This holiday season, your husband, kid or best friend doesn’t need yet another gadget, toy or sweater. So why fall for all the holiday marketing hype promoted by retailers this time of year?
Instead, consider giving someone you love another type of gift – one that will have enduring value for a lifetime.
As it turns out, the following three gifts are also financially smart – for the gift recipient and you too.
Idea #1: The Gift of Time
More “time” is the one thing all of us wish we had in more supply. If you’re married or have a significant other, why not give that person the ultimate gift: the gift of time?
Needless to say, you can’t turn back the hands of time, create 25 hours in a day or wave a magic mind and let your loved one experience 13 months in a year instead of 12.
What you can do, though, is “add” time to your mate’s life by freeing that person up to do something they really need to do – or have simply always wanted to do.
You can give your honey time in many ways, such as:
- pitching in and doing tasks, chores or other work he/she would normally do
- sacrificing something in your life or schedule that could give the other person more time
- eliminating time-consuming obstacles or barriers your spouse routinely faces
A little more than a year ago, when I wanted to join the YMCA, my amazingly wonderful husband, Earl, freed up my life, taking over extra household, business and family duties, and giving me the time I needed to go to the Y without guilt.
Likewise, on a recent Valentine’s Day, I also offered my super-busy husband the gift of time.
I created an ultra-mushy but heartfelt letter for him. The gist of it said:
You’re such a great husband and father, and you do so much, that I’d like to give you a special gift – a week to yourself to do whatever you want, wherever you want, or just the time and freedom to do nothing at all.
You can be sure that my husband was all smiles reading my letter.
Fast-forward since then: Although I “free up” Earl’s time on a sporadic basis – by trying not to nag him when he wants to work late hours in our home office, or by taking the kids out for a day when he needs to revamp something on our AskTheMoneyCoach.com website – Earl hasn’t yet “cashed in” his weeklong gift of time.
He posted my letter on the wall in our home office, though, and I like to think that it serves as a reminder to him of how much I love him and value all that his does.
Hopefully, such sentiments will also pay big dividends that will last a lifetime throughout our marriage.
By the way, while I’ve suggested the gift of time primarily for those in a relationship, there’s certainly no reason why you couldn’t give this tremendous gift to anyone close to you, like a sibling, parent, or trusted friend.
Idea #2: The Gift of Life Insurance
Yes, you read that right: I’m recommending that you consider providing the gift of life insurance to someone during the holidays. Those who can most benefit from this gift would be your children – either your teen or your young adult child.
Conventional wisdom has long held that kids don’t need life insurance. After all, the primary objective in getting life insurance is to provide a cash payout to your beneficiaries in the event that you die. And young people, statistically, are far less likely to die than are older folks.
So by all means, get yourself covered first – make sure that you have proper life insurance coverage, especially if you have minor children.
Once that’s done, however, you can help establish financial security for your child by giving him or her life insurance too. In this instance, I’m talking about permanent or whole life insurance; not term life insurance.
With permanent life insurance – which builds cash value over time – your child could amass tens of thousands of dollars or more with this under-utilized financial product.
In fact, because of product innovation and great flexibility in how it can be used, permanent life insurance provides the following living benefits, according to Dave Simbro, Senior Vice President, Life and Annuity Products, at Northwestern Mutual:
- it can help pay for your kid’s college expenses
- it can be used to fund a child’s purchase of a home
- it can help pay wedding costs for your adult child
- it can be used as a source of cash or loans for nearly any purpose, such as starting a business, or even saving money for retirement
“There’s a huge advantage of starting early when a parent gives a child permanent life insurance,” Simbro says. “There’s the power of compounding, insurance costs less when purchased younger, and you can lock in the child’s insurability.”
Again, my gift recommendation here is targeted mainly at parents. But there’s nothing to stop you from giving the gift of life insurance to yourself – to ensure that you leave a financial legacy to your heirs.
Additionally, young adults could provide the gift of life insurance to their middle-age parents, who may also use the life insurance in many ways, like covering their long-term care costs or having a stream of income in retirement.
To assess your insurance needs, it’s best to sit down with a qualified financial advisor. Obviously, though, life insurance gets more costly as we age. So this is one gift best purchased sooner, rather than later.
Idea #3: The Gift of Education
You’ve probably heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is a wise proverb, and one that you should reflect on when considering your holiday giving.
This saying makes me think about giving the gift of education because it’s one thing you could give someone that helps the other individual become self-sufficient.
Think for a moment about your closest friend. Has he or she always wanted to learn something significant or something that could be helpful in his or her life? It could be anything: a second language, a computer skill, or mastery of how to keep their financial records organized.
Well, maybe you can help them help themselves – by giving the gift of education.
Remember: education doesn’t have to be formal or in a classroom. You might buy the person a life-changing or motivational book on a subject they need to know: like how to invest wisely or how to grow their own garden.
Can you track down a free course or an online tutorial on a topic in which your friend has expressed interest?
Or can you teach them a skill that you already know?
Any of these strategies would be giving a friend – or any other loved one – the gift of education.
It’s a gift, like the other two mentioned above, that your friend will no doubt cherish forever.
And in offering something valuable, important and enduring, your gift-giving will have deep meaning, and it will make you happy too.
Isn’t that part of what the holidays are all about?