Growing up, I remember the big thick catalogs that came to our house this time of year. We’d eagerly look for the latest toys to beg our parents for, and count down the days until brightly colored boxes appeared under the tree. Now, as a parent and grandparent myself, I realize the gift-giving was just as fun – if not more – than the getting. Charitable giving is a great way to catch this spirit, and can be good for your wallet, as well as your heart.
Give of Yourself – What’s Important to You?
Knowing how to give is a matter of knowing yourself first and foremost. What’s important to you? What causes or institutions do you value the most? Give out of who you are and what you want the world to be like based on those values.
Here at TFS, we partner financially with local charities like the Burned Children Recovery Foundation, the Edmonds Daybreakers Foundation, Food Lifeline, the Edmonds Community College Fund, and many others that express who we are as people and as a firm. We’ve even blended two of our passions – piloting and helping others – in Angel Flights West, a unique nonprofit that supplies flights to those in medical and financial need.
Exploring who you are and the values that are most important to you will help you find out where best to give in the holiday season.
Be in touch with your favorite nonprofits and charities to see where your gift can meet the deepest need. How can your donation be most effective? Organizations like Charity Navigator help you evaluate how well the business side of the charity is conducted and how much of your money actually makes it to the people and cause they support.
Strategizing your giving, thinking carefully about when you give and how much, can save on your taxes as well. Why lose that money to taxes, when you can use it more effectively by giving straight to the charities that you choose yourself?
The IRA charitable rollover makes it possible for those over 70 ½ to give distributions from their IRA tax-free, up to $100,000 per year. This can be especially helpful if you’re running into Required Minimum Distributions from your IRA, as Qualified Charitable Distributions like these won’t increase your tax footprint for that year.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 shifted the tax landscape dramatically, and charitable giving was no exception. The standard deduction for married couples is now set at $24,000 a year, which affects a large part of the population. Itemizing for charitable contributions doesn’t especially pay if $24,000 is the high water mark. Experts recommend “bunching” contributions to get higher than this mark and get a better tax break – putting a few years’ worth of donations in one place.
For mass affluent and high net worth households, itemizing is still the best way to go. Most, but not all, charities will qualify for a charitable contribution deduction come tax time. Remember, a contribution is deductible on the year it is paid, and to always maintain proper documentation of your contributions.
Another possibility is a donor-advised fund, a charitable donation vehicle that essentially houses the money you will be donating in the future. You deposit money here, immediately get the charitable contribution deduction, then in the future recommend – “advise” – on which organizations should receive the distributions.
We’ve sighted two examples here, but there are many other ways to give both cash and property. Charitable planning is a large subject with many tools and many ideas on how to use those tools. Talk with your financial advisor about how to strategize your giving in the best way.
There are limits to how much you can deduct, but they’re very high. You only need to be concerned about donation limits if you contribute more than 20 percent of your adjusted gross income. Such details, and any other questions about charitable giving, are the bread-and-butter for your advisor, so call to set up an appointment to strategize your holiday giving.
Keep in mind also that giving isn’t just about money, but time. For most of us, we’d rather give our money than our time – it’s easier at the end of the day. Giving time, like Aaron does at the VFW and I do at Edmonds Jazz Connection, can bring you closer to the action and joy of giving in person.
Think Globally, Give Locally
You don’t have to look far either. Here are just a few examples of places to give and volunteer in the Edmonds/Seattle area, some of which we at TFS Advisors have partnered and volunteered with for years.
Places to give and volunteer in the Edmonds/Seattle area:
- Michael Reagan Portrait Foundation – “The Fallen Heroes Project”
- Driftwood Players
- Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8870
- Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA)
- Edmonds Daybreakers Foundation (Rotary) – Edmonds Jazz Connection
- Edmonds Police Foundation
- Edmonds Community College Foundation
- Holly House
- Clothes for Kids
- Burned Children Recovery Foundation
- Edmonds Food Bank
- Edmonds Boys and Girls Club
Giving back can do some real good in the world, and – if you do it right – in your own life as well. The holidays are a time for reflecting, family, and getting back in touch with who we are and want to be. That’s what charitable giving is about: making the difference you can make.
Talking with your advisor is the best way to explore how to give the most, and give it in the best way. Before the holiday rush of activity, let’s touch base.