Good for our soul, good for humanity
By Robert Moon
Have you ever imagined what you would do if you won the lottery? Whenever the lottery is in the news, I drift into fantasies of taking care of my future then giving away much of my winnings, should I be so lucky. We often seem to think that only special events like winning the lottery or receiving a windfall are the occasion for generosity. I propose that generosity can be practiced at any level of wealth and at any time if we are willing to ask ourselves some key questions.
Why would we want to be generous?
Generosity has many origins. A feeling of gratitude. Paying off a sense of debt. Wanting to make a difference. Religious convictions. A feeling of guilt. An obligation to society. Continuing a family legacy. Wanting to be liked or recognized.
If we want to be generous and we claim that desire, many of the obstacles to generosity are easily surmounted. If, on the other hand, we are resistant to being generous, every challenge will be considered another reason or excuse not to be generous. Assuming that we have some inclination to be generous, the “why” must be considered. Knowing and owning our motivation will help us to understand what we are expecting our generosity to accomplish.
How generous can we be and when?
Business management is the art of maximizing the use of limited resources. Generosity management is the art of directing abundance in the context of many factors. It is nonsense to give away everything only to become so needy that we in turn must depend on the generosity of others to survive. Good budgeting and financial planning can help us determine how much we can afford to give now and what we might want to give as a bequest of our estate. If we know we have a certain amount that we will never use, that is the starting place to know how generous we can be. We can also determine what adjustments in lifestyle will allow us to be more generous. The key is to have a framework for both discipline and continuity so that our generosity does not lapse or become haphazard.
Where do we wish to express generosity?
Our generosity typically resides amid three circles. The first circle includes those closest to us, a family member or friend. The next circle outward is our community, such as our church or a local charity. The third circle lies beyond our immediate contact, such as an institution like our alma mater, or a global concern like the environment or world health.
Another approach to determine where we direct our generosity has to do with what we want to accomplish. This is also divided into three categories. Our generosity could address an immediate need such as a serious illness or a catastrophic disaster like a fire. The idea here is a one-time infusion of support to relieve immediate suffering. However, rehabilitation might be more attractive, such as helping someone return to full employment or overcome long term disability through education or training. A third purpose of our generosity might be prevention, i.e., giving toward the future. Examples would include conservation of land, inoculations for diseases, or medical research.
How do we structure our generosity?
After we have confirmed that we wish to be generous, how generous we can be, and then where we are most inclined to direct our generosity, our next step is planning the best strategy to make our resources as impactful as possible. This phase considers tax benefits, estate planning, perhaps the use of instruments such as insurance policies, or the direct donation of assets such as stocks or property. A financial planner and estate planning attorney can help us construct the methods most applicable to our desires or situation.
Why not now?
This final question addresses the actual implementation, putting our desire to be generous into action. Generosity is often imagined as a dream of what we would do “if only.” Moving through these questions will bring our generosity into the present and allow us to act now.
Robert Moon is a wealth manager and partner with Heritage Financial, LLC, Gainesville, VA. His passion is financial planning that enables his clients to practice generosity. He and his wife, Mariann Lynch, reside in Broad Run, VA. For more information email Rmoon@HeritageFinLLC.com, call 703-754-1233 or go to website, www.HeritageFinLLC.com