ANDREW CARNEGIE emigrated from Scotland as a boy, began working at a young age in a telegraph office, and eventually started Carnegie Steel. When J.P. Morgan bought the company, Carnegie found himself with a lot of time on his hands—and a lot of money.
Obviously, he was wealthy, with homes in both the U.S. and Scotland. But it’s what he did with his money that always intrigued me: He gave it away. Instead of building monuments to himself,
WITH DECEMBER FAST approaching, it’s a good time to think about end-of-the-year financial planning. What steps might you take?
A popular strategy is to make charitable gifts, both to support good causes and reap a tax benefit. But before you start writing checks, take a moment to better understand your tax picture. Because of the complexity of tax forms, that’s often easier said than done. Still, you don’t need to decipher every number. Instead,
BUDGETS CAN BE a contentious topic. Some people swear by them. Others argue they’re unnecessary if you easily spend less than you make. No matter which side you take in this debate, I’d advocate budgeting for one item: kindness.
I’ve always enjoyed reading news stories about strangers who left unusually large tips for their waiter. After reading such stories, I’d daydream about where I’d leave large tips if I was that rich. One day,
ONE OF THE CLEARER mandates for a Christian such as myself is to help the poor. Jesus said the poor “will always be with you.” It doesn’t take amazing powers of observation to see that he was correct. There are lots of ways to help the poor, with churches and thousands of worthy charitable institutions working to address the causes and effects of poverty.
Many years ago, I became acquainted with a large Christian organization called Compassion International.
FELLOW HUMBLEDOLLAR contributor Marjorie Kondrack concluded a recent article by saying she’d “never been to Paris or Prague, Timbuktu or Tokyo.” I had always thought of Timbuktu as an imaginary, faraway place. Only recently did I discover that it actually exists.
Timbuktu is a town in Mali with a population just north of 50,000 people. But according to Wikipedia, thanks to gold and salt that could be found in the area, it was once a “world-renowned trading powerhouse” with a population of 250,000.
“WHERE’S THE QUALIFIED charitable distribution on Mom’s tax return?” Mom had never before executed a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD. Her tax return was 41 pages, and we weren’t sure where to find it.
There was a long pause. “I forgot your mom had made QCDs as I prepared her return,” allowed her tax preparer. “I’ll need to recalculate her taxes.”
A QCD can be a tax-efficient way to donate money for those who are charitably inclined—but only if it’s correctly documented on your tax return.
IF YOU’RE LIKE MANY readers of this site, you’ll reach your 60s and discover one of those nice problems to have—that you’ve over-saved for retirement.
What now? For answers, check out a new book, More Than Enough: A Brief Guide to the Questions That Arise After Realizing You Have More than You Need. Author Mike Piper is the driving force behind both the Oblivious Investor website and the free Open Social Security calculator.
ON DEC. 23, 2022, while Santa and his elves were busy loading his red sleigh with gifts, the 117th Congress was putting together some goodies of its own, formally known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. Before we rang in the new year, President Biden signed the bill into law.
Included in that 1,600-page, $1.7 trillion appropriations measure was a special present for folks like me—the so-called Legacy IRA. This allows me to increase the sum I give to charity and the money I earn on my fixed-income investments,
I’M NOT ONE TO DIVE into the mysteries of the tax code in an effort to avoid paying Uncle Sam. But I’ve lately stumbled onto something that many others are already well-versed in and which has been around since 2006: qualified charitable distributions.
If I make a contribution from my traditional IRA directly to a charity, the withdrawal is excluded from the taxable income reported by my wife and me and, indeed, it counts toward my required minimum distribution.
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I had lunch with a longtime friend, Jim. Over the course of 30 years, he’s had a tremendous impact on my life through his wise counsel and fine example. That day, Jim wanted to treat me to lunch, but I stepped in front of him in line and paid for us. After I’d paid, I could see the disappointment in Jim’s face. He turned to the woman behind him and proceeded to pay for her lunch.
THERE ARE FEW certainties in life, but December always brings a few. Our neighbors will decorate their houses with bright lights, our mailbox will be stuffed with letters asking for charitable donations and the financial pundits will speculate whether there’ll be a Santa Claus rally this year.
If you’re a regular reader of HumbleDollar, you know that a Santa Claus rally has the potential to fill our portfolios with extra dollars via higher stock and mutual fund prices.
I GAVE THE BEST PEP talk I could muster, but it didn’t help. Our family of four entered Walmart in solidarity, planning to buy gifts to fill an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Two of us left early in disarray.
I had to wrestle my screaming two-year-old all the way to the car because she knew only one way to approach the toy department—with herself in mind. Eliza melted down over her refusal to part with a cheap plastic toy.
GOT CHARITABLE giving on your mind? Join the crowd. Many folks donate at this time of year, with their charitable giving driven by the charities themselves.
As solicitations arrive, people decide on a case-by-case basis whether to pull out their checkbooks. But some folks follow a more structured process, and that’s the approach I favor. It includes asking these three questions:
1. How much ideally would you like to give? As a starting point,
THE 2017 TAX CUTS and Jobs Act doubled the standard deduction. It’s estimated that 90% of households took the standard deduction in 2018, rather than itemizing, up from 69% in 2017.
The tax-code overhaul essentially means it costs more to donate to your favorite qualifying charities—unless you’re among the 10% whose itemized deductions exceed their standard deduction. To be sure, we shouldn’t give to charity solely for the potential tax benefit. Even if you itemize and hence you can deduct your gift,
FINANCIAL PLANNING is, for the most part, straightforward. You want to save enough for the future and then avoid a shortfall by investing those savings wisely. Pretty much every other topic in the world of personal finance—from asset allocation to paying taxes to safe withdrawal rates—can be viewed through the lens of those two overall goals.
But there’s one topic that isn’t straightforward at all, and that’s philanthropy. It’s not straightforward because it runs counter to those two fundamental goals.