With the last few days of the year approaching, it’s not too late to make a charitable donation to your favorite charity or to provide collected personal or household items to a local non-profit group. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the annual American household gave $2,974 to charities in 2014. In addition, non-profits are seeing online donations on the rise. With the ease of technology, here are a few reminders for last minute donations. Remember that contributions are considered to be claimed on the delivery date to the charity:
- Contributions made by December 31, 2015 will be considered to be made within the 2015 tax year
- Any contributions that are made with assets that fluctuate (stocks or securities) will be determined by the value on the date made
- Any mailed donations must have a postmark date of December 31, 2015 to count toward the current tax year, however, post-dated checks and returned/bounced checks are exceptions to the rules
- Contributions made on credit cards are counted when the processing of the charge is made
Many personal donations are given during the holiday season because of goodwill, however, the tax benefits can also be significant. If you are giving stocks or other assets that have grown in value, there may be a greater tax benefit. Before making any donations, make sure you double-check that the charity you are choosing qualifies for tax-exempt deductions. Make sure to be careful of phone calls or other online scams. There are some great charity search websites, like, “Charity Navigator” and the Better Business Bureau’s www.give.org website allows you to search charities that are accredited.
A recent movie “The Intern” features Academy Award-winning actor Robert DeNiro as just that: an intern back to work in corporate America, reporting to a 30-something boss. Many of my friends who are of retirement age are finding themselves in new careers and/or just NOT retiring. They say they can’t afford to or they just want to keep working. And that begins the discussion of the next iteration of careers in our later years.
Many individuals in their early 50’s and beyond have more than likely spent the majority of their careers at one company. Thus, these worker bees want to continue doing something and the options are many. From start-ups to volunteering to launching a new career, older workers can basically choose their next path and bring to it a strong work ethic, great experience and are productive and engaged.
If you are thinking about kick-starting your career, consider these not-so-common paths to a whole new career:
*Certificate Programs: available at community colleges, for-profit schools and even Ivy League schools, attaining a certification in a key area is a great way to jump-start a career and are now even outnumbering bachelor’s degrees. These programs are designed to give you a level of expertise in a specific area, such as medical assistant, data science or even non-profit fundraising. The investment in time can range from a few months to a couple of years (think Columbus State or Franklin University locally) and some offer tuition assistance as well. Additional roles include interpreter, personal finance advisor, massage therapist or accountant.
*Apprenticeships: often deemed “learn-and-earn” programs, these run a gamut of two to four years, with workers often spending four days a week on the job and one day in the classroom. Pay ranges from 40 to 60 percent of what a fully skilled professional would make. Historically, apprenticeships have been in the building or manufacturing industry, but with recent growth and opportunity, have expanded into health care, insurance and the ever-growing information technology industry, which lets workers work from home. Under the Obama administration, apprenticeships have grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Check out DOL.gov/apprenticeship for opportunities in your area.
*Volunteer/Non-Profit Work: at this stage in the game you may decide to be a public servant or just give back your time to philanthropic or non-profits looking for volunteers and day-to-day help. Many can use assistance with stuffing envelopes, planning or hosting events, or planning campaigns. Sometimes these roles turn into part-time or full-time positions.
*Start-Ups: want to be your own boss? Kick-starters and start-ups are just not for the twenty-somethings. The growth in entrepreneurial businesses grew out of the downturn in the economy in 2008, and people have not looked back. If you have a hobby that you love and want to grow it, this may be the ideal scenario for you. The strategy here is to not tap into your 401K or savings, but rather extend a line of credit or take out a small business loan. Use Google to seek out free information on the next steps, and reach out to someone you may know who has been successful with a growth venture.
Want more information? This past September, AARP launched a new website to help older workers stay competitive and up-to-date with skillsets and trends in the workplace. Check out AARP.org/work.
On Thanksgiving every year there’s chatter at each house we visit about what store is going to have the best prices on black Friday for their personal shopping lists. As much as I love to shop, the older I get, the less interest I have in tackling the crazy crowds on Black Friday. And what I learned is that some of the deals are good, some are great, but there’s nothing better than shopping from the comfort of my recliner.
I have been successful over the last few years in finding everything on my holiday shopping list at the online sites of my favorite stores. In many instances stores offer the same deals and free shipping on their websites. For example, on one website I visited, they were offering 40% off your entire purchase for 6 hours only, as well as free shipping. The deals vary from day to day so I keep a constant eye out for daily specials, especially during the holidays.
Because online shopping is my choice for clearing my holiday list, I’ve learned to take precautions to protect myself and my bank and credit card accounts, though there are no guarantees these days with hackers finding their way into places that are believed to be heavily secured. There are ways to play it safe when shopping online.
- Use familiar websites. Start your search for items on trusted websites, rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links.
- Look for the lock. You should never buy from an online site that doesn’t have an SSL (secure sockets layers) encryption installed at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. This will depend on your browser.
- Don’t tell all. No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know about you, the easier it is to steal your identity.
- Check you billing statements. Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges.
Whether you shop online or at the brick and mortar, be sure to keep an eye out on your accounts at all times, not just during the holidays. I prefer only buying from sites that offer PayPal as a payment option. Even still I check to make sure all charges through my PayPal account are for purchases that my husband or I have made.
Let’s face it, there’s every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind-boggling. Shipping is fast, and returns for me have always been easy. Save yourself from the crowds, stay warm and comfortable in your favorite chair with your favorite holiday beverage. Shop until you clear your shopping list or until you reach your shopping budget, then sit back and wait for the packages to be delivered. Then let the gift-wrapping begin. Share your favorite secure shopping sites and the bargains you found online.
How many hours did you spend planning your family’s Thanksgiving festivities? Did you have a hard time keeping your eyes open once you were finally able to sit down to the meal you spent weeks planning? I have family and friends who enjoy the stress of the holidays, the planning, shopping, cooking, entertaining, and the overall hustle bustle of it all. I, on the other hand, like to keep it simple, well…. as simple as it can be.
With the holiday season now in full swing, I’ve put together a list of ideas to help you entertain with ease and allow you to enjoy every minute of the season without all the stress:
- Effortless entertaining: rather than planning elaborate dinner parties, assemble an appetizer party. Shop at a store that offers everything on your list so you can make it a one-stop shopping day. Your list should include an abundance of olives, cheeses, chips, crackers, dips and frozen hors d’ oeuvres, as well as a few bottles of bubbly juices and waters. And don’t forget festive napkins and cups. You’ll be ready for a fun cocktail party or drop-in visits from neighbors and friends.
- How about a dessert party? Purchase a variety of cake mixes (white, vanilla, spice, chocolate) and a bundt cake pan. Stock up on all the basics (eggs and oil) and powdered sugar for dusting the finished product. Just think, in less than an hour you can prepare an elegant dessert. Bundt cakes are easy and can be made pretty and fun with whipped creams, warmed pie filling or everyone’s favorite — hot fudge sauce.
- Watch a festive flick! Every holiday season there’s usually a favorite holiday movie released on DVD and available at your favorite department store and/or on Netflix. If you haven’t already done so, start a collection of holiday movies. When guests visit, pop and string popcorn and watch a holiday movie or two.
Remember, the holidays are for enjoying time with family and friends. Stress doesn’t have to be a part of the fun. Make new traditions, and more importantly, make memories that you get to enjoy as much as all of your guests will. There’s nothing better than relaxing and soaking up the fun of the holiday. If you are looking for activities that require a little planning, give the activities director at your community a call for ideas that can help you take the stress out of entertaining for the holiday.
Tell us how you plan to enjoy a stress-free holiday season this year. Send your plans via the comment box and we’ll post them for others to read.