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When it comes to financial planning, making choices and setting long-term goals can be overwhelming.

What do you want to do when you retire?  What do you want your wealth to accomplish while you’re alive?  Where do you want it to go when you’re gone?  Without any reference point or context, sorting through these kinds of questions can be terribly difficult.

Of course, when faced with terribly difficult, important, but not urgent questions, the typical human response is to avoid, avoid, avoid.

This is why when we first start working with a client, we typically engage in something called the Discovery Interview.  It is an imperfect way to ask these questions in a more nuanced way and then use those answers to develop a basic, sometimes crude financial goal plan.  These initial efforts give the client at least a glimpse at whether they’re on track to meet their goals, but more importantly, provides a jumping off point to refine those goals.  Something tangible that they can review and make changes to accordingly.

To slightly modify one of Niven’s Laws, it is easier to edit than create.

Last week, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting with some of the staff at Cincinnati’s Freestore Foodbank to learn more about the many programs they oversee and the very necessary work they’re doing in our community and region to help end hunger and disrupt the poverty cycle.

During the meeting, breakfast was prepared for those in attendance by a graduate of Cincinnati Cooks, a program helping those in need to learn not just how to cook, but about the business of working in a restaurant or catering company, how to interview, plan menus and make a profit all while serving the customer an excellent meal and experience.  Judging by the delicious omelet I enjoyed and the massive need for trained restaurant and catering staff in our region, they’re onto something.

I couldn’t possibly do each program justice in a blog, but if you’d like to learn more about the good work they’re doing, click here.

One of the many things that stuck with me from that breakfast was a story that Freestore CEO, Kurt Reiber, passed along about a donor who met with him one day and mentioned that they were “adopting” him.  As a man with grown kids of his own, Kurt was pretty sure they weren’t referring to him personally and asked them to elaborate.  They were, of course, adopting the Freestore, but this was not just talk.  They weren’t just taking a special interest in the organization, writing a one-time check or the like.

This couple had sat down with their advisor and updated their estate plan to include the Freestore as their “fourth child.”  In other words, taking their assets when they pass and splitting them between their three children and the Freestore equally.  The Freestore had effectively been adopted as the family’s fourth child.

I’m not necessarily advocating for this exact practice in planned giving, but it certainly was a new way for me to think about charitable giving.  A new jumping off point for how I think about charitable giving, especially in the space of planned giving.

As we get closer to the end of the year, charitable giving often comes up as we look to maximize the tax benefits, etc.  While that is well and good, I would challenge all of us this year to think more about what we want our giving to look like going forward and after we’re gone.  You could adopt one or more causes, or develop a wholly separate philosophy for how you want to help others.

My wife and I have used this example as a jumping off point for talking about refining our charitable giving plan at home.  Like with so many other things, acting on purpose and with a plan greatly enhances the reward.