The lotto jackpot in New York reached 144 million last week. As my friend Michele and I drove past the huge billboard reading those unimaginable numbers one evening, Michele said, “I don’t even know what I would do if I won the jackpot.” I said, “I do!” I continued to tell her my plan of paying off my student loans and my immediate family’s mortgages and bills, because I said, “then it’s not a gift and they don’t have to pay taxes on it.” And Michele, financial pro that she is, says, “Actually, that is a gift. Sorry to ruin it for you.” Appalled, I asked, “Even if I didn’t give them the money, I just lightened their burden?!!”
“Yup,” she replied. Trying to find a way around the gift tax limitations, I said, “Well, I could put the mortgage in both our names, pay it off, and then sign it back over to them.” She said, “Nope, signing it over to them is a gift.” Ug. I mean, come on!!! Michele then told me there are limits on personal gifting above which the government taxes you. It seems so unfair. I mean, I know I’ll never win the lottery–because I don’t play!– but just the idea that someone with good monetary fortune cannot help others without being penalized for it depresses me! I’m sure there was logic for the law (such as corporations finding ways to fiddle with their records under the guise of “charitable giving”), but this just seems preposterous! Our government taxes being nice. I suppose I could live with it more if I knew the taxes I paid went to things I cared about and not things I didn’t approve of, but that is not how things work.
So where’s the positive? What’s there to be happy about when, if you had money to share, there are rules and regulations that limit your generosity? I have decided I should be grateful I am not wealthy in my finances, because it would be a constant battle to be as “nice” as I would like if I were endowed with uber amounts of moolah. The government doesn’t blink at the mediocre amounts I can afford to give charitably.
As soon as I realized how lucky I am to just have what I have and to give what I can without worrying about a penalty, I remembered the type of wealth that spans all income brackets. I am wealthy in love and friends and health, and that is such a blessing! My joy, my happiness, my positivity, my appreciation for these things: I can share all those things as much as I can muster! Like the India Arie song There’s Hope goes, “…It doesn’t cost a thing to smile, you don’t have to pay to laugh; you better thank God for that!”