I’ve realized over the past year or so that I really suck at giving to charity.
Because of the question marks we tend to have on the organization, we’ve shifted more toward donating clothes to Volunteers of America most of the time.
I also consistently donate a ton of books to the library, but they’re generally books I bought from the library in the first place.
I buy books from the library books sales for my daughter… a lot of books! Then after we read them so many times and she outgrows them, we donate them back.
Nevertheless, when it comes to causes of a more serious nature, giving to charity just isn’t my specialty.
Why do I suck at giving to charity?
I don’t know if I can really answer this question sufficiently.
When I was younger, we did give to our church on a regular basis. I don’t think it was a lot of money, but we didn’t have a lot of money either.
Other than that, I don’t remember if my mom gave to other causes as I was growing up. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t giving to charity – it’s very possible she did and just didn’t tell us that she did.
I guess what I’m saying is that we did make some donations while growing up, but nothing crazy that I can remember.
When tragedy strikes, I become heart-broken like a lot of others. Disasters like 9/11 and the hurricanes like Katrina, Harvey, and Irma really tugged at my heart.
Then there are the stupid, senseless shootings that just keep occurring in the schools. The Parkland shootings were enough to ruin me for weeks.
So, why didn’t I donate anything then to help after these horrible incidents?
Again, I just don’t have a great answer for this and it’s embarrassing to admit this.
I consider us very fortunate to be where we are financially, but I’m selfish in that I keep thinking, “Well, I want to make sure that we’re where we need to be first.”
Stupid excuse, right? But I think that’s the root of my problems – as if we just don’t have enough money to be positioned where I want to be. It sounds even stupider as I type this.
Mrs. R2R is much less selfish than I am!
While we’ve determined that I truly do suck at giving to charity, we haven’t talked about Mrs. R2R. She’s much better at giving back.
Although she also doesn’t donate much in the way of money, she fares more on the side of donating her time.
She worked at Make-A-Wish for nine years earning a crazy-low paycheck (much less than she deserved!) solely because she believed so much in the cause.
With us moving to Panama, she plans to give back by doing volunteer work while there. She hasn’t decided specifically what she’ll be doing, but that’s how she plans to utilize a lot of the time she’ll gain once we’re FIRE.
We’re very fortunate
I’m not blind – I realize that we’re extremely fortunate to be in the position we’re in.
We’re not rich, but the idea of financial independence is something that only a small percentage of people will ever reach.
We’re at a level now that most folks can only dream of when it comes to money. At the end of 2019, I’ll be able to quit my job and we should hopefully never have to work another day in our lives if we don’t want to.
That’s crazy! Unfortunately, it’s also something that most people will never see. The majority of folks will need to keep working well into old age just to survive.
So yes, I do get how fortunate we are and how rare of a situation we’ve been blessed with and able to work toward.
Taking care of others
So we’ve established that we’re in a unique position financially that a lot of others aren’t in.
Does that mean we have a responsibility to take care of others?
Most folks might jump right in and say, “Hell, yes!”
I don’t know if that’s the case though. I think that it’s not necessarily the responsibility of those with money to take care of everyone else.
However, I do think it’s a privilege of those with money to be able to handle giving to charity whereas others might not be able to do this.
I should have been taking advantage of that privilege and helping others along the way, but I haven’t. I’ve been solely focused on the well-being of us as a family instead – as if we couldn’t share some of what we have.
Well, there’s no time better than the present to change!
That should be simple, of course, but that’s when my OCD starts to kick in to make just this a little more complicated… sigh, everything’s always difficult with me!
The good news is that I already have an idea that’s not too much of a mess. I just want to be smart in our giving to charity.
I can’t remember the show, but I heard a great idea on a podcast that I really liked. Instead of just being haphazard with no rhyme or reason, I’m going to use a separate account for it.
I’m opening a bank account earmarked just for giving to charity. I’ll automate a specific portion of money to fund that account every month. Then when the time comes to give, we’ll have a place ready to go and pull from.
This will help us ensure we always have money specifically set aside for giving and it’ll also help us to keep track of our donations more easily every year.
It’s a simple solution to a problem and one that we should have started a long time ago.
At some point, we may start to look at moving into a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) as well. This was a concept I first heard of after reading a post from Physician on FIRE.
With a DAF, you create a fund that you’re able to use to dish out grants to charities along the way. There are some pros like some big tax benefits doing it this way. There are also some possible cons in that the money in a DAF is no longer yours and can never be taken back out.
Regardless, it’s definitely an interesting idea to dig into.
On another front, we’ll see how the volunteering goes for my wife. She’s better at doing stuff like that than I am, but with time on my hands after reaching FIRE, I might join her at some of her efforts.
What about our daughter?
Yeah, I know what you’ve been thinking… “Jim, you need to make sure that your selfishness doesn’t rub off on your daughter!”
If you’ve noticed from past posts, right now, I have her save half her money and the other half is hers to spend.
That’s not the way it should be and I need to make sure we’re instilling the right values with her.
Most of you are probably familiar with the three-jar system – Save, Spend, Share. In other words, any money your kid gets is divided evenly between the three jars.
The idea is obviously to promote both saving and giving back to a child. I’ve always been a two-jar kinda guy, so this is something I need to work on.
I’m also a digital guy and all her saving is done online so we’re going to have to figure out a new system. Right now, she gives me half of whatever money she receives and it goes into her online savings account, which I then match for her. The other half she keeps to spend as she wants.
That third “jar” might end up being the same bank account we’re creating for giving to charity. That will simplify things for now since it’s not like she has big money rolling in.
However, that doesn’t give her as much control as if she had her own account to use. Once she gets a little older, I’ll work on shifting things to her own giving account to run with.
In the meantime, we’ll make sure to involve her in the giving process and determining who to donate to and how much.
The good news is that my daughter’s already the most generous person I know. She helps others at school when she sees they don’t understand something, has never had an issue sharing her stuff (I always did!), and just truly cares about others.
As an example, she has her eighth birthday coming up. She randomly just told us that she wants everyone (except us) to give her money so she can donate it to a soup kitchen or animal shelter. She still wants a present from dear old mom and dad though!
What’s cool is that came out of nowhere and I’m proud of her for wanting to do that – she might look just like me, but she’s got her mother’s heart for sure!
So, you’ve learned that I haven’t been very good about giving to charity. But I’m trying to change that and hope to instill those same values in our daughter. We have a unique opportunity to help and I hope we can serve others better going forward.
How about you? Are you better at giving to charity than I’ve been or is this a weak spot for you as well?
Thanks for reading!!