Too often, people view charitable giving and building a legacy as something they do exclusively through their estate plan. Apart from small donations to their favorite charity or religious organization each year, they don’t work to align their financial budget with their values, or the causes they care about.
This isn’t ever a malicious or selfish decision, it’s just one that’s made out of routine. Legacy planning usually isn’t something people think about regularly, much less when it comes to building a yearly budget.
However, as a financial advisor who helps people to make values-driven financial plans, I see how much of a positive impact that giving while living can have - both for people and organizations receiving the gift and for my clients.
Finding ways to build your legacy doesn’t have to only be part of your estate plan, you can begin to grow your legacy now by giving both your time and money in ways that matter to you.
The first question you should ask yourself when thinking about giving while living is:
What am I passionate about?
For many people, thinking of your values is an easy thing. Listing those values, and deciding how you want to make an impact accordingly, can be more difficult. However, taking the time to clarify your values can help you to decide where you want to spend your time, and focus your finances, both now and in the future.
There are two primary ways you can make an impact and start to build your legacy:
One way you can start incorporating giving into your daily life is through your actions. You don’t necessarily have to donate financially right away to begin building your legacy. Whether you’re looking to volunteer during retirement, take a mission trip or volunteer vacation, or just start aligning your daily schedule with your values - you can easily start to give back in small ways without spending an overwhelming amount of time or energy.
Volunteer work that’s values-focused can bring a significant amount of emotional fulfillment. Think through local or virtual organizations where you can volunteer your time. For example, heading to your local animal shelter one Saturday morning a month if you value nature and animals can be an incredible source of joy, and provide valuable help to an understaffed shelter.
However, you can also lend your skills or talents to local organizations in different ways. It doesn’t matter whether you are a talented writer, graphic designer, are passionate about coordinating events, or have another highly developed skill, you can reach out to non-profits, or your local place of worship, to see if they could use you for an upcoming job or project.
Finally, you can start to build your legacy through your smaller, daily actions. If you value family, focus your time on being with them. Host family potlucks once a month, or pick your grandkids up from school on a Friday for ice cream. If your passion is the environment, make small lifestyle changes to minimize your carbon footprint, or to take care of your local greenspaces. You can live a values-based life by making small changes to your daily routine.
There are so many ways that you can give to charity. You might consider giving through:
The key to leveraging your wealth to build your legacy and make an impact is to determine where you want to give, why you want to give, and how you can give in a way that maximizes your financial benefits.
For example, if you’re retired, you might look to gift a portion of the distributions from your retirement accounts to charity. These donations, called Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) help to lower your taxable income in retirement, still are supporting organizations and causes of your choice.
If you aren’t retired yet, you can still maximize the financial benefits of charitable giving through a Donor Advised Fund or by giving appreciated stock directly to qualifying charitable organizations. There are many ways that you can offload wealth that you may not need in your day-to-day budget to minimize the impact of taxes on your income in each year.
If you’re unsure of where you want to donate, you can start by listing a few of your favorite organizations, and checking them with a quick check of your charity of choice using a service like Charity Navigator. This can help you to ensure that thee charities or organizations you’re considering uses donations primarily for the cause you want to support and that they are a true 501(c)(3) organization.
Are you ready to start building your legacy? Get in touch with Wood Smith Advisors today. I’d love to help you start creating a financial plan that aligns with your values and creates the legacy you want.
Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs, and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.
"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.