Author Topic: your mustache might be evil  (Read 240804 times)

Gin1984

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #200 on: February 24, 2016, 08:03:49 PM »
I agree with much of what both of you said, and thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts.

Unfortunately, despite what I consider to be the third key tenet of Mustachianism being a very altruistic and self-aware sentiment regarding our impact upon one another... it's quickly lost much of the overall focus and balance within our own little community here lately with a shocking lack of compassion towards one another on this little dirt ball we call home. Even the ethical investing threads ran out of steam quickly early on with a general arrived upon sentiment by most of, "you'll wind up participating in the evil you don't like anyway at least on some level, so why bother at all?"

I do want to address this.  My theory on this is that charity and such is not only a more personal thing, but also a thing more people have a handle on in their own lives.  Most come on here to:
1) Get help on a question they have.
2) Debate and discuss.

I don't think most coming here have questions on their charity work or donations (be it time or money), but need help with financial matters.  Ditto with the second, many of us have chosen our charities and that's not something that would be very interesting or productive to debate.  "Oh, you support medicine in the third world?  That's cool.  I support women's literacy."  "..."

It doesn't get discussed much, but I don't think one can infer much from that. I would actually guess that most Mustachians are, in general, more charitable than the average person.

All that aside, I certainly think one must be vigilant to guard against what sol is worried about: singular focus on FI at the expense of our more important values.
Given that studies have shown that the more wealth you have, the less generous you are, I doubt that.

tobitonic

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #201 on: February 24, 2016, 09:01:25 PM »
I agree with much of what both of you said, and thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts.

Unfortunately, despite what I consider to be the third key tenet of Mustachianism being a very altruistic and self-aware sentiment regarding our impact upon one another... it's quickly lost much of the overall focus and balance within our own little community here lately with a shocking lack of compassion towards one another on this little dirt ball we call home. Even the ethical investing threads ran out of steam quickly early on with a general arrived upon sentiment by most of, "you'll wind up participating in the evil you don't like anyway at least on some level, so why bother at all?"

I do want to address this.  My theory on this is that charity and such is not only a more personal thing, but also a thing more people have a handle on in their own lives.  Most come on here to:
1) Get help on a question they have.
2) Debate and discuss.

I don't think most coming here have questions on their charity work or donations (be it time or money), but need help with financial matters.  Ditto with the second, many of us have chosen our charities and that's not something that would be very interesting or productive to debate.  "Oh, you support medicine in the third world?  That's cool.  I support women's literacy."  "..."

It doesn't get discussed much, but I don't think one can infer much from that. I would actually guess that most Mustachians are, in general, more charitable than the average person.

All that aside, I certainly think one must be vigilant to guard against what sol is worried about: singular focus on FI at the expense of our more important values.
Given that studies have shown that the more wealth you have, the less generous you are, I doubt that.

Agreed. There are plenty of examples throughout the forums of folks talking about how charity is a waste, corrupt, damaging to society, and so on, as well as plenty of threads where folks argue against tithing or other monthly contributions folks make that slow down FIRE, etc.

There's a possibility that the average forum member's household gives more nominally than the average household in the US (the average household donation is $2974), especially given the fact that the median HHI on the forum is probably 1.5-2x that of the country, but I'd be surprised if the percentage relative to income or net worth (whichever is greater) were greater here than the national percentages. This is a highly educated forum, but I don't see it as a very giving one; it makes sense since that runs counter to the goals of most here, which are to hoard enough money to never need to work again as quickly as possible.



thd7t

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #202 on: February 25, 2016, 07:30:03 AM »
I have really enjoyed this wonderful thread, but, other than in the initial post, it took a long time for people to discuss volunteering (more than in passing).  This is where I believe that Early Retirement has the opportunity to do greater good than donating money.  Essentially, I believe that time is a gross commodity whereas cash is a net commodity.  Cash (earned through work or interest) has been through taxation and when donated must be adminstrated at additional cost.  Time that is donated must be administrated, but is not taxed. 

In addition, if the individual donating time has appropriate skills, their time can have a very high monetary value to a charity or other cause.  Skills are relatively easy to gain, so an early retiree can (if they have kept their mind on their values) increase their value to a charity or cause pretty quickly. 

This is not to say that it is the only way to do good, but it is an opportunity to do the greatest good.  In addition, donating lots of time in retirement is not exclusive of donating some time beforehand.

fallstoclimb

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #203 on: February 25, 2016, 07:31:16 AM »
There may be many people on this site that either volunteer, give $ or do both and don't mention it. We have always volunteered and given some to local good causes even we were young and did not have a lot. It was nothing religious but the right thing to do.  Now that we have more time  and $ we can give more of both. Just because people are not talking about it does not mean it is not happening. It would be interesting to have a poll asking people what they actually do. One thing that I don't agree with is when people have massive debt but insist on donating a certain percent to charity. In that case charity begins at home and they would be better off to still donate but just less of it until their own financial house is in order.
There was a poll not too long ago and it dissolved miserably into 2 factions: one saying giving money was more valuable and needed then time, and the other (ERed people on lower incomes like me) saying that giving time but no money (or little) was equally valuable. It got pretty heated but it did show that many people here do donate either time or money or both while working and once ER'd but most don't talk about it.

Except unfortunately I think it is pretty well established that money is more valuable than time.  I just finished Doing Good Better (the type of book you talk about for ages after you finish), and it demonstrated pretty clearly that the most effective charitable thing you can do is send money to the best (most effective) organizations fighting global poverty. 

That said, I suppose if EVERYONE sent all their charitable dollars overseas (and don't some economists evaluate choices this way?), the poor and needy in affluent countries would suffer.  Although a globalist would say that would be OK, because the global poor are SO MUCH worse off than the affluent poor.

Sol posted I think elsewhere about OMY syndrome in relation to charity. Once we no longer need our incomes, there is SO much good we can do.  That's something I struggle with constantly. 

fallstoclimb

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #204 on: February 25, 2016, 07:38:05 AM »
I have really enjoyed this wonderful thread, but, other than in the initial post, it took a long time for people to discuss volunteering (more than in passing).  This is where I believe that Early Retirement has the opportunity to do greater good than donating money.  Essentially, I believe that time is a gross commodity whereas cash is a net commodity.  Cash (earned through work or interest) has been through taxation and when donated must be adminstrated at additional cost.  Time that is donated must be administrated, but is not taxed. 

In addition, if the individual donating time has appropriate skills, their time can have a very high monetary value to a charity or other cause.  Skills are relatively easy to gain, so an early retiree can (if they have kept their mind on their values) increase their value to a charity or cause pretty quickly. 

This is not to say that it is the only way to do good, but it is an opportunity to do the greatest good.  In addition, donating lots of time in retirement is not exclusive of donating some time beforehand.

The effective altruism movement would disagree with you.  To do the greatest good -- to address the most needy people, the lowest hanging fruit -- we need to send money to those in extreme poverty.  Or, send money to improve public health in these areas.  This is well established.

What are you going to do with your time?  Walk dogs at shelters?  Disseminate Meals on Wheels?  I'm not saying these things aren't needed, but it's not the MOST good you could do.  An effective altruist would argue the most good you could do is get the highest paying job that you can and donate the majority of your income. 

Sidenote:  In Doing Good Better the author discloses that many charities have told him they only utilize volunteers because those volunteers also donate money.  It's just a way to get people engaged so they do donate the more valuable resource of their money, versus their time.

Northwestie

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #205 on: February 25, 2016, 09:48:38 AM »



Except unfortunately I think it is pretty well established that money is more valuable than time.  I just finished Doing Good Better (the type of book you talk about for ages after you finish), and it demonstrated pretty clearly that the most effective charitable thing you can do is send money to the best (most effective) organizations fighting global poverty. 


[/quote]

While that may be true I do think it depends on what charity or volunteer organization you are giving to with your time and/or money. Fighting global poverty is just one amongst tons of others - some which may require more hands on volunteering to make an impact. But that debate was what brought that other thread into a fight and eventual lockdown.
[/quote]

Well my take on this is - it depends.  In my current volunteer experience - at a middle school and at a youth organization in the central city, it IS the human contact time that is desperately needed for tutoring, mentoring, and just teaching some life skills to kids who are having a tough time of it or for a variety of social or financial reasons don't have the support they need.  It's time well spent.

thd7t

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #206 on: February 25, 2016, 10:03:57 AM »
I have really enjoyed this wonderful thread, but, other than in the initial post, it took a long time for people to discuss volunteering (more than in passing).  This is where I believe that Early Retirement has the opportunity to do greater good than donating money.  Essentially, I believe that time is a gross commodity whereas cash is a net commodity.  Cash (earned through work or interest) has been through taxation and when donated must be adminstrated at additional cost.  Time that is donated must be administrated, but is not taxed. 

In addition, if the individual donating time has appropriate skills, their time can have a very high monetary value to a charity or other cause.  Skills are relatively easy to gain, so an early retiree can (if they have kept their mind on their values) increase their value to a charity or cause pretty quickly. 

This is not to say that it is the only way to do good, but it is an opportunity to do the greatest good.  In addition, donating lots of time in retirement is not exclusive of donating some time beforehand.

The effective altruism movement would disagree with you.  To do the greatest good -- to address the most needy people, the lowest hanging fruit -- we need to send money to those in extreme poverty.  Or, send money to improve public health in these areas.  This is well established.

What are you going to do with your time?  Walk dogs at shelters?  Disseminate Meals on Wheels?  I'm not saying these things aren't needed, but it's not the MOST good you could do.  An effective altruist would argue the most good you could do is get the highest paying job that you can and donate the majority of your income. 

Sidenote:  In Doing Good Better the author discloses that many charities have told him they only utilize volunteers because those volunteers also donate money.  It's just a way to get people engaged so they do donate the more valuable resource of their money, versus their time.
You've convinced me to get Doing Good Better from the library.  However, the second benefit of time (in FIRE) is that you're not restrained geographically (as the examples you've chosen imply).  The other issue I'd suggest is that many people have "favorite charities", which they prefer to "the most good".

dycker1978

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #207 on: February 25, 2016, 12:48:37 PM »

From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter. 

Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 

Most of us in this discussion seem to agree that those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need, but this does not make each individual personally responsible for saving the world. 
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly. 

Each of us is ourselves also a living being with the capacity to feel pleasure and suffering.  If we ignore our own lives for the sake of service, we are likely to end up doing more harm than good, as the marginal utility of our time and resources we spend on others drops relative to the utility it would have if it were used "selfishly".

The difference between the latest smart phone and retiring early is that the phone brings extremely little real, meaningful, or lasting joy into the life of the consumer, while (depending on your job on your personality) early retirement actually can.

I am only halfway through the thread and have to reply to this.  This is the exact problem with society... No matter what I do I cannot change the world, so I might as well not even try...

I feel the thing wrong with this is:  if you save that drowning child(or donate money to help with a refugee, or whatever_ you may not change the world, as a whole.  But you sure to change that persons world.  If everyone helped just a little bit, the world would be 1000000000 times better to live in. 

If you are to lend a hand to one person, they are more likely to lend a hand to someone else in need when they are more able.  Or you may inspire the person sitting beside you that notices you gave to help.  Then they mat do the same.  So I argue that one person can change the world.  Look at all the change the Martin Luther King Jr.  did.  He was just one man that inspired many.


tobitonic

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #208 on: February 25, 2016, 03:31:03 PM »
^ Fully agreed. It's like that story about the old man throwing star fish (or some other sea creature) back into the ocean. It might only save a fraction of the fish, but it makes a world of difference to each one that winds up back in the ocean.

It also reminds me of the story about the lady who sees a bunch of people trying to pull drowning children out of a river. In that second story, the lady goes upstream to get to the source and keep the kids from falling in to begin with; that's what I see as effective altruism, education, and so on. It's the same principle behind the ounce of prevention vs. the pound of cure. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the pound of cure just because it's less effective.

Or to bring it back to the river story, it's still worth pulling kids out of the river even if you can't save them all, rather than just walking away to avoid feeling the horror of it. And there's a huge, huge continuum between retiring as quickly as possible and never retiring in order to give all of one's post-FI income to charity, just as there's a huge continuum between never donating to charity and donating every penny above your most basic expenses (FI or not). We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and all that. Okay, no more proverbs.

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #209 on: February 25, 2016, 03:53:19 PM »

From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter. 

Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 

Most of us in this discussion seem to agree that those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need, but this does not make each individual personally responsible for saving the world. 
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly. 

Each of us is ourselves also a living being with the capacity to feel pleasure and suffering.  If we ignore our own lives for the sake of service, we are likely to end up doing more harm than good, as the marginal utility of our time and resources we spend on others drops relative to the utility it would have if it were used "selfishly".

The difference between the latest smart phone and retiring early is that the phone brings extremely little real, meaningful, or lasting joy into the life of the consumer, while (depending on your job on your personality) early retirement actually can.

I am only halfway through the thread and have to reply to this.  This is the exact problem with society... No matter what I do I cannot change the world, so I might as well not even try...

I feel the thing wrong with this is:  if you save that drowning child(or donate money to help with a refugee, or whatever_ you may not change the world, as a whole.  But you sure to change that persons world.  If everyone helped just a little bit, the world would be 1000000000 times better to live in. 

If you are to lend a hand to one person, they are more likely to lend a hand to someone else in need when they are more able.  Or you may inspire the person sitting beside you that notices you gave to help.  Then they mat do the same.  So I argue that one person can change the world.  Look at all the change the Martin Luther King Jr.  did.  He was just one man that inspired many.


Your response implies an extreme that I never said or implied. 
" It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral."

I never said anything remotely like "I may as well not even try".  In fact, I explicitly said
"
those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need"

I was responding to a very specific argument - that one should earn as much as they possibly can (including after FI) and give all of that money to charity.

That mentality can be applied to indefinite extremes: if I could have earned more to give away by continuing to work after FI, should I work full time?  Should I work overtime?  Should I take 2 full time jobs?  If I am physically capable, I should live in the cheapest possible circumstances, work two full time jobs with overtime, and donate all of the surplus, until I die from physical exhaustion.

Suggesting that the only possibilities are that, or doing absolutely nothing at all, is an obviously ridiculous false dichotomy.  There are infinite degrees in between.
I am absolutely not one of those Ayn Rand sociopaths that believes helping people to be immoral! I do, however, think it is acceptable to not be a martyr and have personal boundaries.



Re: donating money instead of time - what do you suppose actually happens to the money that gets donated?  Is it just given directly to people in need as a cash payment?  If so, I think it is very fairly debatable whether that is the best possible way to use that money to help.But if it's anything else - say, providing medical care, or education, or building infrastructure - then that money is going to pay salaries of people who are doing actual work; teachers, doctors, construction workers, whatever.  There are people collecting and handling and exchanging money.  There are people overseeing taxes and legal concerns.  There are people interacting directly with the ultimate recipients of aid.  Every step of the process involves people doing work.
Now say you happen to be a trained teacher, or medical provider, or you have construction skills.  And you do the work the charity was going to hire someone to do for free. 
How can that possibly be less efficient or effective than giving the charity the money to pay someone else to do it?

Lets say the aid money was going to buy food for the hungry.  And you have a very large garden, and you grow food and give it directly to a hungry person (granted, you spent money on soil and water, but the majority of the value in gardening is produced by labor).  How is that tomato more effective because it got bought at a store? 

Even if you want to only support charities whose beneficiaries aren't local to you, if you spend enough hours on their taxes that they don't have to hire an accountant, then they just saved that much of their other donations (that they can now spend on charity work).  If you put in free fundraising time, they get more donations (without having to pay college kids on summer vacation to stand on busy corners with a clipboard)

Bottom line, money isn't an actual thing.  Its a placeholder.  It represents the value of labor in an easily trade-able format.
I can't understand why it is so important for so many people to try to argue why their method of helping others is "better" than others.  Instead of focusing on whether volunteering is a good enough form of helping others, why not focus on all those who do nothing at all?



dycker1978

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #210 on: February 26, 2016, 07:24:51 AM »

From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter. 

Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 

Most of us in this discussion seem to agree that those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need, but this does not make each individual personally responsible for saving the world. 
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly. 

Each of us is ourselves also a living being with the capacity to feel pleasure and suffering.  If we ignore our own lives for the sake of service, we are likely to end up doing more harm than good, as the marginal utility of our time and resources we spend on others drops relative to the utility it would have if it were used "selfishly".

The difference between the latest smart phone and retiring early is that the phone brings extremely little real, meaningful, or lasting joy into the life of the consumer, while (depending on your job on your personality) early retirement actually can.

I am only halfway through the thread and have to reply to this.  This is the exact problem with society... No matter what I do I cannot change the world, so I might as well not even try...

I feel the thing wrong with this is:  if you save that drowning child(or donate money to help with a refugee, or whatever_ you may not change the world, as a whole.  But you sure to change that persons world.  If everyone helped just a little bit, the world would be 1000000000 times better to live in. 

If you are to lend a hand to one person, they are more likely to lend a hand to someone else in need when they are more able.  Or you may inspire the person sitting beside you that notices you gave to help.  Then they mat do the same.  So I argue that one person can change the world.  Look at all the change the Martin Luther King Jr.  did.  He was just one man that inspired many.


Your response implies an extreme that I never said or implied. 
" It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral."

I never said anything remotely like "I may as well not even try".  In fact, I explicitly said
"
those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need"

I was responding to a very specific argument - that one should earn as much as they possibly can (including after FI) and give all of that money to charity.

That mentality can be applied to indefinite extremes: if I could have earned more to give away by continuing to work after FI, should I work full time?  Should I work overtime?  Should I take 2 full time jobs?  If I am physically capable, I should live in the cheapest possible circumstances, work two full time jobs with overtime, and donate all of the surplus, until I die from physical exhaustion.

Suggesting that the only possibilities are that, or doing absolutely nothing at all, is an obviously ridiculous false dichotomy.  There are infinite degrees in between.
I am absolutely not one of those Ayn Rand sociopaths that believes helping people to be immoral! I do, however, think it is acceptable to not be a martyr and have personal boundaries.



Re: donating money instead of time - what do you suppose actually happens to the money that gets donated?  Is it just given directly to people in need as a cash payment?  If so, I think it is very fairly debatable whether that is the best possible way to use that money to help.But if it's anything else - say, providing medical care, or education, or building infrastructure - then that money is going to pay salaries of people who are doing actual work; teachers, doctors, construction workers, whatever.  There are people collecting and handling and exchanging money.  There are people overseeing taxes and legal concerns.  There are people interacting directly with the ultimate recipients of aid.  Every step of the process involves people doing work.
Now say you happen to be a trained teacher, or medical provider, or you have construction skills.  And you do the work the charity was going to hire someone to do for free. 
How can that possibly be less efficient or effective than giving the charity the money to pay someone else to do it?

Lets say the aid money was going to buy food for the hungry.  And you have a very large garden, and you grow food and give it directly to a hungry person (granted, you spent money on soil and water, but the majority of the value in gardening is produced by labor).  How is that tomato more effective because it got bought at a store? 

Even if you want to only support charities whose beneficiaries aren't local to you, if you spend enough hours on their taxes that they don't have to hire an accountant, then they just saved that much of their other donations (that they can now spend on charity work).  If you put in free fundraising time, they get more donations (without having to pay college kids on summer vacation to stand on busy corners with a clipboard)

Bottom line, money isn't an actual thing.  Its a placeholder.  It represents the value of labor in an easily trade-able format.
I can't understand why it is so important for so many people to try to argue why their method of helping others is "better" than others.  Instead of focusing on whether volunteering is a good enough form of helping others, why not focus on all those who do nothing at all?

I am saying that when you say Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 
it implies that it is an all or nothing attitude.  Many people I have spoken to in the past use this as an excuse for doing nothing.

I cant save the world so why even try, is a common point made by people.  This is true of the first nations issues here in Canada.  Many many people go with, well nothing I am going to do will solve this issue so I am not trying.  My point was simply that every little bit helps.  That even if you don't change the world you may change one person.  If everyone does this, it is enough and the world will change because of it.

Now the last 2/3 of your post do not have anything to do with what I was talking about.  I did not mention anything about money, just helping those in need.  I am never going to be "rich" where I can give Bill Gates style of money to charity.  In fact My FI looks a lot different then most.  When I reach my goal, I plan to move away from society.  I want to homestead, where life, by my estimation is easier.  I have very little use or need for any money, but instead will live off of the land and build what I need myself, like my ancestors before me. 

Now I am telling you this not because of anything but the fact that I will not have money to donate.  I will however have time.  I agree that helping people does not need to be monetary.  It does need to help though.  I read your post as saying no matter what I cannot change the world so I wont try.

I think that the first nations people had it correct.  Live in a way that is sustainable to you and the next seven generations.  I think that there culture was very giving and helpful to each other, and they did not even have a monetary system until Europeans came. 

Again, I am not sure where you got that I said one needs to donate money instead of time... If you have the money go hard, but not having the money is not an excuse to do nothing.


fallstoclimb

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #211 on: February 26, 2016, 08:48:53 AM »
Re: donating money instead of time - what do you suppose actually happens to the money that gets donated?  Is it just given directly to people in need as a cash payment?  If so, I think it is very fairly debatable whether that is the best possible way to use that money to help.But if it's anything else - say, providing medical care, or education, or building infrastructure - then that money is going to pay salaries of people who are doing actual work; teachers, doctors, construction workers, whatever.  There are people collecting and handling and exchanging money.  There are people overseeing taxes and legal concerns.  There are people interacting directly with the ultimate recipients of aid.  Every step of the process involves people doing work.
Now say you happen to be a trained teacher, or medical provider, or you have construction skills.  And you do the work the charity was going to hire someone to do for free. 
How can that possibly be less efficient or effective than giving the charity the money to pay someone else to do it?

Lets say the aid money was going to buy food for the hungry.  And you have a very large garden, and you grow food and give it directly to a hungry person (granted, you spent money on soil and water, but the majority of the value in gardening is produced by labor).  How is that tomato more effective because it got bought at a store? 

Even if you want to only support charities whose beneficiaries aren't local to you, if you spend enough hours on their taxes that they don't have to hire an accountant, then they just saved that much of their other donations (that they can now spend on charity work).  If you put in free fundraising time, they get more donations (without having to pay college kids on summer vacation to stand on busy corners with a clipboard)

Bottom line, money isn't an actual thing.  Its a placeholder.  It represents the value of labor in an easily trade-able format.
I can't understand why it is so important for so many people to try to argue why their method of helping others is "better" than others.  Instead of focusing on whether volunteering is a good enough form of helping others, why not focus on all those who do nothing at all?

If you are providing skilled labor, yes, that is a bit different.  Most volunteers are not skilled. 

Even in this case, the effective altruism argument (from what I understand) is that money is more valuable. You have to consider the counterfactual -- what would have happened otherwise.  Often/generally, charitable skilled labor is provided by paid employees.  Often/generally, the most effective charities do not have trouble filling these positions.  This means that somebody is always going to be doing the skilled labor - that work won't go undone.  However, the next person to hold your current paying job might not donate to an effective charity, or any charity at all.  Therefore, the most good you can do is donate a portion of your salary.

I guess I only feel the need to identify one method of giving as "better" because I am frustrated by the lack of effective charitable action, on this board and in America.  I see it as a cop out to stash all your money, tutor some children, and call it a day.  But perhaps this is just indicating that I am growing out of/away from Mustachianism. 

Northwestie

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #212 on: February 26, 2016, 09:19:46 AM »
Some folks see it as a cop out to just write a check and lay back in self-satisfaction.   There is a great need to get caring adults involved with kids on a variety of levels.  I don't think it's accurate or generous to trivialize such efforts.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #213 on: February 26, 2016, 02:01:35 PM »
I am saying that when you say Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 
it implies that it is an all or nothing attitude.
It doesn't imply that in any way.  I understand you are saying that people who do see it as all or nothing use the same argument, and because that is what you are used to it has that association for you, but the words themselves do not imply anything of the sort.
I made that argument specifically because the person I was responding to was suggesting an all or nothing attitude.


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Many people I have spoken to in the past use this as an excuse for doing nothing.
I cant save the world so why even try, is a common point made by people.


And had you quoted someone who was making that argument, I would not have disputed it. 


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My point was simply that every little bit helps.  That even if you don't change the world you may change one person.  If everyone does this, it is enough and the world will change because of it.
I agree with you completely.

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Now the last 2/3 of your post do not have anything to do with what I was talking about. 
I didn't mean to imply that it did.  This forum (maybe this forum in combination with my browser?) almost always messes up the formatting anytime I try to respond with a quote - as I originally wrote it it should have been more clear it was a new topic, responding to other posts.  I didn't quote any specific one because there were quite a few different ones with the same theme.


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I think that the first nations people had it correct.  Live in a way that is sustainable to you and the next seven generations.
Agreed again.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #214 on: February 26, 2016, 02:02:51 PM »
Some folks see it as a cop out to just write a check and lay back in self-satisfaction.   There is a great need to get caring adults involved with kids on a variety of levels.  I don't think it's accurate or generous to trivialize such efforts.


Back in the day you could buy "indulgences" from the church, give some cash, absolve your sins (without any pesky penance)


Today they call the same concept "carbon offset credits"

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #215 on: February 26, 2016, 02:20:36 PM »
If you are providing skilled labor, yes, that is a bit different.  Most volunteers are not skilled. 


I feel that is an important distinction to make though.  If you (I don't mean you, I mean someone, I don't recall who said what, it doesn't matter) - if one says something like "volunteering doesn't do any real good", without any qualification, that suggests that its true for every form of it, skilled or not, which discounts the real benefit of volunteering that many people make.

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Even in this case, the effective altruism argument (from what I understand) is that money is more valuable. You have to consider the counterfactual -- what would have happened otherwise.  Often/generally, charitable skilled labor is provided by paid employees.  Often/generally, the most effective charities do not have trouble filling these positions.  This means that somebody is always going to be doing the skilled labor - that work won't go undone.  However, the next person to hold your current paying job might not donate to an effective charity, or any charity at all.  Therefore, the most good you can do is donate a portion of your salary.


Not following this at all. 


Lets say, for example, you are a teacher.  Effective salary comes out to about $20 an hour on average, but credentialed teacher working as a private tutor can charge $50-75 an hour.


Scenario A - Teacher Bob Cobb donates 10% of his salary, $380 a month, to an organization that tutors homeless teens.  The organization uses that money to hire a full price tutor (at the low end of the sliding scale) at $50 per hour, so the teacher's donation of 19 hours of his time (at $20 per hour) works out to a bit under 8 hours of tutoring for the kids.


Counterfactual B - Bob instead directly volunteers for the organization.  He spent 19 hours earning the money he donated, so he spends 19 hours a month (4 a week, not entirely unreasonable) volunteering.  The kids get 19 hours worth of tutoring, which is more than 7.6 hours.


That 4 hours a week is less than 10% of his work week (average teacher works 53 hours a week).  So this seems to be win win all around.  I don't see any way the second one could be less effective - and that's without even getting into the payroll taxes and worker's comp and administrative costs the charity has to pay for the paid tutor.


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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #216 on: February 26, 2016, 03:03:17 PM »
That 4 hours a week is less than 10% of his work week (average teacher works 53 hours a week).  So this seems to be win win all around.  I don't see any way the second one could be less effective - and that's without even getting into the payroll taxes and worker's comp and administrative costs the charity has to pay for the paid tutor.

I think everyone should volunteer, but for many it would be better to work and pay vs. volunteer the hours.  This is especially the case for those making $100+ and hour.  In many cases you could be paying someone close to minimum wage to do the work in the US.  So every hour you work, you get to give 10 hours of benefit to society.  If you are sending the dollars to a third world country then the benefit of sending dollars is magnified.  Think about those highly compensated employees who go to Mexico or somewhere else to build a house in a third world country.  They could be making $4000 a week ($100/hr x 40), sending the $4,000 to the organization building houses, that organization could hire 40 people at $20 a day for five days, and your week of helping society just cost the organization 40 people that would bust their but to build a house vs. a lawyer/doctor/engineer that may not have experience in building a house and probably will not work nearly as hard.

I understand I am missing various taxes, benefits, tax deductions, etc. but the concept is the same.  Hire those most qualified at the cheapest amount possible.  If you can make more at your job, then society is better for you to continue to work and donate dollars. You may be miserable, but it is better for society. 
« Last Edit: February 26, 2016, 03:09:00 PM by tomsang »

velocistar237

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #217 on: February 26, 2016, 03:16:25 PM »
The effective altruism movement holds that you should earn the most money you can and give it to the people who can do the most good per unit of money. I like the idea, complexities aside, but if I have to continue earning what I do forever, I'll go crazy. My plan is to split the difference, earning less money than I do now while doing things I enjoy and giving most of that money away, some of it to the malaria-net and cataract-surgery sorts of charities, while also volunteering. This would not be optimal for the world, as EA's utilitarianism would demand, but I would still do some good.

Charity is a pretty complicated subject, and I have a long way to go in my understanding. I'm glad for the discussion.

Northwestie

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #218 on: February 26, 2016, 07:43:21 PM »
Some folks see it as a cop out to just write a check and lay back in self-satisfaction.   There is a great need to get caring adults involved with kids on a variety of levels.  I don't think it's accurate or generous to trivialize such efforts.


Back in the day you could buy "indulgences" from the church, give some cash, absolve your sins (without any pesky penance)


Today they call the same concept "carbon offset credits"

Ouch!  Don't get me started on carbon credits.  Guilt relief amounting to insignificance.

sol

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #219 on: February 26, 2016, 08:11:44 PM »
Ouch!  Don't get me started on carbon credits.  Guilt relief amounting to insignificance.

I'd like to hear your (and Bakari's) opinions on carbon credits, because I think they're significantly less insignificant than the indulgences the Church sold.

Indulgences are just forgiveness from a man who ultimately has no power to forgive you.  They're meant to assuage your guilt in place of actually addressing the wrongs you've committed personally, for example by making amends for the harm you've caused.  (Wrongs against a mystical god excepted, since there can be no wrong against an ethereal third party).

Carbon credits, by contrast, are dollars spent for the specific purpose of addressing the "wrongs" you've committed in burning carbon, by removing carbon from the atmosphere.  They are designed to be a real and tangible redress for your personal consumption, a way to repair our world for the damage you've done.  They're the exact opposite of buying away your guilt while ignoring the problem.

I think there's certainly room for healthy debate about which forms of carbon credit are actually effective at removing carbon from the atmosphere, because surely some are more effective than others and some of them definitely have unintended ecological consequences.  That doesn't change the fact that the money you spend on carbon credits actually does do something other than cause a man in a pointy hat to wave his magic wand over you.

As a side benefit, money spent on carbon credits can potentially have ancillary benefits.  If you pay to reforest an acre of clearcut in central Africa, you're not only growing trees that temporarily sequester carbon, you're also creating a job by paying an impoverished African person to plant trees.  You're also supporting economic growth by helping the African logging company renew their crop.  You're also creating new forest habitat for species threatened by clearcutting.  You've helped reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere, you've supported a poverty-stricken man trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps, you've facilitated a commercial operation toward sustainable harvest, and you've replaced critical ecosystems and habitat for thousand of adorable fuzzy animals.  These benefits are all significant improvements over "Jesus forgives you as long as you keep paying me to say Jesus forives you".

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #220 on: February 26, 2016, 08:13:19 PM »
...This is especially the case for those making $100+ and hour.  In many cases you could be paying someone close to minimum wage to do the work in the US.  So every hour you work, you get to give 10 hours of benefit to society....

Agree.  I am not disputing that concepts validity any many circumstances.  What I was pointing out was that it isn't true in all circumstances, and so it can not be generalized to "giving money is always better than volunteering" which was suggested multiple times here.


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Hire those most qualified at the cheapest amount possible.
but see, here is another major problem: I believe hiring for the cheapest amount possible is in itself immoral!
It is especially self-defeating when the problems we want to solve are poverty related.  People who have the capital to hire labor making every effort to pay the lowest wages possible are the primary reason for poverty in the first place. 
If everyone (non-profit charity or not) paid a minimum "living" wage that was adjusted for inflation, the net effect would be that everyone would contribute to the raising of those third-world employees out of abject poverty (in the form of increased cost of goods).   If non-profit charities aren't going to lead the way, its hard to imagine for-profit corporations doing so voluntarily.


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If you can make more at your job, then society is better for you to continue to work and donate dollars.
The effective altruism movement holds that you should earn the most money you can and give it to the people who can do the most good per unit of money.


Similarly, I think a decent argument can be made that the majority of ways a person can make the most possible money are themselves amoral at best, and quite possibly immoral.  If a teacher quits there job so that they can become a stock trader, marketing consultant, or oil executive, and goes from 46k a year to 460k a year, they can now donate hundreds of thousands more dollars, but they are also no longer spending 53 hours a week doing good things, they are now spending that time neutral to the world (at best). Hell, the people who work for the non-profits should all quit and become lawyers for Monsanto, so they can give more... but then the charities they all work for cease to exist, so who are they going to donate to?

Basically; does the ends justify the means?


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You may be miserable, but it is better for society.
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but if I have to continue earning what I do forever, I'll go crazy.

You are both PART of society.  If every single person spends their entire life sacrificing for others, then no one is actually happy.  Then what was the point?  That doesn't seem in the least utilitarian.  There needs to be an optimal balance. 
If, instead of each person trying to do the maximum possible they could theoretically do, each person focused on balancing out the harm they personally contribute to the world, and then do just a little bit more good on top of that, that would be enough for the world to be slightly more than 100% perfect.




If you are driving in a gas powered car every day, eating factory farmed mammals and taking a few airplane trips a year, then sending a few dollars in the mail somewhere really isn't even bringing you to neutral in terms of your overall impact on the world.
On the other hand, the yogi who lives in a hovel and spends 50 hours a week helping people in need may not need to donate a single dollar to be making the world a better place overall.
The Mustachian is likely to be a lot farther on the low impact side of that range than the average American (although they may be far more into supporting capitalism than average, which itself inevitably perpetuates poverty)

Imagine, for example, that the problem at hand is large amounts of garbage on beaches that is killing wildlife.  No one person is going to be able to pick up every piece of garbage on every beach in the world.  However, if every single person just made the tiny effort to pack out what they themselves brought in, there is no garbage at all! Occasionally someone may drop something by accident and not notice, so maybe it doesn't go to absolute zero - so there is an opportunity for people to do more good, by packing out what they brought in and then picking up just one or two pieces more. 
What I am saying is that every one should put in that extra effort for picking up more than you brought in, but you also shouldn't feel guilty that you aren't devoting your entire life to picking up the slack of other people doing less than nothing.


« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 09:22:21 AM by Bakari »

Yaeger

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #221 on: February 26, 2016, 08:13:24 PM »
Donate to charity, isn't that what effective altruism really boils down to? Isn't that why I pay ~40% of my income in taxes and why the majority goes towards entitlement programs?

You serve society best by doing what you want to do, don't bow to any pressure about what people think society SHOULD be like. Society is made of individuals like you making decisions everyday. By participating, you're just introducing inefficiencies and financially supporting activities that are not economically important to society. If society really cared about the environmental damage by carbon from coal-fired power plants, for instance, consumers would be willing to pay more for cleaner energy. Consumers needs are the driving force for any company. They wouldn't need subsidies, carbon offset credits, clean energy rebates to achieve it. You're introducing incentives that aren't representative of society, as the majority of consumers aren't willing to sacrifice in order to reduce the carbon footprint.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #222 on: February 26, 2016, 08:42:41 PM »


I'd like to hear your (and Bakari's) opinions on carbon credits,
Oh, I totally agree with you in practice.  Indulgences didn't actually do anything but enrich the church, while carbon reducing projects have an effect on the real world.


The problem with it is psychological.  I mentioned it in response to:

Some folks see it as a cop out to just write a check and lay back in self-satisfaction.   
 


There is a risk that due to human nature, people who have bought offsets to feel like now its ok for them to drive even more than they would have before
« Last Edit: February 26, 2016, 08:45:07 PM by Bakari »

aceyou

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #223 on: February 26, 2016, 09:01:53 PM »
Sol, thanks for starting this thread way back, just found it today. 

I think you really nailed one of the biggest questions we have to answer...finding that balance between seeking a meaningful life now, and achieving FI as fast as we can to live an even fuller life. 

Two years ago I really struggled with my decision to be a math teacher/coach.  Many of my friends in the business sector were/are making 2-3 times more than me, but are no more intelligent or ambitious than I am.  I actively sought out other possible employment.  I thought I'd be stuck teaching till I was 60 years old (32 now).  I had never heard of this blog and new nothing about FIRE or what it meant.

Finding this site allowed me to work things out in my head.  Learning frugality/investing allows me to strike what I think is a optimum balance for my life.  For the next 15 years, I can teach, coach, and try to make an impact on children's lives every single day.  And in doing this, I can work towards FI, although at a slower clip than if I bailed to get into the business sector.  I'm fine with this, because these are going to be years very well spent.  I can do a lot of good for my community through my position at the school.  When I do FIRE, I'll be able to remain engaged in education in some capacity if I so wish, or I can go in any other direction to try and maximize the good that I can do. 

One ethical dilemma I'm working through is the decision to install solar panels on my house to cover my electric consumption.  I could do it for about 10-15k I think, but that would slow me down from investing in VTSAX for a while.  I don't want to slow down my contributions.  However, I believe the impact of climate change on our earth is a huge deal, and I know that if I'm not willing to take a personal short term economic hit to do my part, then my beliefs are pretty shallow. 

There's that old quote that goes something like...a person is rich in proportion to the things that they can afford to let go.  So maybe I'd be richer if I let go of a few months of investing to pop those panels up on the roof:)


sol

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #224 on: February 26, 2016, 11:07:41 PM »
One ethical dilemma I'm working through is the decision to install solar panels on my house to cover my electric consumption.

I don't know whether it makes any difference to you or not, but our solution to this question was to put up the solar panels.

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There's that old quote that goes something like...a person is rich in proportion to the things that they can afford to let go. 

Right on.

rachael talcott

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #225 on: February 28, 2016, 08:38:42 AM »
This is a really interesting thread.  Thanks to Sol for starting it.

Peter Singer's drowning child in the pond problem has been around for a long time (it was published in 1972), and if you google it, you can find lots of academic and popular analysis.  And memes:http://www.7goldfish.com/11_Reasons_to_Let_Peter-Singers_Child_Drown

Most people have the moral intuition that it would be wrong to ignore the drowning child in the shallow pond, but what if there were a steady stream of children being dropped into the pond and each commenced drowning?  Are you then obligated to spend your whole life fishing out as many as you can?  Most people would say no.  Especially if we add in the detail that eventually all of us are going to drown, including any children that we temporarily save.  But between taking on a minor inconvenience to save one child and giving up your whole life to save many there is a huge spectrum.  If you asked 100 different people where they'd draw the line (of obligation) you'd get a spectrum of answers.  And of course, most people would also say that there is a difference between meeting an obligation and going above and beyond.  Mother Theresa moved to Calcutta and did the equivalent of spending her life fishing kids out of ponds, and most people would say that that is highly admirable, but not obligatory. 

A separate but related moral issue is that once you have an idea of where you fall on the spectrum of obligation, how do you interact well with people who come down far from you on the spectrum?  I grew up in a really judgmental fundamentalist church, and I now think of moral judgmentalism as being a moral problem itself.  But not everyone agrees on that, either, and so there is a spectrum for how much judgmentalism someone is willing to tolerate as well. 

HAPPYINAZ

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #226 on: February 28, 2016, 09:06:01 AM »
I just wanted to say Thank you to Sol for starting this thread.  And I appreciate all the thoughtful discussion going on.  It makes for a lot of good thought-provoking reading.  Thank you. 

The_path_less_taken

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #227 on: February 28, 2016, 09:37:29 AM »
I don't consider striving for ER evil...unless you are doing something that violates accepted ethical behavior....which also varies by country, etc.

Athabascan natives (Haida) in the Yukon Territory regularly hold potlatches: they give many of their possessions away at these ceremonies. The elders lead a dance, the young men hunt a moose...even the smallest of children help with preparing the hall for the feast....it is a community effort that seems (to an outsider) to be ALL about community. Everyone is included.

It is about love. And respect. And caring for your neighbors.

There is nothing, to my knowledge, that would prevent anyone on this board from adopting this practice.

Charity and community and caring for people is not precluded by being FI.

I have trouble with a good many large charity organizations for the way they utilize money. If I donate a hundred bucks to you and you piss away $150 hounding me with crap in the mail to get me to donate more....I'm never going to because you blew that money.

I am more comfortable with hands on charity: picking up a truckload of donated dog food for the local animal shelter, working with abused dogs there, etc.

There's a woman in her 70's who works the border crossing in Mexico, selling sunflower seeds and sweets to the cars in line. It pisses me off every time I pass her: it can't be easy, at her age. I wave her over and give her $20-30.

Because I can.

To me, that is what charity should be: you see a problem, you do what YOU can to help alleviate it.

I personally am not going to bring about world peace. But that Mexican grandma can take a day off from breathing exhaust fumes in the hot sun.

Do what you can.

Do what you believe in.

purephase

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #228 on: February 28, 2016, 03:09:41 PM »
A very interesting discussion. Maybe there is to much focus from some towards the end goal of FI but I dont think its such a bad thing to save more money by not spending on things that are not needed. That alone will contribute to a less wasteful world. As in most things in life a balance is the best way forward.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2016, 03:15:13 PM by purephase »

englishteacheralex

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #229 on: October 22, 2016, 04:49:31 PM »
Where did this thread come from? It just popped up for me and I started reading it and felt compelled to post, even though it's old. Actually, I feel a little emboldened by that. I have a lot of opinions on the original post by SOL but I don't really feel like inspiring a flame war. So probably nobody will read this, which will be great.

I've taught Dante's Inferno to my seniors as the last thing we read for the past six years. One of my favorite cantos is the circle of the avaricious. The greedy are separated into two categories: the hoarders and the wasters. Their punishment in hell is to push around a giant boulder (a symbol of wealth) in a circle; the hoarders push in one direction and the wasters push in the other. Hoarders scream: Why waste!? at the wasters. Wasters scream "Why hoard?!" at the hoarders. Around and around they go, their never actually going anywhere or accomplishing anything.

Money is morally neutral. When viewed and used properly, it is a tool that can provide life and enjoyment to ourselves and others. Extremes in any direction are generally to be avoided.

My husband and I have a commitment to giving away 15% of our gross income. We have no desire to retire early, so this does not impede any goal of ours. In fact, generosity IS our goal. We plan to increase our giving incrementally as we become more and more FI, hoping eventually to give away 50% or even more of our income eventually. We give not because we expect to "change the world" or to be any kind of savior to anyone, but because in our view, this is the purpose of wealth in our lives. By virtue of being American citizens with graduate degrees and stable careers, we feel that we have been given much and so much is expected of us. We give because not to do so would be detrimental to our spiritual and mental health.

So do we feel that a mustache is evil? Not exactly, but we do frequently think of Jesus' parable of the rich fool, who, faced with excess wealth, decided to store it all in bigger barns: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

There's quite a bit in the Bible about wealth, and not all of it suggests that wealth is evil or that it's a bad idea to save money. In fact, that's generally considered to be fairly prudent. But if all you're doing is building bigger barns (or mustaches), I think...that the barns aren't evil, exactly, just...not very spiritually productive.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #230 on: October 22, 2016, 05:01:11 PM »
Where did this thread come from? It just popped up for me and I started reading it and felt compelled to post, even though it's old.

It's been around for years.  A spammer posted in it, which is why it showed up towards the top, though their reply was deleted by a moderator between when you started reading, and decided to reply.

So probably nobody will read this, which will be great.

Now that you have replied, I'm sure plenty will read it, both those who missed the thread the many times it's been bumped, linked to, etc. and those that have it in their threads they've replied to list.
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englishteacheralex

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #231 on: October 22, 2016, 05:06:29 PM »
Hm. Spammers do that?

That makes sense, then. I was perplexed because the last post was in February 2016. A cool thread, though.

tomsang

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #232 on: October 26, 2016, 09:33:10 AM »
Where did this thread come from? It just popped up for me and I started reading it and felt compelled to post, even though it's old.

It's been around for years.  A spammer posted in it, which is why it showed up towards the top, though their reply was deleted by a moderator between when you started reading, and decided to reply.

Way to go spammer.  This is one of my favorite threads.

kite

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #233 on: October 26, 2016, 11:43:45 AM »
Where did this thread come from? It just popped up for me and I started reading it and felt compelled to post, even though it's old. Actually, I feel a little emboldened by that. I have a lot of opinions on the original post by SOL but I don't really feel like inspiring a flame war. So probably nobody will read this, which will be great.

I've taught Dante's Inferno to my seniors as the last thing we read for the past six years. One of my favorite cantos is the circle of the avaricious. The greedy are separated into two categories: the hoarders and the wasters. Their punishment in hell is to push around a giant boulder (a symbol of wealth) in a circle; the hoarders push in one direction and the wasters push in the other. Hoarders scream: Why waste!? at the wasters. Wasters scream "Why hoard?!" at the hoarders. Around and around they go, their never actually going anywhere or accomplishing anything.

Money is morally neutral. When viewed and used properly, it is a tool that can provide life and enjoyment to ourselves and others. Extremes in any direction are generally to be avoided.

My husband and I have a commitment to giving away 15% of our gross income. We have no desire to retire early, so this does not impede any goal of ours. In fact, generosity IS our goal. We plan to increase our giving incrementally as we become more and more FI, hoping eventually to give away 50% or even more of our income eventually. We give not because we expect to "change the world" or to be any kind of savior to anyone, but because in our view, this is the purpose of wealth in our lives. By virtue of being American citizens with graduate degrees and stable careers, we feel that we have been given much and so much is expected of us. We give because not to do so would be detrimental to our spiritual and mental health.

So do we feel that a mustache is evil? Not exactly, but we do frequently think of Jesus' parable of the rich fool, who, faced with excess wealth, decided to store it all in bigger barns: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

There's quite a bit in the Bible about wealth, and not all of it suggests that wealth is evil or that it's a bad idea to save money. In fact, that's generally considered to be fairly prudent. But if all you're doing is building bigger barns (or mustaches), I think...that the barns aren't evil, exactly, just...not very spiritually productive.

Completely on point response to this entire thread.  The OP'S conundrum is as old as time, and the history of how others tackled this issue runs through religious texts and religious traditions. 

Classical_Liberal

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #234 on: October 26, 2016, 06:05:24 PM »
This was a gem of a discussion.  So many important concepts, some of which I had personally reconciled before, some which I had not.  I'm only commenting to voice its effectiveness in generating several new thought processes that may end in some personal changes, such things take a bit of time to digest.  Thanks 

sol

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #235 on: October 26, 2016, 07:50:38 PM »
I'm glad to see that some of the forum's early discussions are still providing value to new readers.  Many of us have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours into this forum over the years.  Maybe that's sad?

Money is morally neutral. When viewed and used properly, it is a tool

Are tools morally neutral?  I fee like we created money as a medium of exchange to facilitate trade and commerce, and that these have generally been a positive force in the world.  Hammers can be used for evil purposes, but I'd wager they've done more good than harm in the world since being invented.

Quote
So do we feel that a mustache is evil? Not exactly, but we do frequently think of Jesus' parable of the rich fool, who, faced with excess wealth, decided to store it all in bigger barns

You Can't Take It With You and a thousand other pieces of literary fiction also make the same point, but I'm still not buying it.  I recognize that any amount of vast wealth I might accumulate doesn't benefit ME after I die, but that doesn't mean it can't continue to benefit the rest of humanity, if properly applied.

*edited for logical typo
« Last Edit: October 26, 2016, 09:57:21 PM by sol »

englishteacheralex

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #236 on: October 26, 2016, 08:51:27 PM »


You Can't Take It With You and a thousand other pieces of literary fiction also make the same point, but I'm still not buying it.  I recognize that any amount of vast wealth I might accumulate doesn't benefit ME after I die, but that doesn't mean it can't continue to benefit the rest of humanity, if properly applied.
[/quote]

Well, sure. But what difference does that make to you once you're dead? If generosity is viewed as a spiritual exercise, it can only benefit you while you're alive. We give not with solely a focus on benefiting humanity, but to practice a healthy understanding of what money is and what it can and can't do. We give because we don't want to create a wrongful idea in our spirit that the money that flows through my hands is mine mine mine--that is an unhealthy view of money, and it generally creates a lot of neurosis and pathology.

Giving allows money to breathe, if I can be a little whimsical. Giving allows us to let go of that frantic need to accumulate as much as we can in order to acquire a false sense of security. We hope to benefit the organizations we choose as the recipients of our donations, and we hope that those causes help humanity, but ultimately we give at least as much to benefit our own view of money and our own powerlessness in the face of certain realities of life as we do to benefit those causes.

Which is a world view I think may be a bit foreign and possibly wrong-headed, depending on one's perspective.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #237 on: October 26, 2016, 09:37:21 PM »
Hammers can be used for evil purposes, but I'd wager they've done more harm than good in the world since being invented.
Guessing you meant the opposite?

Quote
You Can't Take It With You and a thousand other pieces of literary fiction also make the same point, but I'm still not buying it.  I recognize that any amount of vast wealth I might accumulate doesn't benefit ME after I die, but that doesn't mean it can't continue to benefit the rest of humanity, if properly applied.
What is the proper application, and how can you ensure it really will be?
Maybe more important - is that fortune wealth that would not have existed without you (i.e. you invented something entirely new, non-obvious, which had wide distribution, or you are a primary producer like a farmer or miner), or is it wealth which would have existed anyway, and just happened to have landed with you (for example, wages at any job that someone other than you could have done, or stock investments, rental income, inheritance)?
Since the vast majority of us fall in the latter camp, perhaps it could have been just as good for the world if we simply choose not to accumulate it in the first place, and allowed others to earn it instead.
Like, if I am already FI, I am helping society by simple virtue of leaving the workforce, allowing somebody else who really needs a job to have one, thereby reducing unemployment just that little bit more (which in turn means slightly less demand from social safety nets, and a slightly more competitive labor market)
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 09:13:27 AM by Bakari »

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #238 on: October 26, 2016, 09:59:26 PM »
What is the proper application, and how can you ensure it really will be?

The answer to the former, obviously, will depend on one's values.  The answer to the latter is that we each do the best we can, but without a crystal ball, you never know for sure.  You play the probabilities, most likely.

Quote
Maybe more important - is that fortune wealth that would not have existed without you (i.e. you invented something entirely new, non-obvious, which had wide distribution, or you are a primary producer like a farmer or miner), or is it wealth which would have existed anyway, and just happened to have landed with you (for example, wages at any job that someone other than you could have done, or stock investments, rental income, inheritance)?
Since the wast majority of us fall in the latter camp, perhaps it could have been just as good for the world if we simply choose not to accumulate it in the first place, and allowed others to earn it instead.
Like, if I am already FI, I am helping society by simple virtue of leaving the workforce, allowing somebody else who really needs a job to have one, thereby reducing unemployment just that little bit more (which in turn means slightly less demand from social safety nets, and a slightly more competitive labor market)

Ah, but if you do decide to make a value judgement on how you're donating/spending that money, there's no reason you can't decide that's a better place than it would go otherwise (most likely... again, no crystal ball).

Scenario 1: You stay in your job solely for the purpose of earning to give in order to donate it all to Charity X.
Scenario 2: You quit the job, giving the benefits you listed (slightly lower unemployment). They take the money they earn and blow it on consumerist items (in all liklihood--playing the probabilities). 

If you're making a value judgement on the "best" place to send your excess wealth, I see no reason why you can't make the value judgement that even if you didn't own that piece of real estate, some other landlord would, but you are going to put the income stream from it to "better" use than they likely would.

In other words, to more directly address this:
Quote
Since the wast majority of us fall in the latter camp, perhaps it could have been just as good for the world if we simply choose not to accumulate it in the first place, and allowed others to earn it instead.

I think most money earned is not for the good of others.  If you are using that money for the good of others, it may be more beneficial for you to earn it than the average person in your society.
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Metric Mouse

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #239 on: October 27, 2016, 12:32:11 AM »
Where did this thread come from? It just popped up for me and I started reading it and felt compelled to post, even though it's old.

It's been around for years.  A spammer posted in it, which is why it showed up towards the top, though their reply was deleted by a moderator between when you started reading, and decided to reply.

Way to go spammer.  This is one of my favorite threads.

Right? Sometimes it's good to dig around in the dust.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #240 on: October 27, 2016, 09:12:16 AM »
What is the proper application, and how can you ensure it really will be?

The answer to the former, obviously, will depend on one's values.  The answer to the latter is that we each do the best we can, but without a crystal ball, you never know for sure.  You play the probabilities, most likely
....
Ah, but if you do decide to make a value judgement on how you're donating/spending that money, there's no reason you can't decide that's a better place than it would go otherwise (most likely... again, no crystal ball).

Scenario 1: You stay in your job solely for the purpose of earning to give in order to donate it all to Charity X.


I was referring specifically to the idea of hoarding until one dies, with the plan to donate everything to charity then.  If you are giving all the excess away all along, I think that changes the equation heavily in favor of your analysis

brooklynguy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #241 on: October 27, 2016, 11:29:05 AM »
If you are giving all the excess away all along, I think that changes the equation heavily in favor of your analysis

I don't see why -- using the same analysis, you can still conclude that your accumulated excess wealth (the disposition of which, after all, is within your power to direct, whether it occurs before or after your death) is more likely to be put to "better" use than it otherwise would have been.

I'm glad to see that some of the forum's early discussions are still providing value to new readers.  Many of us have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours into this forum over the years.  Maybe that's sad?

I find that my cognitive dissonance stemming from the recognition that my mustache might be evil grows more and more acute the closer I get to achieving financial independence, and I continue to be grateful for the service of this discussion and its various offshoots across the forum as a platform for exploring (if not totally resolving) these issues.

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #242 on: October 27, 2016, 03:51:40 PM »
If you are giving all the excess away all along, I think that changes the equation heavily in favor of your analysis

I don't see why -- using the same analysis, you can still conclude that your accumulated excess wealth (the disposition of which, after all, is within your power to direct, whether it occurs before or after your death) is more likely to be put to "better" use than it otherwise would have been.

Agreed.  Unless, Bakari, you're arguing that you can't really know for sure where it will go after you die (i.e. you may intend to have it given away, but heirs fight that).  That aside, whether you give it out along the way, or donate it all at death, calculating that you accumulating it, and giving it away, is likely a better scenario for the world as a whole than someone else accumulating it, and (very likely) not giving it away makes a reasonable case, to me, to accumulate for the purposes of helping others with it.

I'm glad to see that some of the forum's early discussions are still providing value to new readers.  Many of us have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours into this forum over the years.  Maybe that's sad?

I find that my cognitive dissonance stemming from the recognition that my mustache might be evil grows more and more acute the closer I get to achieving financial independence

Wait until you're there, and then travel a bit...

:X
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #243 on: October 27, 2016, 04:15:45 PM »
If you are giving all the excess away all along, I think that changes the equation heavily in favor of your analysis
I don't see why -- using the same analysis, you can still conclude that your accumulated excess wealth (the disposition of which, after all, is within your power to direct, whether it occurs before or after your death)
Agreed.  Unless, Bakari, you're arguing that you can't really know for sure where it will go after you die (i.e. you may intend to have it given away, but heirs fight that). 

That last bit was a (small) part of it, yes
and how can you ensure it really will be?


Quote
That aside, whether you give it out along the way, or donate it all at death,


The distinction I see is that in one case any benefit to "the world" is put off by 50 or 60 or 70 years.  Food or medicine or therapy or infrastructure or whatever other good causes the wealth may go to likely has a greater value right now while it's needed than in 70 years (even if the total has increased because of interest).
For example, donate to a reading program now, not only does that kid have a better education and ultimately better life, but so do that kid's kids.  If you wait and only help their grandchildren, that's two generations of people that could have benefited and didn't.  If you help the first kid get ahead, chances are his kid's won't need the help anyway. 
Money for building school or hospitals or wells or roads are likely to have a bigger impact in the long run applied right now that in 50 years, even with a 7% compounding return.


Quote
calculating that you accumulating it, and giving it away, is likely a better scenario for the world as a whole than someone else accumulating it, and (very likely) not giving it away makes a reasonable case, to me, to accumulate for the purposes of helping others with it.
Well, if we are talking about someone else hoarding it, and then, I don't know, passing it on to heirs, or maybe just burning it, may be a worse thing to do with it.  But of course most likely they are going to spend it, which, although they also get something of value from the transaction, it is still in a sense "giving it away".  It has just become someone else's income.  Whether or not the intention was helping them, that purchase does in fact help them.
Just as Sol pointed out that the existence of money has provided more value than harm to society by fostering economic transactions which in turn supports growth and all the rest - the mechanism by which it does so is all those individual sales of stuff and service. 
Ultimately, those transactions add up to contributes to building infrastructure, and every transaction gets taxed which helps fund education and other common goods.
It may not be as directly valuable as donating to end Malaria, but it isn't without any value at all.

So the question is, is that, perhaps smaller - but not zero - value of helping keep the economy going today necessarily smaller than the value of (maybe) doing more direct charity work many decades from now?

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #244 on: October 27, 2016, 04:26:41 PM »
The distinction I see is that in one case any benefit to "the world" is put off by 50 or 60 or 70 years.  Food or medicine or therapy or infrastructure or whatever other good causes the wealth may go to likely has a greater value right now while it's needed than in 70 years (even if the total has increased because of interest).
For example, donate to a reading program now, not only does that kid have a better education and ultimately better life, but so do that kid's kids.  If you wait and only help their grandchildren, that's two generations of people that could have benefited and didn't.  If you help the first kid get ahead, chances are his kid's won't need the help anyway. 
Money for building school or hospitals or wells or roads are likely to have a bigger impact in the long run applied right now that in 50 years, even with a 7% compounding return.

Okay, but the comparison (your initial question/point) was you accumulating it versus leaving it for someone else to earn/spend, not you giving away now versus later.  We could discuss that, too, but the point I was disagreeing with is the theory you threw out that "perhaps it could have been just as good for the world if we simply choose not to accumulate it in the first place, and allowed others to earn it instead."


Quote
So the question is, is that, perhaps smaller - but not zero - value of helping keep the economy going today necessarily smaller than the value of (maybe) doing more direct charity work many decades from now?

Yes, that's the comparison.

I have no substantial evidence, but to me it's pretty clear which is better for the world, between one single job today and the spending/economic activity it generates (i.e. letting someone else have a job, to spend like an average American) versus a lifetime of savings given to help others in the future (i.e. you keep the job, save all the money for decades, and give it away in your final years).
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Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #245 on: October 28, 2016, 04:27:43 PM »
I have no substantial evidence, but to me it's pretty clear which is better for the world, between one single job today and the spending/economic activity it generates (i.e. letting someone else have a job, to spend like an average American) versus a lifetime of savings given to help others in the future (i.e. you keep the job, save all the money for decades, and give it away in your final years).


I guess the difference is that I see a significant amount of human problems as a result of extreme wealth inequality.  A whole lot of charity work wouldn't be necessary if there was a lot less poverty.
Given that, I usually try to look at individual choices as though they were a tiny part of collective action - one person polluting makes no difference at all, but hundreds of millions has dire consequences. 
If everyone who had enough stopped accumulating more, that could go a long way to making sure everyone who doesn't even have enough did. 
I mean, I know middle class American's do definitely spend a lot on stuff they don't need, but, for example, the people who took my shifts when I quit my bike mechanic job were definitely not using the extra income on new car payments or cable TV, they were paying for rent and tuition. 

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #246 on: October 28, 2016, 05:59:19 PM »
I have no substantial evidence, but to me it's pretty clear which is better for the world, between one single job today and the spending/economic activity it generates (i.e. letting someone else have a job, to spend like an average American) versus a lifetime of savings given to help others in the future (i.e. you keep the job, save all the money for decades, and give it away in your final years).


I guess the difference is that I see a significant amount of human problems as a result of extreme wealth inequality.  A whole lot of charity work wouldn't be necessary if there was a lot less poverty.
Given that, I usually try to look at individual choices as though they were a tiny part of collective action - one person polluting makes no difference at all, but hundreds of millions has dire consequences. 
If everyone who had enough stopped accumulating more, that could go a long way to making sure everyone who doesn't even have enough did. 
I mean, I know middle class American's do definitely spend a lot on stuff they don't need, but, for example, the people who took my shifts when I quit my bike mechanic job were definitely not using the extra income on new car payments or cable TV, they were paying for rent and tuition.
In a vacuum, or theoretical world, I agree with you. In the practical one, it unfortunately isn't much of a difference.
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Vilgan

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #247 on: October 28, 2016, 06:32:03 PM »
While there are lots of arguments in this thread about maximizing effectiveness, giving it all when you are dead, etc. I think that misses a big part of the point. IMO active charity/giving/helping has significant benefit for the person who is giving as well as the less fortunate who receive the help. They meet others who are good forces in life while becoming a better person themselves. Just as you touch people's lives when you help them, they touch your life back. I've personally gotten a lot of satisfaction and happiness out of actively being involved that I have NOT gotten out of writing a check.

Sure, I could continue to slave away at XYZ Makes Widgets Inc to do better on the "how effective was I" scoreboard, but then I don't think its about a scoreboard. I'm not even sure its about the actual tangible long term impact. I personally think that most of my interest in charity is a selfish desire to be a better, happier, more generous person and working and writing a check or giving up all my $$ when I'm dead doesn't seem to accomplish that purpose. I want to be more like those bright souls that stand out because they are so warm and generous and kind and make you feel better just being around them. For that, I think getting your hands dirty while doing tangible good that you can feel is way more effective than writing a giant check and patting yourself on the back.

As for the hoarding money to become FIRE creates bad habits - I definitely have concerns about that myself and have not completely solved the issue personally. I'm way better at saving that I used to be, but I'm not sure how much progress I've made at becoming a better person.

englishteacheralex

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #248 on: October 28, 2016, 07:19:47 PM »
While there are lots of arguments in this thread about maximizing effectiveness, giving it all when you are dead, etc. I think that misses a big part of the point. IMO active charity/giving/helping has significant benefit for the person who is giving as well as the less fortunate who receive the help. They meet others who are good forces in life while becoming a better person themselves. Just as you touch people's lives when you help them, they touch your life back. I've personally gotten a lot of satisfaction and happiness out of actively being involved that I have NOT gotten out of writing a check.

Sure, I could continue to slave away at XYZ Makes Widgets Inc to do better on the "how effective was I" scoreboard, but then I don't think its about a scoreboard. I'm not even sure its about the actual tangible long term impact. I personally think that most of my interest in charity is a selfish desire to be a better, happier, more generous person and working and writing a check or giving up all my $$ when I'm dead doesn't seem to accomplish that purpose. I want to be more like those bright souls that stand out because they are so warm and generous and kind and make you feel better just being around them. For that, I think getting your hands dirty while doing tangible good that you can feel is way more effective than writing a giant check and patting yourself on the back.

As for the hoarding money to become FIRE creates bad habits - I definitely have concerns about that myself and have not completely solved the issue personally. I'm way better at saving that I used to be, but I'm not sure how much progress I've made at becoming a better person.

Yes, this is exactly the point I was making earlier. When you concern yourself purely with the utility of the gift, you're missing a big part of the point of generosity. In fact, concerning yourself purely with utility can result in a kind of unhealthy, prideful messiah complex--"my money is going to save the world!"

It's important to give responsibly and to research organizations and individuals with due diligence in order to avoid throwing money around heedlessly or unintentionally enabling/harming the recipient. But at a certain point, what you are buying with your generosity is not clean water in Africa or orphans in Haiti or refugees in Syria. You are buying the knowledge that my money does not have a stranglehold over me. I can give it freely to something that does not benefit me directly or sit in a pile to keep me protected from the buffets of life. That is a tremendous psychological and spiritual benefit, and it can't be achieved in the same way by sitting on an ever increasing pile of money that then goes to charity when you die.

Classical_Liberal

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #249 on: October 28, 2016, 08:09:33 PM »
The distinction I see is that in one case any benefit to "the world" is put off by 50 or 60 or 70 years.  Food or medicine or therapy or infrastructure or whatever other good causes the wealth may go to likely has a greater value right now while it's needed than in 70 years (even if the total has increased because of interest).
For example, donate to a reading program now, not only does that kid have a better education and ultimately better life, but so do that kid's kids.  If you wait and only help their grandchildren, that's two generations of people that could have benefited and didn't.  If you help the first kid get ahead, chances are his kid's won't need the help anyway. 
Money for building school or hospitals or wells or roads are likely to have a bigger impact in the long run applied right now that in 50 years, even with a 7% compounding return.

I enjoy this concept of "future value" of giving. Gifts of time or money today can have much greater returns than if invested tomorrow, even outpace our ability to generate more gift capital (whether it be time or money).  This would hold particularly true in areas of highest need, with the least amount of currently existing "infrastructure".  An example, someone wants to give with a goal of helping underprivileged teens attend higher education as he/she believes this can improve individual lives and the prospects of a community in whole.  Should he/she provide a smaller gift to fund high school tutors today (build "infrastructure") , or a much larger gift to an existing scholarship to fund college tuition in five years... Which would actually help more of that cohort move on to higher education?  Food for thought, no?

As for the hoarding money to become FIRE creates bad habits - I definitely have concerns about that myself and have not completely solved the issue personally. I'm way better at saving that I used to be, but I'm not sure how much progress I've made at becoming a better person.

One of the take aways for me from the discussions on this thread... It's more than just bad habits.  More importantly, it is a large shift of mentality away from one of scarcity to one of plenty.  IOW, do I think; "I have to save every dime while I still can" or "I already have enough and can get more for the proper reasons if the need arises"?  This is a fundamental change in how one views the world.  For many newer converts to Mustachianism or its ilk (myself included), this is a fundamental shift that must take place if we are to ever truly appreciate the enviable situation in which we now find ourselves.  We can now become more generous, happy, and free in a way that far supersedes the "good feeling" of helping others and perhaps will even allow true altruism in the future.

The alternative of scarcity can evolve into never ending discussions/concerns of lower SWR's, asset allocations, OMY, travel rewards cards, etc.  I get the impression it's the relatively large focus on these things that can be frustrating to someone whose views have changed to a mindset of plenty.