Money Matters

I’ve been mulling over my own ideas about money, class, and the choice to save, spend, or give away what we earn. No complete, coherent thoughts yet, just a bunch of ideas and possibilities.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in a place in my life right now as a student where I don’t have to make that choice – any money I earn that doesn’t pay for basic things like rent and food goes towards school and my future midwifery practice in one way or another. I don’t have the luxury like I did last year of deciding what to do with the money I earned above and beyond my basic and immediate needs.

Perhaps it’s because of the spot I heard on NPR the other day. They were interviewing a woman who started a money and debt service modeled after Weight Watchers – the idea is that you budget what you spend not on a monthly basis but on a daily basis. She offhandedly made a comment about how for her family, after they took out money they couldn’t help spending (food, bills, etc.), they had roughly $3,000 per month to spend.

$3,000? I was floored. I barely heard her continue on to say that it can be easy to spend a lot of money when you think of it as a large chunk of $3,000, but when you think about the fact that you only have $100 to spend each day, you might be more careful with your spending habits. Wait, did she just say $100 per day? What would I do with that kind of money? What could I do with that kind of money? Would I ever want that kind of extra money?

Which of course lead me into the thought that one day I will not be a struggling student. I will be, Goddess-willing, a successful midwife with a successful practice. I will hopefully be living in community and sharing some basic needs/expenses with others which would make my personal needs lower than they otherwise would be. So I begin to think about where the importance of savings (for fixing the car, for college for the kids, for personal pleasures and travel) intersects with need and what is left over in the end. And what justifies as a need or as a luxury – is money for college a need? Is taking time and money to travel a need or justifiable? How much? These aren’t questions I presume to be able to answer for everyone, but I’d like to figure out a little more about where I stand on them for myself.

As I continue to think about this, I am delighted and humbled by the organization Bolder Giving. Bolder Giving highlights and celebrates individuals who give away substantial amounts of their money. We’re talking 50%, 75%, and sometimes more. To give away that percentage of your assets floors me and strikes me as radically anti-capitalist. I certainly don’t think everyone needs to give away that much money, but if there was ever any time in my life where I was making substantially more than my needs, I would certainly be inspired by Bolder Giving’s example and give away as much as I felt I was able or alternatively choose to focus on providing my services to clients who could not afford them if they had to pay full-price (or any price) for them. To be radically anti-capitalist, especially when it means giving away the extra, feels like a mandate to me and in my life and for my own personal ethics.

By the way, I was alerted to Bolder Giving through a blog post on Enough post about one member profiled on Bolder Giving’s website, Tom Hseih.

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2 responses to “Money Matters

  1. What a great post! I totally echo the sentiments. I was at a health policy forum and a speaker mentioned how the press had a “gotcha” moment when they revealed his salary to be more than the Governor at 230 grand, and I was like, WHAT does one do with all that money?!? I started thinking that if I ever made it financially big, I’d HOPE to give away most of my salary. Thanks for the great website!

    • I’d really love to hear more about your experiences at the health policy forum. I read your blog post on it and that really piqued my interest.

      Having worked for a big Fortune 500 corporation last year, I was continually surprised at the amount of money people were making – from the annual salaries of folks straight out of college all the way up to the CEO’s annual 7 million dollar salary. It was being around that kind of wealth and money that I realized the beginnings of my thoughts that it might be immoral to make that much money and keep it all for yourself.

      Now I get that that’s a pretty radical stance to take in this capitalist society, but I really think that what folks should do (not that I think for a second that most people will do this) is figure out realistically and modestly what you truly need for yourself and your family (and I’m talking above the bare minimums here, but not an extravagant lifestyle) and then give the rest away.

      But like I said in my post – not fully formed ideas. I’m still trying to distill down just exactly how I feel about it all.

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