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Giving To Charity
I have always felt, strongly, that you need to walk your talk. If you give advice or advocate for something, you'd better damn well be doing that stuff yourself. Otherwise, you're a huge hypocrite, and frankly, no one should pay attention to you.
-By Caleb Jones
This extends to your political views. I'm an extreme libertarian (though not an anarchist) who thinks government should be very tiny and do only the bare minimums (roads, cops, courts, etc) and do absolutely nothing else. Having government welfare not only doesn't work, but actually creates more poor people (or at least more stressed out, financially strapped middle class people).
Instead of being bailed out by big, coercive government, the poor should be helped by:
- Neighborhoods and local (non-government) community programs
- Churches and other religious organizations
- Corporations nice enough to help the needy
People should help people. If just a small percentage of people regularly donated to charity, you would never need another government welfare program. If I need to be honest and congruent about this belief I hold, I have to give money to charity too. If I didn't, I'd be a hypocritical asshole. Thus, I give 5% of my gross income to charity, every single month. I have done this for many years.
If 5% doesn't sound like a lot, then get a calculator and figure out 5% of your monthly salary, and imagine writing a check for that every month. It's a lot of money. There have been some months that writing that check was hard. I wrote it anyway. One of my biggest financial goals is to get that 5% to 10%. One of my longtime mentors, Nido Qubein, not only donates a percentage of his monthly income to charity, but once every few years he also donates a percentage of his entire net worth to charity. All his lawyers and accounts get furious when he does this, since due to all kinds of big government regulations, it's a lot of paperwork and hassle. He always tells them he doesn't care, and to do it anyway.
That's so amazing that I can't wait to get to the point where I can regularly do the same thing.
Giving money to charity is not only something you should do, but it also makes you feel good. I usually give to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and it feels great to help out such an extraordinary organization. They're a highly rated charity too; they don't waste your money like the government does.
Today, I'm going to do something I almost never do. I'm going to give you some advice that I can't prove works with either science or facts. Ready? Here it is: giving to charity will eventually increase your income. I can't tell you logically why this is, since the reasons are spiritual. When you give back to the universe, the universe makes sure you get more money so you can give back more. The universe tries to direct the flow of money to those individuals who help the world the most. If you never give away any of your money, the universe is going to be more reluctant to give you more.
Can I prove any of this? Nope. Can I provide any statistics that indicate this? Nope. Again, this is one of those very rare times, perhaps the only time, that I'll tell you to take something on faith. All I know is that many years ago, I was told, by men much wealthier than I was, to donate to charity on a regular basis, and it would not only make me a happier person, but it would also make me rich. So far, it seems to be working. It will probably work for you too.
Regardless, if you're libertarian-ish in your political beliefs, or even if you're a small government conservative (what few there are left these days), you should give to charity regularly anyway, or else you're a hypocritical asshole. Left-wingers can afford to sit around, never give any money to those who need it, and instead tell the government to put guns in people's faces and force them to give their money to the poor (after the government takes its 40% - 60% cut, of course). But you don't have that evil option. You need to be one of the good guys, and give.
1. Determine a percentage of your income that you can donate to charity every month. If you don't make a lot of money or have lots of expenses, start with just 1% of your gross or net income. Set a goal to increase that over time.
2. Go to GuideStar, CharityWatch, or CharityNavigator and look around for the type of charity you would like to help. I prefer charities that prevent problems from starting in the first place (like Big Brothers Big Sisters) instead of dealing with problems that have already happened (like disaster relief organizations), but that's just me. Pick whatever you want. Just be aware that there are some "bad" charities that waste most of their donated funds just like the government does.
3. Put that payment amount in your budget, and pay it every month just like it's another bill, like your electric bill. I've done this for years. It eventually becomes a habit and you don't even think about it anymore. It would feel "weird" to me to not make that payment every month. Walk your talk. Be congruent. Be one of the good guys. Give to charity.
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Gil Galad 2017-02-16 06:12:29
One or two years ago I would've written a whole page about how irrational your faith is, but I'll be more brief and say that if giving to charity did make you richer, it's more parcimonious to conjecture that the psychological benefits of giving participated to your prosperity, than to say that the universe has the characteristics of a mind. Humans are deeply - DEEPLY - programmed to attribute a soul to nearly everything, from a pencil to an election. The rational attitude is to compensate for this by distrusting our intuition that events are talking to us - unless truth is not our priority, in which case anything goes. I myself often entertain animist and pantheist thoughts because I enjoy them, but 'entertain' is the key word (there's a famous Aristotle quote about this). More relevant to the article: I'm currently pretty poor and what little I donate, over and above the coins given to beggars in the streets, I donate to SENS Foundation which works on fighting aging. On the face of it it's selfish, but aging is actually responsible for two thirds of ALL deaths in the world plus all the years of suffering leading up to each, so I do think it's a very worthy cause.
Ian 2017-02-16 07:06:52
I love this post, especially the aspect about being congruent to your libertarian and/or small government conservative beliefs and still helping people. I recommend looking into the "effective altruism" movement, which is one where people direct their work and spending lives and charity donations rationally (using research and critical thinking) to make the biggest quantifiable impact in the world (saving lives / increasing lifespan / increasing quality of life for people).
blueguitar 2017-02-16 12:55:54
Inspiring article, thanks. ------- I came across a copy of Effective Altruism. Checking out the Effective Altruism website's Cause Prioritization Tool gives food for thought. I tend to think it might be good to focus on 1-3 big issues while giving support to the local community. ------- Some ideas about why giving may help with income, other than possibly deeper spiritual reasons: 1. It puts good intentions into practice. And many people tend to reward other people who practice good intentions. 2. It affirms an abundance mindset. By giving resources away, you are confirming that you have been successful in your life and have extra to give. 3. Believing you are helping others usually increases one's sense of well-being. This generally results in better overall mental capacity. ------ One area of giving that has been challenging for me - how to respond to people on the street asking for help or money. If someone provides a service, like playing music or directing traffic, I'll give a tip. Otherwise, instead of giving money, I'll sometimes ask if they want something to eat. Also, I think one time I paid a lady $5 for her advice, which seemed like a fair deal. I'm thinking about making a little card or pamphlet with all the hotline numbers and contact info local organizations to help someone. But, I've never done this, so I don't know if it would be well-received.
Caleb Jones 2017-02-16 13:11:48
if giving to charity did make you richer, it’s more parcimonious to conjecture that the psychological benefits of giving participated to your prosperity, than to say that the universe has the characteristics of a mind. Humans are deeply – DEEPLY – programmed to attribute a soul to nearly everythingSure. It's possible I'm wrong.
I recommend looking into the “effective altruism” movement, which is one where people direct their work and spending lives and charity donations rationally (using research and critical thinking) to make the biggest quantifiable impact in the world (saving lives / increasing lifespan / increasing quality of life for people).Wow, very cool. I'll look into it.
Some ideas about why giving may help with income, other than possibly deeper spiritual reasons: 1. It puts good intentions into practice. And many people tend to reward other people who practice good intentions. 2. It affirms an abundance mindset. By giving resources away, you are confirming that you have been successful in your life and have extra to give. 3. Believing you are helping others usually increases one’s sense of well-being. This generally results in better overall mental capacity.I think it's mostly number 2. Agree completely.
One area of giving that has been challenging for me – how to respond to people on the street asking for help or money.This is where I'm a total asshole. I ignore them and move on, particularly when it's very clear there's nothing mentally wrong with them (they're just fucking lazy). If they pester me, I tell them I only carry credit cards (which is usually true). My view is to let the charitable organizations deal with these people. I don't want those people's energies around me, nor do I want them using my money.
Cyndi 2017-02-16 20:06:45
Thanks for the reminder. Will definitely take your advice and start giving more! We reap what we sow.
Ian 2017-02-16 21:40:25
Caleb, this podcast episode is where I found out about the effective altruism movement: https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/being-good-and-doing-good Big actionable take-away: if you want to save a human life, the most effective way, statistically, is to donate $3,500 USD to a top anti-malaria charity that puts up mosquito nets in Africa. With this dollar amount, you will basically be statistically guaranteed to have saved a person's life. The free online book "80,000 Hours" also discusses these ideas. It is co-authored the same person interviewed on the podcast, and is focused on using your career and income to do the most quantifiable good in the world ("effective altruism", again) in a way that is fulfilling and sustainable.
Ian 2017-02-16 21:54:51
All that said, I have some hesitant and negative feelings about the "80,000 Hours" book's philosophy of directing your life as much as possible to maximize its benefit to others — at least that's how I interpret the book and the movement. I think that approach can lead to an unhealthy level of self-denial, and unhappiness, when taken beyond a reasonable point.
Ian 2017-02-16 21:57:18
Maybe not "beyond a reasonable point" but "beyond a certain point", because people can find reasons for anything — especially in value-driven activities. Ok, I'm done.
Tale 2017-02-17 04:43:48
Good post, it's always frustrating when people think libertarian = wants to kill the poor. "One area of giving that has been challenging for me – how to respond to people on the street asking for help or money. " I agree with Caleb, just ignore them. In the first-world a lot of homeless either have problems bigger than money - mental health, lack of support network etc. or they don't want to leave the streets. They also have resources available to them - homeless shelters, charities, welfare/benefits. So giving directly doesn't have much of an impact (and can be a negative as they might spend it on drink/drugs rather than food/shelter). If you wanted to support the homeless then it's much more effective to donate to well-rated charities that provide these resources for them. " All that said, I have some hesitant and negative feelings about the “80,000 Hours” book’s philosophy of directing your life as much as possible to maximize its benefit to others — at least that’s how I interpret the book and the movement. I think that approach can lead to an unhealthy level of self-denial, and unhappiness, when taken beyond a reasonable point. " I haven't finished the book yet but so far I've read it as giving advice on maximising your impact, but doing it in a sustainable way in a career you would enjoy. I think you're right that if you get obsessed with it you'll go crazy, but as long as you have a set plan then you avoid the trap of over-working or giving away too much of your income.
joelsuf 2017-02-17 06:07:34
Much as I would like to agree with this, I'm extremely cynical about charities nowadays. It seems that most of them are corporatist scams and are just as awful as the government. The whole Kony 2012 thing by Invisible Children being exposed woke me up to this as well as the March of Dimes literally being a march of dimes where its higher ups get paid millions. Its the same with Goodwill, The United Way, Ronald McDonald House, I can name quite a few more. I don't mind helping others, but I'm going to continue to do it on a small scale (helping my family, buddies, other loved ones and local charities). If that's wrong, then I don't want to be right. I'm actually hoping that I'm misinformed, I wonder if CJ knows which charities are scams and which ones are not.
Pyro Nagus 2017-02-17 06:22:28
I think the need to believe has its roots in our evolution. Life has always been hit or miss even for the most well prepared. The thought that everthing could come crashing down at any second crippled our motivation. Any supernatural being that could ease our insecurities would give a substantial boost to moral, which why we have a whole section of our brain primarily devoted to faith based thinking that 'lights up' as recorded by scientists' machinery when we pray. That's my hypothesis. Which might explain why you feel your success is somehow tied to your altruistic activities. I see it as self-manipulation but it works so I don't care that it's logically false. This coupled with BlueGuitar's statements is why I agree with your message. Irrelevant to my previous point, I never figured whether helping other people actually benefits humanity as a whole. Allow me to explain. On one side of the argument, nature has a funny and ironic way of balancing itself out. For example, whenever the population of a species grows out of the environment's capacity, food and resources go down, forcing the species near mass extinction, while the worthy few survive. Humans outsmart the system by finding new ways to acquire food. But it only delays the inevitable. Helping the lower class survive puts more pressure on us as a whole. Puts us closer to mass extinction. Similar to how not letting incompetent companies die puts more pressure on society. On the other side of the argument, the more wealth people have the less offsprings the produce. The reasons are obvious so I won't mention them. Does this justify charity? I'm fine with more equal opportunity based charity rather than equal wealth. Since that gives people more responsibility and makes them think twice about squirting out babies. I lean most towards helping the environment, though. Since that helps everyone and I can't see how it could harm us. As you can see, my thoughts are all over the place. Government and scams aren't the only problem. How can we ascertain that sending food to Africa or providing shelter to homeless people doesn't hurt us in the long run? I hope my worries are invalid and charity organizations do see this. What do you guys think?
Gil Galad 2017-02-17 07:39:46
@Pyro Nagus: For one thing, it isn't a given that doing good means doing good for "humanity". If aliens come shooting us randomly until 10% are left then inexplicably leave, and the 10% grow back to the initial population, "humanity" has survived, but was this good ? Good for who ? How about the 90% that died, what did they think of this ? Do they agree that the net result was pretty neutral since after X time humanity is back to the same numbers ? My point is that using an abstraction made of ever changing individuals, called "humanity", as the receiver of all our moral efforts, can be as hopelessly wrong as socialism's obsession with "society" at the expense of the individual. Also the whole concept of the worthy few is flawed. If we're talking about evolution, there were countless opportunities where extinctions and speciations were due to a contingency, not to anyone having something *inherently* advantageous: X was good at picking fruit and Y was good at eating nuts and both were available, then fruits disappeared, X died and now Y is the "worthy survivor". It's bullshit. Now, take an infant from a really, really fucked up country and raise him in a very prosperous country. At the very least, he's gonna do way better than the average person from the fucked up country. So when you help under-developed countries, don't worry, you are not contributing to the perpetuation of "poverty genes". That's not to say that genes' role is zero, it's just less consequential than some would like to believe - and those people themselves aren't being very smart, because taking credit "because of their genes" wouldn't be credit at all, since it would mean they didn't earn it (having the "genes for intelligence and hard work"), wouldn't it ? Read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel for the historical/geographical reasons we have the particular (im)balance of prosperity today; and read Sam Harris' article, "How to lose readers", for why it is actually a good idea to help the poor and/or poor countries. Back to the point about "humanity": did you watch Interstellar ? Spoiler Alert..., in the movie, Earth is dying and everyone will choke in some decades . A spaceship is sent with a small crew and 5000 frozen embryos for a colony on an exoplanet. A scientist back on Earth promises that he'll try to find a "way to manipulate gravity" so as to actually fly off all of humanity and save it from asphyxiation, by the time the scout mission succeeds. "Plan A" is to successfully manipulate gravity and save all the endangered humans; "plan B", if A fails, is to just rebuild a new humanity from the frozen embryos on the new planet. Later in the movie it is revealed that the scientist knew the gravity trick was actually unsolvable or at least out of his reach, and that there was never a plan A: it is stated that he "heroically" lied to the crew members (who would have refused the mission if there wasn't at least a chance for plan A), "because the future survival of humanity as a species is more important than the survival of those alive today". And you know what ? I don't think this was moral at all, I think it was beyond criminal. In this context, we're back to prioritizing the abstraction, the frozen embryos that don't feel a thing, over billions of people slowly choking to death. All that because we're agonizing over "survival of the species". Fuck the species. If addressing real suffering of human beings happens to save the species, then fine, but never make the abstraction more important that the tangible suffering.
Pyro Nagus 2017-02-17 09:42:53
Thank you for responding. I generally agree with your points. I opened up multiple cans of worms, one after another. I feel like that may muddy my message. My bad… That's one aspect of what I meant by 'balance of nature'. Help to some can be hurtful to others. You see, I'm amoral and don't care what happens to other people at a logical level. But rationally speaking, I realize that helping other people resonates with our deeply-wired altruistic nature so If I can afford it, I will help, since in turn, that helps my mental wellbeing at the very least. (As you can see, that means I don't care what society or evolution's moral values are. I care about the individual first and foremost.) So while we're being a bunch of rational goody-two-shoes that help society and 'humanity' for our own sake, I need to mention that not all help is helpful. Just so you know. So, this leads to a bigger point. I think making poor people prosperous and successful leads to less population growth which is good in my book. But simply sending food and money doesn't make them successful. It actually might lead to more hungry mouths that leads to more pollution and less resources for the rest of us. As cruel as it might be, I think letting them die is the better alternative. The best solution of course, is to give them responsibilities and the opportunity to rise. I'm not an economics expert so I don't know how charity organizations can "create opportunities" but I hope that's the direction they are heading. Yes, society is such a fast-paced, unstable and fluctuating factor in the human race that evolution doesn't apply to them the same way it does to others. We are a mixed bag of genes. Our successful don't have many off springs, our poor do, as just one example. So in conclusion, I value the individual above all. Once the individual's needs are taken care of and they are interested in helping others, they should help in a way that does less harm than good. They should prioritize helping many over helping few, unless the few are clearly more 'worthy' (I care about the worthy few a little, a lot more than society as a whole). All that aside, I can't see how helping the environment can harm anyone. So any tree hugging charity or technological advancement that can help in that area has all my donations (as soon as I can afford it).
POB 2017-02-17 10:04:40
Can't go wrong with those if you need a more personal approach: https://www.gofundme.com/mvc.php?route=category&term=cancer BTW, nice post!
Gil Galad 2017-02-17 10:06:47
"But simply sending food and money doesn’t make them successful. It actually might lead to more hungry mouths that leads to more pollution and less resources for the rest of us": Yes I agree with that. I'm not sure if help should be concentrated on education, infrastructure, or maybe energetic independance, but "beware of attacking the symptoms instead of the illness" is worthy advice. "I can’t see how helping the environment can harm anyone." Same here.
Pyro Nagus 2017-02-17 11:02:00
“Beware of attacking the symptoms instead of the illness” Yeah, that's a good way of putting it.
Caleb Jones 2017-02-17 11:33:54
I’m extremely cynical about charities nowadaysThat's exactly why you must do your research before you donate. I said, there are bad charities out there. But they're not all bad.
I see it as self-manipulation but it works so I don’t care that it’s logically false.That's my attitude. If it works, it works. Don't really care why as long as it doesn't damage my happiness.
Tony 2017-02-17 18:30:00
I was wanting to ask this for a while, but I don't see how you can't donate 10% right now. You say you make six figures, and you also say you live a frugal lifestyle (I believe in your book you advocate that all guys should do so). So if you donated 10% to charity you should still be making well above the median in your city, and should plenty of money to support a modest lifestyle and have plenty leftover for investments. I know you don't like to give details, but I'm curious where your income is going. To the topic, I must be particularly selfish because I've always wanted my charitable donations to benefit me in some way. So I might donate to a charity that would help improve my neighborhood, do an unnecessary improvement on one of my rental properties (I count this as a form of charity since it's improving the lives of my tenants), or even just buy somebody I know something that would really help them out so I can at least see their reaction.
Caleb Jones 2017-02-17 22:46:14
I was wanting to ask this for a while, but I don’t see how you can’t donate 10% right now.I'm behind on my net worth goal and need to sock away as much money as I can until I'm 52.
I’m curious where your income is goingInto the bank. But not enough.
I must be particularly selfish because I’ve always wanted my charitable donations to benefit me in some way. So I might donate to a charity that would help improve my neighborhoodThat's fine.
Tony 2017-02-18 14:09:05
Makes sense. In my mind having big a big net worth goal isn't worth it. If I can already live the lifestyle I want from passive income, any extra money isn't going to do anything for me. Do you have a practical reason for reaching a higher net worth or is it simply a goal you want to accomplish? And what's the number if you don't mind sharing? I assume you reached $1 million a while ago, so I'd guess your goal is either $5 million or $10 million. Those would be pretty solid numbers for somebody in their 50's.
Caleb Jones 2017-02-18 14:32:44
In my mind having big a big net worth goal isn’t worth it.Yeah, you're young guy in your 20's. Of course you think that (sadly). You'll care when you're 65. A lot.
Do you have a practical reason for reaching a higher net worth or is it simply a goal you want to accomplish?You're asking me, Caleb Jones, Blackdragon. What do you think? Do you think I have a specific, practical reason for this goal, or do you think I'm doing it for emotional reasons? It's to get to the point in my 50's where I literally never have to worry about money, in any way, ever again.
And what’s the number if you don’t mind sharing?I never give personal financial information over the internet. (And neither should you.) That's always been my policy. But it's not a huge number.
Tony 2017-02-18 17:10:55
Emotional reasons I bet 😛 Using the 4% rule and a $75k passive income, a $2 million net worth would be enough to meet that requirement. I know from my own finances that I'll likely get there by 40 unless I don't feel the need to later on, so I assume you're there or very close to it since you care much more about making a lot of money than I do. Are you looking for a passive income level above $75k, or are you more conservative than that 4% rule?
Caleb Jones 2017-02-18 17:55:19
Are you looking for a passive income level above $75k, or are you more conservative than that 4% rule?Both. $75K per year would not make me happy long term, and real inflation rates (not CPI, real inflation rates) are rising and will continue to rise dramatically, and the 4% rule no longer applies to the new economy for a myriad of reasons. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/21/the-4-percent-rule-no-longer-applies-for-most-retirees.html http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/four-percent-rule.asp http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/20/retirement/retirement-4-rule/ If your plan for when you're old is to live in a tiny apartment with no car and never travel and virtually never eat out, then your plan will probably be okay. If not, you're going to have to save a hell of a lot more. We're too off-topic now. Let's get back to charity.
blueguitar 2017-02-18 23:33:38
How to determine a good non-profit from the bad? 1. Charity Navigator or an equivalent organization. 2. Verify 1st hand. 3. Verify 2nd hand. 2. Verify 1st hand If the non-profit is local, then it would be relatively easy. You could go to see the programs that the NPO organizes, go to fundraisers, go to the office. If the non-profit does most of its work internationally or nationally, you would need to dedicate more of your time to actually go to visit the places where the non-profit works. You could still visit, but most people aren't going to travel to another continent to make the mosquito nets they bought were delivered. You can also call and chat with the office to get a sense of what's going on. Maybe you could do a SKYPE meeting to verify that the organization is legitimate? Unless you were donating a lot of more, I don't think many places would see any reason to accept, just based on time and energy. 3. Verify 2nd hand You would then need to verify the source(s) that are vouching for the organization. Maybe a contact in the NGO world or some serious internet sleuthing? Any thoughts? Am I missing something here? ------------------------- Instead of "giving" to a charity, another perspective might be "buying what you want the world to be more like". In some ways, this changes the viewpoint of the entire situation. As a "client" or "consumer" you might be in a more demanding headspace than if you just "give the money away". This may or may not be a good thing.
Caleb Jones 2017-02-20 10:21:22
Any thoughts? Am I missing something here?They sound good to me.
Instead of “giving” to a charity, another perspective might be “buying what you want the world to be more like”. In some ways, this changes the viewpoint of the entire situation. As a “client” or “consumer” you might be in a more demanding headspace than if you just “give the money away”. This may or may not be a good thingThere's nothing wrong with that, but giving makes my emotions feel better.
blueguitar 2017-02-21 15:41:51
"There’s nothing wrong with that, but giving makes my emotions feel better." Good point!
Daniel 2017-02-28 06:08:43
No idea how or if this really works, but I started giving because of Caleb's recommendation a few years ago and my income has been going up ever since. So it at least seems to work.
Kevin Velasco 2017-03-05 03:05:36
Altruism can be sexy. That's why it's normal for people like Batman to have threesomes with Kate Upton and Eva Mendes.