Often, when we hear about financially successful people, we hear about the wonderful things they do for others. Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) donated $100 million in 2010 to support education programs. He routinely gives huge sums of money to organizations (and starts organizations) to help others who aren’t as well off as he. George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, donated the entire $4 billion he earned from selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney. You don’t have to have a net worth of $35.6 billion dollars to be charitable or to embrace a giving heart—and that is the idea behind teaching our daughter to set aside a portion of earnings specifically for giving.
Anyone who has watched any children’s television—and the accompanying commercials—knows that giving is hardly a concept that the toy industry is hoping we’ll instill in our children. Our kids are inundated with commercials and ads for all kinds of toys, apps, and electronics. If I hear “I want [insert item here]!” once, I hear it fifty times a day—or more. We started trying to combat this with toy bartering in our house, and now that she’s earning money, we require her to set aside part of her earnings for giving.
She’s five, so we keep the giving simple. Her absolute favorite place to give is to the Salvation Army bell ringers. She knows they’re collecting money for kids and families who won’t have as good of a holiday as she will. She also likes giving to the zoo donation boxes and the library donation boxes. She understands her donations will bring better things about or help others who wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy them have a chance to do so. It doesn’t take long for the giving spirit to take hold either. Recently, she had a fundraiser at school—a fun run—and it was her job to collect donations, and all the proceeds would go to making the school a better place for everyone. She asked if she could sponsor herself with some of her giving money. She noticed that the Humane Association was collecting money when we were at Petsmart and asked if she could put in a dollar from her giving money to help the homeless animals. We don’t force her to give to one place or organization over another, but we do try to explain to her what her dollar will help do for each option.
Ultimately, it’s her money, and it’s her decision where to donate it and how to give it. In that vein, we try to teach her that it’s not ALWAYS about donating to a charity. A giving spirit doesn’t always mean giving to a named charity. Sometimes, it means doing something for someone out of kindness or gratitude. My heart really swells when she asks if she can use her spending money to donate or to buy a gift for a friend having a hard time—or to thank someone for being kind to her. The idea that it isn’t all about her is starting to grow in her little mind, and she routinely thinks about how she can use her money to help others. (Cue proud mama moment!)
The end goal with what we’re doing with our daughter is to help her grow into an adult that works hard, plays hard, and gives hard. We don’t want to her to worry about money, live paycheck to paycheck—or worse—live above her means. We want to instill good financial habits in her by starting early so she can live and give freely without worry. I wish that I had been taught this when I was younger—it would’ve saved me many years of struggling!