ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Being Impactful with Your Money

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

My grandparents owned a local grocery store in St. Paul. They lived through the Great Depression, and they passed along many core values from their experience, but most important among them was to always make sure your neighbor has food. They never let their neighbors go hungry, even when they didn’t have enough money to pay.
When I was growing up (and some of you might argue I haven’t yet), I worked at Baker’s Square during high school, college, and a couple of years after that. I know what hard work is and what it’s like to cook in a hot kitchen in the dog days of summer. But cooking wasn’t the hardest position there. Not even close. The most difficult (and yet most important) position in any restaurant is the dishwasher. It’s a gross, wet, and smelly job. Even thinking about this, I want to start bringing my own silverware when I eat out.  

One consistent and hardworking dishwasher at the Square was Brian. A grown man working to provide for his family, he’d gone back to school to study seminary, and at times I know he was hungry. Not just once, but on a number of occasions, I would see him eating food from the bus tubs full of dishes that had just been cleared away from where customers were eating.   

There I was, surrounded by food, and Brian was eating from strangers’ plates. Whenever anyone saw him eating food out of the bus tubs, I would make him a fresh meal of his own. I should have paid for it, but I didn’t. We did, after all, receive a 50 percent discount on our food, and even as a high school kid, I had the money. I simply told Brian the extra food was a mistake. But it wasn’t.

Looking back on this experience gives me pause, because I know I wouldn’t handle it the same way now. Sure, this time I would pay for the food—but I’d also make sure this proud, hardworking father had food for himself and his family. That’s one core value I try to pass down that I hope my kids will incorporate in their lives.  

Today, Mrs. Anderson and I are currently focused on helping those who are hungry. We invest a portion of our life energy and resources in helping others, and we’ve consolidated our giving so that we can be even more impactful in the areas we want to be impactful in. We used to give to a host of organizations throughout the year, but now we’ve selected only a few, so that we can be the most impactful.

Developing a gifting/impacting plan allows us to freely give away thousands per year, knowing we are impacting others with our wealth. Some of my favorite meetings throughout the year are those where I help clients give their money away. We’ve incorporated this into their overall planning, allocating a portion of their treasures each year for gifting in ways that align with their core values. 

For some, the thought of giving money away is stressful, while for others, giving brings them great joy. The truth is, giving money away isn’t always easy, even when we know we can afford to do it. This makes sense: our life experiences helped to shape our attitudes toward our finances. We may have enough money now, but that may not have always been the case, and somewhere in the back of our minds is that little worry: “What if I end up needing that?”

But being impactful with your money isn’t just about donating to a non-profit organization. It can also mean impacting your family, friends, or someone you don’t even know. Our world revolves around money, like it or not. I’d like to share a few ideas that I’ve seen implemented over the years for sharing our money with others.  

Your list might look a little different than mine, and that’s OK—we’re different people. Personally, we’ve focused our giving on organizations devoted to food, mental health, and four-legged friends, as well as our church.

Non-Profit

There isn’t a non-profit around that can’t use more money to meet its programming needs. The good news is that you don’t need to spend big dollars to be impactful. Rather, contribute a meaningful amount toward something you are passionate about.

Over the years, I’ve looked for ways to help our clients be as impactful as possible with their resources. So many of you have taken my advice and narrowed down the number of non-profits you give money to. More than a few of you have told me, “Brett, you’d be so proud of me. I’ve thrown away all but five of these year-end requests.” Excellent! Those five organizations will receive a greater amount of money than they would have otherwise, which will have a greater impact on each one.  

To make your dollars go even further, think outside the box. Non-profits love being able to generate new donors or increase current donors’ gift amounts by offering matching contributions. Many organizations receive dollars from larger organizations specifically allocated to help increase donor contributions. When making a contribution to an organization, call and ask if they are currently running a matching program or plan to run one soon. It’s great when you can double your contribution by being willing to match the donations of others.

(Mrs. Anderson believes we should just give regardless of a match, and we do—and let’s be real, I’m not always in charge—but I always try to make the call first. I’m happiest when I’m able to double my gifts, and so are the non-profits!)

Here’s another example. Recently, a client of mine was asked to fund a new critical staff position for a non-profit organization for one year. After brainstorming on how we could help the organization financially, we decided that instead of my client fully funding the position, they would offer to match a second donor for half. It took about a week for the organization to find another donor willing to match the contribution, but it happened. Shortly after, I sent the funds off at the client’s request. Isn’t that cool? 

(Maybe you’re thinking I’m all about being a do-gooder, but let’s not overlook the fact that I use my Marriott Rewards Visa card for our monthly tithe. Points with Marriott and God, all at the same time? I can’t be the only one!)

Family

Some of us wait until we are gone to give money to our loved ones, while some prefer to begin the process a little sooner. Whatever the case, I am not suggesting that you give all your money away today. How we each choose to impact our families can vary greatly. For example, family Christmas gifts might become things like the joy of travel for the entire family (and no longer involve the stresses of shopping for that sweater). You might even volunteer at your local non-profit together and leave a donation when you’re finished.

Another way to be impactful is to help fund your kids’ Roth IRA accounts when money is tight on their end. Many times, our kids need more help as younger adults than they will later in their lives. I have a hard time recalling the physical gifts my parents bought me over the years, but I do remember the times they’ve helped me and the events we shared.
 

When you have your financial house in order, it can feel so good to help others in your own meaningful way. You don’t have to worry about giving freely, and you are able to impact others with your treasures. If you’d like to discuss developing a gifting strategy, please drop me a note. 

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