'Tis the season for charitable giving

Dec 20, 2011

Greg Heberlein and Dave Meyer usually talk about ways to save and invest money. But on this week's Money Matters, they concentrate on how to give it away!

Charitable giving is more important than ever this year. Thanks to the ailing economy, federal, state and local governments have less money to help the needy. More and more people are turning to nonprofit organizations for help.

Why should you give? 

Obviously, there is satisfaction – a warming of the soul – in aiding those less fortunate.

But for those more focused on the bottom line, there may also be tax advantages. If you're able to itemize deductions on your tax return, charitable giving may lower the amount you owe the IRS.

Why give now?

The federal government is struggling to cut deficits. There is no guarantee that the rules for charitable deductions will be as lenient next year. And, given inflation, the deduction works even better if you take it earlier than later.

These are tough times. What if you can't afford to give cash?

This is a very important point. Citizens can contribute, sometimes in an even more meaningful way, by donating time. Those out of work, desperately seeking a job, still may have the ability to give a few hours a week to their local charity.

Is the charity legitimate?

There are a lot of organizations asking for donations this time of year. It's always a good idea to do your homework and know exactly where your money is going.

You can look up charities at the Better Business Bureau. You can also find useful information at the websites of the Washington Attorney General and Secretary of State.

Happy holidays!