By Michael Vondra, Edward Jones

Start thinking about your retirement income plan

If you’re getting close to retirement, you’re probably thinking about the ways your life will soon be changing. And one key transition involves your income – instead of being able to count on a regular paycheck, as you’ve done for decades, you’ll now need to put together an income stream on your own. How can you get started?

It’s helpful that you begin thinking about retirement income well before you actually retire. Many people don’t – in fact, 61% of retirees wish they had done better at planning for the financial aspects of their retirement, according to an Edward Jones/Age Wave study titled Retirement in the Time of Coronavirus: What a Difference a Year Makes.

Fortunately, there’s much you can do to create and manage your retirement income. Here are a few suggestions:

      • Consider ways to boost income. As you approach retirement, you’ll want to explore ways of potentially boosting your income. Can you afford to delay taking Social Security so your monthly checks will be bigger? Can you increase your contributions to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, including taking advantage of catch-up contributions if you’re age 50 or older? Should you consider adding products that can provide you with an income stream that can potentially last your lifetime? 

      • Calculate your expenses. How much money will you need each year during your retirement? The answer depends somewhat on your goals. For example, if you plan to travel extensively, you may need more income than someone who stays close to home. And no matter how you plan to spend your days in retirement, you’ll need to budget for health care expenses. Many people underestimate what they’ll need, but these costs can easily add up to several thousand dollars a year, even with Medicare.

      • Review your investment mix. It’s always a good idea to review your investment mix at least once a year to ensure it’s still appropriate for your needs. But it’s especially important to analyze your investments in the years immediately preceding your retirement. At this point, you may need to adjust the mix to lower the risk level. However, you probably won’t want to sell all your growth-oriented investments and replace them with more conservative ones – even during retirement, you’ll likely need some growth potential in your portfolio to help you stay ahead of inflation.

      • Create a sustainable withdrawal rate. Once you’re retired, you will likely need to start taking money from your IRA and 401(k) or similar plan. But it’s important not to take too much out in your early years as a retiree, since you don’t want to risk outliving your income. A financial professional can help you create a sustainable withdrawal rate based on your age, level of assets, family situation and other factors. 

By planning ahead, and making the right moves, you can boost your confidence in your ability to maintain enough income to last throughout your retirement. And with a sense of financial security, you’ll be freer to enjoy an active lifestyle during your years as a retiree. 

Michael A Vondra

Certified Financial Planner Practitioner

Edward Jones

The number of Texas families pulling their children out of public schools and pursuing home-schooling in one week this month is five times greater than the same time period last year, the Texas Homeschool Coalition reports.

“We are literally inundated with calls and emails from thousands upon thousands of families asking how they can begin homeschooling this fall,” Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, said.

“In the fall of 2020, the number of homeschooling families in Texas had nearly tripled from 4.5 percent in the spring to 12.3 percent by October, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” the coalition reports. A conservative estimate put the number of students being home-schooled in Texas in 2020 at roughly 750,000, a state record.

Last year, the coalition saw a 400% increase in requests from parents to help them process withdrawal requests from public schools. Prior to the state shutdown, between 22,000 and 25,000 Texas students had already been withdrawn from the public school system.

TDS Telecommunications LLC (TDS) has kicked off construction on the 500-mile fiber-to-the home network in Billings. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company was recently granted design and permit approval from the city on the network that will ultimately connect more than 40,000 homes and businesses across the community.

Billings is the first city in Montana to receive a fiber optic network.

Billings Mayor Bill Cole gave a thumbs up to TDS coming to town. “TDS is modernizing and expanding the infrastructure here and the company is bringing services that will greatly help our businesses and residences,” said Cole. “Another choice for internet, TV, and phone services is great news for our community. This fiber network will help us build an even stronger economy.” 

TDS is working with CEC Facilities Group out of Irving, Texas to construct the network. CEC has begun construction and started preparation work to place new fiber-optic cable in downtown Billings. Construction in residential neighborhoods will begin in late November.

In addition, TDS’ expansion into Billings will create new job opportunities, with new positions now posted on the company’s website.

When the fiber network is complete, TDS will deliver up to 2Gig internet speeds for businesses and residents. With speeds up to 2Gig, it’s possible to download a typical two-hour, 4K movie in under a minute. “Say hello Billings to a reliable internet network, TV, and phone services, along with amazing customer service,” said Jim Butman, president and CEO of TDS.

Montana will be the 32nd state to which TDS offers its services. 

Area residents can visit to register for service, monitor the progress of the build, and sign up for notifications about the new service.

TDS is one of the fastest growing technology companies in the United States. The company is building and deploying future-forward, fiber optic networks to deliver up to 2 Gigabit internet speeds to homes and up to 10 Gigabit internet speeds to businesses. The technology also powers TV entertainment, feature-rich phone plans, and VoIP solutions. TDS employs nearly 2,900 people nationwide and is a subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (TDS Inc.), a Fortune 1000 company. Founded in 1969, TDS Inc. companies collectively employ 9,100 people and have approximately six million connections nationwide through business units: U.S. Cellular, TDS Telecom, TDS Metrocom, OneNeck IT Solutions LLC, and TDS Broadband Service.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with 46 state Farm Bureaus including the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and 280 organizations representing family-owned agribusinesses, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to leave important tax policies in place as they draft legislation implementing President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. The letter addresses four key tax provisions that make it possible for farmers and ranchers to survive and pass their businesses on to the next generation: estate taxes, stepped-up basis, 199A small business deduction and like-kind exchanges.

“The policies Congress enacts now will determine agricultural producers’ ability to secure affordable land to start or expand their operations,” the letter states. “Regardless of whether a business has already been passed down through multiple generations or is just starting out, the key to their longevity is a continued ability to transition when a family member or business partner dies. For this reason, we firmly believe the current federal estate tax code provisions must be maintained.”

These tools are as crucial as ever as the number of farmers and ranchers 65 and older outnumber those 35 and under by a four-to-one margin. More than 370 million acres are expected to change hands in the next two decades.

“As the economic backbone of nearly every county and rural community across the U.S., the importance of American agriculture and related industries cannot be overlooked,” the letter continues. “Farmers, ranchers, and family-owned agribusiness operators are responsible for producing the safe, affordable, and abundant food, fiber, and fuel supplies Americans enjoy every day. As the stewards of nearly 900 million acres of crop and rangeland, farmers and ranchers play an important role in terms of natural resource and land conservation. For agricultural producers, carrying on the legacy of our predecessors and setting the next generation up for success is critically important.”

The full letter can be found at

In a survey of public opinion about the state of education in the country conducted by EdChoice reports that only about two out of five Americans believe that K-12 education is headed in the right direction, which is actually an improvement over a 2016 survey of about 18 points. Over half say it is on the wrong track, a 10-pont decrease since the fall of 2020.

However, the opinion of parents differed from that of the general public. Their opinion that school’s are headed in the right direction (44%)   has remained steady while the opinion of the general public that it is on the wrong track declined by 10 points.

Current school parents are more pessimistic about the K-12 education than is the general public.

The type of schools children attended appeared to have an effect on parents’ perception of K-12 education. Charter school parents were more likely to be optimistic than school district and homeschooling parents.

Homeschoolers had the most negative view of the state of education. About 56 percent of Homeschoolers said that the public education was headed in the wrong direction.

The survey stated that the pandemic disrupted school enrollments and expectations. Some public schools lost large numbers of students and home schooling rates soared to new heights. 

Eighty-three percent of children were enrolled in public district schools in school year 2018–19. Less than half of that share of parents said public schools were their preferred school type. Eight percent of students were enrolled in private schools; 6 percent in public charter schools; and 3 percent were homeschooled. In comparison, 36 percent of parents ideally preferred private schooling for their children; 14 percent preferred charter schools; and 12 percent preferred homeschooling.

Homeschooling was most likely to be preferred by a lower-income parent. Middle-income parents favored private schooling notably more than other school types, and higher-income parents preferred district schools and private schools almost equally.

Parents were also asked what grade they would give their local schools. Parents were most praiseworthy of their local private schools, with 74 percent of applicable parents giving an “A” or “B.” Fifty-nine percent of applicable parents gave the same grades to charter schools, a significant jump from their 2020 results. Less than half of district or public schools received an “A” or “B,” substantially lower than last year.

The survey asked parents what was important to them in selecting a school. Parents with children in public district schools were most likely to mention location as a top priority for selecting a school, nearly twice the rate of private school parents. Socialization was the second most-cited reason parents select district schools, followed closely by noting that the school was assigned to their family.

Private school parents and charter school parents signaled that academic reputation was the most important aspect, followed by a safe environment and morals/character/values instruction. Homeschooling parents heavily valued a safe environment, with more than half of them placing it in their top three. Individualized attention was a clear second for homeschooling parents, while location and moral instruction were a tight third and fourth.

The vast majority of Americans underestimate how much money public schools spend.

The median person guessed $7,000 per student per year, while the median parent guessed $5,000. Taking into account the state where each respondent resides, 77 percent of Americans and 81 percent of school parents underestimated how much public schools actually spend, which on average approaches about $25,000 per student.

Learning loss concerns are prevalent after a school year full of disruptions and shifts back-and-forth between remote, hybrid and in-person learning. So we wanted to know how much parents were interested in supplemental or alternative education this year.

Two-fifths of parents said they were at least somewhat likely to seek tutoring for their children this year, though charter and private school parents were noticeably more likely to say they may seek tutoring.

SIA respondents were asked their opinion on school choice generally, without providing a definition. The majority of parents and the general population (60%) said they supported school choice. Seventeen percent of the general public and 13 percent of parents said they oppose it. A fifth of the general population and a quarter of parents said they had never heard of school choice.

Five new Montana companies have been selected to participate in the 2021 Early Stage HyperAccelerator, one of which is a Billings-based Real Estate Data platform for commercial brokers and appraisers. The HyperAccelerator is a program of Early Stage Montana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of new technology companies.

The HyperAccelerator program provides an intensive 5-day, 50-hour training program, Sept. 20-24,supported by dozens of highly successful entrepreneur trainers and mentors, aimed at helping these companies accelerate their growth and job creation potential.

The other four companies selected to be part of the program are:

-PestNotify, a Butte-based company developing an early pest monitoring selection technology allowing landlords to avoid costly bed bug outbreaks.

— Nano Magnetic Solutions, a Bozeman based technology offering a tissue-scale magnetic force application system that opens new avenues for in vitro neuroscience research

—SensorLogic, a Bozeman-based firm developing next generation snow-pack monitoring technology to better predict water availability and drought conditions

— Resilient Computing: A Bozeman-based firm creating radiation-tolerant computing solutions and building computers capable of operating in space.

On October 20, 2021 in Bozeman the five tech startups will gather at the Early Stage MT Statewide Showcase to celebrate Montana technology environment. More than 200 entrepreneurs, mentors, investors from around the country, and tech community leaders will join the event.

The startups were selected by vetting companies from throughout the state at Regional Showcase Competitions held earlier this summer in Bozeman, Missoula, and Billings. Dozens of entrepreneurs from around the state submitted applications for the regional competitions, and thirteen were chosen to present their businesses to a panel of judges. The startups who scored highest in areas such as the size of their market opportunity, the quality of the proposed solution, leadership potential, and the likelihood of creating high-quality jobs in Montana were selected to move onto the next stage to take part in the HyperAccelerator training program.

Rimrock is planning a new multi-building treatment campus in the East Billings Urban Renewal District (EBURD). The new campus will be located on 6th Avenue North between 13th and 15th Avenue and is key for the region to meet the growing need for substance use disorder treatment and mental health services.

Rimrock has operated from its current facility since 1981 and has added numerous remote facilities over the years. This campus will allow Rimrock to bring all services and resources to a single site. Rimrock provides medical detoxification, inpatient, residential, substance use assessments and outpatient services. Additionally, Rimrock is a licensed Mental Health Center and provides, family and individual therapy. Each of these programs is designed to treat the whole person, addressing the impact of substance abuse and mental health on a person’s social, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. With substance abuse on the rise and increased awareness of the importance of mental health, Rimrock is eager to grow in order to better serve the region.

With the growing demand for Rimrock’s services and the increasing opportunity for community partnerships addressing substance use disorder treatment and public safety, this new campus will become an integral part of the community’s strategy to provide needed resources. Rimrock was committed to staying in the downtown core, knowing this location is preferred for their clients to be able to access other community resources. Rimrock’s new location will re-develop an entire block in the EBURD.

The estimated total cost of this state-of-the-art mental health and substance use disorder treatment campus is $22 million. While construction won’t start immediately, the philanthropic fundraising will. Rimrock hopes to raise several million dollars through a capital campaign. In addition, the organization will contribute $2 million from savings. The balance will be financed through the sales of Rimrock’s current facilities, New Market Tax Credits, and private financing. The new facility will more than double Rimrock’s square footage, creating more than 78,000 square feet of necessary space to serve the needs of the region. Rimrock is working with local architects, Collaborative Design, and the new campus is expected to be open in late 2023.

“We are so proud of the work we’ve done here for the last 40 years, but we know we can do more,” said Lenette Kosovich, CEO of Rimrock. “We believe now is the time for expansion and a new neighborhood-like treatment campus. This envisioned campus will be intentionally designed to meet the needs of Rimrock’s clients and will create a more welcoming atmosphere. Expanding our services and creating this campus has been on the boards planning for many years and we are very excited to be taking this next step. People need us more than ever. We’re ready to step up to that challenge.”

PacificSource Health Plans has committed $15K to support the Billings Clinic Classic. This year’s Classic is dedicated to raising funds in a $3.5 million campaign to build a new and improved Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to take care of Billings Clinic’s tiniest patients and their families.

“The PacificSource Health Plans team is happy to partner with Billings Clinic and support the Billings Clinic Classic,” said Erik Wood, vice president and Montana regional director PacificSource Health Plans. “As a local company, we value that all dollars raised during the Classic stay local and support such a meaningful cause.”

After what has been essentially decades of planning and designing and fundraising Montana State University Billings celebrated the ribbon cutting of the Yellowstone Science and Health building for the College of Health Professions and Science, last week. Completion of the state-of-the art, $17 million facility is historic and hundreds of people attended ceremonies marking the occasion on what could not have been a more idyllic day – and just one day before college classes started.

The impacts that the new facility will have “will be far reaching and long lasting,” proclaimed MSU-B Chancellor Stefani Hicswa.

“It’s a spectacular day. It’s a day of new beginnings,” added Montana State University President Waded Cruzado. “This building will be instrumental in the way we teach and educate.”

The building was a long time in coming and not without its struggles. It augments an original building built in 1947. A wide range of supporters, donors and benefactors were recognized as having collaboratively achieved the home-stretch of raising $5 million under the direction of the MSU-B Foundation as it was challenged to do by the Montana State Legislature in granting the balance of its funding.

The 30,000 square foot building includes 16 teaching labs, 11 research rooms and 19 virtually connected classrooms. It includes smart board technology in each classroom, a greenhouse, and cutting-edge labs and equipment. 

Building was done by T W Clark Construction.

* The producer price index increased 0.7% in August from a month ago, above the 0.6% Dow Jones estimate.

* Final demand prices rose 8.3% from a year ago, the biggest increase on record going back to 2010.

* The move showed that inflationary pressures are likely to persist.

The Federal Government infused our economic system with huge sums of cash – of “money” with no greater value than the paper it is printed upon. There is no escaping the impact of that in market activity and the perpetual process of exchanging value for value in the economy – prices increase – inflation will escalate.

Many economists attempt to redirect attention from government inflating the economy to the COVID pandemic as a significant cause, but whatever the impacts of COVID, trillions of dollars flooding the market suffices to explain all that is happening.

As its name implies, as a consequence of inflation, prices that producers got for final demand goods and services surged in August at their highest annual rate since at least 2010, according to the Labor Department.

The producer price index rose 0.7% for August, above the 0.6% Dow Jones estimate, though below the 1% increase in July.

On a year-over-year basis, the gauge rose 8.3%, which is the biggest annual increase since records have been kept going back to November 2010.

The inflation is evident in supply chain issues, a shortage of various consumer and producer goods, generated by the easy flow of cash. Federal Reserve officials say they expect inflationary pressures to ease through the year, but the fact is pressures have remained stubbornly persistent. The most recent numbers indicate that the trend will likely continue. Other economic observers say they expect the economy to “fizzle” in a gradual decline as the impacts spread throughout the system.

Excluding food, energy and trade services, final demand prices increased 0.3% for the month, below the 0.5% Dow Jones estimate. Still, that left core PPI up 6.3% from a year ago, also the largest record increase for data going back to August 2014.

Final demand services rose 0.7% for the month, thanks to a 1.5% gain in trade services, or the margins received by wholesalers and retailers. Transportation and warehousing costs surged 2.8%.

About one-third of the overall gain came from health, beauty and optical goods, which jumped 7.8%. Prices related to outpatient hospital care held back the gains, falling 1.5%.

Prices for final demand goods rose 1% for the month, pushed primarily by a 2.9% gain in foods which in turn came from an 8.5% surge in meat prices. Slaughtered poultry prices surged 11%. Prices fell for iron, steel and diesel fuel.