Monday, May 22, 2017

A prayer for Manchester

Manchester, England, Photo from Wikicommons
As I watch the evening news and see the reports of people killed and injured at an Ariana Grande concert, my heart aches for the people of Manchester, England this evening.

May all of the angels and saints in Heaven join in welcoming home those 19 souls who had to leave this world before their time. May the families and loved ones that they were forced to leave behind know comfort and peace during this troubling hour.

May Saint George the Dragon Slayer and Martyr, Patron Saint of all England, watch over and guide those affected by this horrific act of terrorism. May God's eternal blessing be upon those who are opening their hearts and homes to help others during the darkest night that many will ever know.

Amen.

Volunteers needed to help Detroiters avoid foreclosure

Home in Warrendale - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Each year thousands of Detroit residents face property tax foreclosure. The United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) will conduct door-to-door outreach for those Detroit residents facing foreclosure to direct them to resources, payment plans, and counseling services designed to save their home.

We are asking for volunteers to join UCHC and commit to five hours of door to door canvassing to help at risk Detroiters save their home. UCHC will provide all volunteers with training to be able to go out and canvas according to their own schedules.

Previous canvassing experience is preferred, but not required to volunteer. Interested candidates should email Michele Oberholtzer at moberholtzer@uchcdetroit.org by May 26 to sign up.

For more information on UCHC, please visit http://www.uchcdetroit.org/.

3 Tips for troubleshooting your "sugar belly"

Poor wheat.

It seems the golden grain has lost much of its luster, thanks to the gluten-free movement (now a $16-billion-dollar-a-year industry) and a broad-brush bashing that has painted it as the latest food demon.

“Wheat has been found guilty without a fair trial,” says Dr. John Douillard, a former NBA nutrition expert and author of “Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back into Your Diet” (www.LifeSpa.com).

“The grains you choose are critical to keeping your blood sugar stable, your weight down and your heart healthy.”

There’s plenty of evidence that wheat isn’t the monster that best-selling books like “Grain Brain” and “Wheat Belly” make it out to be, Douillard says.

“Whole wheat extends life, reduces the risk of dementia by 54 percent, and in study after study prevents the onset of Type 2 diabetes,” he says. “The science shows health risks only with refined and processed kinds of wheat.”

Other culprits include artificial sweeteners and a culture that encourages constant snacking, Douillard says, which can lead to what he calls “sugar belly.”

“In general, processed foods are quicker to be broken down into sugar, or glucose, which enters the bloodstream faster than whole foods,” he says. “Excess sugar in the blood will trigger the release of excess insulin, which converts and stores the sugar in the form of unwanted fat and damaging cholesterol particles.”

It’s leading to the “world’s next great epidemic,” Douillard says, a combination of diabetes and obesity he calls “diabesity.”

A balanced and rebooted digestive system should be able to easily process foods like wheat and dairy, Douillard says. Here are his tips for troubleshooting your sugar belly:

  1. Monitor your blood sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, carry extra weight around the hips or belly, or you’re finding that you’re becoming intolerant to certain foods, try using an over-the-counter glucometer. It could help you determine which foods or stressors are spiking your levels.
  2. Start checking labels. The “Nutrition Facts” will tell you the amount of sugar that is naturally occurring in that food, plus any sugar added in processing. Get in the habit of comparing the sugar content in the products you purchase.
  3. Stop grazing. Between-meal snacks have become a must for kids, and many adults believe eating six small meals a day is a metabolism booster that will help them lose weight. Neither is true, Douillard says. Fat burns efficiently, given a chance, and grazing actually gets in the way.

Douillard isn’t downplaying the devastation of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. But, he says, the push for gluten-free products and diets has gotten out of hand.

“Yes, some people feel bad when they eat wheat,” Douillard says. “But in most cases, it’s because of a breakdown of the digestive system as a result of a diet of processed foods and pesticides. Taking foods out of the diet won’t fix that, it just kicks the real problem down the road, leaving folks at risk for more serious health concerns.”

These tips on nutrition are brought to you by Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our Tip of the Week feature. Please check back next week for more advice for your home, money, and life.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Clean up Warrendale on May 20

Motor City Makeover, 2008 - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The annual Motor City Makeover project will come to the Warrendale neighborhood on Saturday, May 20 from 10 am - 2 pm. This is part of an ongoing effort to clean up Detroit
This event is organized by the Warrendale Community Organization, the Warrendale South Radio Patrol, and Warrendale Warriors Radio Patrol. It will focus on Stout between Tireman and Belton.

Onsite registration will happen across from 8059 Stout. A light lunch and water will be provided for volunteers.

Everyone is invited to come out and participate. The more volunteers there are, the more can be accomplished.

Is it time to convert to a Roth IRA?

Financial markets
Illustration by Silven Milev
Retirement can open up a whole new way of life for Americans ready to bring their working years to an end, but at least one thing doesn’t change. The IRS keeps a watchful eye on your income – including whatever amount you’re pulling from the IRA or 401(k) that you spent decades building into a nice, hefty nest egg.

Uncle Sam has been waiting for years – possibly decades – to tax that money because the deposits you made were pre-tax, meaning you weren’t taxed on the income you contributed to the accounts.

That tax-deferral system works well – until retirement time arrives and you need the money.

 “When you defer taxes, eventually it catches up with you,” says Gary Marriage Jr., chief executive officer of Nature Coast Financial Advisors. “Suddenly, your IRA or 401(k) isn’t worth as much as you thought because every withdrawal you make potentially can be taxed.”

But there’s an answer and, with President Donald Trump and Congress looking at tax cuts, now would be the time to take advantage, Marriage points out.

Those traditional IRA and 401(k) accounts can be converted to a Roth IRA, which isn’t taxed when withdrawals are made. That doesn’t mean you’ll avoid the taxes, Marriage says because you’ll pay them when you make the conversion. But when you reach retirement, you’ll be able to make withdrawals the rest of your life tax-free.

“Taxes are about to be on sale,” Marriage says. “Over the next four to five years, your tax bracket is probably going to be as low as it ever will be.”

He says some facts worth knowing about Roth conversions include:

  • Space out the conversion. Most people wouldn’t want to take the tax hit all at once, and you don’t have to. You can transfer the money into a Roth in increments over the course of a few years. So if, for example, you space out the conversion over five years, then the tax is spaced out over five years as well. A few factors determine how much you can convert the first year, but Marriage says about 40 percent of the people he has worked with were able to convert half of it in the first year.
  • The age to do it. A conversion can be done regardless of the account holder’s age, but Marriage says it’s his experience that people 59 ½ to 74 benefit the most.
  • Start with a Roth if possible. Some employers now offer a Roth 401(k) as an option. Employees should take advantage of that, Marriage says. They won’t get to defer their taxes on the portion of their income they contribute to the account, but the interest grows tax-free and they’ll avoid taxes come retirement time.
Marriage says he recently did a conversion for a client where he had calculated that if the client lived to be 90, they would have paid nearly $1 million in taxes on IRA withdrawals.

“Switching to a Roth lowered that to $200,000,” he says. “I know that still sounds like a lot, but I’d rather pay $200,000 than nearly $1 million.”

These tips on a Roth IRA conversion are brought to you by Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our Tip of the Week feature. Please check back next week for more advice for your home, money, and life.

Upcoming events for Detroit's Rouge Park

The Friends of Rouge Park will have their next general meeting tomorrow evening from 6 - 7 p.m. The meeting will happen at the Don Bosco Center (9356 Westwood), which is just north of the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit.

During this meeting, the group will discuss a variety of items impacting Rouge Park. Anyone interested in the future of the largest park in Detroit is welcome to attend.

In addition, there are a series of other events coming up soon in and around Rouge Park in Detroit. This includes an annual cleanup effort known as Rouge Park Appreciation Day/Rouge Rescue on Saturday, May 20 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. as well as:

  • Scout Hollow Bird Walk on Sunday, May 21 at 8 a.m.
  • Scout Hollow Teacher Workshop on Saturday, June 10;
  • Splash party and movie night on Friday, July 21;
  • Stay fit for health run/walk on Saturday, July 22;
  • Joga and jazz on Sunday, July 23; and
  • Butterfly and prairie walk on Saturday, July 30 at 2 p.m.
Additional details about each of these other events will be posted on this blog as they draw closer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Study shows minorities pay higher insurance premiums

Lloyd's of London - Photo by Charis Tsevis
A recent study has shown that consumers in predominantly minority neighborhoods pay as much as 30% more for auto insurance as do others in similar accident costs. This study was published by ProPublica, an independent, investigative journalism outlet that has won multiple Pulitzer Prizes.

In conducting their research, ProPublcia looked at premium and claim payouts in California, Illinois, Texas, and Missouri. They identified insurance claims in different areas.

Once they identified predominately white neighborhoods that had ones that had the same level of insurance claims as predominately black or Latino neighborhoods, they compared the premiums that consumers in those neighborhoods were charged. In each instance, the predominately white neighborhoods paid less for auto insurance than their minority counterparts with the same claims history.

The full text of this report on the auto insurance industry is available here. The methodology and source of information behind this study are explained in more detail here.

The Insurance Information Institue, a trade group for the insurance industry, disputes the findings from ProPublica in an op-ed available here. The insurance industry argues that ProPublica did not use the correct information in their analysis. This is true.

Of course, it's also true that the data that the insurance industry says that should be used for an analysis like this is not publicly available. ProPublica used the closest proximity to the ideal information from that data is available.

This brings me to two important conclusions.

  1. More information ought to be available publicly. It's impossible for any discussion or debate to happen when only one party in the conversation has reliable data. As it currently is, with only the insurance industry have detailed data, it creates an environment that is ripe for abuse.
  2. There needs to be more review done on an independent basis. The fact that a difference in prices paid among predominately white and predominately minority neighborhoods is this consistent across states and insurance carriers clearly demonstrates in my mind that something is amiss and someone needs to look into independently.

People have argued that auto insurance premiums had a racial component to them for years. This adds at least a little bit of additional credibility to those arguments.