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Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail

Guest Blog by Anya Harden, Philanthropy Intern

As a Gen Z college student it often feels like I have all the time in the world. Classes, semesters, and club meetings all seem to last forever and with childhood in such recent memory, the pragmatic approach of planning for retirement and life post-career seems nonsensical, especially since at this point of my life I have yet to launch a career. However, during my time in college I have also learned that time flies when you don’t plan accordingly… like when there is an assigned end of the semester project or paper that you don’t think about until a week before it is due. In this typical college example (along with many others), the Winston Churchill quote, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” comes to mind.

During my Philanthropy Internship with the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville, I have been learning about the importance of planning as it pertains to generosity and the difference it can make in the future of your community. America is ranked as the most generous nation on earth according to the World Giving Index, and even though 63% of Americans make charitable donations, only 8% of them include a gift to charity in their estate plans. In fact, 67% of Americans don’t have a will or estate plan. This means there is a good chance that a lot of the generosity in this country today will be missed by my generation and the generations that follow.

Many people leave the entirety of their estates to their children and families. However, when you leave even a small portion of your estate to the nonprofit of your choice, you not only have an impact on the lives of your family but the community they will inherit. Planned giving also often works to increase the amount of overall impact your estate has through tax benefits. In America, seventeen states have estate or inheritance taxes and, without a plan, what happens to a solid chunk of your estate will be a decision made without your input. In other words, if you do not plan for your estate, the state will make a plan for you. However, if you leave cash or some other assets to a nonprofit, this can often lessen the tax burden on your loved ones sometimes receiving tax exempt status or avoiding capital gains taxes.*

All this to say that planned giving can help ensure that more of your money goes towards causes that you care about, while still providing for your loved ones. This is especially pertinent to my generation as we are known for our passion for social causes. Of course, keeping all these things in mind is important for all generations to prepare for yourself, your family, and your community.

As a young person, I know that the future is still distant but through the awareness I’ve gained from the Community Foundation about this simple and strategic way to give, I’m excited to plan for my future and encourage my community members to remember the places and people they love in their estate planning. 

*The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice.