Provision #310: Plan Your Giving

Laser Provision

Does your portfolio include a section for giving? If not, you may be missing an important part of both money management and life purpose. Without planned giving, most people do not give well. Some end up taking more than they give. Others end up giving without making an impact. Planned giving will avoid these eventualities and awaken your passion for life.

LifeTrek Provision

First, I want to call your attention to this week’s Reader’s Forum, Go There, where I include an extensive reply from a reader who worked hard to add value to last week’s Provision on Planned Savings. I appreciate this kind of in-depth Reader Feedback, and look forward to more such lively exchanges. Thanks.

Second, I want to begin this week’s Provision on planned giving with a quote from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the French physician, philosopher, and humanitarian made famous by his work in Africa after a storied career as a student of science, music, and theology.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be,” Schweitzer observed to a group of graduates, “but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found ways to serve.”

In that vein, no discussion of optimal financial well-being or wealth would be complete if it did not include an in-depth discussion of giving. We are not in this world simply to do the best we can for ourselves. We are in this world to do the best we can for one and all.

What a huge shift this provokes in our relationship to what is often called our time, talent, and treasure. Instead of a narrow self-interested focus, we end up with a broad life-interested focus. Instead of concluding that we have barely enough to survive, we start postulating that we have more than enough to thrive. Instead of wondering what the world can do for us, we start exploring • to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy • what we can do for the world.

This shift, and its profound effects, is documented in last December’s issue of Worth magazine (Click). Worth magazine was founded in 1992 “to provide successful, affluent Americans with fresh insight and intelligence that will help them better manage, enjoy and share their wealth. The magazine reflects the strong belief that money is simply a means to an end: a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.”

From that vantage point, it’s understandable that Worth magazine would feature articles on money management and investment strategies as well as what they call “the softer side of money” such as “best-in-class vacations, connoisseurship, second homes, driving experiences, and personal style.”

It may surprise you, however, to learn that “the softer side of money,” as part of what Worth magazine calls “well-rounded wealth,” has also come to include “giving well” or “innovative benevolence.” It hasn’t, apparently, always included such perspective. It was only last October that Worth magazine started a monthly profile of one or more of America’s most innovative benefactors. And then in December they featured a cover article on the “25 Most Generous Young Americans,” all under the age of 46.

The opportunity, as the Editor-in-Chief notes in his opening remarks, is to recognize giving as an important part of money management and to encourage Americans to be even more generous than we are already. “What concerns me,” he writes, “is that Americans give away less than 2 percent of their annual household incomes. So consider this a clarion call to step up to the plate and give.”

Fortunately, the magazine’s 25 featured benefactors are not all rich and famous. In fact, if Worth magazine had simply been looking for those who gave the most money, the task, they note, “would have been easy. But generosity also means giving time, having compassion, and being willing to devote creative energy to endeavors that don’t bring personal fame or fortune.” So they attempt to feature those who gave well of their time, talent, and treasure • painting a clear picture that giving applies to one and all.

I like the fact that many of their top 25 were not necessarily featured because of the total dollar figure that they personally gave away, but because of their sustained commitment to giving over time combined with their significant impact in the world. The causes were as varied as the personalities, from health care to education to social justice, but in every instance there was the singular devotion of one passionate person.

What’s your passion? Are you expressing it fully in the world? If not, you may want to take advantage of Kate’s offer for some vocation coaching later this month (Go There). And you may discover that a deep understanding of your vocation will unearth some new personal and professional directions.

On occasion, the personal and professional coalesce in an amazing synergy of purposeful action. That is what I like about coaching. Every time I get off the phone with one of my clients, I know that I have given myself to the process of moving someone forward in their life and work. It is at once gratifying and stimulating.

More often than not, however, the personal and professional diverge in a kaleidoscope of colors and forms. What we do at work may not relate to our true passion, except that our various interests and pursuits are all being done by the same person. How we understand this kaleidoscope impacts our energy for life itself. Without understanding, the spirit withers and dies. With understanding, our actions grow like a snowball rolling downhill. We love life and come to make an enormous difference in the world.

One of the simplest techniques to become more involved with giving, is to plan it out. Plan how much money you are going to give away on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Plan how much time you are going donate. Plan how to use your unique gifts and talents in order to add joy, justice, and generosity both to your life and to the lives of others.

All this planning requires that you first identify your core frameworks and proficiencies. In other words, how do you see the world and how do you want to plug in? Many find that their giving gets crystallized by some life-changing event or circumstance. Whenever I participate in the Race for the Cure, which raises money to fight breast cancer, I am struck by the pink shirts of those who are walking or running in memory of someone who has died from the disease. Sometimes it takes a trauma to generate a giver.

Others find that their values are enough to get them motivated and going. Still others find that it takes family, friends, or communities of interest such as religious organizations and self-help groups. One of the benefactors featured in Worth magazine was drawn into giving when his 8-year-old daughter asked what he did all day. Whatever it takes, the key is recognize that your money management is not all it’s meant to be without the inclusion of planned giving.

I know I, for one, review my portfolio of giving on a regular basis and encourage you to do the same. Whether it’s private giving to individual persons or public giving to charities, organizations, and causes, you can make a real difference in the world when you become more of giver than a taker.

Coaching Inquiries: What does your portfolio of giving look like? Do you give regularly as a reflection of your values or do you give only as need and opportunity arise? What could you do to enhance your giving? How might life be better if you were more of a giver?

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

I enjoy your newsletter, but, I think your financial advice needs some tuning. My particular expertise is in Information Technology in the Financial Industry for 35 years. During that time, some stuff (i.e., data, information, knowledge, and perhaps some wisdom) has slipped in. It’s only because I value your contribution that I am taking the time out to share some of my thinking.

Credit Card Debt: In my opportunities to work with people, I usually counsel the establishment of the emergency fund first • even before they set about to eliminate their credit card debt. It may seem counter-productive at first, but, the emergency fund can provide a safety net to prevent further disasters.

Car Loans: Car loans can come from two different sources: credit unions and everyone else. Car loan payments from non-credit union sources use the infamous rule of 78. Interest is front-loaded. No matter when you pay off the loan, you’ve paid the interest. Credit Unions use a much fairer way of deciding when interest has to be paid. Credit Unions now have loosened restrictions about who can join and don’t get enough recommending.

Home Loans: Long-term debt, such as for a primary residence, is not necessarily bad. In our lives, there are ebbs and flows, in terms of credit and savings. Debt is a tool. Then you have to take into account taxes. Taxes are mitigated by deductions. Home mortgage interest • in addition to being at the lowest level in 40+ years • is subsidized to some extent by the Federal Tax code. Right now, it seems silly to sign up for 15, 20, or 30 years debt that has an effective rate of about 4%. But, in a year or two, when interest rates regress to the mean, we can expect 8% or more. This may make a home unreachable for someone who is “In the green” now (Can afford it) but “in the red” (Unaffordable) at those levels. Now may be a good time to take on long-term debt.

Savings’ Buckets: I suggest dividing investments into Cash Reserves / Savings (Things that Pay Interest.) and Investment (Things that Accumulate.) Be sure to mention I-bonds when it comes to saving for retirement! The hidden jewel that no one seems to know about. I-bonds are like E-bonds but they pay interest in two components: a base interest rate and an inflation protector. Treasury Direct explains them better than I can. They have to be held for at least one year and there are penalties if cashed in before five years. Like E-bonds, the interest is tax deferred until they are cashed. And they pay interest for 30 years. It’s sweet. Buy at your local bank or via Treasury Direct.

Thanks for today’s issue. I love your reliability. I’ve often been reflecting on much of what You so generously share with us. My friends, colleagues and clients are so appreciative, too! You are a remarkable Person! In deep Appreciation, and hoping to achieve one-tenth of what you are modeling for the rest of us. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043

Telephone: 757-345-3452
Fax: 772-382-3258

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