This is the first in a three part series on charitable giving. At Smith Partners Wealth Management, we love Giving Back and see it as part of our every day mission. You can read more about what we have learned and what we value on our “Lessons in Giving Back” page.
The Gift of Giving
It was around 9 pm on a warm summer night when my dad and I were driving home from our favorite pizza place in Charlotte, NC, Mamma Louisa’s. We recalled our days and how we could barely sit in our seats now, due to the overload of cheesy goodness we consumed 20 minutes ago. As we rounded one of the curves we noticed the lights for a U-Haul truck parked on the grass outside of an apartment complex. There were two women unloading the truck by themselves. My dad pulled over immediately and said to me in an excited voice “come on, let’s give them a hand.” We proceeded to help them unload the truck for around 30 minutes, mainly carrying the heavier objects. Afterwards, they asked us if we were angels! I’ve never received a better compliment in my life. We politely said no, just passersby and then we left as quickly as we had come. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with giving and wasn’t planned or costly. I tell this story to tempt you to be creative with your giving. It doesn’t have to look like a set amount every month. It can be complimenting the work of your janitor, helping a friend do their yard work, or anything that improves someone else’s life without any perceived benefit to your own.
Why should we give?
After all it’s our hard earned time and money. So why give these away? Because it’s good for us! Altruistic giving is scientifically proven to improve health, society, our mental state, and so many other priceless treasures in our life. Humans are chemically programmed to give and be rewarded for it. Every time we give altruistically (unselfishly), we receive a hit of Dopamine and Oxytocin from our body. These chemicals not only make us want to give again but they go a long way in improving our attitude, lowering blood pressure, and extending life. The only catch is giving for selfish reasons won’t work, according to the US News in their article “What Generosity Does to Your Brain and Life Expectancy”. Say I give $1,000 to my church for the sole purpose of improving my health, then I won’t receive the mental or physical benefit. Rather, we have to be passionate about what we’re giving to and desire to see our gifts received positively. If we give begrudgingly or out of guilt then we don’t receive the health benefits or chemical high. The true benefit behind giving is more than a health benefit. Giving and living for others provides meaning for our lives. As a good friend of mine Pearce Landry said, “Through giving, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of others in ways that would otherwise be impossible.” For example, we can drastically improve if not save someone’s life with $5.31 ($2.50 for net cost and $2.81 for delivery) at www.againstmalaria.com. With that much power at our fingertips why would we not want to give?
How should I give?
We encourage our clients to consider the following.
- Give to places with low overhead expenses who use money and time efficiently. Resources we recommend to find responsible charities are https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/ and https://www.charitynavigator.org/.
- Give to organizations that are associated with a personal passion, as that is where you will have the most fun. Don’t give to something or someone because of expectation or obligation.
- Be aware of the type of asset being gifted. Gifts from an IRA vs. a checking account vs. a stock gift all range in their tax implications for the donor. Knowing how to efficiently gift your assets can allow those gifts to go even further. We will discuss this in more detail in our next two posts. (Giving Back: Cash Vs. Stock) (Giving Back: Donor Advised Fund)
- Give anonymously. Not only does it help to extinguish the expectation to be recognized and rewarded, which leads back to the health benefits, but it keeps generous names off of those lists fundraisers like to call on when they want to take on a new project.
Go find something you are passionate about improving or assisting in and give your money or time to improve that cause and see the results for yourself. If you have any stories about giving that you would like to share we would love to read them at our office email firstname.lastname@example.org.