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May 20, 2012


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Yes, our will (actually a revocable trust) does specify that 10 pct be given to charity. It is allocated based on whatever we may have done during the prior tax year. Part of our reasoning is our children are already in their forties and they easily may be around 60 by the time they inherit anything.

Note that some banks will allow you to have a charity as a beneficiary on your bank account. One advantage of this is that POD beneficiaries on bank accounts can be used to increase FDIC coverage over $250K. There used to be requirements that beneficiaries could only be immediate family members for you to receive this benefit. However, now any person or qualified charity can be used. It's actually better to have charities than people as beneficiaries since the extra coverage goes away with no grace period when the beneficiaries die.

Our favorite cause is probably not considered a charity by religious people, however it's a cause that we believe in. The work that this cause performs in the San Francisco Bay Area is to use the donations it receives to purchase land that is admirably useful by the public for recreational purposes that include hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, camping, and sometimes for walking dogs as long as they are on a leash.
Over the years this cause has rescued land for open space preserves that might otherwise have been swallowed up by real estate developers and lost forever. Many times the land has great sentimental value to the owners and they are very happy to sell it to an organization that will preserve its trees and natural beauty forever. The Bay Area is blessed to have so many openspace preserves and a Bay Area Ridge Trail circling the bay that is already 350 miles in length and will ultimately be 550 miles. Sometimes land needs to come before people, and Yellowstone and Yosemite are two great examples..

@Old Limey I'm not a religious person either. Religion isn't the only reason to care about human suffering. Isn't it enough that people are hurting and need help?

I allocate most of my giving, and most of my bequeathed assets, to the charities recommended by GiveWell does really thorough research to find organizations that have quantifiable effectiveness. The best of these _save lives_ for $1000-$2000 each, through simple international health interventions like vaccines and bednets. The GiveWell analysis of the Against Malaria Foundation is excellent reading. I'd be interested to know what you think about it.

Simply said, you and I have opposing opinions and there's nothing that can be said that will change mine. The degree to which the earth's population of human beings is increasing in the undeveloped world is a recipe for total disaster but fortunately not in my lifetime.

@Old Limey

There are charities that work on expanding access to contraceptives, with reasonable evidence of effectiveness. If overpopulation is what worries you most, you might be interested in Population Services International. It certainly does more to address the problem than parkland in the South Bay ever will!

I've heard people say things like your second bullet in the post-- things like, "I'll work really hard and use the money that I would have been giving as tithe in order to make myself even more successful, and then by the time I retire I will be able to give so much more to God that I ever would've been able to if I'd been giving weekly all that time."

The problem with that is we're creatures of habit, and you're not going to suddenly decide to start giving large sums to the church after 30+ years of not giving a cent. Just doesn't happen. Give while you're alive-- there's no working or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the realm of the dead (Eccl. 9:10).

Further, giving while we're alive is the one area that God permits us to test Him-- to challenge his trustworthiness in the area of tithing (Mal. 3:10). So you either believe in God and that the Bible is his infallible word, or you don't. If the former, you would be a fool not to give to God while you're alive; if the latter, you would be a fool to give a single penny to anyone if it's not in your interest. But everyone must choose which of those they subscribe to...

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