05-10-2018 Columns

Mother’s Day financial gifts for your adult children

Mother’s Day is almost here. If you’re a mother with grown children, you might receive flowers, candy, dinner invitations or some other type of pleasant recognition. However, you might find that you can get more enjoyment from the holiday by giving, rather than receiving. The longest-lasting gifts may be financial ones – so here are a few moves to consider: Contribute to your child’s IRA. If your children have earned income, they are eligible to contribute to an IRA, which offers tax benefits and an almost unlimited array of investment options. You can’t contribute directly to another person’s IRA, but you can write your child a check for that purpose. This could be a valuable gift, as many people can’t afford to contribute the maximum yearly amount, which, in 2018, is $5,500 or $6,500 for those 50 or older. Give gifts of stock. You know your children pretty well, so you should be familiar with the products they buy. Why not give them some shares of stock in the companies that make these products? Your children will probably enjoy being “owners” of these companies, and if they weren’t that familiar with how the financial markets work, having these shares in their possession may greatly expand their knowledge and lead to an even greater interest in investing. Donate to a charity in your child’s name. You might want to donate to a charitable organization that your child supports. In years past, such a donation might have earned you a tax deduction, but the new tax laws, which include a much higher standard deduction, may keep many people from itemizing. Still, it’s possible for a charitable gift to provide you with a tax benefit, depending on your age. If you’re 70-1/2 or older, you must start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan, but by moving the withdrawal directly to a qualified charitable group, the money won’t count as part of your adjusted gross income, so, in effect, you can get a tax break from your generosity. Review your estate strategy. Like virtually all parents, you’d probably like to be able to leave some type of legacy to your children, and possibly your grandchildren, too. So, if you haven’t already started working on your estate strategy, consider using Mother’s Day as a launching point. At the very least, you’ll want to write your will, but you may need much more than that such as, a living trust, a durable power of attorney and other documents. And don’t forget to change the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement accounts if you’ve experienced a major life change, such as divorce or remarriage. These designations are powerful and can even supersede whatever instructions you might have left in your will. As you can guess, estate planning can be complex, so you almost certainly will want to work with a legal professional to get your arrangements in order. Mother’s Day is a good opportunity for your children to show their love for you, and you can do the same for them by helping bolster their long-term security through financial gifts and legacy planning. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Improving safety for students and patients

The House recently rolled out a new plan to improve school safety across the state. The plan would establish a School Safety Commission to review safety procedures in Michigan schools and provide more resources for security improvements in school buildings. The commission would evolve from a gubernatorial task force charged with making school safety recommendations and developing a system to audit safety procedures. Grants to improve security would be distributed with priority going to schools with the greatest need. The plan also calls for increased exposure of Michigan’s OK2SAY program, which allows confidential reporting of tips on potentially harmful or criminal activity directed at students, school employees or school buildings. The system helps distribute important information to law enforcement, mental health service programs and others. It’s making a difference in schools, and creating an environment free from bullies, safety threats or issues that could result in self-harm. Local schools, law enforcement and other groups helped immensely in developing school safety legislation. We will continue to work with them and all the other groups committed to improving school safety as this plan continues to advance. Additionally, a bipartisan reform plan introduced in the House was developed in light of the heinous behavior by former Michigan State University doctor, Larry Nassar. Engaging in sexual misconduct under the guise of medical treatment or examination is despicable, and Michigan Legislators are sending a strong message that such behavior is not only morally wrong, but also criminal. The plan modernizes existing state law to protect both male and female patients who are violated, and strengthens the penalties for the crime. A violator can now be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison in addition to permanent revocation of their medical license.

Last week, it was announced that the unemployment rate has hit a 17-year low at 3.9 percent. This report shows an expanding economy – which was our goal when we passed pro-growth, pro-American tax reform. The good economic news continues as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approved Michigan’s application for Opportunity Zones. Michigan is one of only 18 states to be approved and the first set of cities and townships throughout Michigan has 24 designations here in Southwest Michigan alone. Opportunity Zones were included in the landmark tax legislation that was signed into law late last year. The idea of this program is to identify areas that are lagging behind in business and job growth and offer targeted tax benefits for reinvestment into economic projects – like local startups or affordable housing. The tax benefits hinge on the length of the investment to ensure long-term, sustained, and local development. We’ve already seen huge benefits from tax reform. Folks are seeing higher paychecks, lower utility bills, and job growth. Now, with Opportunity Zones we have a chance to help our small businesses even more and create local jobs. 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).

Honoring our fallen police officers

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe and respond in times of crisis. Sadly, last year 129 of these brave men and women never returned home. In 1962, to salute the dedication and sacrifice of police officers and their families, Congress established May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week on which it falls as National Police Week. Next week, May 13-19, communities across Southwest Michigan and the nation will unite to remember officers who were killed in the line of duty, as well as the family, friends and fellow officers they left behind. The names of 360 officers will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., including 129 officers killed in 2017 and an additional 231 officers who died in previous years. The newly engraved names will be read during a poignant candlelight vigil on Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. Residents can watch a live webcast of the vigil at www.UnitedByLight.org. In Berrien County, the annual memorial service in St. Joseph’s Lake Bluff Park on May 15 at noon will honor the officers who lost their lives serving our community. Remembering our fallen officers is a great reminder of how blessed we are to have such amazing, selfless officers in Michigan. I encourage residents to thank our outstanding law enforcement officers for all they do to make our state and communities safe. God bless them and keep them safe. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.

Friend of Public Health 2018

The Berrien County Board of Health, staff from the Berrien County Health Department, Berrien County Commissioners, other elected officials, and dozens of community partners honored law enforcement agencies serving Berrien County as the recipient of the 2018 Friend of Public Health Award. The Berrien County Health Department has a long-standing tradition of honoring worthy recipients, either an individual or organization, for their outstanding contributions to the health of the community while reflecting the spirit of the Berrien County Health Department’s mission and its population based approach to health status enhancement. Margaret Kohring, Berrien County Board of Health Chair, said, “It was the unanimous feeling and vote of the entire Board of Health that no other entity in the Berrien County community more deserved to receive this year’s Friend of Public Health Award.” Law enforcement agencies serving Berrien County have been long-standing partners of public health, but in recent years have taken more actions to display their commitment toward advancing community health and wellness through their policing approach. They have focused on proactive efforts to protect the safety of the community, coordinated with organizations across the community for a larger impact, and started to look upstream at root causes of public safety issues in order to approach problems from a new angle. Nicki Britten, Berrien County Health Department Health Officer said, “Both law enforcement agencies and public health are concerned about the well-being of the community. With shared values and goals, there is a strong foundation for productive partnerships in preventing disease, protecting health, and promoting an optimal quality of life for all.”