Saturday, January 30, 2010

Giving Even More Away

For days now, I've been thinking of the article I read on Sunday in The New York Times, where Nicholas D. Kristof describes a family who, prompted by their teenage daughter, sells their large house, moves to a smaller one, and gives half the money to worthy charities. They buy a smaller house with the other half.

Instead of feeling impoverished by this decision, the family realized benefits. They spend more time together, as you have to do in a smaller house. They had fun and enormous satisfaction deciding how to distribute the money to charities.

I've always felt like I should be giving more, even though I'm usually at the 10% level. But is that enough?

In Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (a book I highly recommend), Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat have this interesting approach to charitable giving: "One guidepost we work with is that if we ever find in a given year that we have invested more in our won future by way of retirement savings than we have given away for someone else's present need, there is something terribly wrong. We tend to think the ratio should be at least two to one: for every dollar we invest in retirement savings, two dollars should be given away to an agency that will serve the poor" (page 189).

While I essentially agree with them, I am not there yet, and may not ever meet them there. I would be happy to match my retirement savings with my charitable/social justice giving. Actually, I might do that already and not realize it. In the past few years, I've been lucky at work to have earned promotions and to have gotten raises. As my income has risen, I've tried to also increase my charitable giving. I haven't always been vigilant at raising my non-work related retirement savings (my work 401-K plan is recalculated automatically for me, as my income fluctuates, since I've specified a percentage to be socked away, not an amount--not so with my other accounts).

Something to think about, as I start to think about my income taxes. It's a good time to double check all of my accounts, to make sure that my spending and savings reflects my truest values.

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