In my 45 years of working as an insurance claims examiner/supervisor, I never earned more than $45,000 a year. But I lived frugally, invested well, and built up a sizable retirement account. Since retiring a few years ago, I have gleefully discovered I can give money and take care of myself at the same time! The key is using Charitable Gift Annuities. In the last four years I've set up 59 Charitable Gift Annuities to benefit 19 charities. I have given $700,000, over 1/3 of my financial net worth.
Here's how these annuities work: I give a chunk of cash/stocks to a charity and get a significant tax deduction for giving those assets. The charity then pays me a certain amount, a percentage of the amount I gave, every year until I die. It's a win-win for everybody! In most cases it is so simple to set these gift annuities up. I go in to Smith Barney and five minutes later, done!
My grandmother was an important role model for giving. When I was a child, she would tell me: "it's time to send money to Father Flanagan's again." She stuck a ten dollar bill in the envelope to Flanagan's Boy's Home and put it in the mail. One of the first charities I gave to was to them. I've now supported a wide variety of causes in health care, the arts, and the environment. A few of my favorites: the Philadelphia Orchestra, Our Daily Bread within Catholic Charities to feed the poor, the National Parks Conservation Association, Camp Glow for the developmentally disabled, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Why wait till I die to give money away when there's so much benefit for me and the charities by doing it now? I have no children, so I am funding Charitable Gift Annuities for other relatives as well as for myself. For instance, I set one up for my cousin who is a couple of years older than me. I pick the charity and get the tax deduction, but she gets the income for life. It's so great that she can receive this money now when she most needs it, instead of having to wait until I die to get it in my will! Who knows if she'd even be around to enjoy it? In addition to the Charitable Gift Annuities, I have also set up 10 Endowments at nonprofits, including 8 in other people's names. One is in my grandmother's name. One is named for a little girl who alone picked the purpose of her Endowment when she was only five years old. Get kids involved when they are young, I say! That's the kind of stuff that makes giving fun!