09-06-2018 Columns

Consider financial gifts for your grandchildren National Grandparents’ Day is observed on September 9. If you’re a grandparent, you may get some gifts or cards – or maybe even a phone call! But you might feel that it’s better to give than to receive, especially when it comes to your grandchildren. And you can make a real difference in their lives by making a financial gift for their future. For starters, think about your grandchildren’s education. If college or some type of vocational school is in their future, you may want to help them meet some of the costs, which can be considerable. One common education-savings vehicle is a 529 savings plan. With this plan, earnings on withdrawals are tax free, provided they are used for qualified education expenses. (Keep in mind that 529 savings plan distributions not used for qualified expenses may be subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% IRS penalty on the earnings.) You also may be eligible for a state income tax incentive for contributing to a 529 savings plan. Check with your tax advisor about these incentives, as well as all tax-related issues pertaining to 529 savings plans. A 529 savings plan’s contribution limits are quite generous. And, as the owner of a 529 plan, you have flexibility in choosing where the money goes – if your grandchild decides against college or another type of advanced education, you can transfer the plan to another beneficiary. And due to recent tax law changes, the scope of 529 plans has been expanded to include qualified withdrawals of up to $10,000 for tuition expenses per year per beneficiary at public, private or religious elementary or secondary schools. Be aware, though, that a 529 savings plan could affect any financial assistance your grandchild might receive. Although a 529 plan owned by a grandparent won’t be reported as an asset on the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), withdrawals from the plan are treated as untaxed income to the beneficiary (i.e., your grandchild) — and that has a big impact on financial aid. So, you may want to contact a financial aid professional about the potential effects of any gifts you’re considering. A 529 savings plan isn’t the only financial gift you could give to your grandchildren. You also might consider giving shares of stock, possibly held in a custodial account, usually known as an UTMA or UGMA account. However, you only control a custodial account until your grandchildren reach the age of majority as defined by state law, at which time they take it over. They then can use the money for whatever they want – and their plans may not have anything to do with books or classes. Still, your grandchildren might be particularly interested in owning the stocks contained in the custodial account – many young people enjoy owning shares of companies that make familiar products. And your gift may even get your grandchildren interested in long-term investing. No matter what type of financial gifts you give to your grandchildren, make sure you keep enough money to pay for your own needs. It’s important to balance your personal savings needs with your desire to be generous. Giving financial gifts can be rewarding – to you and your grandchildren. Consider exploring some possibilities soon. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Investing in students As a teacher, I know the importance of making investments in our classrooms. As students across Southwest Michigan head back to class, they are supported by a record investment from the state. I’m committed to leaving a better Michigan to our children and grandchildren, and we are steadily adding resources to help fulfill that commitment. In my two years in the House, I’ve voted to bring an additional estimated $11.4 million directly into the school districts I help represent. Decatur Public Schools, for example, will have received an estimated $274,079 in additional basic foundation allowance money over this two-year period. South Haven Public Schools will have added more than $700,000 over two years, and Parchment School District, where I once taught, is in line to receive an estimated $580,000 in additional basic foundation allowance over this two-year period. That translates to $360 more per student for the three school districts – including $240 more per-student for the new school year — and it does not count money allocated for at-risk students and other programs. Michigan’s commitment to education goes well beyond the basic foundation allowance. The state is also allocating $100 million statewide for the Marshall Plan for Talent, designed to expand and improve skilled trade career opportunities for students. School safety also is a high priority with $25 million set aside statewide for grants to improve building security, plus additional resources to expand the successful OK2SAY school safety tip reporting system. Overall, Michigan is committing $14.8 billion to the education budget in the upcoming year – more than a quarter of the total state budget. These are important investments in our children’s futures and the future of our state. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Remembering the lives lost on 9/11 On September 11, 2001, we saw one of the greatest losses of life in our history. Yet, out of the sadness, smoke and ash we emerged strong and united. America is the home of the free and a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world. When our liberty is attacked like it was on 9/11, we come together to meet that challenge. Although the tragedy of 9/11 will forever be etched in our minds, it will also forever be a day that reminds us that our freedom and way of life are worth defending. I encourage all area residents to join me in paying tribute to the brave first responders who showed extraordinary courage during 9/11 and to say thank you to the outstanding local heroes who are ready and willing to respond at a moment’s notice. I will be attending 9/11 remembrance services this year in Benton Harbor and Buchanan. We will always remember the selfless United 93 passengers who acted to prevent further tragedy and the fearless first responders who ran into the twin towers to save lives — often at the cost of their own. We will also always remember the two officers who were killed two years ago as they protected the public at the Berrien County Courthouse. My thoughts and prayers remain with them and their families. I urge that we look forward with optimism, knowing that if we each do our part, our country and the world will be a better place. To our firefighters, police officers and soldiers who protect our communities and nation every day, I commend you for your dedication and service and give you my heartfelt appreciation. 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.

Grant to help combat opioid crisis announced for Southwest Michigan Last week, I was pleased to announce the White House Drug Policy Office awarded coalitions in Allegan and Kalamazoo two Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program grants to emphasize youth opioid prevention. The Allegan County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was awarded a $125,000 grant which will go to the Allegan County Community Mental Health Services. The Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force was awarded a $125,000 grant which will go to Prevention Works, Inc. In fact, I recently hosted an Opioid Listening Session in Kalamazoo at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine that included representatives from Prevention Works, Inc., where I was able to hear how opioids are impacting lives here in Southwestern Michigan. These two grants will make a direct impact as we work together to help kids in our community make better decisions and prevent substance and opioid abuse. We must continue to make combating the opioid crisis a bipartisan priority. To learn more about my work to combat the opioid abuse epidemic, please visit my website: upton.house.gov/opioids. 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).

National Emergency Preparedness Month Many people are concerned about the possibility of a public health emergency such as a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or disease outbreak. You can take steps now to help you prepare for an emergency and cope if an emergency happens. To help you prepare, here are step-by-step actions you can take beforehand to protect yourself and your loved ones. Step #1: Get a kit! Put together an emergency supply kit so that you will be prepared in case something happens. You should have emergency kits for your home, office, school, and vehicle. The basics are water (one gallon per person, per day), non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlight, battery powered or hand crank radio, medications, sanitation supplies, cell phone chargers, and important family documents and contact information. Step #2: Make a plan! Planning what to do before a disaster strikes provides the best protection for you and your family. Because you and your family may not be together when a disaster hits, it’s important to create a communication plan to help you and your loved ones connect and get help. Step #3: Be informed! It’s important that you and your family know what to do before, during, and after an emergency. This means understanding what emergencies are likely in our area and specific ways to respond to each one. You should also understand the ways you can get information about potential threats, such as through text alerts, emergency sirens in your community, or other methods For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department website www.bchdmi.org or Facebook www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

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