Dec 15, 2022 Giving Cash at Christmas

John and Sarah (not their real names) are getting frustrated with Christmas gift-giving. Their kids are doing well and can pretty much buy anything they want. They struggle to come up with something meaningful to give during the holidays. This year, while commiserating at a warm coffee shop, they decide to write checks for their children up to the ’22 gift limit of $16,000. They think back to when they had young children and what a blessing that would have been for them.

They have never done anything quite this substantial, so they are both nervous and excited when the day rolls around. Finally, the whole family is in the living room after a beautiful meal, and John hands the checks to each of his three kids.

One son opens the letter and crickets. “Uh, Thanks.” Their daughter looks worried. “Is everything ok? Are you sick?” Their youngest just booked a big trip, so with a fist pump, he announces how excited he is to use these funds to cover it.

John and Sara are left feeling a little confused. Sarah turns to John and asks, “Do you think they even liked them?”

What went wrong? What can they do better? They talk with their advisor at LRIA and get a few tips to communicate better when giving to kids. Money can be so personal that they didn’t realize they need to be intentional with what they are trying to do. If they don’t, they leave the gift to many interpretations that are far from accurate. Their advisor asks them to consider including a letter that addresses the following points in their own words:

  1. Communicate a value – You can talk about the importance of family and how your parent helped you out. Or you could talk about the value of hard work, independence, courage, or the pursuit of knowledge. It doesn’t need to be the same value for every child or every gift. Using the money to demonstrate something bigger can add meaning and help explain why you are giving the gift.
  2. Relate it to you – Talk a little about what was happening when you were their age. Explain what it would have meant to you to get a gift like this. Consider what it meant to earn the money when you were their age. One day you sat in a very similar space, not very different from the living room they are sitting in, when they receive this envelope.
  3. You want to do this now – Let your kids know you want to do it now while you can see them. You don’t want to wait until you are gone before they get anything. If it brings you joy, share that joy. If it scares you, share that fear.
  4. This gift doesn’t prevent you from doing anything you want to do – Communicate that this is something you can afford to do without changing any of your plans. If you are content and doing everything you want, your kids can be content that they are not taking anything away from you to accept the gift.

The following year rolls around, and the kids all come home for Christmas. Well, the week after Christmas, but the whole family is there. Sarah hands out the envelopes. At first, the kids look uncomfortable. They peek into the cards and see the single-page letters. Then, each sits down to read. There isn’t a dry eye in the room as each child walks up one by one and gives a heartfelt hug of thanks to their parents. They understand the gift.

– Ben Rickey. Adapted from the writings of Susan Turnbill at Personal Legacy Advisors. If you would like to discuss meaningful gift giving with your advisor, please call the office at 509-972-3686 or schedule an appointment. We have resources to help you communicate your values as part of your legacy.

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