Greasing the Wheels
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
One of the few blogs I read fairly regularly is Get Rich Slowly. Unlike many blogs that have posts that sound like they’d be good when you see the title but in fact have almost nothing to them when you actually read them (a problem I also have with most magazine articles), Get Rich Slowly tends to have very thorough articles, usually on interesting topics. It also has tens of thousands of readers so most posts get between fifty and 150 comments, which offers an interesting range of perspectives on the post.
There was a guest post a while back that I liked a lot called “A Crash Course in Financial Freedom.” The author was giving a rundown of what she’d say about financial freedom if she had only ten minutes to talk. (Random aside: I have to say that after giving a Pecha Kucha presentation, ten minutes seems like a great luxury!)
Item one on the list was “Save” and item two was “Give.”
As I said, I liked the post, and I decided to check the comments to see what other people thought, and was interested to note that many of the comments dealt with the “give” admonition, with quite a number of commenters saying that people who are in debt shouldn’t be giving any money away, that anything they give away moves them further away from achieving their financial goals. Some people saw the advice as coming out of the author’s own religious beliefs and felt it was inappropriate for an article purportedly dealing with personal finance.
I didn’t find the advice at all inappropriate, and in fact that was one of the reasons I liked the post so much.
The post was not about how to have as much money as you possibly can, it was about how to achieve “financial freedom.” People who think those are the same thing are missing the boat.
In my opinion, unless you can freely give money away, without any expectation of receiving something in return, you have not achieved financial freedom. Because if you are not able to let go of your money, it is exerting control over you. If something is controlling you, you are, by definition, not free.
Personal finance writer Suze Orman talks about how giving money makes you open to receiving money, that the first payment you make every month should be to someone unrelated to you with no expectation of getting anything back for it — money freely given with no strings attached. (For an alternative perspective, I will say that my father the CPA is decidedly not a Suze Orman fan, he thinks things like that sound like a big crock of do-do. Though I think he might come around if he watched the “Can I Afford It?” segment of her tv show. I love that part!)
A friend of mine says her mother calls this “greasing the wheels of the universe,” so that’s a phrase we’ve been using a lot around here lately.
Giving money away helps create positive energy with your cash flow. You need to have money moving in and out of your life and you need to recognize the pattern — money comes in, money goes out — without getting too hung up on either end of it. If you try to hang on too tight, or if you spend it or give it all away without letting any of it stick around for a little bit, you disrupt this pattern. It’s all about finding the right balance. I believe that consciously giving money away injects conscious energy into your cash flow pattern and helps you achieve a healthy balance. (And I have a feeling that my father would feel about that statement pretty much as he does about Suze Orman — he’s not a big believer in the karmic implications of spending patterns. But that’s okay, I’ll talk about it anyway.)
It’s the end of the year and nonprofits everywhere are sending out end-of-year appeals, hoping to make their annual budgets and get what they need to keep on keepin’ on.
I tend to give money away throughout the year, but I also do some year-end donations. I usually give to environmental groups like the Eno River Association and my friend Bethanie’s organization Wildlands CPR. My friends at Stone Circles need a little extra help this year, so I gave to them earlier in the year when they sent out a special appeal. Most of my extra charity money goes to The Scrap Exchange, because I know it will be well spent doing things that no one else does, or could do, or would even think of doing. (You do what? With what?)
Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different and many people are struggling just to get by. But I think if most people look around, they can probably find someone worse off than they are. Giving money away is a tangible means of expressing gratitude for what you have, and recognizing that while your life may not be perfect, there are probably things about it that are mostly okay. Giving helps you appreciate what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t.
So in this last week of 2010, I encourage everyone to take a small step toward financial freedom by giving money away. It can be a dollar or a thousand dollars, to an organized charity or an individual in need. How much and to whom doesn’t much matter, what matters is that you do it.
And if you can’t think of anyone you want to give money to, feel free to send some to The Scrap Exchange. We’ll put it to good use.
Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for a propserous and productive 2011.