Friday, August 26, 2016

dOnnOr 2016; be Advised

A few months ago, I was searching for a good digital picture of my dad, and I decided to google him.  To my surprise, one of the top hits I got was a story about how he and my mom had donated $300,000 to their alma mater.  I had known that my parents had been generous with their school, but I hadn't known the specifics until then.  (The way my dad explained it to his kids is, "We're giving away your inheritance.")  And I was super proud -- the first google hit I got for my dad wasn't about his career in physics (which is prodigious--Science Citation Index credits him with more than 150 articles); it's about this act of giving.  That's impressive.

(Okay, I know it also says something about the PR machine of the school my parents gave the money to versus the PR tinker-toy of particle physics, but I'm still impressed).

And so we have dinner.  Or more specifically, dOnnOr, originally named after one of my kids' favorite snacks, the Opple.  You make an Opple by starting with an apple, and coring it . . .

and then slicing it thinly.   Voila!  Opples!

And this entire bowl of Opples disappeared at dinner, compared to a few little bags of potato pOtOtO chips that I had brought home from some event where there were more people than food.  (Note to self: only 40% of the people at my table ate any of the chips.)

But I digress:  the annual dOnnOr is a time for us to eat food shaped in Os (like Opples, and  hOmbOrgOrs on bOgles), and it's also a time I get to think about charitable giving.  You are what you eat:  if you eat dOnnOr, then you turn into a donor. (?!)

This past week, I *finally* did something I've been thinking about/working toward for a long time: I opened a Donor Advised Fund with Vanguard Charitable.  This money is now something I can direct to specific charities, at whatever time in the future I deem fit.  Pulling together the money to set this up took a long time because the initial investment is so big . . . but you eat an Opple one bite at a time, and I saved up for this fund a bit at a time, and so eventually I got here.

The Donor Advised Fund really becomes a mini charitable funding entity.  Mine is called by my last name and my husband's last name:  as in, "the Miser-Nonmiser Fund".  I think of it as part of my "Retirement Charity Savings".  I have a regular retirement savings through my 403b (like a 401K, but for academics); I have an HRSA (Health Retirement Savings Account) that's just for retirement medical expenses; and now I have my Donor Advised Fund.  Between now and when I retire, the fund monies will be invested (through Vanguard Charitable) in the stock market, so they can grow along with my retirement portfolio, and then later when I'm ready, I can start giving that money away.

The practical advantages are that this allows me to save more money for retirement in a tax advantaged way.   Since I'm going to give money to charity after I retire, this fund allows me to get the tax break now (I'm already maxing out my 403b).  But the emotional break is even bigger than the tax break for me:  I don't have to feel like I'm making a choice between being generous and hoarding money for my future self:  from now on, this is a way I can do both at once.


  1. Congrats! I think we're going to try to open one next year if we're still both gainfully employed.

    1. If I learn anything surprising while doing this, I'll be sure to give you a heads up!