Three Rules of Money and Giving

I love this time of year, but have to admit sometimes it’s overwhelming.  At Thanksgiving we travel to family across the country.  My family returns home for busy year-end schedule and even more hectic to-do list before we hit the road again for Christmas traditions with the other side of the family.  It’s hard to keep up with the obligations and make time for the joys of the season and money can be a big obstacle to holiday cheer

Here are three tips as you celebrate the season without forgetting dollars and cents.

One:  Separate cost from a gift’s worth.

“The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness, not in its value.”
~ Charles Dudley Warner

This is not a new concept, but it’s also extremely difficult to embody.  Special gifts come in big and small packages.  You could choose to play the role of Martha Stewart and make a special keepsake.  Another idea is to Give a shared experience can be a wonderful opportunity to create time to reconnect with friends or family whom you don’t see often enough.  Examples could include a special lunch or afternoon at a museum.

Two: Share the Gift of Gratitude

“The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on.”
~ Julia Alvarez

Giving something away brings a smile to my face – there is a compounding return by helping someone in need.  Robin Cohen, PhD, notes that “exercising gratitude is associated with specific, measurable positive outcomes in the mood.”  This state comes from feelings of compassion for others and some say it’s the secret ingredient to happiness.  

Gratitude’s positive mojo can be passed to your gift recipient.  You may consider using charitable gift cards or the opportunity to experience philanthropy through a gift.  Learn more at sites like www.tisbest.org, www.charitynavigator.org, or www.charitygiftcertificates.org.

Three: Give an Investment for the Future

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
~ Warren Buffett

Planting the seeds of investment for the future of someone special to you can start from very modest sizes and grow to fulfill retirement or education goals and aspirations.  Regular gifting at holiday times each year can add up over time.

In 2011, Fidelity reported that the average American family will only be able to pay for 16 percent of college costs.  Parents and grandparents can establish education funds through 529 plans, Education IRA’s, custodial accounts, or Series EE/E savings bonds.  This may help to help increase the percentage contribution a family can make down the road. 

According to the Department of Labor, fewer than half of Americans have calculated their retirement needs.  The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that more than half of all workers have less than $25,000 in retirement savings.  Compare this bleak news with a 2011 study from Aon Hewitt and Financial Engines which showed that employees who received help from retirement plans experienced superior investment results to those who managed on their own.  A gift of time with a financial planner may help to broach the important topics of retirement planning and investor behavior which can help a recipient to join the retirement haves vs. have-nots.

Enjoy the opportunities to spread love and lessons through gifts this holiday season and remember the three rules of money and giving all year long.

Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.