March 27, 2017
The U.S. is a very benevolent nation when it comes to charity. Many people, however, struggle with making decisions about charitable giving. We often have conversations with clients about philanthropy. Sometimes we’re asked about giving amounts in relation to a saving base or help with creating a family philanthropic statement. Sometimes this work involves researching worthy causes to support based on the client’s philanthropic goals. Supporting charitable causes can be an annual gift or a more permanent gift serving to build the charities long-term endowment.
One of the striking things about charitable behavior is that both rich and poor feel the need to give. I have often seen the homeless put money into a church offering plate. It is apparent that folks really want to give, and they want their gifts to have meaning and impact.
Charity is defined as the voluntary act of giving help to those in need. That means, of course, that charity covers both the gift of time and the gift of money. In our busy lives, where time is so precious, those that choose to allocate their time to a cause are making a considerable sacrifice. Some “donors” focus on spending their energy and effort to make charities work, but, for many, the contribution to a charitable organization’s success is the gifting of their financial resources.
Frequently we have discussions with clients who would like to give more, but they are looking for help to develop a framework for their giving. We are all aware of the household names that do wonderful work but what about smaller, more local groups. These groups might need help more urgently, and a donation might have greater impact. Once we move away from established national organizations there is often some question about the stability and effectiveness of a charity. Nobody wants to give money only to see it being wasted.
A well known billionaire, when asked how he made all his money, responded quickly and concisely: “When I needed experts I hired experts and I always hired the best I could find”. We have long counseled clients in helping them develop strategic giving plans to meet their philanthropic goals. Some of the plans are developed to enable the involvement of the entire family, and might entail the creation of a foundation. For others, it might just mean helping source causes that match a giver’s passion. In providing this support we tap into outside groups which specialize in the non-profit sector. These specialists can provide information that assists in the identification of charities that matter to the donors.
If you do not have a strategic plan for your giving, maybe this could be the year that you begin to develop one to complement your overall estate and financial plan.
March 20, 2017
As the great migration west gathered pace in the second half of the 19th century, families joined wagon trains, and, with all their worldly possessions on board, they set out in search of a better future. Always vulnerable to attack, the wagon trains would “circle up” at night to form an outer ring of crude protection. This circling of the wagons not only afforded protection, but created an area for cooking, eating, resting and socializing. This development of a sense of community was critical for survival as the migrants formed bonds which helped make sure they looked out for each other. Like many places in the world, these early migrant families in America were often multi-generational groups who lived very closely together. A family unit would often consist of three generations whose lives, and welfare, were fully intertwined.
Over time the development of settlements facilitated progress and opportunity, and gradually the numbers of extended family units began to fall. Modern families are often scattered to the wind, with family members all over the country, and even the world. The encouragement of children to get educated, and develop their own successful lives, has often resulted in them moving far away from home if that was needed to pursue opportunity. As a result, many families feel themselves lucky if they see one another once a year. Recent conversations with some of my clients show some discomfort with the apparent inevitability of a “family diaspora”.
Priorities change throughout our lives. Clearly the goals of a 30 year old have evolved by the time that person reaches 60. We have a normal tendency in our youth to be caught up in our education and careers. By comparison the older generations often wish that their family was closer to one another. Part of the reasons for this change is likely because age brings an increasing recognition of the value of time, and a desire to spend more of that precious time socializing with family. In addition, a growing sense of mortality leads to a greater awareness of the benefits of family taking care of one another.
I have said many times that the real estate developer that comes up with the model that meets Baby Boomers’ needs for retirement living will make a lot of money. Perhaps a “family centric” model is worth considering. Instead of encouraging our family members to go to the far corners of the earth, what would happen if one option provided a more family concentrated solution, with each family member making a long term strategic commitment to stay closer together. I know it is a radical idea, and will not make sense for many. With each passing day, however, I get the feeling that we are on a path which will lead to many of us taking on even more responsibility to look after ourselves. What better way to do this than through a strong and loving family living close together.