Last week, I celebrated my 41st birthday.
A year earlier, I celebrated my 40th in style with a scrumptious steak dinner followed by a nighttime kayak with my wife in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay on Vieques Island of Puerto Rico. It was an amazing getaway. You only turn 40 once, and I made sure my big day was a memorable day.
41 doesn’t deserve the same treatment. Just like a 21st birthday is a big deal (Hooray, beer!), 22 comes and goes without so much pomp and circumstance. For my 41st, I didn’t go anyplace exotic or throw down on any steak. I slept in, shoveled snow, shoveled more snow, braved the snow to visit not one, but two local breweries for a birthday beer, but both had closed mid-afternoon. Darned snow.
I don’t have much need for birthday gifts. I received a few this year, but as a wannabe minimalist, I don’t want a whole lot of stuff that I don’t already have. A wise man once said, “It’s better to give than receive.”
On my birthday, I did receive one particularly wonderful gift, a confirmation from Vanguard Charitable that my $100,000.00 donation was official. $100,256.43 to be exact.
I gave myself a gift that keeps on giving, a substantial gift of mutual funds to our donor advised fund. It’s a permanent, one-way donation from my brokerage account to Vanguard Charitable. From there, I can direct where the funds go, and when to distribute them, as long as they are granted to bona fide 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.
I have a lot to be thankful for.
I am thankful to be in a position to donate $100,000 without sacrificing my family’s future.
I am thankful to have a wonderful, healthy family, which includes a lovely woman who doesn’t mind when I desert the family to watch football or decide I’d like to give away a whole bunch of our money.
I am thankful for my parents and the way they raised me that contributed to my success.
I am thankful for the hundreds of educators and mentors who taught me so much, allowing me to end up here after 41 trips around the sun.
I am thankful for the personal finance and FIRE blogging community for the inspiration and interaction that makes blogging so worthwhile. MMM recently celebrated his 42nd birthday by donating $100,000*. This generosity is contagious!
I am thankful for turkey and mashed potatoes, and the fact that once a year, we mix lime jell-o, cream cheese, whipped cream, and pears into something we call a “salad”.
Also pie. I am thankful for pie.
Where Will The Money Go?
I don't know, exactly.
That’s the beauty of the donor advised fund (DAF). I don’t have to make that decision just yet. But now that the money has left my brokerage account, it is destined for charity. In fact, if I fail to give from the fund for five consecutive years, Vanguard will start doling it out on my behalf. That won’t be an issue. I give from it every year.
In the past, I’ve given to the Salvation Army, our local food shelf and soup kitchen, animal shelter, school, church, and hospital, among others. I also give to my alma mater, some national charities, and I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve read about giving to international organizations that help the truly poor in third world nations.
When I am fully retired, I’ll have time to do the research and make informed decisions as to where I’d like our donated dollars to go. I plan to treat the donor advised fund much like my nest egg. Every year, a percentage will be accessed, and in the case of the DAF, given away. I can afford a higher withdrawal rate on the donation side, since the consequences aren’t as dire if our giving fund runs dry, and I plan to continue adding to it after retiring.
Why I Donate
I donate because I can.
I donate because I recognize the privileged life I’ve been born into that all but guaranteed success.
I donate because I don’t always have the time** to help, but I’ve got more money than I need. The ability to give generously is one of the best benefits of financial independence.
I donate because I would rather give away the excess than spend extravagantly on myself. I have enough.
As an aspiring early retiree, I sometimes think about what I could do if I continued to work. Even just one more year. Well, I’m already doing that, and the ability to do make a donation like this is one reason why. In fact, when I decided to pursue early retirement and created my investor policy statement, building up a sizable donor advised fund was part of the plan.
*I knew that MMM had donated an identical sum, but I had forgotten it was part of his birthday celebration. Any copycat behavior is at least somewhat accidental. Not that there’s anything wrong with a six figure donation to mark an otherwise unremarkable birthday.
**I don’t have a ton of free time, but I am taking a couple hours on Black Friday to be a Salvation Army bell ringer with my boys who will take turns ringing with me. I’ll have them donate from their “give” jar that we instituted when we started an allowance, and stand in the cold with me to collect money for people who can’t afford to heat their own homes. You can register to ring here.