Columnists, Jon Caldara, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: Ensuring donor intent key to a lasting legacy

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

You are going to die.

It brings me no pleasure to inform you of this. But, unless you are Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, someday you are going to die. Which begs a question: what are you going to do about it?

We pack our lives with distractions to avoid thinking of our own mortality. Coming to grips with the fact you’ll soon be gone is spiritually torturous.

Sure, we’re aware of it enough to maybe get some life insurance and draw up a will, but do we want to leave behind some part of us that lives on to impact the world. A legacy? Have you written the Great American Novel or the like?

To feel depressed about your lack of accomplishments remember Paul McCartney was only 28 when he quit The Beatles, leaving a catalog of music for the ages.

But people who have worked hard, been disciplined and used their intelligence, they have in fact created something — something impressive and powerful. It’s called their wealth, and they can leave it behind for the people or causes they love. It’s something until recently only lords and kings could do.

The United States is experiencing the largest generational transfer of wealth ever. But have those who’ve earned it really thought about what happens to it when it changes hands?

Steve Schuck has been a friend and mentor for nearly 30 years and one of the few guys that can make me look politically correct and understated by contrast.

His passion is bringing educational choice to as many families as possible. He created Parents Challenge, a private scholarship organization to provide resources and training to struggling families to send their kids to a school of their choice — public, private, home school, whatever.

But his greatest impact might happen when he’s gone. Steve and his late wife, Joyce, created a foundation, The Schuck Initiatives, to ensure their wealth goes to the causes they support for generations to come.

But a strange thing happens to your money after you’re dead. You no longer control it. At some point, people you don’t even know do.

One need only look at big foundations like the Ford Foundation to see how the donor’s intent has been forgotten. Good old Henry would be sickened to see how his money, created through free enterprise and his genius, is being used to promote socialism.

So, Schuck has spent the last several years putting legal guard rails around the Schuck Initiatives to keep his treasure going to only things he would want to support.

Schuck tells me putting together this “donor intent system” to keep his wealth from drifting has been the most challenging, hardest thing he’s ever done. And if you know him, you’d know what a big statement that is.

He has gone to extravagant lengths to preserve his intent for those entrusted to spend his fortune. He has even created a series of videos where he is speaking directly to the future staff and board of his organization telling them exactly what they are to fund and more importantly what they are not to fund.

Had Henry Ford done this his wealthy offspring wouldn’t be using his money to destroy the very free market system that helped create it.

That’s one of the reasons Steve has made it clear family members will not be on the staff or board. It’s not because he can’t trust his own kids, he just doesn’t know what his grandkids kids will value.

To be on the board of The Schuck Initiatives you will have to be in line with the values he carefully laid out.

He has put together a list of “thou shall not” mandates of what his money should never go to. For him that means it won’t go to building buildings, buying tables at gala fundraisers, supporting woke causes, anything that supports the growth of government, and more.

Rich people can do with their money what they like. But history shows giving it away with only the best of intentions works against what they believe.

To those of us without much money this all seems like mere intellectual exercise. But if you hope to leave something to loved ones or causes, you should think about how it will be spent. Watch my recent interview with Schuck below.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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