THE KEY: Generosity

                In light of recent economic turmoil, everyone is interested in learning how to achieve financial freedom. How nice it would be to get off the emotional rollercoaster ride of the stock market’s ups and downs! To be free of watching your nest egg grow and contract with each breathless media report!

                Well, you can have that financial freedom – and true life contentment, too.

                You have the power to make your financial rollercoaster stop in its tracks.

                Ron Blue, a well-known and respected Christian financial advisor who has counseled hundreds of clients during his 40-year career, shares his secret to help you experience true financial freedom in his book “Generous Living.”

                Blue writes, “The amount of money you have has nothing to do with financial security or contentment.

                Neither can satisfaction be found in wise investments, careful budgets or debt-free living. Instead, the secret to financial freedom and joy is directly linked to one thing: The willingness to be generous with what you have.”

                If we embrace the understanding that God is in control, and God is the owner of everything, then the uncertainties in today’s economy are less overwhelming. If you follow biblical principles when making lifestyle and investment decisions, economic uncertainty shouldn’t substantially change what you do.

                What can change is your emotional reaction to what is happening around you. You can find a true sense of calmness and peace of mind when you deliberately and joyfully remember that He is in control, and all your needs will be provided for.

                Take that sense of hope to the next step and be generous in giving your resources to others. After all, they are really His resources, right? You will be joining the millions of Christians who give to charity each day. History shows that the typical Christian donor will not pull back significantly in his support, even in tough economic times. According to a Giving USA report, over the last 37 years, there have been 11 recessionary years. Charitable giving was most significantly impacted from 1973 to 1975, when there were three successive years of declines in giving overall.

                However, giving to religious causes is less impacted during recessionary times than giving to non-profits in general. In fact, giving to religious causes actually increased in 1974 and held close to steady in 1975.

                Giving to religious causes has dropped in only five out of the 11 recessionary years since 1970, because the lives of Christians are perhaps based on a lifestyle of stewardship rather than just philanthropic motivations. In other words, people of faith are motivated to give for a higher purpose and have made that a part of their lifestyle. This annual report has shown repeatedly that people of faith are six times more likely than their secular counterparts to give to charities of all types.

                If you are motivated to experience true financial freedom and life contentment, step away from the television and Newspaper reports, and focus on what is really important: Using your resources for Kingdom purposes.

                There are many sophisticated giving techniques that offer substantial tax advantages, so talk with your financial advisor regarding your personal situation. Here are a few year-end giving tips you might want to consider:

                Gifts in Cash or by Check – Give your gift directly to the church, Life or non-profit you want to support.

                Gifts of Donated Goods – Many charities welcome donations of clothing, household goods, furniture, appliances and more. Many of these organizations will come to your home to pick up the donated items. Ask for a detailed receipt as you may be able to claim a 2008 tax deduction.

                Gifts of Appreciated Assets – If you have owned stocks or mutual funds for more than one year, you can give these assets away and receive a deduction for their fair market value (pre-tax).

                Non-liquid Gifts – If you are planning to sell real estate or a business interest, you should consider gifting an interest in the real estate or business to a Donor Advised Fund before you sell it. This will give you a charitable deduction for the fair market value as well as avoid the capital gains tax on the sale of the portion you are going to give to charity, thus enabling you to turn tax dollars into charitable dollars. Visit the Christian Community Foundation of South Florida website at www.CCFSF.org for more information about charitable giving using a Donor Advised Fund.

                Tax-Free IRA distributions to charities – In early October, Congress approved and President Bush signed legislation that includes the extension of the popular Pension Protection Act of 2006 provision. This allows taxpayers who are older than 70 to make tax-free distributions from traditional and Roth IRAs directly to charity in 2008 and 2009. If you are in this age group, you may have more than adequate resources to fund your retirement, and since many retired people do not have large percentages of their assets invested in stocks, they have not been significantly impacted by recent market volatility. This can be a tax-efficient way to make a charitable gift.

                Above all, keep in mind that a time such as this presents a unique opportunity: The challenge to give out of faith rather than just out of prosperity.

                Remember the story of the widow’s gift?

                As Jesus observed the crowd giving their offerings at the temple, He watched as, “many rich people threw in large amounts.”

                Then, He saw a widow give an offering that was only worth a fraction of a penny.

Jesus responded saying, “This widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything” (Mark 12:44).

              Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas season!

Rob West is president and principal of Trust House, Inc., a fee-only financial and investment management firm. He is also a seminar instructor for Larry Burkett’s Crown Financial Ministries and co-hosts weekly interactive radio programs aired on 90.3FM WAFG. For information or to book a speaking engagement, call 954-351-2088. Please send questions and comments to [email protected]. The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.

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