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Personal Finances / Living Below Your Means


Subject:  Re: Everyone has money - until someone needs it. Date:  6/3/2001  1:29 PM
Author:  SeattlePioneer Number:  150480 of 909255

<<First, I remembered the soup kitchen my parents and I volunteered at when I was in high school. It was in a poor (and rather dangerous) part of Minneapolis. You'd see the same people every time, and most of them were able-bodied enough to get their own jobs and provide for their own food. Yet we went every month, and I still believe it was one of the best things I've ever participated in. Charity should not discriminate, as humans we have an obligation to help each other by sake of our humanity. It is not our place to judge the means of such people - the fact that they were swallowing their pride to line up for food they had failed to earn that week - that was all the proof of need that was necessary. At no time did I feel like any of those people were scamming us. Mostly, the people seemed humbled and somewhat ashamed of needing to ask for help in this land of opportunity. I'm sure the sister's husband felt equally ashamed of asking you for money; he probably considers it his personal failure he can't take care of his family is such times.


Your post was excellent, and I considered the values you discussed carefully. But I disagree with you in large part, and I'll explain why.

Firstly, people get used to dependence in a hurry, and it isn't just the poor who are affected by this. In "The Millionaire Next Door" the authors illustrate how people with money condition children and relatives to live above their means by becoming dependent on parents and othersd for money they haven't earned. Because I think this is so, and because personal responsibility is an important value to me, I don't want to encourage that kind of hopeless dependence or have government or charities do it either.

Therefore, I discriminate on giving aid, I prefer charities to discriminate and I would like to see the government discriminate too. While I have nothing against helping people in need or distress, such helping should include a careful look at what people need to do to begin solving their problems and encouraging people to do that. It may feed the ego to feed people in a soup kitchen, but if their are unexploited opportunities people are not taking advantage of, you are only doing a part of the job.

<<Second, I think your sister's family has a real need. They had savings that they went through before asking; you aren't enabling consumption for its own sake. You're acting as a last resort in a time of emergency. I'm sure they went through their insurance and government options first; you're their last hope. I thus don't think that you're being used like pekinrobin so unfortunately was. I would be against handing out loans for frivolous reasons, but true emergencies warrant charity.

My sister borrowed money from me to avoid having her driver's license revoked after her second uninsured vehicle accident, then borrowed more to retrain for a different job --several thousand dollars. A couple of years after getting her new job and making no effort to repay these loans, I required her to make payments, which she has over the past couple of years. In my view, the privilege of borrowing from relatives means you have a particular obligation to repay that credit.

<<Third, what is the real purpose of money? I have something I like to call my deathbead test that I use when working through major decisions in my life. Basically, it goes like this - "If I were on my deathbed right now, what do I wish I would've done in this situation?". I know it sounds morbid, but I don't want to have any big regrets on my deathbed. It was this exercise that made me decide to get married and have kids. I would feel like I had missed out on a lot of what life is all about if I had skipped being a husband or a father.

My first obligation is to take care of myself when I can. I have helped out both friends and relatives when it seemed to be the wise thing to do, but that's not necessarily just giving and giving.

<<. Most people who accumulate wealth forget along the way that money's value is transient. It means nothing if it has no use, and ultimately not all the money in the world will save us from our final end.

For me, good stewardship over money and property means using these resources wisely. Allowing money to be wasted through gifts that encourage dependence isn't an act of wisdom. Intelligent gift giving requires careful judgement and shrewdness. I made gifts of several thousand dollars over several years to the child of a friend who was in school, perfectly confident that the money would be used wisely. I would never make a gift to a second child, who sponges regularly off of family members who can't afford gifts and uses it to support his alcohol and drug using habits.

Again -- I suggest that giving people money can and does damage people if not done wisely. The prudent and loving thing to do is to avoid making such gifts where they may be expected to do harm to people.

Seattle Pioneer

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