Tis’ the season to be jolly! What a wonderful season of generosity and giving! I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
During this special time of year, we have a wonderful tradition of gift giving – family, friends, charities and others in need may be a few of the recipients of your Christmas gifts, both now and in the future. With my financial and consumer economic background, I have found myself pondering this Christmas what the most valuable gift we can give really is. Of course in actuality, the specifics vary from donor to donor and recipient to recipient. Yet, maybe we can arrive at something worthwhile for your consideration, even if in theory only.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been in that unpleasant situation on at least one of the sides, as giver or receiver, when the gift ends up being a completedisappointment. As a giver, seeing the fallen and disillusioned face of the recipient is discouraging and perhaps heartbreaking, particularly when there has been significant effort put into the gift. As a recipient, there is an attempt to be grateful regardless, but hiding the disappointment is easier said than done. A recipient may doubt the authenticity of the giver’s intent and may even feel offended or, at best, that the gift is good for nothing other than to be tossed into the ‘round file.’
What is the best gift we can give that is truly most valuable and that almost always leads to the joy and elation in the recipient(s) that we so long to see?
Coming from a financial planner, you may be expecting me to go off on the tax benefits of giving some sort of high basis stock or other security that has a huge future potential for growth. Or maybe a minority interest in a small business to help reduce your taxable estate and take advantage of ‘minority discounts’ for gift and estate tax planning. (Maybe those things are only appealing to a financial planner!)
If we’re talking about charities you might think that I would suggest an asset that has already appreciated significantly so that you can avoid the capital gains on the asset, but still get the full charitable tax deduction at the fair market value of the asset.
Or, to avoid the risk of guessing wrong on some sort of toy, clothes, jewelry, gift card or any other material gift, you might think I would say cash is the best and simplest gift. After all, who would be disappointed with a little extra cash to get something they need or want? It is certainly a gift with fewer strings attached and a much lower risk of disappointment.
Notwithstanding the merits of all of these gifts, and there are many, many good reasons to give them, I propose that the most valuable gift you can give your family, your friends, even charities and others in need is your time. Really spending quality, unadulterated time, without distractions on your phone, tablet, TV or whatever other gizmo you have, without checking your email or answering a work phone call, is and will be worth more to them than any material or financial gift you could ever give.
Many adults will get this and be extremely appreciative of it. If you have young children or grandchildren, they may not understand or realize this for years to come, but it will truly bring them the most happiness when they can look back and remember how important you made them feel and how strong your love was as you gave them that most precious resource of time.
During this Christmas season and over the next year, I hope that you enjoy the precious gift of time you have been given and that you experience the joy and satisfaction as you in turn give it to others. Merry Christmas!
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