Outside the Box: 5 things to do with your wealth — before you die

You save for retirement, wondering if you’ll have enough to live comfortably. You’re nervous about it. You figure it out, retire, and years later, you realize your wealth continues to grow faster than you’ll ever spend it. What an opportunity.

Do you want to transfer a substantial amount of wealth when you pass, or, do you want to find ways to contribute more along the way, while you are here to see the value of your contributions? If you like the idea of contributing along the way, here are five things to consider doing.

Celebrate together

Wish your children would come home for the holidays? Or perhaps the ideal time is a summer barbecue for July 4? As a colleague of mine says, “I’ve learned if I pay for it, they will come.” She hosts an annual event called “Family Week” where everyone gets together.

As her available funds have increased, her family trips have evolved to overseas travel and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This family will have amazing memories to share long after grandparents have passed.

You can start small by paying for travel to come home. If no one wants to cook, have your event catered. If no one wants to clean, hire that out too. If driving is an obstacle, hire a driver. Your wealth can be used to enhance the family time and overcome obstacles that might keep everyone from getting together.

Be a guardian angel

When I was about 30, my parents adopted a 17-year-old orphan. They met her when she briefly dated my younger brother. Their hearts went out to her, as there was no one to guide her through all the tough decisions, such as where to go to school, buying her first car, interviewing for a job, etc.

The committed not only their time but also their financial resources, just as they would have for the rest of us. What an amazing thing to do for someone.

I’d love to spend my retirement finding people who are struggling but trying; perhaps a single parent, where a little bit of help could make a big difference in their life. Or maybe I’d go down to the local college and find a way to locate students who need help.

What about you? Who do you know that could use a guardian angel?

Read: How to build a better 401(k)

Give to causes you care about

Many families have trusts which contain clauses that upon their death either give specific amounts to charities, or the charities becomes the remainder beneficiary for amounts otherwise unallocated.

Rather than making distributions after you’re gone, you can give along the way. One way to do this is through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your IRA. This option is available if you are age 70½ or older and at the point where you must take required minimum distributions (RMD) from the IRA. Instead of taking your RMD, you can have a check issued right to a charitable cause of your choice. You can do this with your entire RMD amount or only a portion, with a maximum allowable QCD of $100,000 per year.

The advantage to you is the part of your RMD that is a QCD is not reported as adjusted gross income (AGI) on your tax return. As AGI also impacts your Medicare Part B premiums and the amount of Social Security that is taxed, in some cases this type of distribution can result in a respectable amount of tax savings.

Tax savings aside, you get the joy of contributing now, rather than as a bequest.

Help the family

Remember what it was like struggling through school? Buying your first car? The first vehicle I bought was a Toyota Forerunner. Grandpa helped me out, and I diligently paid back the $1,000 he lent me as a down payment.

Whether it is a loan or a gift, paying for school, buying a needed computer, or funding a remodel for a grandchild on the way; you can have a profound impact on the quality of your family member’s lives. These are things they will appreciate now.

Read: The big problem with dreaming about retirement

Capture stories

My grandma on my dad’s side graduated from Northwestern University on Saturday, June 15, 1935, with a doctorate in medicine. She was one of four women in what I was told is the first class where Northwestern allowed women to study medicine.

I’ve heard stories about how tough it was for her. She would walk into the patient’s room, and people would complain that they wanted to see the doctor, not the nurse. Oh, what I would give to hear her stories first-hand.

You have stories your future generations will also want to hear. If you’re not sure how to get these stories recorded, hire someone to capture them. Perhaps a journalist and a videographer. Someone who can sit down and ask you questions, drawing out the amazing things you have experienced that future generations will find captivating.

Maybe you have more thoughts on how to contribute. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Dana Anspach, CFP, RMA, is the founder of Sensible Money, LLC, a fee-only registered investment advisory firm. She is the author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny”, Social Security Sense, and writes for TheBalance as their expert on retirement decisions.

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