These are truly historic times. The United States – along with the rest of the world – is in the grips of a pandemic that most of us could never imagine, even in our worst nightmares. At the time of this writing, the deaths within our borders alone are running into tens of thousands, and the global number of cases is now being counted in millions. Most of the country is under some sort of stay-at-home mandate, our economy has basically sputtered to a crawl, and our stock markets appear to be in a continual free-fall. These are desperate times, when everyday Americans are fearful for their lives, and for the safety and well-being of their loved ones. Beyond those immediate concerns, folks are worried about their jobs and the sudden declines in the values of their retirement accounts. How can we presume that donors will think about planned gifts – or charitable gifts of any kind – at a time like this?
2014 was a record year for philanthropy in the United States, according to the Giving USA 2015 Annual Report. There was a 7.1% increase in giving dollars over 2013 (5.4% adjusted for inflation). These numbers signal the return of pre-recession giving patterns. Some experts had predicted it would take 10 years for charitable giving to rise back to pre-recession levels, so the increases are heartening.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama announced his intention to make a new type of Individual Retirement Account (IRA), called a “myRA,” available to certain taxpayers.What does this mean to you in working with planned gift prospects and their advisors? MyRAs would have of the following basic characteristics: MyRAs would be created by the Treasury Department, pursuant to a presidential memorandum dated the day of the address but not actually signed until two days later, whereas existing IRAs are established under the Internal Revenue Code. At least initially, myRAs would be available only to those who work for entities that agree to offer the accounts to their employees. Employers will have some incentive to do this because they would not have to make myRA contributions,
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The best-designed products, like Apple’s iPad and the Swiss army knife, are deceptively simple. Yet to arrive at the iPad interface, years of planning, development, and rejected designs contributed. For the user, it’s unfussy and easy-to-use, but there’s a lot more going on under the hood than meets the eye.
I learned recently of a donor who left money to charity in a manner that made it seem like she wanted to establish a so-called “college annuity” for her seven-year-old granddaughter. The applicable bequest language indicated that the annuity would begin “on or about July 30 of the year the beneficiary attains the age 19 years, and the payment shall continue for a term of 5 years.” If perhaps you’re not familiar with the college annuity, it’s a deferred charitable gift annuity established for the life of a young child, with the deferral period ending – and payments beginning – when the child is age 18 or 19. Shortly after the annuity is established, the child’s guardian (usually a parent) exercises a right explicitly reserved in the gift annuity agreement to commute the lifetime payments into a stream of payments made over the course of only four or five years. Because the present value of the lifetime payments must equal the present value of the commuted payments at the time the commutation provision is exercised, each commuted payment is quite a bit larger than each lifetime payment would have been.