Despite the fact that I am a planner by nature, somehow the holidays always sneak up on me and I am left to complete all Christmas shopping a week or two before the big day. (Yes, I have resolved to change my ways in 2014…)
I also find it increasingly difficult to come up with creative gift ideas as family members get older, have steady careers, good salaries, and can buy what they want at the drop of a hat, leaving me with very little to work with in the way of fun and exciting gifts that still have an element of surprise. If you find yourself in a similar predicament this year, I’m here to lend a few suggestions that are not your typical Christmas gift. Let’s think out of the box this Christmas…quite literally, because none of these gifts fit under a tree!
1. Donating to a charity or cause in someone’s honor.
Is there a charity or cause that you care deeply about? Or better yet, maybe a charity or cause that your family member or friend is passionate about? If so, give thought this year to making a donation in that person’s honor. This is a thoughtful gift for the person who already has everything they want this Christmas. By supporting a cause in your family member or friend’s name, you’ll leave both your heart and theirsfull, knowing you helped make a difference in someone else’s life. In addition, your charitable donations might have unique income tax benefits – read more in Eric’s recent blog post, Making Tax Efficient Donations and Gifts.
2. Open and fund a 529 Plan.
529 Plans are unique investment vehicles which allow tax-free distributions when used for qualified higher education expenses. What a wonderful gift for grandparents to give this year, for the benefit of a grandchild. By starting a college fund for your grandchild or grandchildren, you will be setting a great example for your adult children to start planning for education expenses that they may have yet to consider. It also demonstrates you value your grandchild’s future by taking a stake in their education. This is a heartfelt gift that will go beyond immediate gratification – this gift has long term benefits, and it could even be a gift that becomes a tradition for you and your family in which you decide to make a contribution on behalf of your grandchild or grandchildren each year.
To learn more about college savings strategies, read another blog post, College Savings Strategies by Eric Clark.
3. Start an “adventure fund” for a loved one.
The concept of an “adventure fund” was recently introduced to me by our Director of Financial Planning, Cheryl Sherrard. In a nutshell, an adventure fund is a separate savings account earmarked specifically for fun activities and/or trips to take with a designated person. The idea is, instead of simply passing assets to your loved ones through an inheritance at the end of your life; why not set aside a small portion of that money while you are still here to enjoy it by creating lasting memories with your closest family and friends? This could mean different things to different people depending on your circumstances. You might create a “Grandparent Adventure Fund” in which you set aside money specifically for adventures with your grandchildren. Maybe you don’t have grandchildren, but you and your spouse enjoy planning adventurous trips to see new places and try new things – to you this could mean creating a “Spouse Adventure Fund” in which you, as a couple, set aside designated savings for just this purpose. By giving a gift such as this, it not only creates a unique bond between you and the designated person of your choosing as you plan the “adventure” together, but it also leaves you both with lasting memories that a physical possession cannot match.
Check back with us soon, as Cheryl Sherrard plans to share suggestions and a deeper look into what a “Grandparent Adventure Fund” might look like.
Regardless of who you are shopping for this season, try thinking outside the box and give a gift that could potentially impact both you and others for a lifetime.
The information provided in this blog should be used as a general guideline. Consult your financial advisor before making any changes to your situation.