I know this is supposed to be a blog about money, retirement, and investing, but a recent conversation with a client inspired me to write about helping the less fortunate. I recently sent out a survey to some top clients, asking about their views on money and how they view it and use it. It shouldn’t be a surprise but most of my top clients think just like I do! I consider myself a lucky advisor because so many clients think about how they can help the less fortunate.
One gentleman travels to India every year or two. He visits an extremely poor area and helps with building infrastructure and schools. He also adopts children from poor regions of the world, spending a decent portion of his time and money to help less fortunate kids. When talking about his charitable work, I can feel the passion in his voice, and the rewarding conviction that he is making positive contributions to the planet. Extremely inspiring.
As a naturally curious and analytical person, lately I have been reading about ways to give most effectively. One of my favourite podcasters is Sam Harris and Sam had an Oxford professor named William MacKaskill on. Will is the author of a great book entitled Doing Good Better and is a notable figure within the Effective Altruism movement. Will’s general philosophy is that he should earn enough to meet basic needs, around $27,000 Cdn equivalent per year I believe, and give the rest to those less fortunate. As an Oxford prof he definitely earns much more than that but Will has committed to giving everything above basic needs to charity for the rest of his life. Will explains that not only should we give but give as effectively as possible. Some points to consider:
- Some charities only give less than 10c of every dollar to the people in need. You should find out those charities and avoid them. Here is an example
- Rather than giving food to a food bank we should just give money and let them buy the food. This saves in storage costs (think of all that creamed corn that gets donated!) and allows the most desired and effective food to be purchased
- You can save a life for $3,337.06
- Here is a link to Canada’s top-rated charities
As I get older (turned 48 this year), the more I think about helping those less fortunate. This wasn’t always the case. I used to look at the homeless, with cardboard signs asking for change, and think “they are just going to spend it on booze and drugs”. When I lived in Calgary I would see a young gentleman on 16th Avenue, at the same set of lights every day, with a backpack and a sign. He would walk along the line of cars at the light and politely ask for help. Looking at him I couldn’t help but feel an obligation to give him a few bucks. I thought about this after. Was I just enabling someone to go out and buy drugs? Then I thought “wait a minute, that is just me being judgemental, and holier than thou”. If I give this guy 5 bucks, and he happens to use it on drugs, so what? Maybe that is the one bit of comfort that carries this guy throughout the day. And of course he is going to eat at some point. So I really shouldn’t be so judgemental and care which dollar he uses to buy drugs, booze, or food. He is clearly in distress of some sort and by giving him some change that is helping my fellow man. At first my daughter looked at me funny when I always stopped the truck to give a few bucks to help someone with a sign. After my explanation I think she is starting to understand. And so what if it’s a student panhandling? There is a much better chance that I am doing good in this world by giving than not giving.
(note: Although I often think about charitable giving, and do my small part, bu no means am I anywhere close to William MacKaskill or many of my clients in this regard. But I am always striving to get better)
This post is by no means exhausting as the possibilities to give to the less fortunate. If anyone reading this has an idea to contribute, that is creative or just a smart or even fun way to give, then please post in the comments below. I would love to read your suggestions!