Peter Kronenberg: “Wearing a T-shirt will not prevent you from getting sick. This is an old wives tale. You don’t catch a virus just because you’re cold. People get sick more in the winter because they are stuck indoors with other sick people.”

I can’t speak to the science of it, only the sinus. There’s something to what those old wives say. Plus, as I’ve explained, wearing a T-shirt will make you rich.

Stephen Gilbert: “Here’s a web site which allows access to the reports of charities to enable donors to judge them better: http://www.guidestar.org/index.html .”

Outstanding. And even more so: the new Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund web site. I’ve long used and recommended Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund. It’s the poor man’s way to set up a charitable foundation — the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and now Your Foundation. Or close to it.

You can fund it with cash or (better) appreciated-securities-held-more-than-a-year and get your full tax deduction when you do. Your personal gift fund will grow until you decide to “grant” pieces of it, in chunks of $250 and up, to the accredited charities of your choice.

I used to have to mail or fax in my grant instructions. Now, with this newly opened web site, it’s even easier. I can go on-line, see the exact value of my account, and, best of all, make grants without ever having to crack a pen (my handwriting has become vestigial) or mail or fax anything (Sloth is my muse). When making grants to groups you’ve given to in the past, you just point and shoot.

It’s not too late to establish such a fund for 1999, and an excellent way to give.

  • You get the tax deduction this year, avoiding whatever capital gains tax you would have otherwise had to pay if you had first sold your shares and then given the money.
  • If this was a great year for you, you can give a lot to the Gift Fund, without passing it all through to your favorite charities. That lets you level things out, so you can continue to give even in years when you’ve not done well. This is important, because, trust me, if you give a charity $5,000 this year — ten times what you normally do — they will totally forget you are basically a $500-a-year donor who happened to have a great 1999, and will ever after expect at least $5,000 a year.
  • Best of all, you can use it to make small gifts. To give $250 or $500 of stock would have been ridiculous, with all the paperwork, and with the brokerage commissions the charity would have to pay to sell it. But to give $10,000 or $25,000 worth of stock, once, to the Fidelity Gift Fund, in a single efficient transaction, and then go to the web site every time you want to make a $250 or $500 grant — well, that does make sense.

Vanguard now offers a similar gift fund, so you may want to check that out, too. But don’t let indecision paralyze you: just choose one or the other and get going.

 

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