Why do you invest? For many people, here’s the answer: “I invest because I want to enjoy a comfortable retirement.” And that’s certainly a great reason, because all of us should regularly put money away for when we’re retired. But you can also benefit by investing in your family and your community.
Let’s start with your family members, particularly the younger ones. How can you invest in their future? One of the best ways is to help send them to college. A college degree is still a pretty good investment: The average lifetime earnings of a college graduate are nearly $1 million higher than those of someone with a high school degree, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau.
To help your children or grandchildren pay for any college, university, vocational school or other postsecondary education, you may want to open a 529 savings plan. With this account, withdrawals are federally tax free, as long as the money is used for qualified higher education expenses, including those from trade and vocational schools. (However, if you withdraw some of the earnings on your account, and you don’t use the money for qualified expenses, it will be taxable and can also incur a 10% federal tax penalty.) Plus, you retain control of the funds until it’s time for them to be used for school, so if your original beneficiary chooses not to pursue some type of higher education, you can name a different eligible beneficiary.
Another way to invest in your family is to help your adult children avoid feeling obligated to provide financial assistance to you. For example, if you ever required some type of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home, could you afford it? The average cost for a private room in a nursing home is more than $100,000 per year, according to a study by Genworth, an insurance company. And Medicare typically pays very few of these expenses. So, to avoid burdening your adult children – while also preserving your own financial independence – you may want to consider some type of long-term care insurance. A financial advisor can help you determine what coverage may be appropriate.
Moving beyond your family, you may want to invest in the social fabric of your community by contributing to local charitable, civic, educational or cultural groups. Of course, now that we’re in the holiday season, it’s the perfect time for such gifts. Furthermore, your gift will be more appreciated than in years past because one of the chief incentives for charitable giving – a tax deduction – was lost for many people due to tax law changes, which raised the standard deduction so significantly that far fewer people chose to itemize deductions. However, you might still be able to gain some tax benefits from your charitable gifts. To name one possibility, you could donate financial assets, such as stocks that have risen in value, freeing you of potential capital gains taxes. In any case, contact your tax advisor if you’re considering sizable charitable gifts.
Saving for your retirement will always be important. But don’t forget about investing in your family and your community – because these investments can provide satisfying returns.