Teach your children about charitable giving

Teaching your children about charity can be rewarding for both you and them. But where do you start and how do you get them excited about giving?

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Talli Sperry: So, Jane, as the results come in, maybe you can answer one of those key questions I know we all hear from our clients, which is what’s the right age to involve kids in charitable giving conversations?

Jane Greenfield: Well I’ll say there’s no wrong age to involve kids. If you have not spoken to your kids, jump in. But, optimally, I think the younger the better. If you have an opportunity to discuss and maybe even have experiences with younger kids and then consistently do that throughout their lifetime, you’re more likely to get someone who’s really inclined to be philanthropic as an adult.

So we think the younger the better. The one thing I would say is if your first attempt in the discussion or the experience is a bad one, don’t abandon the plan. Try something new, and I speak from experience because right out of the gate when our kids were very young, we had a complete crash and burn. My kids were five and three, and I heard that there was a church that was accepting donations of Halloween candy the day after Halloween. The thought being there were kids in a neighborhood where they couldn’t go out after dark to trick or treat, so they were going to take that candy and have kind of a weekday, during-the-day trick or treat party.

Talli Sperry: Very sweet.

Jane Greenfield: Very sweet. So I thought what better way for my kids to start their philanthropic journey than to give some of their candy, right?

Talli Sperry: What they have makes total sense, right?

Jane Greenfield: Makes total sense. Wrong. It was a disaster. We said they could keep ten pieces and they could give away the rest, and you would have thought there was excessive abuse going on in the Greenfield household because there was crying and it was terrible. And so we decided to abandon that plan; that certainly wasn’t a great way to start the journey. And, instead, we did other things with the kids that were more fun and rewarding and less psychologically damaging.

Talli Sperry: All right, well, and I know your kids are very charitably inclined; so, obviously, the damage didn’t go too far.

Jane Greenfield: They’re good people today, 20 and 22, good people.

Talli Sperry: Oh, thanks.

Al Weikel: They survived.

Jane Greenfield: They survived.

So kind of continuing along these lines about talking to our family, let’s kick it to you, Al. I know we have a question from Robert in Memphis, Tennessee, I believe. And he’s asking, “How do you involve adult children?” So we talked about kids. How about adult children?

Al Weikel: Yes, well, you know, I would agree with Jane. It’s best to start early, but if you’re trying to get your kids and now adult children involved, a couple things I’ve seen in working with clients that have worked well is, number one, respecting all sorts of values and passions that your kids have. You know, if mom or dad or whatever the situation was have been sort of running the charitable program for a while, chances are they’re sort of pushing the values that they’ve always thought were most important.

But if you’re going to involve adult children, again, you have to be respectful of these other passions and other values to get them participating in this. And another way I’ve seen that actually can be very successful, when you say adult children, sometimes these adult children are late 40s, 50s with their own kids, maybe they didn’t involve their kids in the charitable planning up front to get it really sort of embedded in their value system and their family value system, but guess what? This is a perfect opportunity to then have these conversations with the grandkids. Bring in their kids’ kids. And if their kids’ kids are participating, the grandkids, chances are that’ll pull their parents, those adult kids into the conversation for the many benefits you can have from family philanthropic planning.

Talli Sperry: I love where you’re going with the grandkids, and I think that’s interesting because one of our foundational beliefs is that involvement should be age appropriate. And we just got a live question, and this is from Regina; and she’s saying, “Simple discussions with young adult offspring, any advice on how to start them, how to make it real for them?” Kevin, perhaps you could chime in here.

Kevin Wick: I think what I’ve seen in working with clients is find a way to connect with them. Find an interest or a passion of theirs and encourage them to do a little homework, do a little investigating, a digging on their own, and then come back as a family and talk through those and then perhaps look at maybe if it’s something that’s worthy to donate as a family perhaps. So getting them involved in something that is meaningful to them is a great way to start engaging.

Talli Sperry: That works very effectively. I know I’ve gotten my niece and nephew involved in some research, and it does help to spur that passion, doesn’t it? They get excited about where they’re giving.

Al Weikel: Talli, if I may add to that, I agree with Kevin wholeheartedly, and I would say what I’ve seen with clients is using the conversation with young kids around an allowance, which can start at five, six, seven years old. And what they’ll do is they’ll have not only a portion of the allowance that’s allotted towards saving and spending but also giving, so introducing that giving option early on in the conversation.

And that can look different ways. I was just with a client a couple of weeks ago where it’s very young kids, and they are doing the giving. The family actually matches the amount that goes into the giving bucket, so that’s kind of neat.

Jane Greenfield: That’s a match program at a young age.

Al Weikel: Absolutely. And then they buy books and donate them to kids that are less fortunate in the area. So I think that’s saving, spending, and giving is another great way, age appropriate way for young kids to get them started early.

Talli Sperry: A lot of really creative ideas, so there’s a lot to choose from and many different options and tactics. As long as we’re making sure that they are age appropriate and they work with the people we know and love, right?

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