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01-09-2020 Columns

Cervical Cancer Awareness

In recognition of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Berrien County Health Department is reminding all women to stay current on their cervical cancer screening to improve their health, and to prevent cervical cancer in the future. In 2019, an estimated 360 Michigan women were newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and in 2019, approximately 120 Michigan women died from this disease.

About 70 percent of cervical cancer in the United States could be prevented through human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Three doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for girls and boys at 11-12 years of age, but the vaccine can be given up through age 26. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and produces better immunity when given at the recommended age of 11-12 years.

The simple, affordable, and easy-to-administer screening test to detect cervical cancer – the Pap test – has been widely available for 70 years. Still, more than half of cervical cancer deaths are seen in women who have either never had a Pap test, or have not had testing in more than five years. Along with lack of screening, the most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV infection – 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Screening for cervical cancer is recommended to begin at age 21. Through the Healthy Michigan Plan, women’s preventive health care – such as screenings for cervical cancer, mammograms, prenatal care, immunizations, and other services – is covered without co-pays. Pap tests are available at the BCHD Sexual Health Clinics, and for women ages 40-64, Pap testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP).

There are many programs that provide free vaccines for children and uninsured individuals. For more information regarding HPV and cervical cancer visit www.michigan.gov/hpv or www.bchdmi.org.

Beware of Social Security scams

There’s a widespread telephone scam involving callers claiming they’re from Social Security. The caller ID may even show a government number. These callers may tell you there’s a problem with your Social Security number. They may also threaten to arrest you unless you pay a fine or fee using gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, a wire transfer, or cash. That call is not from us!

If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from Social Security, please: Hang up right away. Never give your personal information, money, or retail gift cards and report the scam at oig.ssa.gov/ to Social Security’s law enforcement team at the Office of the Inspector General.

Social Security will not: Threaten you; tell you that your Social Security Number has been suspended; call you to demand an immediate payment; ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash; demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe; promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money; or request personal or financial information through email, text messages, or social media.

Social Security will: Sometimes call you to confirm you filed for a claim or to discuss other ongoing business you have with them; mail you a letter if there is a problem; mail you a letter if you need to submit payments that will have detailed information about options to make payments and the ability to appeal the decision; and use emails, text messages, and social media to provide general information (not personal or financial information) on its programs and services if you have signed up to receive these messages.

Please share this information with your family and friends.

Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Look for changes in retirement plans

It might not have made the headlines, but a recently passed piece of legislation could affect the IRAs and 401(k)s of millions of Americans beginning in 2020. So, if you have either of these accounts, or if you run a business, you’ll want to learn more.

The new laws, collectively called the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, include these noteworthy changes:

Higher age for RMDs Under current law, you must start taking withdrawals – known as required minimum distributions, or RMDs – from your traditional IRA and 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan once you turn 70-1/2. The new law pushes the date to start RMDs to 72, which means you can hold on to your retirement savings a bit longer.

No age limit for traditional IRA contributions – Previously, you could only contribute to your traditional IRA until you were 70-1/2, but under the SECURE Act, you can now fund your traditional IRA for as long as you have taxable earned income.

Limitation of “Stretch IRA” provisions – Under the old rules, beneficiaries was able to stretch taxable RMDs from a retirement account over his or her lifetime. Under the SECURE Act while spouse beneficiaries can still take advantage of this “stretch” distribution, most non-spouse beneficiaries will have to take all the RMDs by the end of the tenth year after the account owner passes away. Consequently, non-spouse beneficiaries who inherit an IRA or other retirement plan could have tax implications due to the need to take larger distributions in a shorter timeframe.

No early withdrawal penalty for IRAs and 401(k)s when new child arrives. Typically, you must pay a 10% penalty when you withdraw funds from your IRA or 401(k) before you reach 59-1/2. But now, with the new rules, you can withdraw up to $5,000 from your retirement plan without paying the early withdrawal penalty, as long as you take the money within one year of a child being born or an adoption becoming final.

Some provisions of the SECURE Act primarily affect business owners:

Multi-employer retirement plans – Unrelated companies can now work together to offer employees a 401(k) plan with less administrative work, lower costs and fewer fiduciary responsibilities than individual employers now encounter when offering their own retirement plans.

Tax credit for automatic enrollment – The new law provides a tax credit of $500 for some smaller employers who set up automatic enrollment in their retirement plans. And a tax credit for establishing a retirement plan has been increased from $500 to $5,000.

Use of annuities in 401(k) plans – It will now be easier for employers to consider including annuities as an investment option within 401(k) plans. Previously, many businesses avoided offering annuities in these plans due to liability concerns related to the annuity provider, but the new rules should help reduce these concerns.

The SECURE Act is the most significant change to our retirement savings system in over a decade. We encourage you to contact your financial advisor, tax professional and estate planning attorney to assess the potential impact on your investment strategies and determine any possible tax and estate planning implications of the SECURE Act.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

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