Giving Money as Part of a Rich Life

Over the 12 months I have been giving thought towards lifestyle optimization, and how charity and donation are a vital part of a meaningful and purposeful life.  I was introduced to the giving movement of Effective Altruism, which is a philosophy in giving to the charities that are most effective at making impact in the world.  This concept immediately captured my attention, as it would seem to be the most productive way towards building a better world.  Charities that fit in this category at the time of this writing fall into categories such as giving malaria nets, mass deworming medication for parasites, access to clean water, and other such causes.

In my journey of giving this past year, I’ve found four things that I’ve experimented with and experienced, some to greater success than others, that are new and quite profound in my life.  It’s my joy to share these with the world and I hope you gain something out of it!

Giving Builds a Meaningful Career

I’ve read lots around “waking up with a purpose”, or “tap dancing to work”, and “do what you love” as mantras and philosophies around choosing work and a career that you love and is meaningful.  However I have not found this to be very practical advice, for a variety of reasons. So maybe rather than looking towards yourself for the source of enjoyable work, you can look at others.

Rather than looking at loving work, maybe we can look at it from a perspective of meaningful work.  In fact, it seems as though parents don’t love the job of parenting, but it is deeply meaningful.  Perhaps the prospect of going to a far away land with the chance of dying from gunshots or mines doesn’t sound pleasant to you or I, but thousands of people enlist in the army to fight for their country.

I’ve been able to begin to transform my mind to see it as meaningful work.  Not because of the work itself, but because of the output that I gain.  You see, I am reasonably skilled in business, I have good commercial ideas and I have the ability to execute which the market rewards me financially for.  I also think that I am only in the beginnings of my career earnings potential.  So as I put in the practice of giving to charities as a certain percentage of my income, let’s use the number 5%, then as I grow in my income, the more I am able to give and impact people.  So I know that it is the direct fruits of my labor as I go to work, that I am making an impact in someone else’s life.

It actually starts going in the direction of thought, that it is actually my moral obligation to do well, to stay motivated, to do good work, gain and improve my skills, in order to attain a larger pay cheque, in order that I can support my brothers and sisters around the world.

I Write Victories on the Wall

I have a chalkboard that hangs on the wall in the kitchen, and can be seen as soon as I walk into my home, as well as from the living room.  It says “X,XXX PPL AFFECTED”, where X,XXX is the number of people that my giving has affected.  I calculate this using thelifeyoucansave.org impact calculator, which follows the effective altruism movement and has a selection of organizations that generally fall into the movement.

What the sign does is that it gives me a reminder, everyday, whenever I need it.  When I start my day in the kitchen getting ready for work, I immediately know why my work makes a difference.  I begin to connect my ambitions and financial goals with knowing that my work affects the world, affects people’s livelihood, and that I have the ability to save a life with the decision to work hard and do good work.

I Recognize I am the 1%

Now, not to take away from the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I realize that I am part of the 1% in the world. With hard work, I am at a level of income that I can live comfortably, where I can eat everyday, know that I have a roof over my head at night, know that I have a steady stream of income, and that if anything were to happen I have the experience and know how to create income if my current source runs out.

Knowing that I am the 1% allows me to get the focus on what I don’t have, and focus on being thankful for what I do have.  Obviously in this day in age, it’s so easy to get caught up on feeling like trash about your own life, particularly when seeing some of your old friends’ or classmates’ Instagram profiles.  But even as I live in my basement suite, drive my 2003 CR-V, and wear clothes that I would have laughed at while I was in university, I know that I am unbelievably rich already.

I Make the Decision Once

Success is having a set of good habits.  In the same way that I just make one decision to decide how much to save for long term goals, medium term goals, and short term finances, I make one decision to decide how much money to give.  I make automated monthly contributions to a charity that I have selected that aligns with what I want to give to, and I know makes a huge impact because it is vetted by organizations such as givewell.org. Without consistently giving, none of what I said above will matter or make a difference.  You need to continually give, remind yourself of the difference you are making, remind yourself that you are already rich, and chase the number on your wall and grow it bigger.

Rounding into the new year, maybe it’s a good idea to consider giving a portion of your income to charitable organizations.  If you don’t know which one to give to, check out the effective altruism movement at sites such as  givingwhatwecan.org or givewell.org.  Or if you’re Canadian, make sure to give through charityscience.com to get a canadian tax receipt. In fact, consistent giving through effective altruism, you will most definitely save a human life through your giving.

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