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You don’t have to be rich to be charitable

Every year prior to Christmas, I struggle with finding the right words to put into a financial column. Maybe it’s because of my experience over the years of watching the Muppets tell the story of Scrooge, first with my sons and now with my grandchildren.

In the real world it can be difficult to find the right path between fiscal responsibility and generosity. So much of investing and financial planning involves establishing, then working to achieve your financial goals, including such things as financing a child’s education or determining how to prepare financially for a retirement that might last more years than you expect. 

Financial advice typically focuses on saving and investing for maximum returns in order to provide a secure and comfortable future for yourself and your loved ones. 

Christmas is a time to reflect and appreciate that, in the big picture, most of us are doing pretty well. It doesn’t take a financial plan to know that you have a roof over your head and food on your table.

If you are among the fortunate, this is the time of year to be extra generous. The Christmas season is about sharing, not only with family and friends, but also with those that are less fortunate.

It doesn’t have to be a financial issue; it might be a health issue instead. But whatever the misfortune, you don’t have to look far to find someone who could use a helping hand, a friendly face or maybe just an ear that’s willing to listen.

This is definitely the time of year when it’s perfectly okay to put your own goals and aspirations on hold to help those that need a financial, physical or emotional lift.

It’s true, of course, that many people need help all year long. I have clients that volunteer on a regular basis at food kitchens throughout the tri-county area. I have doctor clients that travel overseas to help the less fortunate. And many more clients that volunteer their time and energy to a wide variety of local and national organizations that help improve the lives of others. 

I believe such people, though they are exceptional, are not the exception. Rather, they are typical in that they find the right blend of hard work and generosity.

There are people that do a lot of good things for others throughout the year, but this is the time for everyone to reflect on how fortunate they are, and perhaps be a bit more generous toward those in need of a helping hand.

I know it seems I’m offering conflicting advice. I’ve always encouraged readers to spend carefully and avoid running up credit card debt, advice that’s especially meaningful when holiday charges come due.

And now I’m encouraging everyone to be generous. But I’m comfortable with that because most prudent investors stay balanced to avoid pitfalls. And balance is what it takes to find the right combination of fiscal responsibility and generosity. Your heart and your pocketbook have to be working in tandem, neither stepping on the other’s toes.

I believe it’s possible for anyone to shop and save and still have something to give to people in need. After all, it doesn’t have to be financial. 

Merry Christmas to all my readers, clients and friends.