As humans, we’re exceptional at making things harder than they need to be.
For example, this post could probably be a lot shorter than it’s going to be. I could say “teaching your kids to give is a good thing” and you’d probably agree. In the spirit of brevity, I submit that a first principal of personal finance, and teaching your kids about money is, “Give as much as you can.”
If we were to combine that with, “Earn as much as you can” and “Save as much as you can,” we’d probably really be onto something.
It’s not obvious how to raise good community members and citizens, and it’s clear to me that’s what most parents want. So, I’m not going to muddy the water too much, but there are some important thoughts and ideas I want to share with you in service of helping you do that.
I think we’re spending too much time thinking about activism, and not enough time thinking about advocacy. The more we can focus on being advocates for ourselves, our families and friends, our neighbors and neighborhoods, our towns and cities, our states and our Country, the better off we’ll be. With me so far?
Here’s a simple example that I’m really proud of and makes me very happy; everytime I take my boys to the park, they pick up garbage whenever they see it. They know that lazy and selfish people decided to litter, and that in picking up after those people, they’re making a difference. They don’t fully realize it yet, but they’re advocating for our community.
The same goes for people in need.
When we see homeless people asking for money, my boys know that we give money to local organizations who serve people in need.
Here’s the point; we help those in need. When we take responsibility for doing what needs to be done, we become advocates. That advocacy leads to meaning, it leads to ownership, it makes us true stakeholders. When we become stakeholders, our communities grow stronger. When our communities grow stronger, our lives get better.
I can’t overstate the importance of this. We need more advocates.
Let’s talk about how to do it!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- A brief history of giving
- The impact on the giver
- How to teach your kids about giving
- Making it real
Let’s get started.
A brief history of giving
Giving has been around forever. The ancient Hebrews put a tax in place to help the poor. Religions all over the world practice some form of giving and or tithing. In 2021, Americans gave over $471 billion to charity.
The impact on the giver
It’s universally agreed that giving is good. We’ve all had the experience of doing some form of volunteering and enjoyed the good feelings we get from doing it.
Giving increases our health and happiness. When we do it, endorphins and oxytocin are released into our bodies, making us feel good. And there’s also hard evidence of the positive effects.
A 2006 study looked at giving’s impact on the brain and found positive impacts. “Human altruism draws on general mammalian neural systems of reward, social attachment, and aversion.” The study found both short and long-term positive effects.
So, what you already knew about giving has been scientifically proven.
How to teach your kids about giving
I advocate you pay your kids a weekly salary, and that you break the money into three categories; Spend, Save and Give. The amount is less important than the percentages. Spend and Save should each get 40%, and Give should get 20%.
My suggestion is for you to start with $5 a week. Based on that, $2 goes to Spend, $2 to Save, and $1 to Give.
Cash is best when you’re getting started, and the bills should go into glass jars which are labeled. There are a lot of benefits to this, you can check out the other posts in this series which are linked at the end.
Where and who to give the money to? This is up to you and your family. There are a lot of people and organizations that need help. What’s important is that you talk about it. Explain to your kids what the problem is, who is impacted, why it’s happening, and how they can help by giving their money.
By having these conversations, you’re helping them understand the problems and challenges our communities face, and teaching them about being an advocate. You’re showing them how they can make a difference.
Making it real
How much should you and your family give? For me, the answer is “Something.” I’m less concerned about how much.
It also doesn’t need to be money. Giving your time or expertise is also an invaluable contribution. If possible, a combination of time and money could be a great thing for you and your family to do together.
Opportunities for teaching about needs are everywhere. Don’t let them pass by, take advantage of real time learning and teachable moments. Once you get in the habit of doing it, you’ll become more and more comfortable doing it.
Also, I don’t want you to sugar coat things. Tell your kids the truth about situations and the people who need help.
You want to raise good, caring kids and I’m grateful for that.
You’re on the right track and taking the proper steps by setting the intention. Well done.
If you’d like to help your kids get good with money, check out our Teaching Kids about Money course.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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