Making philanthropy a part of your business and personal financial plan

Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO and Managing Member, RAV Financial Services LLC

In last month’s article I posed this question to you:

You visit your doctor who tells you that you have 5 to 10 years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it? [1]

This month’s question speaks directly to your mortality. All of your business and personal financial plans may have been written without considering your own mortality. Yes, your attorney may have drafted a will, living trust, buy-sell agreements, and other pertinent legal documents. Your money manager and you keep on shooting for the proverbial magic number (net worth) so someday you can eventually afford to retire. You avoid any additional discussions regarding life, disability, or long-term care insurance. And the list goes on.

However, answers to this question may shed a whole new light upon your long-range planning. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it? This question should not change how you imagine your life if you were financially secure; it merely puts a timeline into the equation, and reminds you of your mortality. Does that mean your life’s purpose ceases at death? It depends on your true purpose in life and your desire for significance.

So what would make your life complete and richly yours in the context of making an impact on your business and in people’s lives?

Please understand each one of you has had different reactions and answers to these questions. These articles are not meant to be the embodiment of the answers to a life of significance. My role as a wealth manager and life planning coach is to ask you these challenging questions prior to collaborating with you on your correlated business and personal financial plan. In the context of impacting people’s lives, how do you perpetuate that life’s purpose as a finite being? You have transferred your core values to your employees, and collectively you and your team have conveyed that purpose to your clients. So in your immediate world, purpose has been identified and duplicated through your network of ambassadors.

The Eastern cultures early on have embraced living a life of service, living a life whereby you receive by giving. Your business can be a life of service; serving your customers to the best of your ability. Service can be enhanced by your consideration of how to serve the community and the world. Our English language has a name for that: philanthropy. Philanthropy is derived from the ancient Greek roots of philos and anthropos: love of mankind.

So as you continue to write your correlated business and personal financial plan, you can explore the reality of impacting people’s lives now and after your death. Giving of yourself to the people who are in your life is a great way of impacting the lives of others. In giving of yourself, you are also blessed. What we extend to others we strengthen within ourselves.

Volunteering and serving on boards and committees of non-profit organizations is one way to introduce significance into your daily journey. As you explore your inner passion for life, what organizations resonate with you? Since you have already spent the time to educate and inspire your staff on your own core values and business purpose, would it make sense to explore how your entire team can impact the non-profit world? Your example can be the stimulus for your employees to address their personal desire to “give back” and touch other’s lives also. Who knows, the momentum may begin to emerge and your company may consider concentrating its efforts toward one non-profit, maximizing the impact on that charitable group.

If you feel that time is an issue and volunteering would be challenging, you may want to consider making charitable gifts to your favorite nonprofit(s). You can make gifts during your lifetime (i.e. current gift) or you can discuss with your financial adviser and/or attorney the benefits of a planned gift (i.e. gift made to the nonprofit posthumously). Remember, what transforms the world is what you are becoming as an individual.

There are many methods to assist you in completing your charitable intent. Philanthropy and methods of making a gift will be part of my SBN Online Webinar on March 23, 2011, at 1 pm. I encourage all of you to participate in that session. Philanthropy is a learned behavior, and it is important to embrace your purpose when exploring charitable intent as a method of achieving significance.

However, before you get all caught up in the financial, tax and estate implications of these strategies, you need to address the why of philanthropy. Would charitable involvement make your life complete and richly yours? Will this strategy change your life and make a significant impact in other people’s lives? Is philanthropy the method by which you create a legacy and live a life of significance?

I look forward to your reactions and comments.

Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO & Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC, can be reached at [email protected]

[1] Lighting the Torch: The Kinder Method ™ of Life Planning by George Kinder and Susan Galvan.

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