09-08-2016 Columns

Investing in Your Future


Make the most of gifts to grandchildren

 Did you know that National Grandparents Day is less than a week away? While this “Day” is not as widely known as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, it is nonetheless important, as it recognizes the key role that grandparents play. If you are a grandparent yourself, you might expect some cards or phone calls or emails from your own grandchildren – but you will probably experience even greater enjoyment in the gifts you can give them. If you are thinking of making a financial gift, consider your options carefully.   To begin with, do not forget about your own needs. As much as you love your grandchildren, you cannot afford to provide significant financial gifts to them at the expense of your own retirement savings or the resources you might need for health care or long-term care. So, review your budget to determine what you can afford to give. This amount may change year by year, depending on your circumstances, so you may want to review your potential gifts annually.  However, assuming you can afford to give regularly to your grandchildren, how should you go about it? Here are a few possibilities: Establish a 529 plan  A college degree is a very good investment in your grandchildren’s future – but higher education comes with high costs. If you want to help your grandkids go to college, you could establish a 529 plan. Earnings in a 529 plan can grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college. Plus, you may receive state tax incentives if you invest in your home state’s 529 plan. However, if withdrawals are not used for higher education expenses, the earnings portion is fully taxable and will incur a 10% penalty.  Keep in mind, though, that a 529 plan could affect your grandchild’s financial aid. While a 529 plan owned by a grandparents generally will not be reported as an asset under the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), withdrawals used for school will be treated as student income on the next year’s FAFSA, and so could lower your grandchild’s financial aid package. So you could wait for your grandchild’s final year of college, when he or she will not be applying for future financial aid, before you allow withdrawals from the 529 plan. You may want to discuss a 529 plan’s potential financial aid impact with a financial aid professional.  Tax issues for 529 plans can be complex. Please consult your tax advisor about your situation. Edward Jones, its financial advisors and employees cannot provide tax or legal advice Contribute to a custodial account  You can give money to your grandchildren through a custodial account, known as UGMA or UTMA. These are irrevocable gifts that minors gain control of at the age of majority. Be aware, then, that once they get the money, they can do with it as they choose, and their choices may be far different from what you had intended.  Pay college bills directly  You can simply write a check to the college to help pay for your grandchild’s expenses.  By making any of these gifts, you can help your grandchildren move forward through life — and their journey can provide you with the gifts of pride and joy.  This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

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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 is important to create a communication plan to help you and your loved ones connect and get help.Step 3: Be informed! It is 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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On Thursday, Sep. 8 at the State Capitol, Berrien County law enforcement will take center stage as Sheriff’s Department Chaplain Brian Hall delivers the invocation and we honor first responders around Michigan.  Each year we invite local first responders to a special ceremony as part of a September 11th service.  Sheriff Paul Bailey will be part of the day as well, and the Legislature will honor the memory of court bailiffs Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle, who were assassinated on July 11th.  We will honor all of Michigan law enforcement as part of this day of remembrance. Fifteen years ago on September 11th, most of us remember where we were.  I remember hearing the initial reports on the radio, and then not being able to work much the rest of the day.  As a former news reporter, I was glued to the coverage and the images.  But it was the range of emotions that stick with me; first disbelief; then anger; and finally sympathy for the victims of a senseless act of mass murder.  And then the stories started to emerge – more than 400 first responders were killed as they rushed in; they sprinted up the stairs; they saved countless people they had never met.  As it says in John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Fast forward to 2016 and we have protests in the streets calling for violence against police officers.  Officers are ambushed on the streets in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and social media is full of anger and vitriol.  But today and every day, they hug their kids, kiss their spouses, and head out the door to protect and serve.  On Sunday, September 11, an event will be held at Lake Michigan College called the Berrien County Strong Memorial Run/Walk.  Let us send a message from our corner of the world that we love and respect the people who protect us.  Let us never forget. As always, if you have questions or concerns about state government call us at 888-656-0079 or e-mail at alpscholka@mail.house.gov.

Remembering the heroes and victims of 9/11

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 Fifteen years ago, on September 11, we saw one of the greatest losses of life in our history. It is a testament to our nation’s resolve that when our liberty is attacked, we come together to meet that challenge. I encourage all Southwest Michigan families to honor the lives of those we lost at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon and in the fields of Pennsylvania. I will be attending two ceremonies on Sep. 11 this year. I will be attending the 16th Annual Ride to Remember at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Dowagiac. I will also be participating in the Remembrance of 9/11 Commemoration Service at the Buchanan Commons. We will always remember the United 93 passengers who acted to prevent further tragedy and those who ran into the twin towers to save lives — often at the cost of their own. Our Southwest Michigan community recently lost two honorable officers. Chief Bailiff Joseph Zangaro and Bailiff Ron Kienzle were killed during the Berrien County Courthouse shooting in July. They lost their lives protecting the public, and my thoughts and prayers remain with them and their families. At the time of the incident, I was at my district office and saw the heroism of our first responders. We are indeed blessed to have such outstanding men and women ready and willing to respond at a moment’s notice. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and Sheriff Chaplin Brian Hall will join me at the Capitol on Sep. 8 as I present a memorial statement in the Senate regarding the shooting. 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.

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 Last week, I was in Flint, Michigan, after being invited by my colleague, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint. We were able to tour the city and talk with some of the wonderful folks in the community who are fighting to fix this heart-wrenching tragedy. We met with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Michigan State Public Health, toured a Genesee County Mobile Health and water/food distribution center, and observed a water-testing demonstration at a Flint home. We all know that what happened in Flint was unacceptable at all levels. This is why we need to continue to work together to make right the situation in Flint. From the start, I have been a committed partner in making sure that the mistakes that led to this crisis is never repeated, and that the people of Flint are not forgotten. In fact, in February the House of Representatives passed a bill authored by Rep. Dan Kildee, and myself, which was cosponsored by every member of the Michigan Congressional Delegation that will ensure consumers cannot be kept in the dark about potentially harmful lead levels. It also makes certain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfils its fundamental duty to warn the public of high lead levels. Working in a bipartisan manner, our focus remains on helping Flint families who still need clean water, access to health care services for years to come, and mental and physical development help for their children. We are not going to let up, as the families of Flint cannot be forgotten. That is what our trip was all about: Making sure we are still shining a spotlight on what needs to be done. We have come a long way indeed, but we should continue to work together – Republicans and Democrats – for folks in Flint and across our great state. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov.