Why being charitable is good for you financially

I can draw a line down the financial world and separate everyone into just two categories: 1) people with the primary goal of only catering to their own (including immediate family) needs and wants 2) people who view their money as a resource to enrich the lives of others. Before we go to much further, I want you to know that I’m not going to demonize choice #1. However, I am going to try to make the case for choice #2

I don’t see anything wrong with “taking care of your own” when it comes to using your money as a resource. And for that matter, I don’t see anything wrong with “taking care of your own” when it comes to using your time as a resource. Securing a pleasant financial life can bring a great deal of peace to your life. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are relatively insulated from some of the financial risks that affect most people. In many ways, this is smart. But is it fulfilling?

What we are about to do is what I like to call “have an Oprah moment.” No, I’m not giving you a car or forcing you to have a strange fascination with John Travolta. I want to discuss satisfaction as measured by your heart and soul. Feel free to stop reading now if you are a heartless bastard.

People, especially Americans, tend to measure success by how much they have. Over the last several years I have tried to personally redefine success by measuring it based on how little I need. This is NOT settling for less. This is a purposeful attempt to gain a grounded perspective on life. It’s pretty simple. Whereas formerly I might have considered myself successful if I had $10 million, now I would consider myself successful if I could live on $30,000 per year. Do I make more than $30,000 per year? You sure as hell better hope so, or you have been taking your financial advice from a pretty sorry ass financial expert. It’s this restructuring of your definition of success that can help you gain better perspective on your financial resources: money and time. And it’s money and time that allow you to enrich the lives of others on a regular basis.

But how does this relate back to charity enriching your own life? Well, I have three cases to highlight the importance of making charity an important part of your life, no matter your current financial standing.

  1. Who said charity costs money? A charitable spirit starts in your mind, not your wallet. If you are waiting to have money before you give, then you will never give. Money is not the determining factor on whether you give or not. Your charitable spirit is. Volunteer, start a canned food drive, or give stuff you don’t use to Goodwill. Don’t just sit there and do nothing. Not giving two shits about others’ needs is really an unattractive quality. You may not like someone for some reason that you can’t exactly put your finger on. It’s quite possible that you are sensing their “me only” attitude. It’s just ugly.
  2. Charitable people simply seem more well-rounded. What came first: the chicken or the egg? What came first: the financially successful person that gives money or the person that gives money who became financially successful. There is a reason that I have charity as a part of Pete the Planner’s Ideal Household Budget. I have an unwavering belief that when people are able to budget for their favorite cause, then they will be better stewards of the rest of their money. I promise you that I practice what I preach. I’m not going to list my charitable acts, but I can tell you that the fulfillment I received from my giving this year far exceeds the satisfaction that I received from any meal, new outfit, or vacation that I purchased for myself.
  3. Kids will do as you do- What are your goals as a parent? I hope you don’t say “to give my kids the things that I never had”. That is unless by “things” you mean principles. Teaching your kids to be grounded charitable fully functioning members of society is a ton more important than giving them the material things that they desire. But the reality is that if you don’t understand this yourself, then what hope do those poor little bastards have?

Did I make my case, or am I full of it? You tell me.

6 thoughts on “Why being charitable is good for you financially

  1. Right on Pete. If you or your readers have ever worked with the ‘less fortunate’ (be it by US standards, 3rd-world poverty, etc.) many will say/feel that ‘while those people had nothing – they were the most ‘giving’ people I’ve ever met’. Research proves that the ‘lower’ classes are much more charitable – as a % of income – than their ‘upper class’ counterparts. We need to start measuring ourselves and each other by the size of our hearts, not our wallets.

  2. Pate-

    Great post. A mentor of mine frequently says that if your goal is to be depressed, you should always think, “What about me?”. His suggestions is to focus on making others happy, and that happiness will be returned to you in multiples. Now, obviously that doesn’t mean give everything away and go live in a cave, but like you suggest, consider how you can simplify your life based on how little you need.

    OK transferring from the hippy talk back to charity/finances, etc… As a nonprofit fundraiser, I find that the challenge is to get a potential donor to view philanthropy as an investment in building better communities for us all, as opposed to a transaction that allows for a tax deduction.

  3. I love this post. One of my favorites from you, thus far.

    Interesting that you say “if you wait until you have money to give, you will never give.”

    I’d always wanted to help my favorite causes, but really wasn’t “seeing” the extra means to do so. When I was laid off for a year and a half, I had absolutely no funds to do this, but I still wanted to help. So, I asked fellow volunteers in the cause I was striving to support, if they could lend me a few neccessities to get started in fostering animals for local rescues/shelters. I was already home, and had a roof (and animals of my own), so if I could get help with food and a crate, why not put my time to good use?

    That was 2 years ago. Now I co-run a foster home based animal rescue. My time gave me the knowledge and experience, when I didn’t have the funds. Now I have the funds (and thankfully the ability to fundraise, and generosity of donors), and have seen my desire to help become a full fledged non-profit organization.

  4. Well done, Pete! And I agree with the comments made by Nathan and NickSava. If we would spend a little less time tuned in to station WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and focus on others, I think we’d see a huge positive shift in our cultural attitude. Keep up the good work.

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