Thanks to Ride Free Fearless Money and to Reed for helping me to not shrink away from conversations about money and my responsibility in its orbit.
So I grew up with some money. I think my parents did a pretty good job of navigating it – we were spoiled with things like good health care, good mattresses, healthy food, and comfortable shoes. I didn’t have a lot in the way of clothing or toys or other “frivolous” things, but we did have our basic needs well met. They helped with my school until I got a scholarship that paid for the bulk of it. At both times I worked part time to cover the rest. I graduated without debt. When I was in an abusive relationship, they covered my costs leading up to and after I left him. I am privileged.
I also have had the luxury of being principled about what jobs I do (and don’t) take. I’ve asked for (and gotten) loans from my parents (as well as gifts from an aunt) in the long stints between jobs at places I could work at in good conscious. I’ve since paid them back for the support, but I want to acknowledge the impact their support had on my career path.
And so now I can take jobs that I enjoy and feel are net positive impact and which pay well. To get here without the level of support I’ve had takes a bigger badass than me.
Now that I make dirty tech money (that, while less dirty than most, is still a part of the narrative of over valuing some skills and under valuing others) I’ve found this stupid thing to be absolutely true: having money makes it easier to get more money. In fact, people tend to just give you more money once you’ve gotten to a certain point.
It’s broken and I hate it.
Back in 2015 when I got my first steady-income job making a bit more than I needed to live off of, I started thinking about how to responsibly invest that money. In addition to that starting point, I also give to nonprofits and GoFundMes and Patreons. But there’s this thing that is still really awful to me, and it’s this: I am now wealthier than some of my dearest friends and some of my family, and to have a microcosm of society’s larger ills so close to our faces fucking sucks. I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to just give people money (also one of the most effective humanitarian interventions!) in addition to the organizations I support.
Can I just give people money?
Enter the Protestant Work Ethic, AKA “the American Dream.” What it says in brief is that your moral goodness is evident in how well you do in the world. EG, you don’t have to wait for your rewards in heaven, you get signals that you’ll go to heaven based on how successful you are while alive. It’s some bollocks and it’s what I think of as a core illness in American Society.
So I can’t just give people money because it’s indicative that they didn’t earn it and therefore to have it is an evil (even tho money is just being given to me without being based in merit or need). While to me at this point it’s just another resource I’d really rather share, I can’t because of Protestantism. Or maybe they have other reasons of their own.
I’m pretty new to all this, so I expect to be immature in my approach, and I’m eager for feedback in the comments.
After consulting many great humans I respect, here’s where I think we’re at:
If they’re noticeably younger than you
It seems to be ok to give them money without a lot of explanation. Can just be marked with “for a rainy day” without further explanation. This may also come under the expectation of middle- and upper-class environments based on “if money goes from your parents to you, you’re middle- to upper-class. If it flows from kids to parents, you’re lower class.”
If they already have an endeavor
A Patreon, an artistic practice, etc: commission something from them. Pay them as good or better than market rate so they also value their work more and can point at the sale in future negotiations to uplift their entire business. If you’re already supporting their monthly Patreon (or whatever), increase your amount.
This is also a great chance to give gifts. If someone is into a new hobby or embarking on a new adventure, giving gifts to get them set up well can launch them and not feel invasive.
If they have a specific goal in mind
Offer an interest-free loan you’re potentially willing to forget about. If not willing to forget about it, work on clear, flexible ways to do the repayment.
Another great point for gifts.
If it’s not any of these and you’re still set on it
Include a note about how wealth disparity in general sucks, how a windfall was just come into (inheritance, signing bonus, etc), and that you’d like to redistribute it. Make it clear there are no strings and what they chose to do with it is up to them. Don’t be offended or mention it if they don’t cash a check.
Any of these might change your relationship with each other.
Money is a point of deeply personal stress and pain for many folk. It is not easy to talk about, to need, to offer. And you know your friends and family better than I will, so your mileage may vary. I anticipate that if you’re kind and loving and up to make mistakes you’re willing to own up to and you’ll be fine.
Do you have other thoughts or ways you approach this (or would be comfortable with it being done)?
Stick ’em in the comments!
Wish me luck as I embark on enacting these even more in life.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot too. I had a friend who has always been poor, and had to pay child support for two of his kids, but he is a very devoted dad. The ways he allowed me to help were to loan him small amounts of money when he would otherwise have taken overdraft fees, and to loan him the money to fix his car so he could continue visiting/retrieving his kids every weekend from across the state. I hate the thought of people I care about suffering or ending up in greater debt over an amount of money that is almost trivial to me. I’ve thought about setting up a monthly “grant” kind of like the Awesome Foundation where I would give away some amount (I was thinking $500/1000). It could be used for funding artistry or emergency needs. I’m just not sure if the people in my life would take me up on it.
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