Aron Levine, Head of Consumer Banking & Merrill Edge, Offers Insight into Making a Difference in the Community this Year

Meredith Fletcher

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Now that we’ve settled into 2018, if you’re anything like me, you’re re-thinking your progress on New Year’s resolutions. For some, this might mean evaluating your philanthropic or community involvement goals for the year. Or, you may be in the research stages of finding the specific causes or organizations you’ll support—either with your time or financial contribution.  

Giving back to the community is certainly a priority for Atlanta residents. According to the latest Merrill Edge Report released this past December, 43 percent said making a difference in the lives of those in need is more essential to their definition of personal success than professional, career-related achievements. Nationwide, 41 percent of Americans shared the same sentiment according to the report. I commend my fellow Atlantans for their generous spirit and commitment to their community.

As a national trustee and the Southeast Region Vice Chair of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, I can personally attest to how rewarding and fulfilling it is to be involved with the community through such an incredible organization. For the past six years, I have also chaired their annual Southeast Youth of the Year Gala Celebration here in Atlanta where we recognize and honor extraordinary young people in the community for their achievements in leadership, service and academics. As the father of two children, I understand the importance of guidance and discipline in the lives of our youth and could not be prouder to be part of the positive impact the Boys and Girls Club has had on so many young people. 

If you’d like to get more involved in your community in 2018, here are three ways you can make a difference: 

  • Donate time or money: Whether you’ve resolved to make monthly or quarterly donations or are saving up to contribute a larger sum around the holidays this year, be sure to plan what you can give based on what you have left after paying essential expenses ahead of time. If you’re unsure of which charities to focus on, do some research and determine what matters most to you, whether it’s medical research, supporting veterans, the arts, children’s education, disaster relief, hunger prevention or animal welfare or other charity.  

  • Incorporate a legacy gift into your estate plan: If you plan to revise your estate plan this year — possibly due to a milestone such as a wedding or birth in your family — and are wondering where to invest your accumulated assets beyond your heirs, consider a legacy gift to your charity of choice or, perhaps, your alma mater. One option is establishing a charitable remainder trust which, if properly executed through contributing a marketable asset, will allow you to receive income from the investment during your lifetime while allowing you to take an immediate charitable deduction for the anticipated value of the assets to your estate. You can fund a charitable remainder trust with stocks, bonds, cash, real estate and art. Given the complexity of these transactions, however, you should seek counsel from a team of professionals such as tax advisors, financial advisors, attorneys and appraisers to understand the nature of philanthropic giving before committing to a charitable giving program.

  • Plan a “volunteer vacation” this year: In lieu of a traditional vacation this year, consider partnering with a nonprofit that will allow you to volunteer and help those in need, whether it be in another country or in the United States. From saving endangered turtles in Costa Rica to restoring scenic trails in Appalachia, there are a variety of different volunteer vacation experiences from which you can choose, depending on your interests, the amount of physical labor you’re willing or able to perform and the duration of your stay. If you are a homeowner who is volunteering abroad for several weeks or more, be sure to make arrangements for your property taxes, utility bills, and homeowner’s insurance, all to be covered while you’re away. 

If you decide that you would like to make a donation, legacy gift or travel abroad to volunteer, it’s smart to consult a financial advisor. They can help you navigate the charity and nonprofit terrain, and help you stay on track to pursuing your personal financial goals while helping those in need. This is especially important if you are retired and your long-term withdrawal strategy could be impacted by market conditions.

There are many ways to give back this year, and not all of them require a financial commitment. You may consider researching charities and nonprofits right here in Atlanta, and volunteering your time and personal talents – such as cooking a meal at a local homeless shelter. No matter what you decide to do, every little bit has an impact, and I am proud to know that our community is committed to making a difference in the lives of those in need. 

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