Why should I consider giving away some of my hard earned money?
What would you give for a little dose of long lasting happiness? It turns out giving of ourselves produces a longer lasting high than food, drugs, sex, fame or fortune. A famous Chinese proverb says:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
Research strongly suggests that generous people are healthier, happier and have better relationships so there are some pretty good reasons to consider giving at least a small portion of yourself to helping others.
How much is enough?
There is no golden rule for how much you should give to charity. Recommendations range from 3%-10% of your income, and religion tends to influence this pretty significantly. Only you can know what feels right for you. You can think of this as a “gut check.” Does it cause you anxiety or does it make you feel good?
Where do I start?
What are you passionate about? What changes do you want to affect? A quick internet search will usually yield several organizations that address what you are considering. For instance, if childhood literacy is your thing, you can look into businesses like Make Way for Books. If paying off someone’s reduced medical debt speaks to your heart, you can directly impact that cause by donating through RIP Medical Debt. Or you can set aside a certain amount of money every month into a separate savings account, and use it to help people directly at your discretion. If you’re ever concerned about the “overhead” at a nonprofit and are curious how much of a nonprofit’s budget goes into highly paid executives, you can find a “Form 990” on their Guidestar profile to help make your decision.
One thing that research shows about charitable giving is that the closer you are to the recipient of the act, the more satisfaction you will derive from it. For example, instead of donating online to the YMCA, go down to your local chapter and get to know the people there. Find out what their needs are and get a sense for how your funds would be used. Consider making an “in-kind” donation by purchasing needed items directly and delivering them.
When is it too much?
Charitable giving can be thought of just like any other category of discretionary spending. Different cultures think of this differently, but here’s one way to view it- look at what you bring in, fund your obligations (groceries, rent, phone bill, etc.) first, then your financial goals (retirement, emergency and other savings goals), feel free to spend, or give, what’s left. If you have to sacrifice your own current or future security for the security of someone else, just be sure you are doing so willingly, joyfully and with an awareness of trade-offs.
And one last thing to remember… Money isn’t the only way you can be generous – you can also be generous with your time which is oftentimes even more meaningful.
Co-written By: Nikita Wolff & Jennifer Edwards