11-21-2019 Columns

Share your bounty with family As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s meaningful to reflect on the origin of the holiday – Native Americans and pilgrims sharing their bounty of food with each other. As you gather with your loved ones this year, perhaps you can think of ways to share not only your dinner, but also your financial bounty. In terms of bounty-sharing, here are some suggestions you may find helpful, no matter your age or that of your children: Make appropriate gifts. If you have young children, you may want to get them started with a savings account to help them develop positive financial habits. You could even make it a Thanksgiving tradition to measure how their accounts have grown from year to year. But you can go even further by starting to fund an education savings vehicle such as a 529 plan. This account can provide valuable tax benefits and gives you total control of the money until your children are ready for college or trade school. Other education-funding options also are available, such as a custodial account, commonly known as an UGMA or UTMA. If you have grown children, you could still contribute to a 529 plan for your grandchildren. Develop – and communicate – your estate plans. While you may want to be as generous as possible to your loved ones during your lifetime, you may desire to leave something behind as part of your legacy. And that means you will need to develop a comprehensive estate plan. Such a plan will allow you to express your wishes about where you want your assets to go, who will take care of your children if something happens to you, how you want to be treated should you become incapacitated, and other important issues. Your estate plan will need to include the appropriate documents and arrangements – last will and testament, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and so on. To create such a plan, you may need to work with a team of professionals, including your financial, tax and legal advisors. And it’s essential that you communicate the existence and details of your estate plan to your loved ones. By doing so, you can help them know what to expect and what’s expected of them to help avoid unpleasant surprises and familial squabbles when it’s time to settle your estate. Solicit suggestions for charitable giving. Sharing some of what you have with charitable or community organizations will also help fulfill the spirit of Thanksgiving. And you can make it a family affair by asking your loved ones which groups they would like to support. Not only will you be helping a worthy cause, but you’ll also be teaching your children about the value of money – in this case, the ability to use money you’ve saved to help make a positive contribution to society. By sharing your bounty with your loved ones and your community on Thanksgiving, you’ll help create a more memorable holiday for everyone. So, be generous, be creative – and be prepared for how much satisfaction you can get from your actions. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

Paying dividends For decades, Lansing politicians have tried and failed to reform our broken auto-insurance system. Earlier this year, after months of negotiations and committee hearings, the Legislature and the Governor passed a historic bipartisan auto-insurance reform law that will benefit every single Michigan driver. When the bill was signed into law, people were skeptical about receiving the benefits that were touted by supporters of reform. After all, politicians have come to their doors and promised to lower car insurance rates year after year without success. Last week, news broke that the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association will be slashing their annual fee by 55% for the coming year! Before insurance reform passed, you could certainly count on seeing your insurance rates and this fee going up every single year. Under Michigan’s new insurance law, divers who choose to keep their unlimited lifetime medical coverage will go from paying $220 per year to only $100 per year. Those who choose lower limits for medical coverage may avoid the fee altogether. This is the first of many dividends that will pay off for Southwest Michigan drivers as the new insurance law begins to take effect. The new auto insurance law fully takes effect in July of 2020 and ends Michigan’s status as the only state in the nation that mandates unlimited lifetime personal injury protection coverage. The new law also mandates savings on the PIP portion of the insurance premium, which can make up 50% of a driver’s total insurance bill. The number one issue I heard about from people in our community was the need to reform our broken auto-insurance system. I’m proud to have delivered on a promise I made to Southwest Michigan residents and look forward to continued savings for Michigan motorists. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

Let’s work together to resolve budget mess Last month the governor cut almost $1 billion from the state’s new budget through 147 line-item vetoes and $600 million more from priorities through a rare administrative transfer process. These cuts are starting to have an impact, as Michigan schools have missed scheduled payments, sheriff departments are planning layoffs, foster care programs are preparing to shut down, and college students are being denied scholarships mid-semester, to name a few. As chairwoman of the Senate’s Universities and Community Colleges Appropriations Subcommittee, I am hearing firsthand accounts of the impact the governor’s cut to the Michigan Tuition Grant program, a need-based scholarship, is having on college students and families in Southwest Michigan. Locally, the governor’s veto immediately hit 102 Andrews University students, leaving them each $2,400 short for the academic year. Statewide, 16,983 students — including over 6,000 first-generation college attendees — and more than 200 military veterans will be affected by the cut to the tuition grant program. This is unfortunate, for one, because the governor’s initial budget proposal included funding for this grant program. But it is also unfortunate because of the long-term financial and economic implications this may have. Thousands of college students may need to take on student loan debt without the grant program or may even be forced to leave school. Graduates with student loan debt will be spending more of their wages to pay it off, rather than reinvesting their earnings in our economy. Similarly, those who make the tough decision to leave college without this financial assistance may end up in lower-paying careers that limit their long-term earning potential. I support efforts to make state government more efficient and fiscally responsible, but the governor’s funding cuts from important and effective programs and services that keep Michigan competitive, like the Michigan Tuition Grant program, are only hurting people. I am hopeful the governor will reverse the administrative transfers she made, and I stand ready to work together on a budget supplemental bill that will restore funding to the Michigan Tuition Grant program, the Jobs for Michigan Graduates program, and so many others that were impacted by the governor’s vetoes. This is a problem that can only be fixed by working together, which is what I believe you, the people of Michigan, hired us to do. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

Food safety during the holidays

Food is as much a part of holiday gatherings as football, candles and carols. This holiday season keep food safety in mind every step of the way, including proper planning, safe shopping, working in the kitchen and wrapping up leftovers. Plan right: Make sure your kitchen is equipped with what you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for storage, paper towels and soap. Store foods in the refrigerator at 40°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer. Shop smart: It’s important to keep food safety in mind as you shop. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t purchase bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Bring foods directly home from the grocery store and refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Stay safe: Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with an expiration date. Reheat leftovers to 165°F, and do not eat expired foods as this could lead to food poisoning. For more information, contact the Berrien County Health Department at (269) 926-7121, at www.bchdmi.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

Enough is enough – Let’s work together to prevent violent crimes Last week, another community in our nation fell victim to a mass shooting carried out by a heartless and evil individual. Those who commit these violent acts often show some sort of warning or pattern of concerning behavior before committing violence. That is why I have signed on as a cosponsor of the Threat Assessment, Prevention and Safety (TAPS) Act – H.R. 838. This bipartisan legislation would provide our law enforcement the tools needed to track down those warnings so we can stop violent acts before they occur. They would accomplish this by implementing behavioral threat assessment and management units similar to the processes used by the U.S. Secret Service. It’s been proven to work to protect federal office holders, and now we should use it to protect our schools, families, and local communities. Enough is enough. We need to work together in a bipartisan manner on legislation that will protect our neighborhoods from violence. In addition to this bill, I have supported other commonsense measures, like red flag laws. School safety and protecting our communities are far too important to let politics get in the way of solutions, so I hope to see both parties come together on ideas that we can actually get signed into law. 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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