Any Valentine's Day gift is thoughtful. Still, most of these presents have fairly short shelf lives -- flowers fade, chocolates get eaten and those little candy hearts that say "Be Mine" get stale.
This year, why not give your special valentine a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.
Specifically, consider making a financial gift. Here are a few possibilities:
* Give stocks. You might want to give shares of stock in a company that makes products favored by your loved one. As an alternative to buying stocks, you could give some shares of your own. You'll need to know what you originally paid for the stock (its tax basis), how long you've held it and its fair market value at the date of the gift. The recipient will need this information to determine gains or losses when he or she sells the stock. (You'll also need to determine if you have to pay gift taxes. You can give up to $12,000 per year, free of gift taxes, to as many people as you want).
* Contribute to an IRA. The IRA contribution limit for 2008 is $5,000. Investors who are 50 or older can also make a "catch-up" contributions of an additional $1,000. So, if your valentine hasn't fully funded his or hers IRA for this year, you can help. Because of their tax advantages, IRAs are great retirement-savings vehicles. (Traditional IRAs have the potential to grow tax-deferred; Roth IRAs potentially grow tax-free, provided the investor has had the account for at least five years and is 59-and-a-half or older).
* Make a charitable gift in your valentine's name. Your loved one, like most people, probably supports a variety of social and charitable organizations. By making a donation to one of these groups in your valentine's name, you can add a special meaning to this Valentine's Day.
At the same time, you'll be giving yourself a little valentine, because you may be able to claim a tax deduction for your charitable gift.
* Review your estate plans. All right, it doesn't sound all that romantic, but if your sweetheart is also your spouse, you'll certainly be looking out for his or her best interests when you review your estate plans. If you were to die without a will, for example, you would cause considerable anguish to your survivors. And in many cases, a simple will isn't enough -- you may need to establish a living trust or other estate-planning tool. You'll also want to go through your financial assets -- including your IRA, 401(k), annuities and life insurance contracts -- to make sure your beneficiary designations are still accurate. Beneficiary designations supersede whatever instructions may be in your will, so it's essential that you update your beneficiaries whenever your family situation changes. It's not uncommon for assets to go to the "wrong beneficiaries" (e.g., spouses from earlier marriages) or to bypass children born after the initial beneficiary designation was made.
By making any of these gifts, you'll show your loved one that you really care -- and the results of your generosity will be felt long after Valentine's Day is over.
Edwards Jones, its employees and Financial Advisors are not estate planners and cannot offer tax or legal advice.
You should consult with a competent tax specialist or attorney for professional advice on your specific situation.