08-29-2019 Columns


Interested in fixed annuities?

Beware of common misconceptions Between your 401(k) or pension, your IRA and Social Security, you hope to have enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement lifestyle. Yet, you may want, or need, to find other financial resources – one of which might be a fixed annuity, which offers a guaranteed interest rate and can be structured to provide a lifetime income stream. But you may be nervous about investing in annuities because of some negative things you’ve heard about them. How concerned should you be? To help answer that question, let’s consider some common misconceptions about fixed annuities: “I won’t be able to touch any of my money if I need some of it before I retire.” A fixed annuity is designed to provide you with income during your retirement years. But if you want to withdraw a significant amount of your money before you retire – when your annuity is in what’s called the “accumulation phase” – you’ll likely face a surrender charge, as well as a 10% federal tax penalty. Withdrawals may also be subject to a market value adjustment. However, to access a small percentage of your allocated funds, you might not encounter any fees. And some annuity contracts allow a 10 percent withdrawal with no penalty. “Annuities cost too much.” Many annuities are actually low in cost. Be sure to compare the cost against the value of each additional guarantee, feature, and benefit—and only pay for what you need. “A deferred annuity isn’t worth the wait.” If you set up a deferred annuity, it’s true that you won’t immediately start receiving income. You will, however, be able to factor future expected payments into your retirement plan. “When I die, the insurance company keeps my money.” If your payout plan includes a beneficiary agreement, your beneficiaries will receive the remaining amount of money in the contract. Read the terms and conditions listed with an annuity, as they will spell out where the remaining money will go after you pass away. Of course, even if the above concerns are simply misconceptions, it doesn’t mean there are no issues about which you must be aware when considering fixed annuities. For one thing, the safety of your lifetime income stream and guarantees will depend on the claims-paying ability of the insurer that issued the annuity, so you’ll want to choose a company that has demonstrated financial strength and stability. One other concern about fixed annuities: They typically don’t carry a cost of living adjustment, such as that found in Social Security. You can find annuities that do offer some inflation protection, but this feature can reduce early payments significantly. If it’s appropriate for your situation, a fixed annuity can be a valuable addition to your retirement income. Before purchasing one, though, you’ll need to weigh all the potential benefits and issues. But don’t be swayed by misconceptions – you’ll want to base your decision on facts, rather than fears. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.


Local control

Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted a listening session at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor to gather public input for a report they are preparing for Congress. The report will provide recommendations on the formation of advisory panels that will help foster communication between a licensee and their local community during the decommissioning process. As the Vice-Chair of the Michigan House Energy Policy Committee, I had a statement read in support of the formation of local community-based advisory panels. As home to two operating nuclear power plants, Southwest Michigan is familiar with the benefits that these plants provide to our region in terms of economic activity and safe, clean electricity. Both Palisades and the DC Cook plant have made transparency and public engagement a priority, communicating regularly with state and local officials as well as maintaining an active presence in our community. Since announcing the 2022 closure of Palisades, Entergy has maintained active communication, public information sharing, and transparency. With the future formation of a locally-created community advisory panel, I expect that high standard and positive community partnership to continue. We are blessed to live in a nation united in the richness of our diversity and regional differences. Rather than proposing a nationwide model or procedure for the creation of these community advisory panels, they should reflect the values of the communities they serve. In the case of Palisades, a future advisory panel should be driven by municipal and county leaders, law enforcement, area school districts, county health officials, and appropriate state agency representatives. The NRC is still gathering input for their recommendation on how these advisory panels should be created. Opinions can be submitted by emailing the NRC at infocollects.resource@nrc.gov.


Suicide Prevention Awareness

If you or someone you know is going through a hard time and having suicidal thoughts or considering harming themselves, please know that there is a way out and help is available anytime, anywhere by calling 1-800-273-8255. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is an important time of the year to talk about mental health and the many resources and caring, helpful people available to provide help for those in need. During this month, it is important to talk about suicide and to remove the stigma that often walls in those who have been affected by it from speaking out. Sharing is caring, and so talking about suicide prevention and actions that can be taken to help save a life is important. Most people who are lost to suicide show warning signs, and according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, research shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks about their well-being in a caring way — that acknowledging and talking about suicide may actually reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts. During this month, but also throughout the year, talking about mental health and suicide, while difficult, can be beneficial to all of us. Even just one conversation can change a person’s life for the better. In Michigan, legislation that I support would create a commission to study the causes and underlying factors of suicide in our state. The commission would also provide recommendations for state coordination on suicide prevention data collection and a coordinated state approach to the prevention of suicide. If you are going through a hard time, or know of someone who is, reach out and talk. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers providing free, confidential emotional support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call 1-800-273-8255 today. For more information, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.


Immunizations for pre-teens & teens

As they get older, kids are at increased risk for some infections. The protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines begins to wear off, so kids are in need of a booster dose. The vaccines for preteens and teens can help protect your kids, as well as their friends, community and other family members. There are four recommended vaccines that preteens should get when they are 11 – 12 years old. If you have an older teenage child, they’ll need a booster dose of one of the shots. Plus it’s not too late to get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports physicals or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines for preteens and teens are: HPV vaccine for both boys and girls, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth/throat cancer, anal cancer and genital warts. Tdap vaccine, which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis, or whooping cough, can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies, and this can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly. Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord. Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. Talk with your doctor or a nurse at the Berrien County Health Department about the vaccines for preteens and teens. Your teens need you to continue protecting their health by getting them these important and life-saving vaccines. Learn more about immunizations at www.bchdmi.org.

A look back at Congress in 2019

Over the next two weeks I plan to share what Congress has been working on in 2019 and then preview what we plan to work on for the rest of the year. This week, I wanted to provide an update on some of the work we have done so far in 2019.

One thing I hear over and over from folks is the need to lower drug prices. We’ve been working on that. Earlier this year, the House passed legislation that increases transparency to help lower the costs of drugs for American families. This was a good first step, but we have more to do.

Protecting our Great Lakes has also been a top priority. I fought to restore critical funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and introduced legislation to extend this funding. I have also led bipartisan efforts to stop Asian Carp from getting into our Great Lakes.

We’ve also been delivering for our veterans. The VA Mission Act took effect this summer, which will deliver better quality health care to our veterans. I also cosponsored the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to expand health care for our brave Vietnam veterans.

These are just a few of the items we’ve worked on. Next week I’ll share what Congress plans to work on for the remainder of the year.

To learn more about other important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

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