I’m drowning in end-of-the-year charity solicitations. Social causes, political action groups, health-care organizations, educational advocacy agencies…Some I’ve never heard of, some I’ve helped in the past. All of them worthy.
Thanks to texting, social media and e-mail lists, marketing departments have more ways than ever to reach out to us. “They know that we have a tendency toward (giving) at this time of year, and they really double down on it,” says behavioral finance expert Dr. Ted Klontz, co-author of books like Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.
You’re aware that need exists, and would like to help. But giving without a plan could potentially turn you into a charity case.
“If you harm yourself financially, you’re creating the same kind of problems you’re trying to solve,” says Manisha Thakor, vice president of financial education for Brighton Jones and author of On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance.
I talked with Manisha and several other money experts for an article on a new website, Considerable.com. All of them told me pretty much the same thing:
Saying “no” is hard.
Saying “no” is, at some point, necessary.
“A gracious ‘no, not now’ is ideal,” says Delia Fernandez, a certified financial planner in Los Alamitos, Calif. One way she suggests framing it: “I’ve focused my charitable dollars this year on (other causes), but I’d be glad to consider it for next year.”
For some of her belt-tightening clients, Fernandez has talked about ways they can give: volunteering, donating “gently used” items to thrift shops, even giving like-new professional garb to programs like Working Wardrobes.
For more tips on both creating an action plan and setting boundaries, see “This is the way to say ‘no’ to charity requests without sounding like Scrooge” over at Considerable.com. The site is for people 45 and older who are “redefining what it means to grow older and are looking forward to what’s next.”
What else I’ve been writing
Meanwhile, at Money Talks News, I had fun with topics like “17 ways to keep your holidays debt-free” and “7 good reasons Generation Z is opting out of college.”
The former is a little late for this year, true, but contains tactics to keep Silly Season 2019 from busting the budget. The latter reinforced what I’ve said before: College isn’t the only path to a better life.
I’ve been busy doing stuff for The Simple Dollar lately, too, including:
“11 mental mistakes that can ruin your holiday season”
“Money and life lessons from a major earthquake”
“11 simple (and mostly cheap) tactics for weathering winter’s worst”
The toughest one to write was “What a financial trainwreck can teach us: Six mistakes to learn from.” The topic filled me with equal parts terror, frustration and compassion, and I wanted to be sure I got it right. Short form: It’s easy to think that other people’s screw-ups are so private and perverse that we’d never do anything that dumb.
But at the heart of these errors are our all-too-human tendency to ignore, explain away or simply not understand financial mistakes. The insidious, boiling-the-frog nature of these tendencies can do major, major damage to our short- and long-term security.
I was furious with the couple profiled in the story. Yet I also understood how they landed so deep in the poo. I wanted to shake them until their teeth rattled, and I also wanted to help.
As always, if you visit any of these articles and feel compelled to comment, it helps my cause as a writer. Editors who see comments think, “Holy cow, what a conversation Donna has started! I should certainly give her some more assignments, and maybe even a raise* to keep her!”
Hope that everyone within the sound of my virtual voice has a lovely holiday of choice. And those who don’t celebrate at all? Hope you didn’t get stuck** working just because you don’t identify with a particular cultural or religious tradition. Sometimes it feels good to sleep late and then lie around reading all day or binge-watching a newly discovered series*** for hours while eating foods with more HFCS than fiber.
*Unlikely, but despite my age I do believe in Christmas miracles.
**Unless, of course, it was at a fabulous holiday wage differential. Here’s how I spent a double shift on July 4, 1976 at the glass factory: time and a half for the first eight hours, double time for the next four hours and triple time for the last four hours. Totally worth it.
***If you like great writing and wonderful ensemble performances and have a tolerance for some naughtiness, I’d suggest “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Superstore” and “The Good Place.” Oh, and “Madam Secretary” – Tea Leoni and Tim Daly have a chemistry that reminds me a lot of the one DF and I share.
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