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 vision screening or who are identified as struggling readers. It is critical to learning that students have clear vision or schools and parents have a plan for helping or treating children with vision issues. Catching and treating children’s vision problems early can help improve academic performance and enhance their quality of life. It also could help save families and schools the costs of unnecessary medical care and special education. I thank the CW Tech Robotarians for contacting me about this issue and for all their efforts in support of their teammate and all Michigan students.

Bipartisan bill to keep our athletes safe This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to advance S. 534 the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation was passed by a vote of 406 to 3. This bill amends the Child Abuse Act of 1990 to require athletic governing bodies, such as USA Gymnastics, and individuals who interact with our amateur athletes to report any suspected abuse. Any individual who interacts with amateur athletes would be required to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours. If they fail to do so, they will be held accountable by law. Our young athletes should be focused on training, competing, and winning – not sexual predators or heinous acts of abuse.

The crimes committed by Dr. Larry Nassar are heartbreaking and intolerable. We must ensure something like this can never happen again. Unfortunately, under current law, amateur athletic governing bodies are not required to promptly report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. This is unacceptable. This bill will ensure when reports of abuse are made, they are investigated fully. This bipartisan bill will help keep our amateur athletes safe and it’s time to send it to the president’s desk. Time’s up for those wishing to prey on our young athletes.

To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Have you heard of norovirus? You may hear norovirus illness called “food poisoning” or “stomach flu,” but noroviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause inflammation of the stomach or intestines, also known as gastroenteritis. This leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness. CDC estimates that each year in the United States norovirus causes 19 to 21 million illnesses, 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations, and 570 to 800 deaths. Anyone can get infected with norovirus, and you can get it more than once. It is estimated that a person will get norovirus about five times during their lifetime. Norovirus outbreaks occur throughout the year, but over 80% of reported outbreaks occur from November to April.

Norovirus spreads extremely quickly. It is found in the vomit and bowel movement of infected people. You can get it by: Having direct physical contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, caring for or shaking hands with an ill person and then touching your hands to your mouth. Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus. Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth.

People with norovirus illness are most contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill and for the first few days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer. There is currently no vaccine available to prevent norovirus infection or drug to treat sick people. You can help protect yourself and others by following simple tips to stay healthy: Practice proper hand hygiene; handle and prepare food safely; clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces; wash laundry thoroughly; always clean up the entire area immediately after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea. It will help keep others from getting sick from norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better in 1 to 3 days.

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