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Feelings of Guilt
Old 06-09-2007, 08:06 PM   #1
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Feelings of Guilt

I have been doing quite well financially lately. I finished law school two years ago. I have been steadily employed, my debts are dissapearing rapidly and my investments are growing quite quickly. I have focused on my needs and desires and found that I have discovered what truly makes me happy and cut out the things that were just... well things.

While I have been sending money to those people who I think need it, I give away about as much as I save, I am still struck with the thought that I could afford to give away even more and could really make a difference in peoples lives.

The post regarding what people eat- the pictures of a weeks worth of food of people from different cultures-made me think about this again. According to the book (which i checked out from my library) the people of chad survive on $1.23 of food per week. I have enough money to feed a ridiculous amount of people at that rate.

Wow..We all won the birth lottery.

Somedays (like today) I feel as if I should just give all my money away and resign myself to working for the rest of my life it means I can help children both domestic and abroad eat a full meal.

I guess I was just curious if other people think of these sorts of things often. What are your thoughts on this?
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Old 06-09-2007, 08:30 PM   #2
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I admire your altruism and, frankly, I'm humbled by it.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when you reach the point of financial independence you can provide lots of help and relief to the more needy among us by volunteering your time to work with them directly, perhaps even in the area of fund raising. So if I were you, I would continue to work toward earning myself the luxury of all that free time to do those things.
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Old 06-09-2007, 09:40 PM   #3
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Deetso, it's great to find a lawyer with a conscience!

By all means donate cash if you wish, but also think about other ways to help. With your legal skills, perhaps there's a way to volunteer your skills in policy making at home or abroad. And if you are financially successful, why not establish a charitable fund or foundation of your own, to which you could make tax efficient donations during life, and include in your estate?
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Old 06-09-2007, 10:26 PM   #4
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We need more people like you.

I count my blessings everyday. However, DH and I do not have the funds to give away because of the needs of our parents and our needs for the future, therefore I give of my time.

If you take care of yourself first, you will be able to help others and never feel regret.
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Old 06-09-2007, 11:14 PM   #5
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We enjoy making charitable donations on a monthly basis. However, we are in the camp that believe you have to look after yourself first and then we feel we have a responsbility to the rest of our family.

That said, our intent once we retire is to spend our time helping others. At one time we had thought of adopting a child from overseas, but realised that the $30k we would spend doing that would only go into government coffers both here and overseas. So our plan is to sometime in the future is give that amount of money direct to an overseas orphanage that will do something useful with it. The thought of how many it will help makes me feel hopeful.
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Old 06-09-2007, 11:36 PM   #6
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By all means donate cash if you wish, but also think about other ways to help. With your legal skills, perhaps there's a way to volunteer your skills in policy making at home or abroad.
isn't there some wise saying about teaching a lawyer to fish? you could have as much cash as bill gates and give it all away but charity only goes so far. as lovely is the gesture and while it might help alleviate some pain, regardless of how much money you offer up to poverty, world hunger will not go away until thinking & structures change.
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Old 06-10-2007, 12:06 AM   #7
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Deetso....

Let me be the almost lone voice of disent in this love fest....

If you were able to earn the money of Bill Gates and gave it all to Chad... there would be starving children in that country and when your money ran out it would be back to where it is today...

In some areas there are political, economic, social, educational etc. etc. differences that will keep the people / country poor... and nothing will change that until those things change... for one, the birth rate in many of these countries are not supportable.. giving more food would probably only increase the birth rate...

Yes, if you feel like you want to give, give someplace where you know that the results will grow... help educate someone you know that has problems with funding... give to research on a illness that has hurt someone you love and help get rid of the suffering caused by it....

But, billions of dollars are being spent by gvmts on hunger and it never goes away...

BTW.... NEVER give away money that will lead to a negative result to YOU... (IMO)...
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Old 06-10-2007, 12:21 AM   #8
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[quote=Texas Proud;524500]
Let me be the almost lone voice of disent in this love fest....
[quote]
Texas Proud- I actually appreciate it. After reading some of the comments I realized I may have come across as looking for praise and by no means was that my intent.

I think for the most part everyone on this board has probably thought about what I was thinking about- the fact that we are so lucky to live in a situation where I dont question whether I will have a meal or if my family will wake up alive.

Most of my life Im a flaming conservative. But some days I wonder if I... well... we... give up some of what we have we could make it easier on folks around the world.

Maybe Im just an idealistic 27 year old.
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Old 06-10-2007, 12:26 AM   #9
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I'm about 90% in general agreement and 10% Texas Proud. To me one of the joys in life is being able to give to parties I know need help. For years I sent a few $ a few times a year to an aunt that had nothing, an old family friend of my Mom who was injured in an accident and needed help and a few others, no tax breaks there. And to institutional groups too, like my church, Habitat For Humanity and The Heifer Project. And I give them my time too.
As a professional you can help a lot with money but even more with your time and expertise. But I regard it as a responsibility to see that such giving is well spent. Not just to 'feel good' sending off some money to feed starving children but to make sure the organization both has good goals and is reasonable effective. Use your 'talents' well.
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:45 AM   #10
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Deetso, assuming you are an attorney in private practice.. you will be working long hours. The question you need to ask yourself is how you would like to help others.

You could be a big brother to a child from difficult circumstances. The Y has (or used to have) a school for homeless kids and there are doubtless children in foster care who you could mentor. To make a difference that way takes time and is a long term commitment. These are relationships of the heart so commit carefully.

You could lend your skills to do pro-bono work in your firm.

You could sponsor a needy student at your school, or sponsor a student in a developing country in their setting so that they can achieve their potential.

You could assist with the Constitution Program at local high schools. That targets students who don't go out for Debate or Mock Trial programs.

Don't forget to provide for your own future needs.
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Old 06-10-2007, 11:00 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Deetso View Post
Somedays (like today) I feel as if I should just give all my money away and resign myself to working for the rest of my life it means I can help children both domestic and abroad eat a full meal.
I guess I was just curious if other people think of these sorts of things often. What are your thoughts on this?
Your thread title struck a chord. Let me point out that survivor's guilt can be one of the most crippling attitudes you'll ever encounter, making you feel obligated & vulnerable toward just about anything that benefits others with the very real attendant risk of impoverishing yourself. And in the end, giving away thousands of dollars won't necessarily eradicate the guilt.

Great, we won the birth lottery-- now let's all get over it. Nothing we could do about it. We didn't affect its result either way so it's not our fault.

I'd make darn sure that I had my own financial needs firmly arranged before I gave away more than a 10% tithing. It can be a lot less risky to give away your time than your money, and you don't want to end up needing the very services you're supporting if some disaster strikes you. You might also want to hold some of your charitable urgings in reserve for your future family and your relatives (should you feel that's a worthy cause). Your avocation is not widely known for ER, either, so you arguably could never retire if you're using it to fuel your philanthropic activities. Nothing wrong with that as long as you feel you've struck a life/work balance.

Spouse and I call this question "Stewardship 101". She says she'd be pretty embarrassed if she was caught dead with $5M in her checking account but giving it away is as much of a problem an effort as accumulating it was in the first place. Sure, we all know how to screen charities and pick the most "efficient" and best stewards of our donations, just like we'd buy a car. But that doesn't help cull the herd very much, and it doesn't reassure us that our donations are having our desired impact. Whatever that impact is supposed to be.

We tend to give to organizations where we know someone who's passionate about what they're doing and who we respect. Oprah and Charlie Rose tend to have pretty bright spotlights. The Gates Foundation is deciding to accept contributions because Buffett's donation highlighted their effectiveness at large-scale philanthropy.

I'm moving toward a heuristic that our most deserving organizations (after passing the initial website screening) are helping locally, helping kids/families, and helping those who just need a boost. That tends to be the local food bank and homeless shelter. I think I could also give a lot to microcredit organizations like Pierre Omidyar's.

We've also given to an organization that provides recording equipment for veterans & prisoners to read to their separated kids, who can then listen to the tape or watch the DVD as they read along. Not that we've ever been in that situation ourselves.

I see many bright & eager high school kids who should sell IPO shares of their potential. However it's hard to strike the right balance of scholarship help without sucking their motivation down a whirlpool drain of entitlement affluenza. I feel the same way about our tae kwon do dojang. Of course some teachers make that help easier by setting up non-profits to support science fairs or other college-oriented activities.

Philanthropy should be fun, too. Someday I'm going to get around to giving more money to Rabbit Kekai's keiki surf foundation.
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Old 06-10-2007, 12:23 PM   #12
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and of course it takes the bleeding heart on my sleeve liberal gay guy to suggest what the "family" (code word)-oriented str8s forgot to mention: you can always offer that which makes you feel guilty--the luck of the womb--after the fact by adopting a poor, starving orphan or two. in that way, you not only reduce suffering in the world but also you can help raise another person to be a successful lawyer who will be able to help other poor, starving orphans into their futures.
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Old 06-10-2007, 12:37 PM   #13
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and of course it takes the bleeding heart on my sleeve liberal gay guy to suggest what the "family" (code word)-oriented str8s forgot to mention: you can always offer that which makes you feel guilty--the luck of the womb--after the fact by adopting a poor, starving orphan or two. in that way, you not only reduce suffering in the world but also you can help raise another person to be a successful lawyer who will be able to help other poor, starving orphans into their futures.
I understand your perspective but I think the situation involves other factors too.

I've learned enough from my current parenting experiences to know that I'm not interested in taking it to the next level. In fact I'm doing the world's potential adoptees a big favor by retiring at the "top" of my game (or at least upon my current achievements).

I like doing home-improvement projects, but I don't want to build a house!
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Old 06-10-2007, 02:05 PM   #14
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ya, i totally get that (& what you had already said--by the way, love the idea of giving away into the hands of good stewardship). i was thinking the op is just 28 years old so probably just starting life.

what better way to kill three birds with one adopted stone. if, in lieu of creating new children, you offer the gift of the womb to an existing poverty-stricken child, in effect you a) help maintain zero population growth, b) reduce suffering in the world by raising a child out of poverty & c) work towards changing the structure which produces poverty and the thinking which allows for it by the very nature of your action.

fortunately for those of us already far underway in the course of life or for those of us whose lives have taken a different course, we have options more appropriate to our lives.

ps. if i did this, op, i wouldn't be adopting out of guilt. no reason to start the kiddies off with that.
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Old 06-10-2007, 06:01 PM   #15
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In some areas there are political, economic, social, educational etc. etc. differences that will keep the people / country poor... and nothing will change that until those things change... for one, the birth rate in many of these countries are not supportable.. giving more food would probably only increase the birth rate...
corruption and bad public policy is more often the cause of poverty than birth rate - which is often disproportionately pointed out to blame - i think becaues it is easy to understand. but some of the most densely populated places are in industrialized nations (think tokyo) - and there are some under-developed countries that manage to get folks fed and even some decent health care - see articles on kerala india, or also think of differences between costa rica and neighboring countries...and in many places high birth rates make sense if they are still reliant on agriculture to subsist themselves or earn an income from their crops.
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Old 06-11-2007, 08:15 AM   #16
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It's great to share what you have if you have more than you need. It's, perhaps, even saintly to share what you have when you don't.

But at 27, I have doubts that you have any idea what you need. Nothing personal meant at all. I just know that I didn't.

There's some irony here, too, in that your question was about dealing with your perception of guilt in finding yourself so distanced from financial need while you see others less fortunate.... and many of our answers illuminated even more needy.... that you may not have even been aware of. So now you can feel even more guilt. LOL!

There are some pretty interesting philosophical questions involved, too. Can charity, gone wrong, be a bad thing? Sure. Look at the extreme of those who win great amounts from a lottery and often actually suffer from it. Can it be good. Absolutely.

Is the best charity service or money? That seems completely situational to me.

Can you actually make a difference in this "world of woe"? Sure. Just because you can't save the entire world doesn't mean you can't make one person's life better.

But I also think it's difficult for anyone to offer you guidance without, in some way, trying to justify their own choices, and no one is you but you. Imagine a young Ghandi or Mother Theresa asking an internet forum what they should do about these "huge feelings" they have. And then there's me, saying that they really weren't "worldly" enough to make such life-changing choices.

We all play our own mind-games, internally, to come up with our choices in this regard. Thus, what I'd do has little bearing on what you SHOULD do. The bottom line is that I must live with my choices and you must live with yours. Life is just dealing with the choices you are dealt. A "good life" might be finding yourself ultimately happy with the outcome... or at least most of it.
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Old 06-11-2007, 09:52 AM   #17
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I remember reading a slogan at a charity office in Boston when I first came to this county in 1978. I don't remember the name of the author, if any, but it goes something like this:

"We might not be capable of doing great things, but we're sure able to do small things in a great way."

That stuck to my mind. So when I see an opportunity to help, I just do what I can. I try not to over analyze the situation. Sucker? I have no doubt that I have been one more than one times. Regrets? None.
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Old 06-11-2007, 01:30 PM   #18
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There are some pretty interesting philosophical questions involved, too. Can charity, gone wrong, be a bad thing?
or taken a step further, i would question the very motive for charity.

if i adopt a poor child out of guilt, i'm setting myself up to raise a neurotic albeit well-off child. but if i adopt a poor child out of love, then the child has a better chance to be raised both well-off and well adjusted.

perhaps there are similar results, though likely harder to see, when you give money out of guilt as opposed to when you give money out of love. though, certainly, if you are operating out of guilt rather than out of love you service the world better by offering charity your gilt in the form of gelt.

but to ensure the integrity of your actions and to raise your activity to its highest potential of good, before i would become so charitable even with just money, first i would explore just what it is that makes me feel guilty. i would learn to deal with that and to grow out of that. then i would explore myself further to find what makes me feel love and i would learn to function through that and let that be what motivates me & my actions so that in the course of reducing suffering in the world, i am not simply adding more guilt.
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Old 06-12-2007, 06:44 AM   #19
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Deetso - I think it's great you want to help. I don't feel guilt, but I do feel that I want to "give back". But, I don't do this at the expense of my plan to FIRE. I donate money and things, but I also donate time. I think helping out charities at a personal level really can make a difference, and I think it is harder for charities to find help than donors, most of the time.

Maybe consider volunteering as an alternative to working forever?

Also - one of my reasons for wanting to FIRE is so that I can give more time to the charities of my choice!
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Old 06-12-2007, 09:17 AM   #20
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help without sucking their motivation down a whirlpool drain of entitlement affluenza.
This sums up what I've seen from the governments "charity work" ... as much harm as good.

FWIW, I donate every year to a local homeless shelter. Stays are limited and work is required with each stay. That's my kind of charity.

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a life time.
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