12072016Wed
Last updateWed, 07 Dec 2016 3pm

Food & Wine

Chocolaty character of stout beers blends spicy, sweet ingredients

Chocolaty character of stout beers blends spicy, sweet ingredients


photo Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Aged coffee beans join beer in Modern Times’ bourbon barrel stout.

Dark beers like stout highlight flavors reminiscent of coffee and chocolate, resulting in a great canvas for brewers to blend nontraditional in...

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Your Health

El Camino Hospital expands mental health treatment options

El Camino Hospital expands mental health treatment options


Asher Kohn/Town Crier
Shovels in hand, Dr. Peter Fung, from left, El Camino Healthcare District board chairman; Russ Satake, El Camino Hospital Foundation board chairman; donors Donna and John Shoemaker; State Sen. Jerry Hill; and Assemblyman Rich ...

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Your Home

Holidays by design: Los Altos company provides  seasonal decorating service

Holidays by design: Los Altos company provides seasonal decorating service


Megan V. Winslow/ Town Crier
Amy Fischer of Spectrum Interior Design decorated Los Altos resident Katie Beers’ living room for the holidays last week.

Don’t worry if you have no time to shop for unique holiday decor, decorate Christma...

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On The Road

The Yellowstone experience

The Yellowstone experience


Photos by Gary Anderson/special to the Town Crier
The Andersons’ recent bus tour included stops at Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Geyser.

With winter approaching, it’s a good time to start planning next summer’s fa...

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Senior Lifestyles

Making beautiful music together: Foothill Symphonic Winds inspires members of all ages

Making beautiful music together: Foothill Symphonic Winds inspires members of all ages


Photos by Megan V. Winslow/ Town Crier
Members of the ensemble rehearse at Blach Intermediate School.

Something special happens Wednesday nights at Blach Intermediate School. Seventy or so people ranging in age from 18 to 85, of varied backgroun...

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Wedding To Remember

Got a wedding singer? Musicians and engaged couples work in tandem to orchestrate perfect night

Got a wedding singer? Musicians and engaged couples work in tandem to orchestrate perfect night


Courtesy of Dick Bright
Dick Bright, a veteran Bay Area musician, manages local bands such as the Dick Bright Orchestra, Club 90 and Encore. His bands ramp up the energy at weddings.

A wedding soundtrack draws nearly everyone to the dance floor....

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Your Kids

Back to School

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?


Courtesy of Hollis Bischoff
This chart compares the rate of Early Decision acceptances with the overall acceptance rate at various colleges.

As students apply to an ever-increasing list of schools, colleges are challenged to predict accuratel...

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Education IRAs aren't just for kids' college anymore

By now, you might have heard that beginning in 2002, you can contribute up to $2,000 annually to an Education IRA, compared to the current $500 yearly maximum. What many people aren't aware of is that recently passed tax-reform legislation greatly expands what you can spend this money on.

Previously your Education IRA could only be used to pay for college expenses. Beginning in 2002, you can tap these funds tax free to pay for a gamut of qualified school-related expenses not only for college but also for private and public primary and secondary educational institutions. Qualified expenses may include: computer equipment and software (no games) used by the student and other household members for educational purposes; Internet service used by the student and other household members for educational purposes (e.g. research for a term paper); tutoring; school uniforms; books and school supplies; transportation; room and board and tuition; and extended-day school programs.

By paying these and other education-related expenses with your Education IRA, you pay no taxes on your withdrawals, which gives you more buying power.

For example, if you contributed the $500 maximum to an Education IRA this year for your newborn child and then contributed the $2,000 maximum next year and every year until your child turns enters kindergarten, you could potentially accumulate $15,465 at an 8 percent annual compounded rate of return.

That money can be withdrawn tax free, which is a much better deal than if you had saved that money in an interest-bearing savings account and then had to pay taxes on the interest you earned.

Consider using a combination of an Education IRA and a 529 college savings plan if you want to save for your children's college and primary and secondary school education. The 529 plans can only be used for college expenses, but the Education IRA could be available to pay for school-related expenses until college. However, unlike other savings plans such as Education IRAs, anyone at any income level can contribute to a 529 plan.

Beginning next year, 529 plan withdrawals also will be federally tax-free. In addition, U.S. residents can participate in any state's 529 plan and set up accounts for their children, grandchildren, friends or even themselves. But keep in mind that each state's plan may invest your contributions differently and levy its own costs and fees. Be sure to shop around for the 529 plan that best fits your needs.

Education IRAs and 529 plans are a one-two punch that is hard to beat. With college expenses increasing faster than inflation, parents need all the help they can get. Your financial consultant can help you determine which savings plan, or combination, is the best strategy for you.

Steve Zeller is a financial consultant with A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., member SIPC, 379 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto 94301. For information, call 326-5010.

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