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BLACK FRIDAY TRADITIONALLY KICKS OFF the holiday shopping season. Americans spent $1 trillion on holiday gifts in 2016—and that amount is expected to increase this year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. But a cultural backlash against such frenzied seasonal consumerism is building—this year, in fact, some major retailers are closing their doors on Black Friday, giving their employees an extra day to spend with family. And some shoppers are turning to charitable giving in the name of family and friends, instead of buying gifts.
“The holidays provide the perfect opportunity to teach your children the power of giving,” says Stacy Allred, head of the Center for Family Wealth, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “In a society that touts consumerism, philanthropy is a great antidote.” So much so, in fact, that six years ago, the United Nations Foundation declared the Tuesday after Thanksgiving “Giving Tuesday.” Last year charitable donations on that day also increased from the previous year, reports the Foundation.
Over the years, many Merrill Lynch clients have asked Allred for tips to help them foster generosity in their children. “Becoming an effective giver is a skill that must be developed, and it’s nice if you can start early,” Allred says. “Think of the toddler who’s very focused on herself—those 'me' years. As you’re giving her a gift, you could ask her to go choose a toy that she no longer needs and give that away.”
Reinforcing the importance of helping others can be as simple as going around the dinner table every night and asking, “What did you do to give back today?” It doesn’t have to be about money, Allred notes. “Did you open a door for someone, give them a smile, ask if you could do something for them?”
In the video above, Allred offers more practical tips for teaching kids of all ages how they can practice generosity and, through little acts of selflessness, make a big difference in the world around them.
Click here for more important money conversations to have with your family as you spend time with them over the holidays.