Keeping Yourself Giving

November 25th, 2011
ea, future, money
Let's say you listen to me, Alan, or the 80,000 hours people and you go into something high paying with the goal of being able to give away more money. There's a risk that as you spend more time with your new coworkers your sense of value will change. While living on $30K/person once seemed very generous, when your coworkers all have vacation homes, nice clothing, and fancy cars it starts to sound kind of minimal. Spending money on people far away who you'll never meet loses some appeal when that money could pay for your children to attend good private schools. It sure would be nice to save up some money for a house and stop renting. People compare themselves to their peers, and it's hard to constantly have less. How do you keep yourself giving the way you currently think you should?

I don't believe this is a solved problem. If anyone knows of people who decided to be professional philanthropists, earning as much as possible so they could give it away, and then managed keep this up through their working life, I would be very interested. Actually, I don't actually know of anyone from previous generations who has tried this at all, so whether they succeeded or failed I would be interested in talking to them. Will Crouch, an 80,000 hours member, writes that "public pledges are a pretty good first step; a community of like-minded individuals who can check up on each other is a pretty good second step". I think he's right, but I'm not sure this is enough.

Part of the problem is that giving becomes harder the farther you are from your peers in terms of spending on yourself and your family. So perhaps you should pick an amount to donate that won't have you in relative privation. Perhaps a low percentage (10%?) instead of just saying "what do I need with money over $20K/person?". This is hard, though, because from my perspective now, if I were earning $300K/year I ought to be able to give away more than $30K. But if giving a low percentage kept me giving as my income went up, I would be donating more.

Other ideas?

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