Charitable Giving on a Budget, Part One
As the holidays draw nearer, the amount of requests for charitable giving increases, and with the recent destruction on the east coast caused by Superstorm Sandy, requests for charitable contributions are even more prominent. But with so many requests coming at you and only a certain amount of your income budgeted for giving, how do you know who to donate to and how much you should be donating?
According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the average household typically gives about $2,247 annually. Of course your annual charitable contribution will depend on your income and personal budget. A recent U.S. News & World Report article titled, “7 ways to aid charities on the cheap,” suggests that instead of giving randomly to requests made throughout the year, people should focus their donations on one or two things that best reflect their personal values, or that will affect others the most.
Once you choose a charity or two that mean a lot to you, research the charity to learn how all received donations are distributed back to the public. You can start your research with the National Center for Charitable Statistics, which provides a quick overview of the charity including its purpose, a brief list of programs and annual revenue. This is also a quick way to determine the legitimacy of a charity, so you do not fall victim to scam organizations. You may also want to explore the Charity Navigator. If you know you want to be able to give to those in need following a disaster, determine which national organization best aids people in need and look for a local chapter to donate to directly.
The next step is to determine how much you can afford to donate to your selected charities. While you may want to give whatever is needed to help others, you won’t be helping anyone if you give so much away that your own standard of living is affected. Working with a financial advisor can help identify, from those thousands of noble causes, the ones that spark your passion the most and which ones can make the greatest impact in accordance with your personal values and goals. A financial planner can also help you determine how much you can afford to give to your organization of choice, and help you determine how certain tax benefits connected with your donation may allow you to give more.
The Max – The maximum amount an employee may contribute on a pretax basis to his or her 401(k) plan in 2013 will be $17,500. The $17,500 amount does not include the $5,500 catch-up deferral amount available to individuals at least age 50. The maximum pretax deferral was $12,000 in 2003 and was $8,994 in 1993 (source: Internal Revenue Service, BTN Research).
Wearing PJs All Day – A total of 9.5 percent employed Americans work at least one day a week from their homes (source: Census Bureau, BTN Research).
Large Percentage – Thirty-seven percent of American households (both homeowners and renters) spend at least 30 percent of their pre-tax income on housing costs (source: Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, BTN Research).