02-01-2018 Columns

Put a trusted ‘quarterback’ on your financial team On February 4, the eyes of most of the country – and much of the rest of the world – will be on Minneapolis, site of the most-watched football game in the U.S. As a fan, you can admire the way quarterbacks in the Big Game direct their teams. But as an investor, you can learn something from the big game by putting together your own team to help you achieve your financial goals – and you may find it helpful to have your own “quarterback.” Who should be on your team? Your financial strategy will involve investments, taxes and estate planning, so you will likely need a financial advisor, a tax professional and an attorney. Ideally, your financial advisor – the individual with the broadest view of your financial situation – should serve as the quarterback of this team. And, just as a quarterback on a football team must communicate clearly with his teammates, so will your financial quarterback need to maintain consistent contact with the other team members. Let’s look at a couple of basic examples as to how this communication might work. First, suppose you are self-employed and contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA. Because your contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, the more you put in, the lower your taxable income. (In 2018, the maximum amount you can contribute is $55,000.) Your financial advisor can recommend investments you can choose from to help fund your SEP IRA. Yet you will want your financial advisor to share all your SEP IRA information with your tax professional. When it’s near tax-filing time, your tax professional can then let you and your financial advisor know how much room you still have to contribute to your SEP IRA for the year, and how much you need to add to potentially push yourself into a lower tax bracket. Now, let’s consider the connection between your financial advisor and your attorney – specifically, your attorney handling your estate planning arrangements. It’s essential that you and your financial advisor provide your attorney with a list of all your financial assets – IRAs, 401(k)s, investments held in brokerage accounts, insurance policies and so on. Your attorney will need this information when preparing your important legal documents, such as your will and living trust – after all, a key part of your estate plan is who gets what. But it’s imperative that you and your financial advisor convey some often-overlooked details that can make a big difference in the disposition of your estate. For example, your financial advisor might suggest that you review the beneficiary designations on your IRA, 401(k) and life insurance policies to make sure these designations are still accurate in light of changes in your life – new spouse, new children and others. These designations are meaningful and can even supersede the instructions you might leave in your will or living trust. Consequently, it’s important for you and your financial advisor to share this information with your attorney. It can be challenging to meet all your financial objectives. But with the right team in place, and a quarterback to help lead it, you can keep moving toward those goals – and you might cut down on the “fumbles” along the way. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Water cleanup legislation making waves Last week, my legislation to streamline rules regulating Michigan’s Adopt-a-River and Adopt-a-Shoreline programs was approved unanimously by the Michigan House of Representatives. Michigan’s beautiful and abundant natural resources are a treasure that should be cherished and well maintained. When I took office, one of the first things I decided to look into were state programs and initiatives aimed towards those goals. To my surprise, I found that while the adopt-a-programs existed, they were essentially inactive. This was due in part to the confusion that ensued after the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality were combined into a single department, and then separated again, between 2009 and 2011. That confusion, coupled with a lack of clarity within the law, created an unfortunate situation where the Adopt-a-River and Adopt-a-Shoreline programs were not being administered by either state agency. To correct this issue, my office worked with the Department of Natural Resources to make a number of clarifications to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. My legislation clarifies that the Department of Natural Resources is specifically responsible for administering the programs, removes outdated language, and modifies the rest to create a more administratively workable statute. Many people are passionate about nature and are interested in doing their part to keep our waterways beautiful, yet they have not been able to take advantage of these programs. The reforms included in my legislation will fix that by giving both individuals and groups a great opportunity to volunteer by clearing litter from rivers and shorelines within Michigan state recreation areas. House Bills 5155 and 5156 were approved unanimously from the House Committee on Tourism and Outdoor Recreation, and passed the State House by a vote of 106-0.

Students participating in legislative process Last year, I was contacted by the CW Tech Robotarians about a teammate who suffered from undiagnosed vision problems for years. He was finally diagnosed with convergence insufficiency (CI), finished treatment for the disorder and is doing fine. CI is a vision disorder in which the eyes do not work together while focusing on a nearby object. Students with CI can struggle to concentrate and have difficulty reading. Standard eye tests do not always uncover disorders like CI. As a result, parents or teachers then suspect that a child has a learning disability instead of a vision problem. The CW Tech robotics team – made up of students from Watervliet, Coloma and other area schools – launched the CI Awareness Campaign last year to inform elected officials and school leaders about the condition and encourage them to implement CI screening in elementary schools. This week, the team visited the Capitol to testify in front of the Senate Health Policy Committee in support of Senate Bill 411, which I co-sponsored to require a comprehensive eye and vision exam for students who fail their grade school