Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why is it so hard?

It's true that charity begins at home and I am no exception. Most of us are not that generous when it comes to voluntarily sharing our wealth outside of home, using charitable giving as a measure of our effort. Wealthy people are no exception, often echoing that they do enough with the taxes they pay. While it's true they do pay more tax, it's open for discussion whether they do enough. That's for them to answer; my time is better spent focusing on me.

This self-talk is because the calendar year is coming to an end and I'm reviewing our family finances and charitable giving. My wife and I do most of our charitable giving check writing in December so there's work to do this month.

This week I spent time studying our charitable giving for the past five years using amounts reported on prior year tax returns. True charity is much broader than tax deductible charitable contributions; such as random acts of kindness to people in need, giving or loaning money to family and friends, and working as a volunteer. Tax-deductible charitable contributions, however, do provide clues at how good a job we are doing at being charitable.

My analysis is that we haven't done as good a job in the last two years compared to five years ago. Here's a five-year analysis of our family tax-deductible charitable contributions as a percentage of total income:

2007 - 4%

2006 - 5%

2005 - 10%

2004 - 8%

2003 - 27%

Our 2003 charitable contributions were significantly higher thanks to my wife's demand that we make a significant contribution to support a local organization that provides prenatal services to pregnant women. Fighting hard and telling her why we couldn't or shouldn't do it, she prevailed. I remember feeling numb and weak for at least one week after the big check was written. In hindsight, I'm glad we did it and we should do it again soon, but will we?

Our planned 2008 charitable giving should be about 6% of total income. That's better than the last two years but far from the homerun we hit in 2003. I may need to get down on my knees pleading to God to make me brave this month with my charitable giving, while asking myself, "why is it so hard?"

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum


Clemsonfan said...

Having just found your website, I have been reading your blogs for the month and this one resonated with me.

If you want to strengthen your charitable giving, I would flip your year around. I would give more than you expect the first half of the year - tithing at a minimum. Then you can prioritize final contributions. Your way makes it too hard unless you have been setting money aside all year.

Good luck, and Merry Christmas.


Pierini Fitness said...

Hello Jeff,

Good suggestion. I'll tie a string around my finger on New Year's Day 2009 to remind me.

Merry Christmas!

Clemsonfan said...

I think you will do well. Treat charity like fitness, as a year-round endeavor, and you won't hve an issue.

Great blog, and I hope the remainder of your holidays are enjoyable.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

What happened to all the money donated to Haiti? Unfortunately a person who has relatives there told me nothing has changed.