Despite a few isolated incidents in my life, I believe that people are intrinsically good. I realize that I just made a pretty big statement, but I assure you it’s based on years of looking at peoples’ finances. Since I certainly don’t want to turn this post into a debate about the basic motivations of life, please humor me for the next few hundred words.
Most of the people that I have served over the last 12 years do think of others on a regular basis. And by “think of others”, I mean they financially sacrifice for the benefit of another person and/or entity. And it’s in my previous sentence, that you found your first clue of my eventual point.
People generally feel the need to give to others. I think this is a pleasant assertion which has unfortunately been soiled over the course of the last few years, when I realized that this act hasn’t led to personal progress or enlightenment for most givers. You see, there is giving, and there is charity. The confusion between the two is so esoteric that you probably didn’t realize that there is a difference, or better yet that the difference between the two actually matters.
There is a new trend in financially destructive behavior. I call it over-gifting. I have noticed that people have been trying to satisfy their need for giving by ignoring those truly in need, and simply transferring wealth and materialism to loved ones. This very generous behavior is, in a way, selfless; however it often means that those truly in need are forgotten. In addition, it has been my experience that those that satisfy their need for giving by simply giving gifts to friends and family, often do so when their financial situation can’t support it. Therefore they are not only satisfying their need to give, but actually they are giving technically too much, (based on their financial situation) in order to appear as though they are actually in a better financial situation. Or in modern hip-hop parlance, (which I generally employ) they are frontin’.
In contrast, those that satisfy their need to give by giving to charity, rarely extend themselves financially beyond what they can afford. Beyond that, I have even observed that those who give consistently to charity actually have better financial habits in general. Which begs the question: which came first, the generosity towards charity or the good financial habits? Actually, I believe that neither came first. I believe that those who satisfy their need for giving by giving to charity psychologically are better adjusted. Those that satisfy their need for giving to others by only giving to others that they know, tend to have ulterior motives for the act. Thus proving once again my career-long assertion: money has nothing to do with money. We are pawns to our own psychology. Want to be better with your money? Impossible. Want to do better things with your money? Work on your brain, the right side.
Do you agree? Or do you think that my observations of thousands of financial situations have led to a bogus assessment of giving? Leave me a comment.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.
One thought on “The missatisfaction of a basic human need”
I agree completely. It sounds like you are describing “keeping up with the Jones”. It amazes me when I see people doing things out of their comfort zones to make themselves look secure. We are big fans of giving to charity and helping others, while staying within our means.
Thanks, Pete for the article.
Ps would love to see your opinion on those who give, only to receive something in return. Ie a gift