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Giving Money is About More than the Money

So, did you survive Valentine’s Day? I know it’s been plastered everywhere that we’re all supposed to give the gift of love, but, what does that mean, exactly? A shiny new Lexus with a big bow? Red roses? A box of chocolates?

One joy I have been given over two decades as a financial planner is seeing how people choose to bless their loved ones. In the financial world, the gift of love often means helping grandkids with college costs, leaving an estate to future generations, an alma mater, favorite charity or church. 

When we flip the Hallmark commercial about the gift of love into financial jargon, people often think we’re only talking about money. I’m not saying that you’re not using money when you help someone make a down payment on a first home, or gift a life insurance policy to your alma mater, or bail someone out of a bad situation. But what does that money allow? Most people aren’t Scrooge McDuck counting their pile of gold coins (thank goodness!). The majority of the people I work with are family- and community-minded faith-based folks who are trying to help out and do some good in the world. You simply happen to be doing that with money in some way. 

Every single week, I see money in motion with the households we work with. The majority of the time, they’re not giving money away so someone has a bigger pile. It’s being given to open their world and change the trajectory of a person’s life. It’s about making a difference going forward. Sometimes the wrong amount of money will cause harm. But for every story where money has assisted in ruining someone’s life, I’ve seen 99 others where the recipient was better off, and paid it forward somehow. 

You might think that someone who manages assets would advise clients not to give their money away – it’s better for us if you don’t, right? But we know that when we help counsel you through decisions about how to help your family and others in a way that doesn’t hurt your overall financial plan (we know you don’t want to be a burden to anyone), there’s a joy that our team experiences – and that we see on your face – in being able to bless other people. 

Now, this isn’t to guilt anyone into anything. Every situation is different, and within the hundreds of families we work with (I honestly don’t know the exact number), every one has a different threshold they can safely give away. I wouldn’t suggest trying to part with more. But if you do feel compelled to bless your kids because you were blessed, please, communicate that to us so we can do some brainstorming during your next quarterly update meeting. There could be options you haven’t thought of, and besides, that’s why you pay us! We’ll present you with a few ideas and see what feels right for you and yours. 

At the end of the day, keep giving flowers and chocolate to those you love. Invite your kids over for a meal, pay for plane tickets (as it fits your budget), and, if you’re feeling overly blessed, I’d love a Lexus with a big bow on top. Thanks in advance. 

Article by David Smyth, CLTC, Senior Partner at Family Financial Partners — a financial services firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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