Giving Tuesday: Help Thy Neighbor

As we near the end of 2020, I think it’s fairly safe to say that none of us predicted the way this year has gone. Grocery shopping with masks, telecommuting for work, homeschooling kids all while maintaining “social distancing.” While this term may be new to us and a big adjustment to the way we live, it’s not as new as we may think.  Americans faced these very same restrictions on public places in the 20th century during times of mass Polio outbreaks.

Polio was a highly infectious and debilitating virus that plagued the United States, and indeed the world, leading to several “epidemics” which peaked in the 1940s and 1950s. After the leader of our country President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been paralyzed by his bout with the virus, he was committed to protecting others. Inspired by Roosevelt, the March of Dimes came into existence as a way to facilitate research and provide aid to those families afflicted with the terrible sickness. Through grassroots fundraising and research, the charitable foundation and its team of dedicated doctors and volunteers paved a path for a vaccine which nearly eradicated the disease.  It was groundbreaking work that changed the face of medicine, and charitable giving, forever. 

Through the years, a number of other charitable organizations have sprung with the mission of providing medical charity and respite care.  All of which are proof of our inherent desire to give and help those who are suffering.  Americans stand ready to give in times of crisis - health, natural disaster or otherwise. 

Our battle today with COVID-19 presents a similar challenge with so many families suffering from sickness and economic distress.  This pandemic has impacted our global economy significantly, leaving historic numbers unemployed and unable to provide for their family.  Too, turmoil in the financial markets coupled with recessionary fears, have led to a decline in charitable giving.

As we approach year end, the holiday season provides a time for us to reflect on our health and happiness and make charitable gifts for those less fortunate.  On this Giving Tuesday, I could not think of a better time to do so! Your community charities, churches and foundations need funds to support your neighbors, food banks need to restock shelves, homeless shelters need supplies, medical research and trials need support. The list goes on. 

While personal financial situations vary, luckily there are several strategies we can use to give charitably that benefits both sides.  Give in-kind gifts of food, supplies, clothes and toys to your favorite charity in need.  Consider gifting appreciated stock holdings or establishing a family foundation as way to give back to your community.  Also, if you are taking minimum required distributions from an IRA, you can gift these funds directly to a charitable organization in a tax-free manner. 

Additionally, the CARES Act, which Congress passed earlier this year, provides for an “above the line” deduction of $300 on 2020 tax returns.  Charitable deductions for those that do not itemize had been largely removed with the tax changes made in 2017, so this is an added benefit for the charitable minded.

This is not the first crisis we have faced in our world and it certainly will not be last.  But in times of great uncertainty, fear and need, we as a community must step up to support all efforts.  The March of Dimes is still in existence today, continuing research and education in areas of medical need and It is amazing to consider what positive lasting legacy we might see from the issues we face today.    

2020 has been a year marked by new and daunting challenges, and as we enter 2021, it is likely to continue.  Now is the time to review your financial plan and discuss with your advisor what options are best. 

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