During these last few months, I have found a need to turn to a familiar voice, a comforting voice. To confront the constant drip of bad news, I rely on Mr. Rogers’ wisdom to navigate through these challenging times. He wrote, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
There are no words to express how much we at Strategic Wealth Partners (SWP) appreciate all the “helpers.” During COVID-19, the list of helpers is vast, and we thank them all. I have one amazing friend who is an ICU nurse in a hospital COVID unit, and she doesn’t think twice about putting herself at risk. But most of us (including me) are not in a position to help in that manner. So what can we do? How can we all become “helpers”?
Sometimes it’s the small things:
- Pick up groceries for someone who cannot go out.
- Donate blood! The American Red Cross reports a “staggering” drop in the blood supply. You can make an appointment at redcrossblood.org or Vitalant (formerly Lifesource) in the Chicago area.
- Purchase gift cards, order takeout, or spend money at local businesses.
- Renew memberships to museums, zoos, botanical gardens, or other institutions that have seen a decline in revenue.
- Donate items to your local food pantry.
- Call people to check on their mental health and wellbeing. Volunteer to be a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line.
- Leave a basket outside your front door of hard to find items (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, etc.) for the mailman, UPS delivery person, and anyone else in need.
- Be generous, tip everyone well.
What if you want to do more, reach more people? There are many, many charities that are doing great work. We highly encourage you to support your favorite organizations as COVID-19 is creating new challenges for them at the same time there are fewer people in a position to help. Recently, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy launched the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund that provides the names of multiple organizations working to help those most affected by the pandemic. Please see their website, Fidelity Charitable, or Schwab Charitable to see the breadth of organizations working to help those in need during this crisis.
There are some new organizations on these lists that are taking unique approaches to meet needs immediately. For example, the group Humanity Forward gives micro grants (cash) to struggling families and individuals. GiveDirectly is an organization that sends a cash grant to people receiving food stamps. First Book delivers books to school children who don’t have an internet connection. The list goes on and on, and I’m hoping that everyone who is able can find one or more worthy organizations to support.
Lastly, this has been a year of unexpected tax changes, and it wouldn’t surprise us if more changes concerning charitable contributions occur before year-end. We would also like to remind you that there may be tax-advantaged ways to make your contributions. As a result of the CARES Act, individuals who claim the standard deduction may now write-off donations up to $300. Also, it can be advantageous to make Qualified Charitable Distributions from your IRA if you are over 70 ½ even though Required Minimum Distributions have been suspended for 2020. Please see our previous article, Are You Making the Most of Your Gift? for more ideas on how to maximize your contributions or talk to your SWP advisor to discuss your individual situation.
Another quote from Mr. Rogers, from his 2002 Dartmouth Commencement Speech, “Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space, every one of us is a part of that jewel, a facet of that jewel…” Let us all help each other, work together, and care for each other. When we do, then it will be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.