Charitable Giving: Gift annuities provide income to donors while benefiting charities

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A recent article in USA Today stated that more than 20 percent of Americans consider the chance to win the lottery as their retirement plan! I was stunned, but taking into account the low return on savings accounts and the high debt loads the average consumer carries, a logical conclusion is that the lottery is the only way out.

But, thankfully, other methods of planning for retirement are available, including IRAs and 401K plans. An alternative, called a flexible gift annuity, is also a possibility. This is a form of charitable gift annuity that allows donors to make a gift to their favorite charity, and allows them to receive income from the gift at some time in the future.

Many Jewish organizations can help donors set up these sort of annuities and other retirement ideas that help support the myriad causes needing financial support. There are many gift plans that can be used to supplement income as well as retirement plans that are already in force.

And winning the lottery wouldn’t hurt!

With the flexible gift annuity, the donor can choose from a range of dates as to when the income will be needed most, usually based on life circumstances. If the income is not needed, the donor can elect to defer it. If circumstances change, however, the donor can elect to begin taking annuity payments sooner.

For example:

Joan and Louis are currently 55 and 57 years old. They both work and are taking full advantage of their company’s retirement plans and IRAs. They have $25,000 to put away for future income.

The Jewish National Fund’s planned giving department was able help the couple construct a flexible gift annuity in which the income would not start for a minimum of seven years, Louis’s retirement age, but could be further deferred for a maximum of 13 years. By doing this, Joan and Louis guaranteed themselves a minimum annuity rate of 9.7 percent after seven years, but if they choose to continue deferring payments they could earn up to 21 percent. In other words, they could elect to receive their income at the time when they need it the most, based on their needs and desires.

Even while deferring their income, they receive their tax deduction now. This allows them to save taxes when their income is at its highest and the tax savings are most valuable.

When everything is finished, the money Joan and Louis donated to their flexible gift annuity will be used to fund JNF projects in the Negev.

Establishing a charitable gift annuity is a way to receive current income. In this case the amount you can receive is based on the age or ages of the income beneficiaries. The older you are the more income you receive. In most cases the rates are higher than some commercial investments and a portion of each payment can be tax-free. When you add the tax deduction to the equation, the charitable gift annuity can be an attractive fixed-income alternative to bonds or certificates.

For more detailed information, call your favorite charity to see if they offer these plans.

Now, where is that lottery ticket I bought last week? n

Matt Bernstein
is chief planned giving officer at the Jewish National Fund.