Good, Better, Best…

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Am I giving life the best I’ve got?” Giving back and living your best life with enthusiasm is what Spirit of Stewardship is all about. It’s meant to motivate, educate, and maximize your life from a charitable perspective. Your thoughts, words, and actions do make a difference. Each issue will contain succinct, pertinent information to help you get more out of life, live healthy and positively, and motivate yourself to give back to others. Life is cyclical. Get up. Get ready. Get the kids ready. Go to work. Come home.Share a meal…maybe! Participate in family activities. Watch some tv. Go to bed so you can get up and do it all over again. Throw in some vacation time each year and there’s your life summary. Naturally this daily routine doesn’t apply to everyone, but whatever one’s routine, we’re left asking ourselves, “Is this it?”

I’m here to share with you that life is so much more when you give back based on how you’ve been blessed. Maybe your talent is making money, or your people skills allow you to excel at making friends and networking. Perhaps your strength is parenting, or you’re a good listener. Are you able to do best what you enjoy most? It doesn’t matter what you’re paid, your title, or your employer, if you don’t like what you do, then that makes life tough to get up for day in and day out. But if you do enjoy what you do and those other entitlements are important to you, then I believe through hard work, networking, and following the golden rule, opportunity will find you…which some people call luck!

Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on how we got to where we are today to appreciate all that we have. Who among us can imagine spending 69 days underground like the Chilean miners? Have you thought about all the time you put into educating yourself? How has that been of value to you and those you now serve and educate? Maybe you had a parent, grandparent, or mentor who has given you some “pearls of wisdom” to steer you in the right direction. Perhaps now you’re in that position where you’re giving back to help someone or something. Those who give get so much more back in return. Do you believe this? Have you ever experienced the satisfaction of helping someone who can’t help you? If not, give it a try and see how that makes you feel.

I look forward to providing you with practical information that will make a difference for you and in the lives of those you touch. How do you get more out of life? Do good. Be better. Give your best. Good, better, best; never rest until your good is better and your better, best!sig

Think Young, Stay Healthy

In a Yale study, younger adults who had the most negative views on aging were almost twice as likely to later have a heart attack or other cardio problems as those with positive attitudes. To break out of stereotyped thinking, consider the lively older people you know or see on TV – Betty White on Hot in Cleveland, for example – and ask yourself if they fit the image you have of older folks.

Modest Giving Still Adds Up

According to studies by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, People who make less than $50,000 donate more as a percentage of their income (an average of 4.2 percent in 2004) than do those making more than $100,000 (who contribute 2.2 percent). Exceptional donors also tend to be less materialistic. Paul K. Piff, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, says people who have less are more likely to give and help others. In a series of experiments detailed in a recent article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Mr. Piff and his co-authors found that poor people were more likely to share money with others, or provide helpful information to a stranger, than wealthier people. But if wealthier people were primed to think about poverty by being exposed to a short video showing scenes of poor children, they exhibited greater generosity.

One Donor’s Philosophy on Giving

Fariborz Maseeh, found and principal of Picoso, an investment firm in Newport Beach, California, recently gave $24-million to MIT to accommodate more undergraduates. The gift came through Mr. Maseeh’s foundation. He offers his philosophy on giving.

“We’re looking for causes that will have a broad public benefit. We’re looking for transformational activities—that our gift actually does something that could not be accomplished. We are also looking for good management, because once we give, it’s really on the shoulder of the organization to carry out the gift itself.” – Fariborz Maseeh

Stating the Obvious

FEAR: How can I give to charity if I can’t even pay my own bills?

FACT: Charitable giving is a part of an overall strategy for taking control of your cash flow. If you start giving at the same time that you start building assets, your assets will still grow because you’ve chosen to adopt a fiscally responsible path for yourself.

FREEDOM: Instead of risking your financial freedom, giving will enhance it.

“The only question with wealth is what you do with it.” – John D. Rockefeller

Spotlight Organization

New Hope Life Center For Women

New Hope Life Center For Women goes beyond charitable giving and focuses on establishing a new paradigm for living. Women are encouraged to heal and grow, regardless of past pain and failure. They are given the tools needed to remain physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong throughout the rest of their lives.

I recently sat down with the president of the organization, Kathleen McCallister, to get her perspective on the good they do for women of hope.

Q: Why would someone want to support New Hope Life Center For Women?
A: “We’re successfully breaking the cycle by creating family and community instead of just a program.”

Q: What are the expectations of a woman entering recovery?
A: “When a woman enters the program, she commits to at least 9 – 12 months of holistic recovery. The holistic recovery integrates physical,mental, emotional, and spiritual health, as well as life skills and goal setting.”

Q: How do you measure success?
A: “We are successfully reversing the failure rate for female addicts in recovery and providing dramatic results for women, families, and the community. 75% of the women we graduate are clean and sober 1 year after program completion!”

Pay it forward: If you’d like to support the mission of New Hope Life Center For Women, you can contact them in the following ways.

3507 Harney Street, P.O. Box 31188
Omaha, NE 68131

How Will Expiring Tax Laws Affect You?

Get ready because here it comes! The tax breaks we’ve grown accustom to during the last decade are about to expire. What will it mean for you if the tax breaks are not extended? Let’s take a look.

Legislation: The two major tax-cutting bills from the Bush era were the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) of 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. These laws cut taxes for earned income, long-term capital gains and dividends.

Tax Brackets: EGTRRA created six tax rate brackets—10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%, based on income levels. If no extension is passed and signed into law, then the pre-2001 tax rates will go back into effect starting in tax year 2011. The 10% bracket would disappear, and those taxpayers would move up to the 15% bracket, which would apply to all incomes below $34,550. The other tax rates would increase to 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6% for the highest earners making more than $379,650.

Child Tax Credit: One major provision that will expire at the end of 2010 is the child tax credit. It will revert back to $500 for tax year 2011.

Capital Gains/Qualified Dividends: The maximum tax rate on long-term gains and qualified dividends were also reduced to 15%, with lower income filers facing a 0% tax rate. The sunset provisions would move the capital gains rate back to a maximum of 20%, and qualified dividends would resume being taxed at the regular tax rate of the filer, or as high
as 39.6%—ouch!

The “marriage penalty” is also set to expire. It gave a married couple filing jointly a standard deduction twice that of a single filer. As mentioned: be ready, pay attention, and talk with your advisors about what this all means for you.