Mar 01

I’m back today, but with a guest post from my favorite puppy, Scooter -

It’s been a year since I guest posted Feed the People, and I’m sorry that I’m back this year. Sorry that there are still people in this country and within our state who still see this more often than they’d like:

dogbowl

When I see my empty bowl, my family taught me not to bark, because bark is for emergencies. I only need to sit by my bowl and they bring me my dinner, and even seconds if I am still hungry. It’s sad to me that 1 in 10 people struggle to put food on the table. Last year, our online friend, (they say that on the internet no one know if you are really a dog? Well, this friend is just the opposite, a 20-something MIT graduate with a heart of gold) Stephanie the Blogger, raised $2000 in a big event, Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger. My family was between jobs, but still helped out by matching $250 in donations, and helped to promote the event. You know what? A year later, the stock market is up 33%, but the hunger issue is still with us.

This year, I’m asking you to join in, and donate at the Project Bread site. This is what my family will do this year – When Stephanie hits $1000, Joe will donate $500, then at $2000, another $500. Here’s the plan – Joe and Stephanie each have nearly 3000 twitter followers, and hundreds of Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Only one in 10 needs to donate $10 to help raise over $5000 this year. What’s great is that you don’t need to sit and write a check, you can go to the site and make a donation with a credit card. Every bit counts and will help to Feed the People!

Love, Scooter

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Apr 01

Today, I have a special guest post from my dog, Scooter -

When my family feeds me, I know I’m special. I don’t kid myself though, I know that there are people who go to bed hungry each night in this country. I know that if I were hungry and saw this, I’d be very sad.

dogbowl

I wanted to make sure that my friends all tell their families about a special group of people that are raising money to help feed those who don’t have enough to eat. It’s called Walk For Hunger and if you click on the link it will take you to a family friend’s page where Stephanie is helping to fight hunger. Her team’s name is Tired Dogs which is what made me think that even though I am just a puppy, I can help too. I asked my family to set aside a few dollars each week when they buy me food. Now, they have money they’d like to donate to this cause, and to help make this money go even further, they’re going to offer a matching challenge -

Before going to bed last night, they saw how much the Tired Dogs have raised so far and it was $545. Next Sunday night, they will check the total again and match up to $250 of the money you donated this week. So, when you read this, just be as generous as you can, and your donation will be matched this week. After all, I hope that we treat other people at least as well as we treat me, and I know I’m never hungry!

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Jan 16

Two years ago, I wrote about donating your IRA RMD (The required minimum distribution you must take from your traditional IRA if you are over 70-1/2). This effectively gave people who were charitable, had to take RMDs, and for the most part, weren’t itemizing their deductions. Congress dragged its feet on this rule for 2012 up until after the New Year, and the IRS has published the rules for those who wish to take advantage of this in 2012.

To take advantage of the QCD (Qualified Charitable Distributions) for 2012 is a bit tricky. If you took your RMD in December, 2012, you can donate any or all of it (up to $100K per person) to a charity and have it count as a 2012 QCD.

If you wish, you can make your 2012 QCD by having your IRA distribution paid directly to the charity. But note, if you wish to make a 2013 QCD, you must wait until after January.

Note also – If you forgot to take your RMD for 2012, this is a pretty cool way to avoid paying Uncle Sam a penalty, and letting your favorite charity be the richer. Recall, a missed RMD comes with a 50% penalty, so between the tax and penalty, you may have as little as 15% left. Time to help that local Vet’s Shelter.

I’ve offered a quick overview of this rule, if you wish to read more, Charitable Donations from IRAs for 2012 and 2013 is the link to the IRS press release.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Oct 05

This past weekend was amazing for me. It was the first annual Financial Blogger Conference (#fincon11 if you are looking for tweets about it), organized by Phil Taylor, of PT Money and attended by 250 Personal Financial Bloggers. You may be one of them, or you might have read their work through my frequent Sunday Roundups.

I’ll have another article or two to bring stories from the conference, but today I want to share what we did Friday afternoon. One of my fellow bloggers, J Money from Budgets are Sexy is also the co-founder of Love Drop. From their site : Love Drop is a micro-giving network of people who unite as a community to help one person or family a month. By subscribing to the team for as little as $1, we make it easy for our members to change lives in a fun and tangible way. Each month Love Drop delivers a unique combination of unexpected financial gifts, personal encouragement and the support of local and online communities.

The first event of the afternoon was to perform a work of charity at Phil’s Friends. Phil’s Friends is a faith-based charity that provides support and comfort to those who are fighting cancer. They distribute care packages to patients and their families, organize fund raising events, and even help host concerts with the likes of Avalon, 33 Miles and Mark Schultz. The purpose of Phil’s Friends is “to bring hope.” People are diagnosed with cancer every day, and often have no place to turn. We all need comfort, peace, and joy, and Phil’s Friends seeks to provide this “hope” for everyone who needs it.

80 of us spent about two hours helping clean and organize the new office space, help assemble care packages, and write and address cards to cancer patients. You can see the YouTube Video if you’d like. You can see the excitement of this wonderful group of people and how just a bit of time multiplied by a bus of 80 of us can really make a difference to this charity.

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,

Oct 03

A guest post by Michael -

Since my forum/blog is about credit card offers, that’s normally what you will see me writing about; superficial topics related to cash back, balance transfers, and the like. So when I have the opportunity to blog about something other than credit cards – and instead – a topic that actually matters, I jump for it. Charity is one of those topics that matter, but according to the richest man alive it does not.

If you’re not familiar with Carlos Slim, he’s a Mexican business tycoon who happens to be the world’s richest man for two years and counting. Over the decades he has acquired stakes in a broad array of companies and industries, but is most famous for being “Mr. Monopoly” thanks to Telmex – a company which has a 90% marketshare of Mexican landline phones.
So much are we talking here? His wealth is equal to 7 or 8% of Mexico’s GDP! $74 billion for 2011. That’s almost 40% higher than the $53.5 billion he had last year. Despite the fact he’s making money hand over fist, most of this worldly wealth of his stays put in his piggybank. In his own words, here’s why:

“Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything”
“To give 50%, 40%, that does nothing” (in reference to the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge)
Before we get to his next quote, I just wanted to say… how the heck can he even make such broad statements like that? Giving hasn’t solved anything?!
“What we need to do as businessmen, is to help to solve the problems, the social problems,” he explains. “To fight poverty, but not by charity”

That last quote may sound less brash – maybe even sensible – upon your first glance of it. He says that “being a Santa Clause” is not the solution to poverty and building businesses is. “The only way to fight poverty is with employment.”
With all due respect Mr. Slim, I completely disagree with you and here’s why:

Reason #1: You first have to be able to work
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I’m all for that mindset. But what if the man physically can’t work yet, due to malnutrition and disease? Or maybe the man isn’t starving, completely. But he has to spend several hours every single day fetching water and – if he’s lucky – gathering firewood to boil it. You spend seconds flicking a faucet, he has to spend hours.

In Western societies, the vast majority of us are able-bodied and are ready to work at the drop of a hat, if need be. If we’re unemployed, there’s a good chance we still have a roof over head, food on the table (even if it’s not our own). I lived below the poverty threshold for years, but my dumpy shared apartment and broken-down car was still living in the lap of luxury, compared to what even the well-to-do have in say, the horn of Africa.

So yes, in places like the US, employment is the solution for many [but not all] living in poverty. But that’s because many [but not all] in this country have their basic necessities already; food, water, emergency healthcare, etc. We have a leg up. You won’t find that everywhere… there are basic needs that need to be met first and without charity, that’s unlikely to happen.

Reason #2: Some won’t ever be able to work
Okay Mr. Slim, let’s say we follow your advice and erect a sweatshop as an act of charity (ha). Chances are there indeed will be many able-bodied individuals who can slave away on those sewing machines, widget makers, or whatever product is being concocted.
Alright so we have some folks working and it’s all gravy, but what about everyone who physically can’t work? Tell me Mr. Slim, do we throw the quadriplegic to the wolves since he can’t participate in this “solution” of employment?
For those who are truly unable to work due to physical or mental disabilities, then charitable acts of some form or fashion are ultimately the only thing that can be done. They can’t be taught to fish, so the fish will have to keep coming from elsewhere; either from the public or private sector (charity).

In the U.S. there are some forms of public assistance, but whether they operate sufficiently is another can of worms. Saving that argument for another time, let’s just talk about the other 95.2% of the world’s population for a moment. Nearly 50% of them live on less than $2 a day. What help do you think the disabled are given in those places? Do you think the governments in those countries are sending them Social Security checks and food stamps? Not a chance. In many of those places, there is zero – ABSOLUTELY ZERO – help from the government for the sick, blind, and lame. That leaves charity or nothing at all.

Reason #3: How much is enough, Mr. Slim?
Based on what he has said in various interviews, he won’t be bequeathing his estate to charity when he dies. So where will it go?
Even if his six children were left with “only” $1 billion each, it would be enough to support literally the most extravagant lifestyle imaginable. Each could buy their own Gulfstream 500 at $60M, throw down $100M on real estate, and they would still have $840M left over – each of them – to spend on sustaining that lifestyle. So that’s $6 billion accounted for. Is it really that repulsive to you, Mr. Slim, to divvy up some of that other $70 billion or so “being a Santa Claus” and helping some folks in need? Even if it’s only the sick, blind, and lame whose poverty cannot be cured with a job?

Michael runs CreditCardForum, a site for discussing credit card offers and benefits which admittedly, aren’t important at all in the grand scheme of things.

(Note from Joe – I met Michael this past weekend at the first annual Financial Blogger’s Conference. A warm, genuine person, it was an honor to spend some time and get to know him.)

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,