How to Give Nearly 30% of Your Income

How to Give MoreIn 2011, Mitt and Ann Romney gave $4 million to charity.

That’s nearly 30% of their income – a huge feat, even for someone at a high income.

Not to mention, they paid another $2 million in taxes (i.e. forced charity).

Not surprisingly, the Romneys share their love of giving with their Mormon friends – Salt Lake is the only metro area in the U.S. to average giving close to 10%.

But, according to the same study, the Romneys differ from their wealthy friends and neighbors – people in Boston only give 2.9%, while people making $200,000 or more across the nation give about 4%.

I’ve never given much over 10%. Partly because I’m selfish, and partly because that’s the carrot stick that’s sort of been held out there for me as a Protestant. That’s what’s expected of me by my peers. I’m getting better at giving, but I sucked at it early in my life and career, even though my first job out of college made me wealthy in worldly standards. Jesus was impressed by a giver once. I have never given like her.

What would it take to give 30%? Well, making more money would certainly help. But that’s not necessarily a guarantee. Anecdotally, there are plenty of examples of high income earners who blow their money on things and stuff versus using it to help people. And the stats above even show that the wealthiest among us aren’t very giving on average.

There are also examples of people from meager means that give extraordinary amounts over their lifetime. Take for example…

Elinor Sauerwein, who gave $1,731,533.91 to the Salvation Army when she passed away. She lived a modest, far from rich lifestyle, but made sacrifices to be able to give such an amount.

So you see, it can be done. But how? What are the steps?

Well, there are two simple steps really it would seem (says Captain Obvious):

  • Live below your means to a level that makes giving 30% possible.
  • Actually give the money.

The steps don’t really need to happen in that order. In fact, some would say you need to give first, and then learn to live with the leftovers. I suspect this doesn’t happen with most though. Giving probably tends to happen when the opportunity arises, or when facing down a tax deadline.

If you’re not a natural giver and suck at giving like me, here are some ideas to help put you in front of more charitable giving opportunities and loosen your purse strings:

  1. Join a church. If you’re a faithful person, join an organization that’s trying to do good both locally and abroad with collective resources. You’ll be encouraged to give more by the routine nature of assemblies. Pass the offering plate around! Or, just sign up for automated tithing.
  2. Know your tax rules. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that knowing I’ll pay fewer taxes if I give more doesn’t encourage me to give. Glance at the simple rules regarding the charitable tax deduction, understand how much they’d help you save, and make plans to give more by Dec. 31.
  3. Seek out opportunities. Spend some time on looking at some of the best places to give your money.
  4. Give back. This is huge. Think about the people and organizations that supported you. Reach out to them to find ways to give back. Side note: I was recently contacted by my high school football team booster club about becoming a supporter. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and was kicking myself for not seeking out the opportunity sooner. It made me think of all the organizations that have supported me in the past and how I could help.
  5. Practice random giving. Don’t ask me how I know, but did you hear about Russell Brand’s recently seemingly random act of kindness with a homeless man? Making a practice of giving regularly, regardless of expected outcome, can give you the mindset and freedom to give more than ever.
  6. Give more than money. Giving of your time, stuff (like giving away your car), and knowledge can lead to you being a more natural monetary giver.

So what do you think makes us better givers? Do you think you could ever give 30% like the Romneys did in 2011?

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Last Edited: March 8, 2014 @ 11:04 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.