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors.

  1. Seek shade when necessary. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.

  2. When possible, cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts to provide protection from UV rays.

  3. Wear a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears, and neck. If your child chooses a baseball cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.

  4. Use a sunscreen with at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.

Be safe at home, work, and play

 Injuries are the leading cause of death in children aged 19 and younger, but most child injuries can be prevented.