Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waiting for Normal


"These are the times that try men's souls."

- Thomas Paine


It's the middle of January, which means it's the usual time to make the yearly update to my Net Worth page, which I have done.  While the gains were not as stellar as the last two years, it was still a good year financially.

There may also be a few people wondering what became of my startup plans.  I suppose people imagine the likely outcomes to be: (a) venture capitalists are knocking on my door and I'm inundated with work; (b) the whole project bombed and I'm licking my wounds; or (c) I wasn't prepared for the workload and backed out of the whole thing to protect my family.

But in fact, nothing at all has happened with the startup venture or many other areas of my life.  Unfortunately, almost immediately after my earlier posts, two very significant items negatively affected my life.  Both of these issues have required Herculean efforts, and yet the final outcomes are largely out of my control.

After 8 years of blogging, I think my readers have realized I am a private person when writing this blog and do not give a lot of details.  But to clear up a little of the confusion, I will tell you that these issues have nothing to do with my finances, my job, or my marriage.  So I'm sure you can read between the lines as to what significant life events must be left.

I am now in one of those stages of life where a lot of energy and anxiety is expended, but in the end, it feels like it is mostly waiting.  Waiting for change.  Waiting for normal.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Process of Giving Appreciated Stock to Charity



CHARITY (4617398390)



Disclaimer

This article is not about when or what to donate to charity.  The rules around deductibility of stock donations are complex, and I would definitely recommend that you consult a tax advisor.  If you want to try to understand some of the rules yourself, the following guide may be helpful to you: Planning Perspectives: Giving Securities.  My post only describes my personal experience with the mechanics of the process.

Confusion

The main reason I never donated stock before was simply that the process was unfamiliar.  There was no big "DONATE" button to click next to the stock holdings in my account, so I had a lot of procedural questions.  Who do I contact first: the charity or the broker?  What information do I need?  Do I need to contact a specific person about this?  What sorts of fees are involved?

This confusion about where to begin led me to procrastinate on stock donations.  (As an aside, I sometimes wonder how many personal finance bloggers actually do most of the things they suggest others should be doing.)  At any rate, I finally went ahead and did this a few weeks ago, and I want to explain the process in the hopes of getting others motivated to give in this way.

Contact Your Broker

It turns out the process was simpler than I expected.  Your brokerage firm will have a form to transfer stock.  If you can't locate it online, just call and ask for it.  The form has two main parts.  The first part is about you: name, account details, stock details, etc.  You should have no trouble filling this part out.  The second part is about the charity: account details, contact person, etc.  This is the tricky part.  Of course, you won't know these details, and you may not even be familiar with some of the terms.  Don't worry; this is where the charity comes in.

Contact Your Charity

Contact the charity and tell them that you are planning on donating appreciated stock and that you need details about the charity for the transfer.  Almost any large charity will have an information sheet about these details ready to send to you.  (If they don't have written information, I would suggest getting the appropriate person on the phone and walking through the transfer form, item by item.)

Fill Out The Form

Attempt to fill out the second half of the transfer form from your brokerage with the details from the charity.  It's possible you still won't be able to fill it out completely, as the charity may not have provided all the information you need or they may have used different terms than the brokerage.  In my case, for example, the charity did not provide a contact name and number that were required on the form.

Confirm The Form

At this point, I feel it's crucial to send the second half of the form (not the first half with your own account information!) to the charity filled out as best you can and ask them to confirm everything and to fill in any details you couldn't figure out.  If you are not a "hands on" sort of person, I suppose you could just skip the previous two steps and send the blank second half of the transfer form to the charity as soon as you get it from your broker.  Personally, I wanted to attempt to fill it out so that I had a general understanding of it.

The bottom line in this whole process: after you've decided what you're going to donate, the information all comes from the charity, but it must be in the form specified by your broker.

Submit The Form

Submit the form to your broker.  In my case, they asked that the form be faxed to them.  (I didn't realize people still use fax machines!)  Let the charity know they should be expecting the transfer.  Also let them know if you want the funds designated for some particular purpose.

Monitor The Transfer

The actual transfer took place the next business day.  The charity sent me a confirmation e-mail as I had requested.  The brokerage also sent me a confirmation, but it did not contain price details like a normal buy/sell confirmation.  However, the transfer price information was later provided on my monthly statement.  I personally encountered no fees of any sort to perform the transfer.

That was it.  Pretty simple!  Now that I understand the process, I intend to donate stock in any future years where that would make sense with my holdings and my tax situation.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Times Like These


It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again

- Foo Fighters, Times Like These


The oblique reference to giving amidst suffering in the above lyrics aptly conveys one of the more enduring mysteries of our existence.  When pain and adversity come, our natural inclination is to start clutching and grasping for all things - not just money, but time, possessions, words, and even relationships.  Giving is usually the furthest thing from our mind.

The irony is that often giving is exactly what can start us on the road to recovering from suffering.  No, giving can't solve the original pain point - it can't cure the disease, reconcile the relationship, or provide us the material things we lost.  But it can change our mental attitude, which is often the longest lasting part of the suffering.

Personally, I have yet to experience a downturn in my life that began to get better until I was willing to give a little of my time to help someone else, to give a kind word to another hurting soul, to part with something I didn't really need as much as someone else did, and to be less of a taker and more of a giver in relationships.

While there is irony that giving can alleviate suffering, there is perhaps a greater irony that no matter how many times we learn this lesson, we always seem to have to relearn it, time and time again.  Apparently the tendency to keep and retain everything is so instinctive that when we are suffering, we are generally not able to realize that there is a better choice.  I hope that writing this article will help me make that connection sooner the next time I'm in that situation.