Surreal: From HomeFront to Wealth Planning


In the space of three hours today, I have picked up provisions from a food pantry (on someone else’s behalf) and gone to a conference on how to donate wealth, whether to use a gift annuity or a charitable remainder trust.

Pictured above, top, are Celia Bernstein (CFO and operations director, left) and Connie Mercer (founding CEO) of HomeFront, the wonderful 30-year-old nonprofit that offers all kinds of services to the poor and homeless. I had offered to pick up food for one of their clients, a friend of mine who does not have a car.

I’d been to HomeFront’s offices on Princeton Avenue before, at the grand opening, as a matter of fact. I’d written about HomeFront on numerous occasions for U.S. 1 Newspaper, starting when Mercer started the organization in 1990. To quote from the website, “the average HomeFront client earns $8 per hour and works forty hours per week. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Mercer County is $1,022.00. You do the math.”

Now that I know someone who needs HomeFront’s wonderful services, I’m getting to know this organization on an under-the-skin basis. Perhaps I’ll be able to write more later, right now it’s enough to know that it’s there.

From there, it was up Route 1 to the Doubletree Hotel to sign in for the Gift Planning Council of New Jersey’s morning seminar, where Frank Minton (far left, shown with Joe Pistell of United Methodist Homes) spoke to a large group of folks who help rich people donate money, while retaining some income. The question for the morning: which is better, a gift annuity or a charitable remainder trust?

I’m not a financial planner or anything like that, and much of it was over my head. I just wanted to get an insight in how the financial planners think. Sure enough, which they recommend to their clients often depends on they work for. If they work for a charity, they are more likely to recommend a gift annuity, if the donor is their client, the charitable remainder trust is often favored.

It was a surreal juxtaposition.

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