I received a comment the other day about making money but using it for good causes. I think this is sort of a sticky point, so I want to discuss it. First off, I think that this is often a cop-out. You like your lifestyle, you like your stuff, so surely the little that you donate to a good cause entitles you to have more stuff than the guy that doesn't donate as much as you. I think that mentality is the reason we are battling to keep up with the Joneses.
I also want to be clear that I don't think that everyone who has money is like that. I know that when I was in high school my family all moved away and I had nowhere to live. A friend's family took me in and gave me EVERYTHING! They had more money than I did and they used to to serve me. I am EXTREMELY grateful for their generosity and I'll never be able to fully express to them how much I appreciated what they did for me. If they had less money, or had not used their money to have extra room in their home, would I have been able to live there? I don't know. But I do know that I hope to someday be able to provide the same experience to a youth in a similar situation. I could think of nothing more rewarding than to use my resources to serve people as I have been served by others who have more than me.
Do you see why this just got sticky? I really like the idea of simplifying so that I can work a part time job and have more time to spend with my kids and family. But if I do that, how will I have the resources to really help people? ...I wouldn't.
If you know anything about me, you know that I'm currently working on a PhD in Health Promotion. Although it would be a fun twist of irony, I don't intend to work part time at McDonald's when I'm done here. I intend to get a job and make a reasonable salary. I want to spend my carreer helping people healthier and I hope to help people on a larger than individual level. I want to make the world a better place for those who will follow me. In so doing, I'm going to make money. By many standards, I'm going to make a lot of money.
So am I a complete hypocrite? Maybe. I'll be honest with you, I'm afraid to make more money than I currently make. I like my simple lifestyle and know that it helps me keep my priorities straight. If I have access to more money, things could certainly change, and that scares me.
Then comes the big question. If you make more than you absolutely need, what do you do with the rest of your money? I see a couple of options. You could donate it to good causes. I heard somewhere that Bill Gates makes over 50% of all of the charitable contributions made in the United States. I don't know for sure if that is true, but I do know that he does a lot of good with his money. I also know that he has a LOT left over and he has a lot of stuff. In many ways I like the idea of donating money to good causes, but I like to see what my money does. I would really like to take homeless people out to dinner or hire them to do jobs and help them build skills. Anyway, I can cross that bridge when I come to it.
Another thing to do with money is not to spend it, but to invest it so that I could retire early and spend my days farming on my little organic farm in Maine. For some reason that just seems really greedy... It also sounds a lot like something I would like to do. I suppose I could do a lot of good on my organic farm in Maine. This just got really sticky. I am glad that I can live below the poverty level for now so I can procrastinate making those decisions.
Anyway, I don't have solutions. I know that I don't want to use my money to accumulate stuff. I want to maintain simplicity and maybe help others do the same thing. I would also like to support more things that are in line with my ideals (organic beeswax soap, for example), that I just don't have the money to do now.
So what would you use your money for?