Giving Thanks with a $100,000.00 Donation

Last week, I celebrated my 41st birthday.

A year earlier, I celebrated my 40th in style with a scrumptious steak dinner followed by a nighttime kayak with my wife in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay on Vieques Island of Puerto Rico. It was an amazing getaway. You only turn 40 once, and I made sure my big day was a memorable day.

 

my 4oth birthday steak @ el blok

my 40th birthday steak @ el blok

 

41 doesn’t deserve the same treatment. Just like a 21st birthday is a big deal (Hooray, Beer!), 22 comes and goes without so much pomp and circumstance. For my 41st, I didn’t go anyplace exotic or throw down on any steak. I slept in, shoveled snow, shoveled more snow, braved the snow to visit not one, but two local breweries for a birthday beer, but both had closed mid-afternoon. Darned snow.

PrintI don’t have much need for birthday gifts. I received a few this year, but as a wannabe minimalist, I don’t want a whole lot of stuff that I don’t already have. A wise man once said “It’s better to give than receive.”

On my birthday, I did receive one particularly wonderful gift, a confirmation from Vanguard Charitable that my $100,000.00 donation was official. $100,256.43 to be exact.

I gave myself a gift that keeps on giving. A substantial gift of mutual funds to our donor advised fund. It’s a permanent, one-way donation from my brokerage account to Vanguard Charitable. From there, I can direct where the funds go, and when to distribute them, as long as they are granted to bona fide 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.

 

I have a lot to be thankful for.

 

I am thankful to be in a position to donate $100,000 without sacrificing my family’s future.

I am thankful to have a wonderful, healthy family, which includes a lovely woman who doesn’t mind when I desert the family to watch football or decide I’d like to give away a whole bunch of our money.

I am thankful for my parents and the way they raised me that contributed to my success.

I am thankful for the hundreds of educators and mentors who taught me so much, allowing me to end up here after 41 trips around the sun.

I am thankful for the personal finance and FIRE blogging community for the inspiration and interaction that makes blogging so worthwhile. MMM recently celebrated his 42nd birthday by donating $100,000*. This generosity is contagious!

I am thankful for turkey and mashed potatoes, and the fact that once a year, we mix lime jell-o, cream cheese, whipped cream, and pears into something we call a “salad”.

Also pie. I am thankful for pie.

 

givingthanksdonation

 

Where Will The Money Go?

 

I don’t know, exactly.

That’s the beauty of the donor advised fund (DAF). I don’t have to make that decision just yet. But now that the money has left my brokerage account, it is destined for charity. In fact, if I fail to give from the fund for five consecutive years, Vanguard will start doling it out on my behalf. That won’t be an issue. I give from it every year.

In the past, I’ve given to the Salvation Army, our local food shelf and soup kitchen, animal shelter, school, church, and hospital, among others. I also give to my alma mater, some national charities, and I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve read about giving to international organizations that help the truly poor in third world nations.

 

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When I am fully retired, I’ll have time to do the research and make informed decisions as to where I’d like our donated dollars to go. I plan to treat the donor advised fund much like my nest egg. Every year, a percentage will be accessed, and in the case of the DAF, given away. I can afford a higher withdrawal rate on the donation side, since the consequences aren’t as dire if our giving fund runs dry, and I plan to continue adding to it after retiring.

 

Why I Donate

 

I donate because I can.

I donate because I recognize the privileged life I’ve been born into that all but guaranteed success.

I donate because I don’t always have the time** to help, but I’ve got more money than I need. The ability to give generously is one of the best benefits of financial independence.

I donate because I would rather give away the excess than spend extravagantly on myself. I have enough.

 

As an aspiring early retiree, I sometimes think about what I could do if I continued to work. Even just one more year. Well, I’m already doing that, and the ability to do make a donation like this is one reason why. In fact, when I decided to pursue early retirement and created my investor policy statement, building up a sizable donor advised fund was part of the plan.

This blog is part of that plan, too. When I started it in January, 2016, I pledged to donate 50% of the revenue to charity. This year, I’m donating more than 500% of the revenue. I’m frontloading the pledged donation, which makes good sense when you consider my current tax bracket, and the short duration in which I expect to find myself in it. If this blog eventually earns enough to cover the $100,000 donation, that will be amazing. If not, that’s alright; I was always planning on giving with or without the blog.

Learn more in Thanksgiving Thursday’s post in which I detail the process of actually making the donation, how I decided which funds and lots to donate, and how my 2016 taxes will be affected by this gift.

 

*I knew that MMM had donated an identical sum, but I had forgotten it was part of his birthday celebration. Any copycat behavior is at least somewhat accidental. Not that there’s anything wrong with a six figure donation to mark an otherwise unremarkable birthday.

**I don’t have a ton of free time, but I am taking a couple hours on Black Friday to be a Salvation Army bell ringer, along with my boys who will take turns ringing with me. I’ll have them donate from their “give” jar that we instituted when we started an allowance, and stand in the cold with me to collect money for people who can’t afford to heat their own homes. You can register to ring here.



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58 comments

  • Great birthday idea! One of my financial goals is to one day open a Vanguard charitable giving fund. I know the minimum is $25k so this is a reachable, but stretch, goal for me. I’m looking forward to the day I can open that account.

  • This is wonderful – there are so many worthy causes out there. It is so great to look back and show gratitude for the great year we’ve had by giving and helping. This is why Thanksgiving is our most favorite time of the year – and it gives my family something to strive for (your charitable giving is far outpacing ours!)

    Congrats!!

  • Wow, that is really awesome PoF! I’d like to be in a position to open up a DAF fund one day as well. At this point, I’m still shoveling money away for the future. As a corporate monkey, the future is always slightly unstable and not in my control, so I need to make hay while the sun is shining.

    Well done with the kids as well. We make a donation every year (not $100k) that my kids pick and I match whatever the kids have saved up from their “give” jars as well. It’s a nice ritual.

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

    • Thank you, Jon!

      The “give” jar is a great idea. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to start a “give” jar of your own. $5,000 is the cost of entry. It’s more than the dollar that goes into my boys’ jars weekly, but perhaps you could swing it.

      If you are interested, don’t wait until after you’ve retired. Do it while it benefits you the most, a.k.a. in your peak earning years.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Hot Dawg

    With the DAF , are the funds tax deductible once it goes into the DAF or once you donate it to a charity?

  • Amazing donation PoF.

    While some celebrities boast of giving $10,000 to Planned Parenthood…not only is this donation much larger, but I’m guessing it’s a significantly larger portion of your annual income. Be proud of that.

    You truly live a blessed life to be able to give like this!

    Congrats on our 41st!

    • It is a significant portion. Fortunately, I do have a substantial income from full time employment.

      When donating appreciated assets, as I did, you can only give up to 30% of adjusted gross income. In order to give $100,000 in a year, you need $300,000 of AGI.

      When giving cash, it can be 50%. But why donate cash?

      Thank you for the kind words, Mr. T.
      -PoF

  • Fantastic! I’m glad to see you doing it through a donor advised fund and looking forward to more articles about how that works. I didn’t know that Vanguard would start making the donations for you after 5 years if you didn’t do anything.

    $100K is a lot of money to donate at one time. That must have felt good pushing the button to transfer it!

    • Thanks, BLI!

      I’m guessing you would receive numerous letters and pleas to have some activity before they would donate on your behalf. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the charity is forced to give at least 5% of its assets away per year by law. Something like that.

      You’re a lawyer; you figure it out 😉

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • VagabondMD

    Happy birthday and well done!

    • Thanks, Doc!

      This is actually the second time I’ve made a large donation, but the first time wasn’t quite as big, wasn’t on my birthday, and I didn’t have a blog then to share the good news. So this one feels more special.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • PoF,

    It’s posts like this that make you my favorite personal finance blogger! If all physicians would be so generous with their time and money, it would literally change our country and our world for the better. I especially love that you are training your children to be generous.

    We do little things like buy extra groceries every month so that the kids can take them to the local food pantry as well as larger donations. One of the things I love about being a physician is the ability to have so much impact through your giving. It’s really fun to be able to just write a check when your local women’s shelter is $15,000 short on funds for a new building. We also have several groups we support that have ongoing monthly needs of $500-$1000/month. Now that I’ve started funding my Fidelity DAF that I learned about through you with my excess giving funds, I know I’ll be able to continue support for years into ER, when I no longer have my current income! Keep up the great work!

    • You’re doing amazing things!

      I’ve never written a check for $15,000 but having an abundance in the DAF will allow me to do something like that when the need arises.

      I look forward to learning more about you; I see the site is under construction. Let me know if and when you start writing. I’m sure it will be great.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Excellent work POF! You’re a good dude, and if you’re ever out my way, I have some birthday beers waiting for you 🙂

  • Impressive donation POF. I also believe charity is a critical part of our expenses and what I don’t like to cut. Frugal living with good income enables generous giving! Keep up the great work doc.

  • Well simply Amazing. And, now I actually “know” a real-life Salvation Army bell-ringer. You are blessed and you are blessing others. Just awesome.

    cd :O)

  • FYI – You can delete this comment if you find the error. I tried to Tweet this with the Twitter button above and it crashed.

  • Excellent example to us all, Doc! We support charities, but haven’t set up a DAF. Your article has motivated me to check into it while I’m still working, the tax advantage is obvious when you’re still pulling in the “working income”, and it positions your money to provide generously for years to come.

    Well done. Giving is, indeed, better than receiving. The ability to set aside substantial funds has to be a great birthday present for you! Thanks for your generous mentality.

  • I commend you for prioritizing giving as part of your financial plan. Early retirees are in a unique position to support good causes, but I think too few actually pull the trigger on it. Well done!

    • Happy for the commendation, Matt.

      I think it’s important to focus on the good things we can do with our money. Most of us in the FIRE community have, or are capable of accumulating, some excess. Giving is good!

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Excellent work PoF. If our paths cross at Fincon, I’d like to buy you a belated birthday beer.

    As part of research for a recent post I learned that in 2014 72% of charitable giving in this country was by individuals (of a stunning total of 350 billion), and the number increased in 2015. I found that to be an inspiring number. Thank you for being part of the great tradition of giving in this country.

  • Happy Birthday, fellow 41 y.o.!

    I’m thankful for generous, kind people like you, PoF! Thank you.

  • Excellent, PoF. You have a big, kind heart. Congratulations on your 41st birthday and on the good deeds you’re doing. Like Fritz and Big Law Investor, I’m now motivated to find our more about how the DAF works.

  • Great work Doctor.
    I started a DAF in 2003. Despite many donations from the account it still doubled (from 25k to 50k).

    • That’s great, WealthyDoc! You were 10 years ahead of me. You’re probably treating it like a nest egg like I am. Give some every year, continue to add, and you’ll have a tidy sum to give away when you’re retired (when the tax deduction wouldn’t be nearly as advantageous).

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Awesome, PoF! I’m a big believer of karma, and I’m sure your generosity will come back to you ten-fold. Also, happy belated birthday!

  • Wow, really generous donation indeed. I’m sure a lot of people will be helped by doing this. I’ve never heard of a donor advised fund before. But it’s sounds like a great way of giving something back.

    p.s. and a late happy birthday!

  • OK, that Thanksgiving “salad” that you make is like my favorite thing ever. My grandma used to make it all the time. Now my mom makes it on holidays. 🙂

    And for the real reason I’m commenting…you’re amazing! Thanks for inspiring me so much with your generosity. So remarkable. Happy birthday!

  • TJ

    This is awesome. I was considering doing a “I gave $5k away” post, but I haven’t decided if I’m ready to part with it. Heh. This definitely puts that to shame. 😀

    Does the 500% mean you’re pulling in $20k of annual revenue on this blog? That is an amazing accomplishment as well.

    • I say go for it! But you know your financial situation much better than I do. I will say, though, that there’s no need to wait until you’re close to FI to start being generous. Unless you plan to never give, it doesn’t matter much if you give now or later.

      It is true that you’ll get the most benefit (be able to give the most for each dollar you part with) in peak earning years. If your salary is on a steep slope, it makes the most financial sense to give a little now, and a lot later.

      Let me know if you pull the trigger and write the post.

      Oh, and $20,000 in revenue? Not this year, but I expect to clear that figure in 2017, largely thanks to my site sponsors.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Amazing commitment to bettering thousands of lifes PoF and family.

    Have a great thanksgiving and I will check out Thursday’s post because I am curious on how this fund works.

    Go Vikings (my family also understands when I sneak off to the basement to watch football)

  • Wow, that’s an impressive and generous gift. I have dedicated a pretty hefty sum to charitable causes for when I’m six feet under, but it takes a lot of courage to give an irrevocable sum of that size when still so young. I will probably want to see for a few years how the early retirement goes before making a commitment like that. But I’m pretty sure that lots of us will follow your example eventually with all the investing and frugality expertise around here!
    Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thank you, ERN. I’d be hesitant if I was planning on cutting it close or having a barebones budget in retirement. Having surpassed financial independence with financial freedom in sight, it feels right.

      I can squeeze quite a bit more into the DAF at my current tax bracket. That premium will disappear in early retirement, as I will explain in Thursday’s post.

      Cheers! and Turkey!
      -PoF

  • Wow, you truly are an example and an inspiration to all of us! Can I congratulate you on being amazing??
    Im still a fellow, soon to be an attending and my goals are to also achieve FIRE early and be able to help the world, as you are doing.

  • Looking out for Thursday’s post as well. I’ve heard about DAFs but haven’t known anyone who’s actually set it up. Thanks for being an inspiration!

  • I will share this with family today. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Fantastic, PoF – what a wonderful thing to do & right before Thanksgiving! 🙂

  • Happy belated birthday, PoF! And thank you for the inspiring donation and post to share it. You and MMM have set the standard for an important part of our FIRE community. What a great start!

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