06-15-2017 Columns

Financial gifts can help dad for years to come

 Father’s Day is almost here. Dad will probably like any gift you give him, of course, but this year, why not go beyond the ordinary? By presenting your father with an appropriate financial gift, you can bring him some benefits that can keep on giving.

For starters, how about a back-to-school gift for Dad? If you have children, you may already be familiar with 529 plans, which many parents use to help their children pay for college. But 529 plans have no age limits, so there’s nothing stopping you from reversing the usual formula and opening an account for your father. While 529 plans are commonly used to pay for four-year colleges, the money can also go toward most two-year community colleges and trade schools. So if Dad has a future interest in learning about anything from anthropology to auto repair, the 529 plan you’ve established can give him the gift of knowledge and enjoyment.

As the owner of a 529 plan, your earnings can accumulate tax free, provided they are used for qualified higher education expenses. (529 plan distributions not used for qualified expenses may be subject to federal and state income tax, and a 10% IRS penalty on the earnings.) Furthermore, if you invest in your own state’s 529 plan, you might be able to deduct the contributions from your taxes.

Here’s another suggestion: Help Dad reach a distant goal. For example, if you know your father will be retiring in, say, 10 years, you could give him some type of bond that matures just when he retires. During those 10 years, he will receive regular semiannual interest payments, and when the bond matures, he’ll get the original principal back. He can then use this money to help fulfill a long-held dream – perhaps one of traveling the world or even opening a small business. Whatever he decides to do with the money, it will make a nice retirement gift.

If you’re giving Dad a corporate bond, make sure it’s “investment grade,” which means it has received one of the highest ratings for safety from one of the major bond-rating agencies. Investment-grade bonds are generally the least likely to default. If your father is in one of the upper tax brackets, he might benefit from a municipal bond, whose interest payments are exempt from federal income taxes and possibly state and local taxes, too. (Some municipal bonds, however, are subject to the alternative minimum tax.)

Finally, you may want to help Dad plan his legacy. Although your father may be interested in what sort of legacy he will leave, he may not yet have taken any steps in this area – in particular, he might not have created a comprehensive estate plan.

You might consider giving your father some resources on estate planning, such as books or online articles. Better yet, though, consider setting him up with a consultation with a legal professional. It will take considerable time and effort to create the necessary documents, such as a will, a living trust, a durable power of attorney, and so on – and since the future is not ours to see, it’s best to take care of these tasks sooner, rather than later.

Father’s Day is just a blip on the calendar. But by giving Dad some valuable financial gifts, you can help brighten all his days.

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

Protecting children

 Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan package of legislation to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM). This legislation follows a February incident where a couple performed the procedure on two young girls who were transported from Minnesota to southeast Michigan. The procedure involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, often performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 14 to ensure their virginity until marriage.

The package increases penalties for those who perform and transport children for the procedure, requires training for law enforcement, and extends the statute of limitations for victims to sue for damages past age 18. Legislation I introduced provides victims of FGM the ability to receive significant civil damages including up to three times actual damages, non-monetary damages, cost, and attorney fees during a civil case. With the significant physical, emotional, and psychological impact this procedure can have, we need to make certain that the punishment for committing such horrible crimes is significant.

The House package is about protecting young children by taking a wide-ranging approach to preventing FGM, punishing those who commit these heinous acts, as well as giving victims a voice and civil recourse. All girls deserve the opportunity to grow into healthy women who do not have to endure the physical or emotional damage this procedure brings with it. With that goal, I was proud to work with my colleagues to address this issue quickly and effectively. This legislation will now move to the Senate for consideration.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. You can reach me by phone at 517-373-0839 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Raising awareness of the health issues facing men

 The top causes of death in American men are heart disease and cancer, and one of every six U.S. men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.

Although more than half of all premature deaths among American men are preventable, most men do not put a high priority on their own health.

For example, men are 24 percent less likely to go to the doctor than women, and even though a third of U.S. men have high blood pressure, less than half are doing anything about it.

June 12-18 is Men’s Health Week. It’s a time to raise awareness of the health issues facing men throughout our state and nation and to encourage all men to improve their health.

Regular exercise is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy and keep balanced. It can also give you the energy to meet any challenge and provide a positive example to children about the value of a lifetime of healthy habits.

Men’s Health Week is about promoting men’s health engagement, education and advocacy. It is also about knocking down the artificial barriers men put up and ensuring that men and their families throughout our state focus on their health.

As men, we focus so much on working hard to provide for our families, often ignoring signs of a health problem.

Nearly 35 percent of men age 20 or older are obese. During Men’s Health Week — and throughout the year — it is important that we stop the excuses and take the steps to improve our health. It is the best way to ensure that we will be there for our families for years to come.

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.

Jobs for Southwest Michigan

 Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee voted to advance a piece of a bipartisan legislation that is critical to jobs here in Southwest Michigan and across our state. H.R. 2430, the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, now heads to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives thanks to a 54 to 0 vote.

Without swift enactment of this legislation, the FDA will be forced next month to start laying off up to 70 percent of their employees that approve drugs and devices. Now that our groundbreaking, bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act is law, reauthorizing these FDA user-fee programs is an important next step to ensuring these jobs stay here in Michigan and patients across the country benefit from improved, life-saving therapies.

Also of great importance is that here in Southwest Michigan we have thousands of jobs that are affected by this legislation – whether on the device side at Stryker, the generics side at Perrigo, the manufacturing side at Pfizer, or the dozens of smaller biotech and manufacturing firms in our communities. Passing this legislation is vital to these good-paying, local jobs as well as to patients who will benefit from the new therapies it helps get to market.

Those who know me know that I have a long record of supporting jobs, medical innovation, research, and development of new drugs and devices. Let’s work together to get this legislation to the president’s desk so we can continue to get the job done for folks in Michigan and across the country.

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).

Men’s Health Month

 June is Men’s Health Month and a good time to remind men to take steps to be healthier, and that they don’t have to do it alone! Whether it’s your husband, partner, dad, brother, son, or friend you can help support the health and safety of the men in your life.

You can support the men in your life by having healthy habits yourself and by making healthy choices.

Eat healthy and include a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.

Regular physical activity has many benefits. It can help control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve your mental health and mood.

Set an example by choosing not to smoke and encourage the men in your life to quit smoking.

Help the men in your life recognize and reduce stress. Learn ways to manage stress including finding support, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.

Encourage men to see a doctor or health professional for regular checkups and to learn about their family health history.

The Berrien County Health Department can provide men with the preventative screening and wellness assessments that they need to stay healthy. At the Berrien County Health Department Men’s Health Clinic, men can get an overall health assessment, blood pressure check, testicular exam, reproductive counseling, HIV/STD checks, immunizations, and referrals or linkages to further care if needed. Call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 to schedule an appointment.

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