Three Steps for Victory

Who ever thought that doing planned giving could be like performing a triathlon? While swimming, bicycling and running sounds a whole lot harder to me, when I read “The Three Parts of Victory”1 it made perfect sense. When someone wants to compete, he or she needs to do three things:
• Commit to a plan,
• Prepare for the competition, and
• Complete the course.
Thinking about those three steps got me thinking . . .

Commitment to a plan is the easiest but takes the greatest courage: intentionally deciding to benefit others beyond our lifetime with whatever we may have left to give. Whereas triathletes have to do a lot of research to get started, planned givers just need to find an estate planning attorney or other professional and think about who they might like to help: family, church, and/or other service that expresses God’s values.

Preparation can take months or years for a single athletic race, but planned givers just meet for a few hours with an attorney to set up something that meets their circumstances – with lasting benefits for themselves and others. Completion comes when we choose what will work best and who will be the beneficiaries, and sign the document (in most cases a will or a trust). Whereas the athlete’s race is over in a few hours, a planned giver’s satisfaction can last a lifetime.

I made my first will when I was eighteen – it felt good to think of passing on my clothes and books to someone who could use them. In my twenties, I added a car to the list and put in a specific percentage for my local church. Several years after that, I got to affirm my husband and new stepchildren through an updated document. Since then, my husband and I have made periodic updates to reflect each new situation. At each point along the way, it has felt good to be thinking ahead and caring for the people and ministries I love!

At first blush, planned giving can sound very technical, with different optional financial vehicles. But that’s the how that a professional can help us figure out. It’s the why that really counts, and that feels wonderful to act on: showing our care for others and helping God’s work get done. Commit, prepare, complete – it does feel like a victory!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 = Personal Planning Newsletter, California-Nevada United Methodist Foundation.

See also: Heart, Character, Wills and Trusts