Give someone you love – or yourself – a financial Valentine’s Day this week. Americans are expected to spend $21 billion this year to express their love in this season of hearts and flowers. But you can do better. Roses and chocolate are fine, but the real gift of love is to help someone move forward in their life, whether they are a student, a senior or a sad animal.
â The gift of trust. You never know you’re good at something until someone tells you! Think about the skills you take for granted. Were you praised for your baking skills or your batting technique in high school? Someone could benefit from your help, perhaps a niece or nephew, or the after-school club or senior center. Look around and reach out to share your gift.
â The gift of vision. I recently spoke at a school downtown, and the topic was supposed to be the stock market and investing. But it only took me a few minutes to shift. I quickly realized that most of these children did not have the vision to have their own money from work. As a result, they had no idea about saving or investing. Some of the financial skills that our own children see as part of their daily lives â using an ATM, complaining about the market downturn, paying the bills â were a foreign language to them. Junior Achievement does a great job of exposing financial topics to school-aged children. Contact them and volunteer.
âThe gift of your presence. So many seniors are lonely, truly lonely, despite living in seniors’ residences. They have no one to help them with their banking, no one to take their health care power of attorney, no one to be their advocate in a health care facility. So if you’re spending Valentine’s Day alone at home and lament (or applaud) your singleness, reach out to the senior living alone down the hall.
â The gift of getting started. In my holiday column, I often mention the gift of stock. It’s so easy to do these days without spending huge amounts of money and hassle-free. Simply head over to Stockpile.com and download or email a gift card for as little as $25. The recipient can use it to choose from a wide selection of stocks. It could be a small first step towards a lifelong investing hobby â and a shared relationship (since a parent must be the guardian when opening the account.
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â The gift of education. Here’s another pitch for opening a 529 college savings account (SavingforCollege.com) and setting the stage for future contributions that will last longer than candy!
â The gift of compassion for animals. While it’s never recommended to give a pet as a gift, however cuddly a puppy can be, you can show your love by donating to a shelter or animal shelter. No one sends them hearts and flowers!
â The gift of family security. Do you have a will â or have you updated it recently? Too many people avoid this task, not wanting to think about their mortality. But here’s a sure bet: none of us will get out of here alive! The real gift from the heart is to contact an estate planning attorney. Look for one near you at NAEPC.org or NAELA.org.
And, in the same category of peace of mind, make sure you have enough life insurance to take care of your family in your absence.
Still out of floral cards and heart-shaped candy boxes for this day of love? Then buy a few more cards and send them anonymously to someone – young or old – who has no one who will remember them.
It is always the major holidays that hold our attention. But it’s the little moments that give us the opportunity to give the gifts that matter. Always remember that the best gift is not the one you receive, but the one you give. And that’s the wild truth.
(Terry Savage is a registered investment advisor and the author of four bestselling books, including “The Savage Truth on Money.” Terry answers questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com.)