07-27-2017 Columns

Financial moves for “Empty Nesters”

When your children leave home and you become an “empty nester,” you’ll probably make several adjustments in your lifestyle. But how will your empty nest status affect your financial situation?

Everyone’s story is different, involving a range of variables. But here are a few issues to consider:

Insurance – If your kids are through school, your mortgage is nearly paid off and your spouse has accumulated a reasonable amount of money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may not need life insurance to replace income or pay off debts. However, you might start thinking about other goals, such as ensuring your savings will last your lifetime or leaving a legacy to your loved ones or a charity. Life insurance may be able to help in these areas.

Downsizing – Deciding whether to downsize your living space isn’t just a financial decision – it’s also a highly personal one. Still, downsizing can offer you some potential economic benefits. For one thing, if you still are paying off your mortgage, a move to a smaller place could free up some of your monthly cash flow, which, again, you could use to boost your retirement accounts. Furthermore, if your home has greatly appreciated in value, you might make a sizable profit by selling. (If you are single, you may be able to exclude $250,000 of the gain on the sale of your home; married couples may have a $500,000 exemption. Some restrictions exist on this exemption, though, so you’ll need to consult with your tax advisor before selling.)

Estate plans – Years ago, you might have made various arrangements in a will or a living trust that dealt with taking care of your children if something should happen to you and your spouse. For example, you might have established a trust and directed it to make payments to your children at certain times and for certain purposes, such as education. But once your children are grown and have left your home, you may need to review and update your estate plans.

Keep in mind, though, that “empty nester” status is not always permanent. You’ve no doubt heard about “boomerang” kids who return home after college and stay until they can afford a place of their own.

If your children become “boomerangers,” even for a short while, will it greatly affect your financial situation? Probably not; however, if your children are going to drive your car, you may want to be sure that they are listed on your car insurance. Also, if they are going to bring guests to your home, you might want to consider an “umbrella” insurance policy, which typically provides you with significantly greater liability protection than your regular homeowner’s policy. (In fact, it may be a good idea to purchase an umbrella policy even if you don’t have grown kids at home, as this coverage offers you wide-ranging protection from potentially devastating lawsuits that could arise from injuries on your property or through an auto accident in which you are involved.)

You may have mixed feelings about becoming an empty nester, but, like most people, you will adjust. And by making the right financial moves, you can get off to a good start on this new phase of your life.

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

Youth and marijuana

Although marijuana use among youth poses a risk to health, nationally only one in five adolescents perceive it as such. According to a recent report, approximately 1.8 million youth in the U.S. reported using marijuana in the past month.  Health risks associated with youth marijuana use include poorer education/employment outcomes, cognitive problems, increased likelihood of vehicle crashes, and increased addiction risk.

The Drug Enforcement Agency warns against marijuana concentrates, often referred to as “oil,” as a substance containing highly potent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana). THC levels in this oil could range from 40 to 80 percent, which is about four times stronger than what is found in a “high grade” marijuana plant. Oil can also be mixed into other products or with other drugs including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine (PCP), creating an even stronger psychoactive response. It is also commonly added to sweet drinks and foods like brownies or gummies that appeal to youth, which can lead to high levels of exposure and can have toxic consequences when accidentally ingested. The consumption of edibles, vaping of oils and mixing with other drugs create increased potency and may place a youth at a point of crisis from overdose.

Although more data are needed on the impact of marijuana concentrates, it is clear that in order to prevent use by youth, public education and awareness of the potential health risks are critical.

To learn more about how the Berrien County Health Department is working to educate youth and community members on the dangers of addictive substances, like marijuana oil, visit www.bchdmi.org.

Making progress on your priorities

As I talk with people in our community, they often tell me they expect better roads and more school funding. I’m proud to say we have taken action to address these priorities, and others, during my first six months representing you in Lansing.

Next year’s budget includes record levels of education funding and puts more money directly into classrooms, where it does students and teachers the most good. The budget also includes more money to fix crumbling roads and bridges that make travel difficult for all Michiganders.

In addition to increasing funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs by one-third, the House approved my legislation to help expand career opportunities in the skilled trades. The bill would allow students to complete at least three courses in any combination of 21st Century Skills in order to graduate. This includes foreign language, visual or performing arts, computer science or coding, or a CTE program. We must give students greater flexibility to meet graduation requirements and explore opportunities that line up with their career aspirations.

The opioid epidemic also continues to be a concern statewide. In an effort to combat the problem, I introduced legislation to increase education on the risks of opioid and prescription drug abuse, which the House approved in June. We have a duty to our youth to ensure they are properly educated about the risks and potential for dependence when using opioid medications.

While we have accomplished much in the first part of this legislative session, I will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf. I know that by working together we can make Michigan an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any concerns or ideas to discuss.

If you have any questions about this, or any other state government issue please call me toll-free at 800-572-6212.

U.S. House approves my bipartisan energy security legislation

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance a bill I sponsored, H.R. 3050, the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2017, by a unanimous vote.

H.R. 3050 would enhance the energy emergency planning requirements established in 1990 with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to strengthen the capability of states to secure the energy infrastructure of the United States against physical and cybersecurity threats and mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions. Specifically, it would provide federal financial assistance to states, like Michigan, to implement, review, and revise State-level energy security plans.

Here in Michigan our energy infrastructure must be prepared for a wide variety of hazards including floods, tornadoes, storms, snow, fuel supply disruptions, physical and cyber threats, and other catastrophic events. It’s been 25 years since we’ve properly addressed energy security planning and it is past time for a legislative update. Our common-sense, bipartisan solution will directly help states like Michigan deal with these ever-evolving threats.

Our bill creates new tools to keep energy supply, transition, and infrastructure such as our electric grid and pipelines secure in the case of an unforeseen emergency. I look forward to the U.S. Senate taking up our bill and getting it to the president’s desk.

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).

Supporting improved access to Michigan’s great outdoors

We are blessed to have world-class natural resources and numerous outdoor activities in Michigan that help make our state such a great place to live and raise a family.

The Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) was formed more than 40 years ago to improve access to our great outdoors. It invests restricted funds into creating vibrant parks and outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights and has invested more than $1 billion over the past four decades to develop and improve recreational options in all 83 Michigan counties.

I was proud to support area projects this year that will give residents and tourists increased access to outdoor recreation, including finalizing our portion of the 34-mile Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail, connecting three local parks and two trailheads in Eau Claire, connecting Watervliet to Lake Michigan on the Paw Paw River Water Trail and helping St. Joseph County increase recreation on the St. Joseph River.

This is on top of a project last year to help Cass County develop a new water trail on the Dowagiac River with expanded access to exceptional fishing, kayaking and camping.

A great way to have fun with family and friends is to get outdoors.

That is why I am proud to support the efforts of the NRTF to better utilize our wonderful natural resources and create new recreation opportunities here in our local communities and throughout our state.

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.

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