02-07-2019 Columns

Financial gifts for Valentines… of all ages Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. This year, consider going beyond the flowers and chocolates and think about providing financial-related gifts to your loved ones of all generations. Here are some gift possibilities to consider: For your spouse or partner – Your income – both today and in the future – may be essential to the ability of your spouse or partner to maintain his or her lifestyle and even to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Consequently, you need to protect that income and be prepared to replace it. So, why not use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to review your disability and life insurance? Of course, you don’t have to evaluate your insurance needs and add new coverage all in one day, but the sooner you act, the more you can relax in the knowledge that you’ve helped give your spouse or partner a more secure future. For your children or grandchildren – If you want your children or grandchildren to go to college or to receive some type of technical education that can help them launch a good career, you may want to provide some type of financial assistance. And one education-funding vehicle you might want to consider is a 529 college savings plan, which offers tax advantages and high contribution limits. Plus, it gives you, as owner, considerable flexibility – you can always change beneficiaries if the child or grandchild you had in mind decides not to go to college or a technical school. (Be aware, though, that a 529 plan can have financial aid implications, so, at some point, you will want to discuss this issue with a financial aid counselor.) Another financial “gift” you could give to your children is a bit more indirect, but possibly just as valuable, as a 529 plan – and that’s the gift of preserving your own financial independence throughout your life. If you were to someday need some type of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay or regular visits from a home health aide, you could find the costs extremely high. Medicare typically pays few of these costs, so you will likely need to come up with the funds on your own. You can go a long way toward protecting yourself from these expenses – and avoid having to burden your grown children – by purchasing long-term care insurance or some type of life insurance with a long-term care provision. For your parents – One of the best gifts you can give to elderly parents is to help make sure their estate plans are in order. This is never an easy topic to bring up, but it’s essential that you know what responsibilities you might have, such as assuming power of attorney, to ensure that your parents’ plans are carried out, and their interests protected, in the way they’d want. Toward this end, you will need to communicate regularly with your parents – and if they haven’t drawn up estate plans yet, you could arrange for them to meet with the legal, tax and financial professionals necessary to help create these plans. Just as the definition of “love” is broad enough to include all the people most important to you, so is the range of financial gifts you can give your loved ones. Start thinking about these gifts on Valentine’s Day – and beyond. Edward Jones is a licensed insurance producer in all states and Washington, D.C., through Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Focusing on accountability Two concerns that I frequently hear in the community are that our car insurance is too high, and that our state government is not as transparent as it should be. My colleagues and I are working on addressing both of these issues. Last term, we attempted to reform no-fault insurance. I voted in favor of legislation to give drivers a choice on how much coverage they want to pay for and to prevent cost inflation in hospitals. These changes, among others, would have resulted in significant rate reductions. Unfortunately, the House failed to approve this solution. This year, with new bills already introduced and a House committee created specifically to focus on this issue, my colleagues and I are committed to finding a way to address one of our state’s biggest problems. We owe it to everyone who has brought this concern to our attention to work tirelessly to reduce rates and relieve families of this unreasonable financial burden. Bipartisan legislation has again been introduced in the Michigan House that ensures taxpayers more access to public records. The bills will subject the Governor and Lt. Governor to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and create the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) to bring transparency to the Legislature. This is a common-sense approach to shining light on public servants and public records. Last term, this legislation passed unanimously in the House, but failed to pass the Senate. It is my hope that this legislation will become law and make state government more open and accountable to the people. I look forward to continuing to work on issues that are important to the people of Southwest Michigan. Please reach out to my office if I can ever be of assistance. You can reach my office toll free at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Drive slow on ice and snow Southwest Michigan families know well that winter driving is simply a part of being a Michiganian. But by following a few simple yet important driving tips, we can all help ensure we reach our destinations. The Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) each have a lot of knowledge and experience about safe winter driving and together offer a helpful list of reminders and tips. First, it is important to make sure our vehicles are properly maintained and ready for winter driving. Ensuring tires have good tread and are properly inflated will help improve traction. Clearing windows, mirrors, headlights and taillights of snow and ice will give you the best possible visual advantage. Keeping an emergency kit inside a vehicle could also be advantageous in the event you become stranded. Once your vehicle is ready, make sure you are too. Take the time to plan out your route and factor the weather forecast and road conditions to make sure you have enough time to get where you’re going. MDOT’s MI Drive website is a great resource that features interactive tools, including a map of current conditions, slowdowns, and closures. It even features live video from plow trucks as they work.

When it comes to driving on snowy or icy roads, maintain a vehicle speed that is conducive to the road and traffic conditions. This means drivers should slow down to a controllable speed, keep further distance from the car in front of you, and brake sooner before approaching a curve, turn or stop. Michigan winters can be unpredictable, so the more prepared we are the better we can meet those unavoidable driving challenges. For more information on winter driving, visit www.michigan.gov/msp and www.michigan.gov/mdot. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the important issues facing Southwest Michigan. You can reach me at 517-373-6960 or SenKLaSata@senate.michigan.gov.

American Heart Month Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with an average of 600,000 Americans dying from heart disease every year. Some people are at greater risk than others for a heart attack. It may be due to such uncontrollable factors as having a family history of heart disease or due to other diseases such as diabetes. Most of the risk factors, however, are lifestyle choices that can be changed. Those risk factors include leading a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, being overweight/ obese and excessi