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AARP, January 1, 2007
Fall is one of our favorite times of the year. We dig out our woolen sweaters and quicken our pace when the air turns brisk. During the fall, many charities feel especially appreciative of the generous donors who have touched our lives and the lives of those charities serve.
While charities are grateful for all donors, Mary does come to mind, for hers is a story of love, sacrifice, and gratitude. When Mary was a young girl, she decided she wanted to marry either a farmer or a doctor. (She is now in her late 80s and grew up at a time when her own career aspirations were overshadowed by her husband's.) She liked farmers because they helped people by producing food, and doctors helped people by making them well. In either case, their careers were dedicated to serving others.
She ended up marrying Robert, a doctor. The couple moved to a small town where he opened a general practice, treating various ailments, broken bones, and even delivered babies. Robert was as dedicated to his practice and the people of his community as Mary had hoped. In his early 60s, however, Robert had a severe stroke that left him totally incapacitated. Her life became Robert's life, and Robert's life was hers; they were so intertwined.
"Robert means everything to me," she said. "I feel it is my duty to care for him. I'm sure anyone would do the same for their spouse or loved one." Despite her focus on Robert, however, she never forgot the needs of others and remained a faithful supporter of her favorite charity.
One recent day, Mary was visited by her favorite person at her favorite charity to see how she was doing. "I'm glad you stopped by," she said. "I want to do something with a part of our savings. Frankly, it took a lot to support him these many years, but now that Robert has passed, I don't need as much. And I'm also concerned about having a secure income. I've read about your charitable gift annuity and wondered if it might be right for me."
Mary learned that the gift annuity was simply an agreement in which the charity would pay her a fixed income for life in exchange for a gift. Based on her current age, she would enjoy a very nice payout rate and receive an income tax deduction, and a part of her income would be tax-free.
"And after I pass away, what happens to the annuity?" she asked. Her charity told her that after she passed and the payments ceased, her annuity would be used to further the charity's mission. "Then let's do it," she said. "It's exactly what I want—a secure income and some nice tax benefits. Plus, it's a way I can continue to help others."
"One other question," she asked. "Can I set up this gift annuity in Robert's memory?" She was assured this could be arranged. Mary was indeed an inspiration, not only for the sacrifice she made for Robert, but also that she never forgot the needs of others, even as she dealt with her own struggles.
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