Make giving a family affair this holiday season

It seems we hear the word “gratitude” a lot these days. In spite of being faced with all kinds of challenges, the idea of being grateful for what you have — whether it’s family, friends, financial security or just a beautiful moment — appears to be a common theme. I like that concept, and I like the idea of using it as a way to focus on how we can help others — in effect, how we can to share our own good fortune.

To me, giving is an important part of everyone’s financial lives, and I think it’s something we should introduce our kids to at an early age. As you teach your kids how to manage their money and save a certain percentage for their future goals, it’s a natural extension to encourage them to earmark some of their money for a charitable cause.

So with Thanksgiving this week and Giving Tuesday right after, I want to share some ideas on how to introduce your kids to the importance of philanthropy and get the whole family involved in giving this season:

Talk to your family about the causes you support and why

As with so much in financial education, your kids can learn about giving by your example. So start by talking to your kids about the organizations you support. Discuss with them how you make giving choices. Do you support some national causes? What local charities are on your list? How do you decide how much to give? How often do you make contributions?

Let the kids research and choose an organization to support

Have your kids make a list of what’s most important to them, whether it’s something like the environment, animal adoption, homelessness or hunger. Help them do some online research. Encourage them to consider local charities as well as national organizations and think about where their donations could have the greatest impact.

Depending on your children’s age, you could have them look at an independent online rating service such as Charity Navigator or CharityWatch. The ideal would be to pick a family charity that you’d all agree to support together.

Decide on a dollar amount each family member can give and make it a yearlong family project

This is a great way to reinforce basic money management skills. Have the kids consider their sources of income, whether an allowance, gifts or a job, and decide what percentage they could put toward the family charity each month. Include your own commitment.

Then decide how and where you’ll set the money aside — ideally in an account that earns interest where you can all watch it add up. A quarterly family meeting to discuss — and celebrate — the growing balance can be a great motivator to keep going. You might also set a date when you’ll make your group donation to the charity you’ve all chosen.

Match your kids’ donations to show your support

As an added encouragement, consider matching your children’s donations. It doesn’t have to be dollar for dollar (after all, you’re making your own contribution), but even a small addition to their donations will show how important you think this project is — and how proud you are of their efforts.

Volunteer as a family

Giving isn’t just about money; giving your time can be just as valuable. Chances are there are numerous organizations in your own community that would welcome the gift of time. From libraries to animal shelters to food banks, volunteers are often in short supply. What a wonderful opportunity for you to work together as a family and share in an experience that can be as enriching for all of you as it is helpful to those in need.

Encouraging kids to support causes they care about is an excellent personal as well as financial lesson. It not only teaches them to manage their money wisely but gives them a chance to reach out, connect and contribute to a more equitable, more caring world. And that’s something we all need — not only during the holiday season but year-round!•

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Certified Financial Planner, is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation and author of “The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty.” You can email Carrie at askcarrie@schwab.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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