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Maaser on investments and loans that won’t be repaid

Question:

I have the following questions on paying maaser:

1) 401K Investment – 401K contributions are deducted weekly from my paycheck and kept in a separate account that I cannot touch until I retire. Do I need to pay maaser on any of these funds or on the interest and dividends earned before I receive any of this money?

2)) Mutual Fund Investment – My grandmother invested funds for me in a Mutual Fund account. Every year there is either a gain or loss on the investment and certain amount of dividends earned. Do I need to pay maaser on the funds sitting in the account that I haven’t touched or only on the funds that I have withdrawn from the account? Do I need to pay maaser on the dividends and any annual gains before receiving the funds?

3) Unpaid Loans – I loaned my brother money several times for his monthly rent since he couldn’t afford to pay it. At the end he was unable to repay the loan and I gave up on ever receiving it back from him. Since I lost hope of receiving the loan back I can’t consider it as maaser. But is it possible to deduct it from my annual income for that year so my maaser obligation is reduced? The total amount of the loans comes out to quite a bit of money, $4,000 in total.

Answer:

Thank you for your question.

  1. The monies that were put into your retirement account do not have to have maser separated from them until you actually are able to use it. Therefore, you can wait until you withdraw the money and its interest and take off the maaser then. (There is however a slight preference to take off the maaser earlier, as you might forget to do it later).
  2. The same would apply to the money in the mutual funds, you can wait until you redeem the money to take off maser.
  3. You are correct. After you gave up on getting back the money back you can’t take it off from maaser. Regarding taking it off your annual income, I don’t see why that should be correct to do so, because you did earn the money. It would seem to me, that although you can’t technically take the money off the maaser calculation, the money that you gave your brother, would still be considered tzedakah, and it was a very big mitzva. Supporting one’s family is from the highest on the priority list for giving tzedakah. Additionally, the Rambam (Matnas Aniem 10-2) says that a person never loses out from giving tzedakah. Therefore, although it is hard to accept this “loss”, but Hashem will pay you back handsomely for the chesed that you did to your brother.

Best wishes

Sources:

B’orach Tzedakah 9-3 in the name of R’ N. Karelitz zt”l, Shevet Halevi 9- 201.

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