Dec 21, 2012

The 'Fiscal Cliff' Solution: Hiding in a Bunker or Generous Giving?

Folks come into our office every day, nervous about the fiscal cliff. They ask where to put their money. Folks ask about investing in Gold. Some go a bit further and dream about buying guns and ammo and burying supplies in the back yard. Others ask about stockpiling a year’s supply of food and water. I have even had folks ask what type of bunker they should build. 

After a few of these meetings in a week I feel inclined to turn into myself and begin stockpiling these items that seem to give us security. My mind drifts back to the beginning of the movie Red Dawn.  

It is interesting where we turn for our security.

In the midst of the chaos in Washington I have enjoyed sharing conversations in our community discussing the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ and addressing some of these concerns about our economy and our nation’s future. It has been fun to use these opportunities to share the impact that these discussions on Capitol Hill may have on the charitable deduction. It has been a blessing to speak in front of four different groups in Colorado this month, encouraging charitable giving in lieu of these changes.  

I am convinced that we will not find solutions in a bunker full of food-stuffs, guns and gold. Turning to those things draws us away from relationships, into ourselves and into a mode of selfishness. We start saying, “You just have to take care of #1.” 

I believe the solution lies closer to this charitable deduction and more specifically, to the generosity associated with it. The attached video is a wonderful conversation on the importance of charitable giving and the legacy of generosity in our nation.  

No one ever said, “That selfish hermit with the arsenal in his bunker changed my life.” No, the folks who impact lives and make us better are the ones who give of themselves. They are the ones at breakfast with a teen teaching them the right way to live. The ones who make a difference are those who are in the community, raising money for gardens or art or education. They are reaching in their own pockets to build community and investing in things that last.

Something special is happening this year. Even with fears of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ there is a phenomenon occurring. Instead of hoarding and turning into themselves, folks are generously giving money away.  

According to this Wall Street Journal article, Fidelity Charitable has seen a 63% rise in contributions. Schwab Charitable has seen a 74% jump. We have seen the same trend among our clients. Even as our country faces these major issues, many are giving. They are giving more than they ever have. This isn’t a socialist movement. These folks aren’t being forced to give. They are not giving reluctantly or under compulsion, they are giving cheerfully.  

What is going on?  

These families are investing, not for their own good, but for the good of communities that they believe in. They are using their resources to impact lives and to bring a community together and to move our country forward.  

As Washington threatens the tax benefits associated with the charitable deduction, the folks at The Brookings Institution are dreaming about a ‘Super Deduction for Charitable Giving.’ They argue that this sort of temporary, extra deduction would create jobs by boosting the non-profit sector. They also suggest that the ‘Super Deduction’ would allow folks to lower their tax bill by investing in their communities.  

Whether we see a ‘super deduction’ or limitations on the current deduction, what do you see as worth investing in? What areas in your community do you care about? What folks do you believe in? As we think of folks that we care about we have two choices. We can invest in a larger bunker and more food-stuffs… Or we can invest in our friends and neighbors and rebuild our communities together.   
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