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Wise Giving: Alumna Jo Wandel '70 and husband value the Mercy values

Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2020

- by Sara Titus, Director of Planned Giving and Stewardship -

Jo Wandel ’70 and her husband, Dr. Jan Heese, “Value the Mercy Values.”

Growing up in Omaha, Jo Wandel, J.D., ‘70, was taught by the Sisters of Mercy. In fact, one teacher, Sr. Muriel, was Jo’s history teacher in grade school, high school and college. Jo credits the Sisters of Mercy for her career in law. As a high school student at Mercy High, Jo was a reading tutor. That experience led her to a CSM degree in sociology, years in social work, and raising children. Eventually, Jo attended Creighton Law School and moved into a career as a trial lawyer and, later, as Director of Legal Studies at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.

Growing up in rural Iowa, Jan was also the beneficiary of Catholic education. After graduating from Creighton with a degree in biology, he attended chiropractic school at Logan College in St. Louis. Returning to Omaha, he developed a successful chiropractic practice and retired a few years ago.

Because they believe in the power of Catholic education, Jo and Jan make regular financial gifts to CSM. Until retirement, Jo wrote a check to CSM each year and that worked well. However, when Jo reached the age when she was required to begin taking minimum distributions from her IRA, she started giving in a new way.

When Jo was in private practice, her friend and financial advisor, Timothy Wagman, a lawyer and certified financial planner at Ameriprise Financial, helped Jo establish a retirement plan for her employees. She dutifully funded her company’s IRA and it enjoyed years of tax-free growth. When it came time to begin taking required minimum distributions from her IRA, Tim suggested that they make their charitable gifts to CSM directly from the IRA.

Giving this way made a lot of sense to Jo and Jan. At age 72 the IRS requires that people take an annual required minimum distribution, or RMD, from their IRA. This RMD is considered regular income and thus is subject to income tax. For many people this can be a substantial increase in income and a much higher tax bill.

The solution to this problem is the IRA-qualified charitable distribution, a straightforward, tax-wise way to give. With this option, the individual asks her plan administrator to write the check directly to the institution instead of to the taxpayer. When done this way, the individual is able to avoid paying income tax on the distribution. “Obviously, if you’re saving taxes, you’re saving money,” said Jan. “Why send it to the government when you can send it to the institution? If you’re going to give anyway, why not give this way?”

“It’s easy!” Jo said. “When we’re ready to make a gift, we tell Tim how much we want to give to CSM and he takes care of it.

The checks are written and mailed and the giving is done!”

If you would like information on giving to CSM via the IRA charitable rollover, please contact Sara Titus, Director of Planned Giving and Stewardship, at stitus [at] or 402-399-2331.

*Recent legislation has impacted qualified charitable distributions. For more information, see this review of the CARES Act.