Are You in Control of Your Money?
Benign over-donation. It happens to most everyone at one time or another. You receive a letter in the mail requesting a financial donation to a charity that you like to support. It seems like you gave to them recently, but you write the check anyway, thinking that time always passes more quickly than you realize. Whether it’s exploitive or not, many organizations are soliciting the same donors multiple times per year. But if you feel that you are succumbing more frequently, it could be a sign to talk about it with someone you trust.
Unplanned over-donation. There are many people in the world, and maybe you are one of them, who feel pressured or obligated to donate whenever they are asked. They may not give a lot, but over time it adds up. It seems that the older we get, the more susceptible we can be, to the desire to do good in the world. Giving from the heart is a good thing, but it can be like going to the grocery store without a list. You need to have a plan so you don’t fall into…
Serious over-donation. For some, the desire to share one’s blessings is complicated by mental or emotional short-comings, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. These people need protection because they give so much away that they put themselves at risk financially. One of the signs is the incoming mail. If your loved one is receiving many donation solicitations each month, it could be a sign that they have spread themselves too thin and that their name is now on a lot of mailing lists that then get sold to other ‘charities’, legitimate or not.
1. If your intention is to only give annually, you have to keep track and check on yourself. Using a software program like Quicken, MINT, or even just a spreadsheet, makes it far simpler to find the last time and amount that you donated.
2. At the start of each year, make a donation list. Include who you want to give to and how much. Then stick to it and tell unplanned solicitors that they can send you information to be considered for next year’s list. Allow for some percentage to be for unplanned giving if you want. Just don’t exceed that amount. If you get used to doing this early, it will be second nature when you get older and the good habit may lessen your risk of exploitation.
3. If you or a loved one are losing track of donations, or just giving away more than an affordable amount, it may be a sign that it is time to get help. There are special credit/debit cards that can help control spending, while still allowing some level of autonomy. Sometimes setting up a separate account for discretionary spending is an easy solution.
Daily Money Managers deal with this issue quite often. We work with clients to keep track of their giving and we notice when things start to get out of hand. Preventing exploitation is one of the primary reasons to hire a DMM, whether you are concerned about becoming a victim yourself, or a loved one is at risk.
Of course, you should always check out the legitimacy of a charity you have never given to before and get a written receipt for tax purposes. Charity Navigator is one safe way to check. Never donate when solicited by phone. You can’t be certain who the caller really is. Ask to have information mailed to you so you can investigate independently. SNOPES is another site that helps check on facts and scams.
One final note: charitable giving rules have changed again, so check with your accountant to see how to best take advantage of the new tax law.
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