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Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Bensons to Give to USD

Roger BensonRoger Benson was raised by a single mom and the family was always short on money. So he learned at an early age to nurture his entrepreneurial spirit-mowing lawns on hot summer days and waking up at the crack of dawn to deliver newspapers.

For years, he worked as a homebuilder. But in 1975, at the age of 40, he came home and asked his wife, Judy, who was working as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercy Hospital, how she'd like to be married to a sewer cleaner.

That year the couple started a plumbing, sewer and drain cleaning company out of their home. They called it Rescue Rooter and took great pride not just in what they did, but also in how they did it. Together, they brought a whole new level of professionalism to the industry, which over time became a standard that many plumbers and other service providers still strive to achieve.

At Rescue Rooter employees answered the phone on the first ring. They responded to calls within an hour. They maintained the highest concern for the customer's "castle." Their uniforms were clean, their trucks were spotless and they received training, not only on the latest technology of their trade, but also on adhering to values most conducive to customer satisfaction.

Rescue Rooter eventually included 23 locations across 10 states, with a fleet of 800 trucks and a team of 1,300 employees. It became the largest privately held plumbing, sewer and drain cleaning company in the United States and, in 1998, the couple sold the business to a Fortune 500 company that promised to retain their employees as well as the value system for which Rescue Rooter had come to be known.

Roger and Judy still nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in others. This year Roger was part of USD's fourth annual Undergraduate Business Plan Competition in which students present their ideas for business ventures to a panel of judges to vie for a share of $5,000.

Recently, the couple made a gift to the business school through their IRA. Tax-free gifts are allowed directly from a Roth or Traditional IRA to a qualified charity, like USD, under a law that is due to expire on Dec.31, 2011. Their hope is to inspire and support future entrepreneurs.

"There's an intrinsic reward in knowing that you started something, watched it grow, provided jobs and helped others," Judy says.

Their advice to future business owners? Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Know that you may have to be the chief bottle washer. Do your research. Be lean and mean and hold off on buying space with a big corner office. Regularly communicate with other business owners who will give you honest advice. Stay humble.

"It isn't magical," Roger says. "You have to learn the skills and pay your dues. You also have to have follow-through-there are lots of people who have great ideas but don't have the discipline to follow through. But what's most important is to feel passionate about what you do."

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University of San Diego a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to the University of San Diego [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to USD or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to USD as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to USD as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and USD where you agree to make a gift to USD and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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