In the past few weeks, I’ve dedicated our SAGE blog to four streams of consciousness that combine to serve as the undercurrent, or the “life” portion, of financial LIFE planning:
I’ve intentionally saved Giving as the best for last.
If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
— Chinese Proverb
Personally, I love the luxury of an occasional nap. And clearly, given my profession, I’ve got nothing against inherited fortunes either. But whether it’s giving of your time, your money, through an act of kindness or simply by offering an understanding ear – there are few other ways to become happier, quicker than giving … for everyone involved.
A PBS series “This Emotional Life,” shares the following, excellent anecdote:
One study followed women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who volunteered as peer supporters to other patients. They received training in compassionate listening techniques and called the patients to talk and listen for 15 minutes at a time. The study followed the volunteers for three years and found that they had increased self-esteem, self-acceptance, satisfaction, self-efficacy, social activity, and feelings of mastery. The positive outcomes for the volunteers were even greater than for the patients they were helping.
Talk about a win-win situation. My own favorite charitable organizations are those in which the donor, the beneficiary and the community at large benefit from a symbiotic exchange of one another’s energy and inspiration, such as Kiva microloans and the Half the Sky Movement.
Closer to home, for those of us who so recently experienced the life-altering events wrought by Hurricane Sandy, I think we all understand the power found in helping others as well as being helped. As poignantly described by Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project: “The spectacle of virtue inspires the feeling of elevation — one of the most delicate pleasures that the world offers.”
Or, as stated more bluntly by Hugh Romney (aka, “Wavy Gravy”) when describing his experience at Woodstock in 1969: “There’s always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area.”
However, you word it, it feels good to give. It feels good to give to family and other loved ones. It can also feel good to give to people and families you may never meet, but whose lives you can elevate, sight-unseen.
All this good from giving can feel even better when you are able to meld it into the whole of your financial LIFE plan. By combining your charitable donations, lifetime gifts and legacy goals with SAGE financial and tax management and coordinated estate planning, we can help ensure that your efforts are spent as you intended, minimizing the taxes, red tape and other unforeseen outcomes that can foil your best-laid plans and most heartfelt intentions.
Thus, there is a tight relationship – tighter than most of us realize – between traditional financial planning and these more ethereal life-affirming habits: gratitude, meditation, social time, and giving. The more practically you plan the rest of your affairs around these core essentials, the more effectively you can free your time, your energy and your resources to achieve what blogger Eric Barker refers to as a positive feedback loop of happiness.
Or maybe we can just call that the circle of life.
Sheri Iannetta Cupo, CFP®, is Founding Principal of SAGE Advisory Group, based in Morristown, NJ, an independent, Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisory firm, specializing in providing busy professionals and their families with well-coordinated financial life planning and money management services. You can find more here: www.sageadvisorygroup.com