Vote With Your Wallet
Older people love to say that this generation is the laziest or the most selfish, but that’s been said about younger generations for centuries.
That said, there is a strong argument for our generation being the most narcissistic, driven by our constant social media presence and the need to curate our image for the public.
The cringeworthy side is when people use their social media to “Raise Awareness” of issues and problems, and expect that awareness itself will solve something.
This is where terms like “Slacktivism” comes in, giving us the instant gratification of “doing good” without having to do anything.
Remember Kony 2012? Yeah, like that.
This is not an ad or a guilt trip. I have nothing to sell and I don’t want your money.
I believe that it’s in your best interest to go the extra mile and contribute to things you care about. Here’s why:
Social issues are solved by people throwing energy at the root cause
If you believe that no child should go hungry, the solution is to either provide them with food, help their families increase their incomes, improve their farms, give them an education, or help create infrastructure like roads and water wells.
What do all of these have in common?
They’re really hard to do.
They won’t happen on their own, so somebody has to make a special effort, and that effort requires a lot of energy.
Money is frozen energy
Money is not evil. It can fuel amazing things, or terrible things, but it is not itself evil.
All of those solutions we listed before require money; paying staff, transport costs, buying new tools, training teachers, building roads.
You are not expected to fly to the other side of the world and grab a shovel – that would be incredibly inefficient.
For a few dollars, you can employ experts and local workers to do all of that hard stuff in your place, and you’ll have created jobs in the process.
Better still, you can do this from your phone or computer right now. It could not be easier.
Be honest about tradeoffs
Since it is so easy to give financially, and we’re not doing it, it must be because those causes aren’t as compelling as the other things we want to buy.
This is simply how money and budgeting works. We naturally fund our top priorities, and make tradeoffs between the slightly less important priorities.
That’s ok, we’re just calling it what it is.
You may want to use this time to examine your priorities – always a good idea. If there are too many things more important that supporting your favourite social cause, I applaud your honesty. Be true to yourself.
Build a good habit
Having just said all that, it is important that you know that you are not the centre of the universe. You play a tiny role in the world, one which will be measured by what you do rather than all of the clever things that you think.
People tell themselves that they are one pay raise away from changing their spending patterns.
The problem is, humans don’t work like that. We naturally think in percentages.
If your pay goes up $5,000 per annum, in 12 months’ time I guarantee you won’t have a spare $5,000 sitting in your account.
Instead, you will spend a little more on food, a little more on rent, a little more on clothes, and maybe travel somewhere slightly nicer for a holiday.
Interestingly, after six weeks your brain adjusts, the pay raise becomes “normal” and you stop noticing it.
That’s why you should build the habit of giving money away now. It can be a small amount, a few percent of what you earn.
As you earn more, you’ll be giving more and it won’t feel like you’re missing anything.
Creating change is immensely satisfying
It feels good.
When you’re in a bad mood and are questioning why you even work at your job, you can remember the impact you made.
“I sponsored a seeing eye dog”
“I paid for a child’s education”
“I bought someone a life-saving operation”
“I helped fund cancer research”
All are way more satisfying than “I bought new Nikes” or “Remember how many pints I drank back in January?”
Your opinion will count
If you are upset with something in the world, do something about it. If you feel there is an injustice, throw some energy at a solution – either by giving your time or your money.
If you don’t want to fuel the solution, you get to shut up about the problem.
Lots of good causes are tax deductible
It feels taboo to highlight this, but as you get older, tax tricks start to matter.
When you earn money, the government takes a cut to fund important work, and you keep the rest.
If you then give that money away to a group who also do important work, the government say “Whoops, they’re doing good work too, sorry for taxing you on that money” and give you back the tax they took.
Why does that matter?
Because if you your tax rate is 30%, and you give $1,000 to a tax deductible charity, the government give back $300.
$300 is a significant amount. You can either give that money away, or use it to buy those Nikes and pints you missed earlier.
As you earn more, the amount gets higher. At the 45% tax bracket, giving away $10,000 in a year means you get $4,500 back.
Imagine that, you get to do $10,000 worth of good, and you are rewarded by the government!
Here’s my suggestion, take it or leave it: Give away $20 this week, towards an issue that upsets you. You won’t miss it, and you start building a good, rewarding habit.