11 Dec The Spirit of Giving
December is a time for giving. From a tax lawyer’s perspective, there are year end planning considerations, rules that set per person limits on how much can be given, and rules that cap how much of our charitable giving can actually be deducted on our income tax returns. The focus is typically on the giver. In a wonderful new book, The Cycle of the Gift,: Family Wealth and Wisdom, my friend and professional colleague, Dr. Keith Whitaker has joined with James E. Hughes, Jr. and Dr. Susan Massenzio of Wise Counsel Research to bring us a refreshing new perspective on giving that doesn’t get lost in giving techniques. “This book encourages mindfulness about ourselves and our families. It offers giving as away into the spiritual core of individual and family flourishing, something we call the ‘spirit of the gift.’” The book takes our eyes off the mechanics of giving, off the how, and helps us consider the who of our gifts. A powerful twist is a strong focus on the impact of gifts on the recipient rather than the giver.
Keith and his co-authors tackle some typically touchy topics:
- gifting challenges for spouses, including a sensitivity to blended families and couples that are “fiscal un-equals”
- grandparent gifting and family philanthropy
- control versus freedom
- fair versus equal and separate versus together
My favorite chapter comes at the end of the book, where this very seasoned and experienced trio shares the why of giving. There is wonderful discussion about patience and the time it takes for children to develop their own values. Although many people make gifts contingent on values, the authors caution that we must be mindful of the distinction between values and character. “If you dislike the values, but you trust the character, then you probably don’t have to worry about your financial gifts being misused. If the situation is reversed, proceed more cautiously.” Communication is so important and cannot be assumed or taken for granted. “Communication makes it possible to respect each other as reasonable people while perhaps disagreeing about beliefs.” My focus with women and families has been intentional wealth—aligning financial decisions and actions with values and beliefs. The Cycle of the Gift provides much insight into the idea of being intentional and aligned with our giving. It would make a wonderful gift for family members, friends, clients or financial advisors—one that would continue to “give” beyond the recipient.