A Small Investment With Big Returns

My colleague, Katey McCabe, and her son, Fritz (age 6), volunteering at the packing event for Feed My Starving Children.

My colleague, Katey McCabe, and her son, Fritz (age 6), volunteering at the packing event for Feed My Starving Children.

Years ago I used to provide clients with a year-end gift during the holidays. Like most financial advisors I would order dozens packages of cookies or nuts and ship them out to clients as a holiday treat to let them know how much I appreciated them and their business.

These gifts were expensive, took a lot of time to box up and half my budget went to the Post Office to pay shipping costs. What’s more, I don’t think anyone really cared.

And I don’t blame them. How many packages of cookies, tins of popcorn or baskets of stale snacks do you need at the end year anyway?

I thought I was making an investment in my business and doing something nice for my clients, but the more I thought about it the more I realized my investment and efforts probably weren’t really making a difference to me, to my clients or to anyone.

As with any unproductive investment, I decided to switch gears and try something else.

When Stock Makes a Better Charitable Gift Than Cash

n9yfjkdc0va-jean-lakosnykMinnesotans are a generous bunch. A recent survey by WalletHub ranked Minnesota as the third most charitable state in the nation. We jump to #2 when you throw volunteering and service time into the mix.

While gifts of cash are always welcome (and usually tax deductible) at most non-profits, if you are looking to juice up your giving this year and get the biggest after-tax bang for your charitable buck, consider the gift of stock or a mutual fund instead.  

10 Reasons To Target Your Favorite Small Business This Saturday

In recent years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has become known as Small Business Saturday – the one day each year when American consumers are encouraged to ditch the big box stores, go off-line, and support their local small businesses.

Started as a promotional event by a not-so-small credit card company, Small Business Saturday has grown into something of a movement with an estimated 95 million Americans shopping at small businesses on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving last year.

And why not? Small businesses represent a major part of the American economy. Nearly 29 million small businesses employ over 58 million people – almost half of all private sector employment.

In fact, 60% of net new jobs created since the Great Recession have come from businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Give To The Max This Thursday


Visit givemn.org for Give to the Max Day 2015.

Visit givemn.org for Give to the Max Day 2015.

Part of my job as a financial advisor includes helping families make the most of their financial resources. I often recommend they contribute to a Roth IRA because of the tax-free growth or max out their retirement plan contribution so they can benefit from the tax deduction and possibly a company match.

But what about your charitable contributions? What’s the best way to make the most of the money you share with others?

Thursday, November 12th is Give To The Max Day 2015. It’s Minnesota’s way to make the most of the financial gifts you make to your favorite schools or charities. Last year on Give To The Max Day, over 60,000 Minnesotans donated more than $18 million to their favorite causes. Now that’s Minnesota nice!

Since many organizations also offer a matching contribution, Give To The Max Day may be an opportunity to double the size of your gift. Like a company match on your 401(k), when you make a donation via the GiveMN website on Give To The Max Day many organizations will match your contribution dollar for dollar.

Of course, not all organizations offer matching gifts, but many do. You can find organizations that will match your donation at www.givemn.org or by clicking here.

That’s the ticket. To sweeten the pot, GiveMN will randomly select one donor each hour throughout the day to receive a $1,000 golden ticket for their charity. Plus, two additional tickets will be selected for super-sized gifts of $10,000.

Do your research. Need to know more about an organization before you fork over your hard earned cash? Check out Guidestar. Guidestar has information on more than 1.8 million IRS recognized charitable organizations. Other resources include Charities Review Council and Charity Navigator.

Paws for thought. If you are still looking for a high quality organization to support, let me help you out. Long time readers of this blog know that I am a big supporter of Can Do Canines. Last year they raised over $40,000 through Give To The Max Day. This year their goal is $50,000. $50,000 is enough to provide not one but two assistance dogs to a person living with a disability in our community.

All contributions will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $10,000) and any contribution, no matter what size, will help change someone’s life forever. To learn more, visit their GTTMD page by clicking here. Or watch the video below:


Regardless of who you give to or how much, make the most of your charitable giving this year by giving to the max on November 12.

Three Easy Ways to Include Giving In Your Financial Plan

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Mobile-assist dog, Lilly, from Can Do Canines.

Every year the first week of August is designated as International Assistance Dog Week (IADW). This year it runs from August 2 – 8.

As a long time supporter and volunteer at Can Do Canines, a local non-profit dedicated to providing assistance dogs to people living with disabilities in our community, this week is always a great reminder for me to find ways include giving in my financial planning.

Below are three easy ways to include charitable giving in your financial plan without breaking the bank.

Workplace giving. Many employers allow employees to contribute to their favorite charity through a simple deduction from their paycheck. Some will even match your contribution dollar-for-dollar. The $5 or $10 you donate each pay period may not sound like much, but it adds up. Last year over $80 million was raised by the Greater Twin Cities United Way, much of it through payroll deductions and corporate matching programs. Depending on where you work other programs like the Combined Federal Campaign or Community Shares of Minnesota may provide similar opportunities.

Include your favorite charity in your will or estate plan. As they say, you can’t take it with you. So what happens with your money when you are gone? Your beneficiary documents determine who gets your IRA and other retirement assets when you die. For most people this means their family, and rightly so. But you can still throw a bone to your favorite dog-related or other charity by naming them as a partial beneficiary on your IRA or 401(k). Naming a specific charity as beneficiary on your retirement plan ensures that those dollars go directly to them pre-tax, without having to go through your estate first where they will surely be taxed.

Volunteer. Not everyone can afford to make a financial gift, but we all have something to offer. Most non-profits have plenty of volunteer opportunities. Here are a few examples:

Can Do Canines always needs of short and long-term puppy raisers, professionals with legal, financial or human resources experience, and creative people with experience in marketing, video production, graphic design, etc.

Feed My Starving Children has opportunities to pack food and feed others. You can volunteer as an individual or as part of a group. If you are especially ambitious you can organize a mobile packing event at your church or workplace.

Twin Cities in Motion, organizer of the Twin Cities Marathon and other local running events, has over 6,000 volunteer opportunities each year. Can’t stomach a marathon? No problem. Volunteer instead. You get to be a part of the fun and excitement without having to experience the thrill of hurling on the side of the road during the final mile – not exactly a bucket list item for most people.

Looking for a bigger commitment? Consider MAP for Non-Profits. They will pair you up with organizations looking for a board member with your skill set. Board membership is not only a great way to volunteer but also a great opportunity to have some influence with an organization you are super passionate about.

Opportunities to give through service are endless. And they are as critical to most non-profits missions as the financial gifts they receive.

Giving can be an important and rewarding part of your financial plan. Now you know three easy ways to make it happen.