Connecticut College Magazine · Winter 2010

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Bill O'Neil, director of major gifts and planned giving, poses in front of a portrait of Rosemary Park, the College's fifth president. Photo by Brandon W. Mosley.

This gift can help you plan your future

By Barbara Nagy


A planned gift can be a great solution to financial challenges as you approach or plan for your retirement years. Bill O'Neil, director of major gifts and planned giving, sat down recently for a Q&A.

Q: I've seen a lot lately about the Rosemary Park Society. What is that?

A: It's the giving society that recognizes alumni, parents and friends who've made planned gifts to the College. It has about 700 members, including people who've told us the College is in their will. It was known as the Heritage Society until a couple of years ago.

The new name honors Rosemary Park, the president of the College from 1947 until 1962. She oversaw the transformation of the College into a national institution and she led a fundraising campaign that made much of that growth possible. She also made a planned gift to the College — a bequest.

Q: What is a planned gift?

A: It's a gift you make as part of your financial planning or estate planning. There are several types of gifts to meet the different needs of different people.

Q: And the advantages?

A: At the top of the list is that you're supporting Connecticut College, an institution you're passionate about and a cause — liberal arts education — that's important to you. Beyond that, a planned gift can help you organize your financial future. It can give you great tax advantages, and you might be able to make a larger gift than you otherwise could. In a nutshell, you can maximize your gift and minimize the impact on your estate.

A planned gift is also a great way to leave a legacy. For example, Trude McKeon taught chemistry here for many years. When she passed away she left a sizeable estate that is now providing critical funding for important science initiatives. She is continuing to benefit students even after her passing.

Q: What's the most common type of gift?

A: The most common planned gift is a bequest intention. By providing for the College in your will or retirement plan, you are ensuring the future health of the College at no cost to you during your lifetime.

Charitable gift annuities are also extremely common at Connecticut College. They're easy to set up and can be funded starting at $10,000. It gives you — and up to one other person — guaranteed income for life. There's no risk and you can receive higher rates than you would on many other investments. You do have to be at least 60 years old to establish the annuity, but if you're under 60 a deferred gift annuity can be extremely beneficial.

Q: How do you determine the rate of return on annuities?

A: The rates are based on your age and almost all not-for-profits use those set by the American Council on Gift Annuities. Right now if you're 70, the yield is 5.8 or 5.9 percent, depending on when your birthday is. It's great, considering that people are getting lower returns on their CDs and savings accounts.

Q: And the tax deduction?

A: In depends on the value of the assets you used to set up the annuity, your age and the federal discount rate.

Q: Do you have any favorite tips or stories about people who've used planned giving effectively?

A: Some people set up annuities while they're still working so they get the tax deduction now, while they're in a higher bracket, and defer the payments until after they retire. It's a very effective vehicle for someone close to retirement.

My favorite story is about an alumna who's in her late 60s. She has a series of deferred annuities that are timed to provide her with income at different points in her retirement. Another couple wasn't sure if they'd ever need income from an annuity, but wanted to preserve that option. So we arranged a flexible deferred gift annuity. And then there was an alumna in Maine who wanted to give the College a condo as the basis for a charitable trust that would give her a lifetime income. We worked that out so that it benefited the College and the alumna.

Q: What are the common misperceptions about planned gifts?

A: People think you have to make a seven-figure gift. You don't. We have gift annuities that start at $10,000. Plus people don't realize that you can use stock or real property to fund a life income gift and that the gift will give them a guaranteed rate of return. They also think that they have to be elderly to take advantage of these vehicles.

Q: What's the most common question you hear when you visit people?

A: Most people want to know if a planned gift can help them solve a specific financial challenge. They need a certain amount of income, for example. Or they have real estate that they aren't sure how to handle. So we sit down and talk. Sometimes I come back and consult a lawyer or accountant and I always encourage them to do the same. We can almost always find a solution that accomplishes what the person wants.

Q: The College is in a Campaign. How does planned giving fit in?

A: Life income gifts are gifts to the College, so they count toward the Campaign for Connecticut College at face value. They also count toward your reunion gift. Bequests count at face value if you're over 70. You just need to document your intention either by making us a copy of the part of the will that names the College or informing us in writing of your intention.

Q: Is there a growing interest in planned gifts?

A: Yes. People don't always know what's possible, but we encourage them to ask. We have just hired a senior planned giving officer, Ken Dolbashian, to meet with people who are interested in giving and to connect with those who have already made gifts. Ken is an attorney who has been with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee for the past four years. It will be great to have someone devoted to planned giving full time.

Q: Should I tell you if I've included the College in my will?

A: Absolutely. We'd want to talk with you about your bequest and make sure we understand how you want your gift to be used. And we'd want to thank you.

Q: How comfortable are people when it comes to discussing their estate plans?

A: A lot of people welcome the discussion. I love planned giving. It's always interesting and we can really solve some difficult problems for people at all income levels. We can be creative and work things out. It's a win-win situation. It gives people peace of mind. And it's rewarding to help someone plan their legacy.


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