Give Money Away

Up to this point, I’ve explained some of the philosophy behind effective altruism and introduced a few of the concepts. I think that I should have everyone on board at this point, so here comes the conclusion of the above: You should give away a part of your money.

Let me explain why.

You are rich!

If you make €15.000 after taxes in The Netherlands, you are among the richest 10% of people in the world. Bump that up to a corporate salary of €40.000 after taxes and you’re in the top 1.5%.

You can calculate your own ‘richness’ with this calculator from Giving What We Can. The median income in the world is about €2.000.

Giving away money buys happiness

Spending money on yourself brings you happiness, it makes possible great experiences and beautiful things. But spending everything on yourself isn’t effective.

For instance, buying high-quality food at €10 will for instance add one unit of happiness (utilon) to your life. But somewhere around the world, that same €10 will buy a whole family of five, one unit of happiness, for two weeks, totaling 70 units of happiness.

This is but a very course example. Still, I hope it gets the point across that money somewhere else will have a larger effect on happiness than spending everything on yourself.

Giving away money buys you happiness

Experiments show that giving away money also ‘buys’ you happiness. When participants in the study spent the money on others, they reported higher levels of happiness than those who spend everything on themselves.

Just like caring about the people close to us, altruism is also something that is baked into our genes. All EA asks of you, is to take a global and impartial perspective.

Just give away a little

Giving What We Can, is an organisation that promotes giving to effective charities. They recommend giving 10% of your income. Or put the other way around, to spend 90% on yourself and loved ones.

This means that you can still go on vacation, have a caramel latte, drink beers at the pub, etc.

I have three tips for starting giving:

  1. Try Giving, start at 1%
  2. Make it automatic, don’t make it an ‘active’ choice every month/year
  3. Scale up the giving when your income increase, so you don’t feel any ‘pain’ from it

It doesn’t all have to be effective

Giving effectively isn’t the perfect way to buy happiness for yourself. Helping out at a soup kitchen (and not working those hours at your high-paying job) feels much better than donating the money you could have made in those hours. Giving to that handsome guy who wrangles people for donations feels like the right thing to do.

So, here are my suggestions for thinking about giving effectively, based on the essay ‘Purchase Fuzzis and Utilons Separately‘:

  • Buy the warm feelings (fuzzies) by doing something very local like supporting a soup kitchen a few hours or helping elderly do their taxes (a small part of your time or money)
  • Buy status among friends and family by donating to your nephews fundraising effort for charity X, help out a few hours at your children’s school event (again, a small part of time or money)
  • Then with the rest of your giving, be a rationalist and give it to the most effective charities there are (see below)