There is no better way to bring meaning to your money than by being philanthropic. An integral part of any financial plan is philanthropy -- giving doesn't have to cost much and is not defined solely by the size of your donation. In fact, some of the best acts of giving -- such as volunteering or donating personal belongings to a needy family -- cost nothing. The return, however, is priceless.
Giving is the ultimate goal of what I describe as the Owe-Grow-Live-Give™ approach to life: owe to grow, grow to live, and live to give. As most of us have experienced, acts of giving can benefit those doing the giving as much as those on the receiving end.
The World Happiness Report considers generosity one of the key traits of the happiest nations on earth. Not surprisingly, the least happy countries scored low on generosity. According to the World Giving Index, there has been a resurgence of younger people giving in monetary and non-monetary ways. Clearly, people of all ages and incomes understand the importance of integrating giving into their lives.
In case you're interested, here are the top five "giving" countries, according to the index:
- New Zealand
The index ranks countries by criteria including the following: helping a stranger, donating money, and volunteering time. Two of the three require no cash outlay -- yet have an enormous impact.
Many people are rethinking their lives after being forced out of careers they may have had for decades. They're choosing to integrate giving into their lives because of the significance it brings to them. People deliberately making this transition have wrestled with the idea that there must be more to life than sitting in a cubicle, collecting a paycheck. These folks often find themselves asking the question, "What am I living for?" and are motivated by three common feelings:
Dissatisfaction comes with the realization that material wealth cannot satisfy spiritual appetites. The old adage, "money can't buy happiness," comes to mind. Desire to serve comes after the epiphany we can satisfy our spiritual appetites when we serve others -- in other words, when we live to give. A sense of calling is that inner voice leading us to do something that has a positive and lasting impact beyond our own small world.
Interestingly, those individuals forced out of the workforce often come to the same conclusions after the initial shock wears off. For those folks, volunteering can also be a lifesaver by giving them meaning as well as new opportunities during what can be a traumatic transition.
The means and methods by which people give are incredibly diverse. Some give to causes they believe in, which lends an extra layer of meaning to what they do to earn that money. Still others give back by lending their expertise and skills to causes and organizations that are making a difference in people's lives. People are giving at different levels of commitment: some give a day or two a month, while others give a part or all of every day. Some help by shoveling a neighbor's sidewalk, walking a friend's dog, or donating food to a local food pantry. It really doesn't matter what the act is -- what matters is that they act.
The important thing for all these people is that they feel they have translated their abilities and assets from self-serving to the realm of compassion and empathy. Whether you are in a position of means that enables you to devote yourself full-time to philanthropy, or you wish to simply do something after losing your job, the result is the same: Giving feels great, and you get much more in return.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.