09-14-2017 Columns

Protect three key goals with life insurance

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. And “awareness” is an appropriate designation, because many people remain unaware of the many ways in which life insurance can help families meet their key financial goals. Here are three of the biggest of these objectives, as seen through the eyes of a hypothetical couple, Jim and Joan:

Pay off mortgage – Jim and Joan have a 30-year mortgage. If one of them dies well before that mortgage is paid off, could the other one afford to keep making payments to remain in the house with the children? It might be quite difficult – many families absolutely need two incomes to pay a mortgage, along with all the other costs of living. At the very least, the death of either Jim or Joan would likely put an enormous financial strain on the surviving spouse. But with the proceeds of a life insurance policy, the survivor could continue making the house payments – or possibly even pay the mortgage off completely, depending on the size of the policy and other financial considerations.

Educate children – Higher education is important to Jim and Joan, and they’d like to see both of their young children eventually go to college. Of course, college is expensive: For the 2016-17 school year, the average cost (tuition, fees, and room and board) was about $20,000 for in-state students at public universities and more than $45,000 for private schools, according to the College Board. And these costs are likely to continue climbing. Jim and Joan have started putting money away in a tax-advantaged 529 savings plan, but if something were to happen to one of them, the surviving spouse might be hard pressed to continue these savings at the same level – or at any level. But the proceeds of a life insurance death benefit could be enough to fund some, or perhaps all, of the college costs for Jim and Joan’s children.

Provide for family’s future – Jim and Joan’s future income is their most valuable asset as they continue working. However, an unexpected death could leave this dual-income family with a single income that may not cover all financial obligations and retirement contributions – or even preserve the family’s current lifestyle. Life insurance could help cover these needs. Plus, the death benefit to the family may be tax-free.

Clearly, a life insurance policy could allow Jim or Joan to continue on with life, despite, of course, the devastating emotional loss of a partner. But how much insurance should they own? You might read that most people need a death benefit of seven to 10 times their annual income. This might be a good starting point, but everyone’s situation is different. You should consider all factors – including liabilities, income replacement, final expenses and education – to get an accurate picture of how much insurance is appropriate. A financial professional can help you with this calculation.

During Life Insurance Awareness Month, take some to time review your insurance situation. You may already have some life insurance, but it’s a good idea to review your coverage to make certain the amount and type of insurance is still appropriate for your needs. As we’ve seen, the right coverage can make a huge difference in the lives of your loved ones.

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

Edward Jones is a licensed insurance producer in all states and Washington, D.C. through Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P. and in California, New Mexico, and Massachusetts through Edward Jones Insurance Agency of California, L.L.C., Edward Jones Insurance Agency of New Mexico, L.L.C., and Edward Jones Insurance Agency of Massachusetts, L.L.C.

Infant Safe Sleep

The month of September is Infant Safe Sleep month and a good time to recognize that infant deaths due to unsafe sleep are a leading cause of death among babies less than one year old in Michigan. From 2010-2014, there were 712 sleep-related infant deaths, or a rate of 1.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Sadly, Berrien County has a sleep-related infant death rate of 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births – far greater than the overall rate in Michigan.

Sleep-related infant deaths are those where the sleep environment was likely to have contributed to the death, including deaths due to SIDS, SUIDS, and suffocation. Babies can easily suffocate while sleeping in adult beds, sharing a bed with an adult or child, sleeping on furniture, and sleeping with pillows, cushions, and blankets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants: Sleep in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable crib with a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet; sleep on surfaces separate from adults or other children free of blankets, pillows, or toys; be placed on his or her back for sleep every time.

Besides safe sleep practices, other factors that may decrease the risk of sleep-related infant death include: breastfeeding, pacifier use at sleep time, and caregiver avoidance of smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use while caring for an infant.

Other recommendations include encouraging supervised “tummy time” to help your baby build strong neck and shoulder muscles. Also, make sure everyone caring for your baby knows these guidelines, including babysitters, friends, and family members.

There are many resources available to the general public, parents, families, professionals, and caregivers of infants. Parents, professionals, and more can visit www.michigan.gov/safesleep for more information.

REAL ID-compliant licenses

Michigan residents now have the option of applying for a driver license or ID card that will allow them to board flights and enter federal facilities in compliance with recent changes in federal law. These cards prevent illegal copying or altering and protect against fraud by requiring people to verify their identity, residency, Social Security number and citizenship or legal presence when applying for a card.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will not allow Michigan residents carrying a driver’s license or ID card that does not comply with the federal REAL ID Act to board domestic flights, or enter federal buildings, nuclear plants or military bases unless they have another accepted identity document. Without a card accepted by the federal government, Michigan residents will face the inconvenience and extra expense of having to get a passport or another accepted document to fly or visit federal buildings.

Michigan enhanced driver license are already REAL ID-compliant so cardholders do not need to apply for a compliant card.

Serving the people of Berrien County is very important to me, and I encourage residents to contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.replasata.com.

Please contact my office if I can assist you in any way, or if you have a great idea to help move our state forward.

Frank J. Kelley Justice Award

I was recently honored to receive the Frank J. Kelley Justice Award from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) in recognition of my dedication to public safety.

I felt truly blessed and humbled to receive this honor from Michigan’s prosecutors, who work hard every day to protect our families, punish offenders and support victims.

PAAM president and Iron County Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Powell presented me with the tribute. It is PAAM’s highest award and is reserved for those who have devoted themselves to serving crime victims and improving the justice system.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said, “John is certainly deserving of this award. He has shown considerable legislative leadership in the area of public safety. Law enforcement appreciates his continuing efforts to make our state a safer place.”

I was proud to partner with our prosecutors to enact comprehensive reforms that create a smarter and more effective criminal justice system that results in safer communities and reduced costs to taxpayers.

The restorative justice reforms we achieved will help lower recidivism and ensure that public safety is always the top priority. They represent a fundamental shift from simply punishing criminals to correcting bad behavior and rehabilitating offenders.

Roughly 90 percent of Michigan’s 42,000 prisoners will eventually return to our communities, which makes the effective rehabilitation of our prisoners critically important.

A key purpose of our reform was to focus our justice system on using proven, data-driven approaches to better measure what works best to treat prisoners so they can successfully be reintroduced into society.

I greatly appreciate the dedication of our prosecutors and their recognition of our work to help improve safety and break the cycle of crime.

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.

Action and transparency needed on Line 5 pipeline

This week, I sent a letter to Enbridge urging action and improved transparency as it related to the Line 5 pipeline, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac. I sent the letter after the news that the State of Michigan had ordered Enbridge to restore a protective coating on parts of Line 5.

In the summer of 2010, we learned the hard way in Southwest Michigan the price of gross negligence when it comes to maintaining pipeline infrastructure. It cannot be allowed to happen again and certainly not in the Great Lakes. In that regard, I wrote Enbridge to request timely information about their pipeline safety and integrity management activities relating to Line 5. I am deeply concerned by recent information confirming gaps in the protective coating on a portion of the pipeline, especially given Enbridge’s acknowledgement that construction activities may have caused or contributed to loss of coating. These most recent findings raise serious concerns about their actions and compliance with pipeline safety laws and regulations necessary to ensure public health, safety, and the protection of our natural resources.

Under my chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to strengthen pipeline safety laws to require more stringent, risk-based inspections of Line 5.  My provision in the law requires Enbridge to conduct internal inspections annually, and other types of inspections, such as route surveys, pressure tests, and external corrosion assessments, on a schedule based on the significant risk that the pipeline poses to the Great Lakes and surrounding areas.

Given the threat that a loss of protective coating presents to the safety and integrity of the pipeline, I urged Enbridge to conduct repairs immediately. The Great Lakes are a precious natural resource for our state and a spill would be catastrophic with immediate and long-term harm. I expect immediate action and improved transparency when it comes to issues with Line 5.

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).

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