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Teach kids the value of charity

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

While making and preserving money are obviously priorities for the wealthy, establishing a legacy of philanthropy that will last for generations ranks nearly as high.

Wealthy families who want to give back "view it as an important reflection of who they are as a family," says Susan Colpitts, co-founder of Signature, a wealth-management firm in Norfolk, Va. Creating a multigenerational legacy in philanthropy means you'll have to begin with your kids, she adds, by instilling a sense of desire and obligation.

So where to start? "If there's just one thing a family can do to encourage their kids to be philanthropic, it's to sit down at the dinner table and talk about their own (charitable) activities that day," Colpitts says. "That's how kids learn, by watching the parents and listening to them."

Here are some other tip for getting kids to tap into their charitable instincts.

  • For holidays, give kids a blank check for $50 or $100 and let them decide how to donate the money, Colpitts suggests. She does this in her own family. They can make individual decisions about favorite charities, which is what Colpitts' children did the first few years, but eventually they decided to pool their money, choose one charity and make a bigger impact.
  • Plan a family day, where everyone participates in charity, such as serving food at a shelter or helping construct a home for Habitat for Humanity. Decide together where to dedicate the time.
  • As a family, research and contribute to an organized charity or a donor-advised fund, which pools the resources of many into one focused effort. Kids will learn a little about the business side of charity if they are involved in decisions about grant-making, business expenses and tax deductions.

The benefits of a multigenerational philanthropic family legacy are obvious for the charities, but the family also enjoys a payoff that goes beyond money. "Getting kids aligned with philanthropy creates shared values across the family," Colpitts says. "It reminds kids that they're fortunate."

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