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Don't forget importance of your stewardship dollars

Sometimes no news is good news. There was a sense of relief felt by so many after the negative campaigning of the most recent election was over. The reports on the economy tend to focus on just the bad news. Over the normal course of time, the stock market goes up and down. But in the current environment, every up and down warns of instability when in fact there are many safeguards in place to prevent another Great Depression.

During these uncertain economic times, it is more important than ever to become good stewards of your money. The Omaha Archdiocese's programs that serve the many needs of our communities operate on the generous gifts of donors, regardless of the ups and downs of the stock market. The needs of the people in our communities become even greater during these times when prices on everyday essentials, such as food and utilities, keep going up. People who have never needed to ask for assistance before, now may need help to keep them out of a crisis situation.

Being a good steward means not only maintaining your current level of giving, but also reaching deeper to help those more in need. This can be accomplished by doing a couple of easy things that will be of great benefit to you, and hopefully, others, too.

Update your balance sheet listing your assets and liabilities. Try to complete this with as much detail as possible so that you can determine whether or not the assets that you own have gains or losses. By making a charitable gift with appreciated assets, you avoid paying capital gains taxes. It may also be advantageous to realize a loss in some cases to offset other gains or income. This exercise also will allow you to confirm that beneficiary designations on insurance products and retirement plans are correct and up to date. If the insurance is no longer necessary, this may be an asset with cash value that could be used to make a charitable gift.

Congress recently passed legislation that allows persons over 70 ½ to make distributions directly from their IRAs to charities without any income tax liability (up to $100,000). By working with your advisor, you can determine which asset would be the most beneficial from a tax standpoint to give to help the needs of others.

Develop a budget that includes a line item for charitable giving. By putting down in writing your income and expenses you are better able to track where your money goes. In times of financial stress having this information makes it easier to identify ways to reduce expenses and increase cash flow. By inserting a budgeted amount for giving, you don't have to go looking for the money to support your parish and the archdiocesan community. Those stewardship dollars are as important as many other household expenses.

I assure you that by completing the two above mentioned exercises that you will sleep easier at night knowing that your everyday financial affairs are in order and you can continue to share your financial gifts with others in greater need. Good luck on your financial work and God bless you for sharing your time, talent and treasure with those less fortunate.

Mary Jewell is director of the archdiocese's Stewardship, Planning and Development Office.

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