The Role of Generosity in Your Pursuit of Financial Independence
April 30, 2019
Generosity is an important component of pursuing and achieving financial independence (FI)
No amount of money in the bank feels as good as it does to help someone out who can never repay you
Generosity can help break the *hold* on you that intensely focusing on all-things-financial can create in your life
Pursuing, or having achieved, FI does not make you better than someone who isn’t on the journey
One of the most rewarding parts of your journey to FI should be to share, coach, and mentor those who want the same success
Two recent interactions prompted me to write this post.
First, I was on one of these FI Facebook pages scrolling along and came across a post by someone sharing an experience they had earlier that day. It turns out she had run into someone needing the financial help of a few hundred dollars.
The person sharing this post gave the person in need $5 because they “hadn’t reached FI yet”. She shared that she felt conflicted about it and “wished she could have done more” but that it “isn’t FI to give money away”.
I shared in a comment on that thread that I disagreed with that perspective and that it’s “always FI” – or human – to help out someone in need. Many people liked my comment, so I know I’m not alone in this!
A couple days later I was reading Proverbs and two verses I always read right through without giving much thought stuck out to me in a new way:
The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.
It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
This was the answer to the lady’s dilemma! And I believe she’s not alone; I know I need constant reminders of this myself.
It is so easy to become so entangled in the pursuit of FI that I’m afraid we run the risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with money. The last thing we want to do is become greedy, stingy, or cheap instead of being well-off and generous.
It’s been called “The Golden Rule” and, in the words of Jesus, goes like this:
Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
Meeting the needs of someone in need is MOST DEFINITELY right and it’s our PRIVILEGE to help out as we are the ones who have the means to do so, regardless if our bank account takes a small ding. We may not be able to meet all of every need, in fact we can’t! But, we can likely meet many/most needs.
And if you’re a Christian – even in the midst of paying off debt and pursuing FI – then this is what you’re CALLED TO FIRST! And I would add this: as a Christian, this is the greatest reason to be FI – to help others and share the love of Christ in every possible way without your poor finances being the reason you can’t help.
Applications Regarding The 2 Verses
Regarding the Person(s) in Need…
The poor are shunned even by their neighbors… It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor…
We, in our worthy pursuit of FI, should be very careful how we treat those who are not part of the movement with us, who clearly make bad decisions and are reaping what they’re sewing, or who clearly just aren’t doing well financially.
The FI and Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movements attract a very specific, narrow sliver of the population. Good for us for catching the fever and cleaning up our own financial messes, but don’t look down on those who haven’t.
It’s so easy to be drawn to people with your same interests and financial lifestyles, but I think this is a good warning to not forget, or even avoid, those who are less fortunate.
Don’t look down on people who haven’t “made it” according to your standard. Remember that you too were once someone who didn’t know anything about FI, FIRE, investing, stocks, etc. and were once in their exact situation.
I’m definitely not someone who’s all about free college and loan forgiveness and I’m all for everyone working hard and earning their own way. But, at the same time, I – and you too – need to have compassion for people who are struggling. There are many people who do work hard, live frugally, and still have a hard time providing for their family.
It’s easy to look at someone who isn’t well off and make assumptions (many people call this “judging”… and it is) about why they’re that way. But while natural, it’s completely wrong to allow those assumptions to control your actions and words toward that person.
In the military, we say you should “take assumptions and turn them into facts” – in these situations you’ll do that by getting to know the person. Who knows, you just might be the person that helps them break free of whatever is holding them back!
Simply put, be a friend. If someone is in need and you have the ability to help that need, do it. I promise you’ll never regret the times you helped someone, especially the times that came at a cost to you, but you’ll likely regret not helping when you could have.
Let’s look at the other halves of these two verses:
Regarding the Person with the ability to Help – You & Me!
…but the rich have many friends… but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
Be wary of people seeking your friendship/companionship merely because they know your financial situation or pursuits. Many people have been scammed, sued, or harassed because someone with low integrity took advantage, or tried to, of them.
If you are someone that has achieved a high net worth then an “umbrella” liability policy is something you should seriously consider. It’s worth its own post, but these are very cheap and are generally recommended for people with a net worth over $1M.
Finally, I’m no prosperity gospel preacher at all! I believe the blessing of God is peace and provision, not excessive wealth and/or physical possessions. God has the ability to bless us in so many ways, financially is simply one of many ways.
And the more we’re given the more good we’re responsible for. What I truly believe is that He blesses obedience to His word and commandment to love another as He has loved us.
So, in your pursuit of FI as well as your achieving FI, remember those around you. You’ll always be better off having helped than saying, “thoughts and prayers” and repeatedly telling yourself you’re on this FI journey.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
Ways to Help
There are many ways to help someone who you suspect or know to be struggling with their finances without coming across as nosy, judgmental, or pretentious.
It’s more comfortable to be superficial and avoid deep topics but people actually appreciate openness and honesty.
Depending on your level of relationship with them, ask them how things are going regarding some financial topic that may have already come up.
Share something going on in your own life that has been a struggle or a learning point, maybe a financial mistake you made that you were able to turn into something positive
Offer to help in non-financial ways, such as helping with a home-improvement project, or watching kids while they work long hours, etc.
Straight up tell them that you would be honored if they would allow you to help them out and get on their feet in some financial way. Offer to pay the mortgage for a month or two, buy them a used car, etc.
The bottom line with helping is that you must offer something of value, and mere money may not be the value they need.
Sometimes it might be the money, but you are responsible for it and must also ensure you’re not pouring gasoline on a drug or gambling addiction, etc. That’s also why it’s great to help out in non-financial ways.
But, do always be ready to write that check, even if it’s not to the person but rather the bank their mortgage is with, etc.
I firmly believe that due diligence in proportion to the extent of your financial help is a MUST!
Regardless of your religious views, or lack of, I believe most people are on the same page when it comes to doing good and helping people out. If you’re religious, then this is something you’re called to. If you’re not, then this is something that you agree with and like seeing done.
I am quite confident of this too, when we all – regardless of religious views and motivations – see someone do a kind gesture for someone out of the goodness of their heart, we appreciate it and it makes us feel good.
On the contrary, no one likes the Ebeneezer Scrooges of this world. No one respects the people who are filthy rich and die having done little or nothing to make the world a better place.
Also, just like someone who works out voraciously is at risk of developing an eating disorder because of how they want/need to look, such intensely focused attention to our money can make us become the person we don’t want to be, qualities may appear in ourselves that we look down on when we see them displayed in other people.
Generosity helps break that. It teaches us to trust and to not let money be the one thing that guides us. I believe if we let love guide us we’ll all be better off.
Finally, ensure that on your journey to FI and once you’ve achieved it that you share out of the abundance and love that you have for your fellow neighbors. You won’t regret it!
Keep your investing simple, stupid, but your generosity even simpler – just do it!
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