Wired To Give—How To Make The Most Of Your Innate Generosity

I’m not trying to convince you to give more—or to give at all, for that matter. I don’t have to, for at least two reasons:

1. We’re wired to give.

Neurologically, psychologically, socially, culturally, spiritually, evolutionarily (is that a word?)—everywhere we look, the evidence suggests that generosity is one of the hallmarks of humanity. Even if you’d not label yourself as a particularly charitable or philanthropic person—and most would not—it’s in your DNA.

You can get a quick primer on this in the new (short) podcast episode, Giving is the Path to Abundance, an audio excerpt from behavioral finance expert Dr. Daniel Crosby’s forthcoming book, The Soul of Wealth. He even suggests that those who give more also get more. And in essence, that’s an important point: Our giving isn’t always altruistic. We’re wired to give because it feels good. Call it generous hedonism. And then Crosby, Adam Grant, and others point out that those who give more tend to open themselves to receive more.

As a wise friend once told me, “If you cling tightly to what you have with a white-knuckle grip, you’ll probably hold onto it; but when you open your hands freely, you’re not only more open to giving, but you’re in a better posture to receive.”

But this wiring isn’t the only reason I don’t need to convince you to give.

2. You’re already a giver.

You’re likely more charitable than you even knew. Do you have any life insurance? It won’t do you any good, personally, but it sure is helpful to anyone who depends on you financially. Do you have beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts? Do you have a will? Have you done any education planning for your children or grandchildren? Are you a business owner who’s crafted a business succession plan? You generous devil, you!

Even if you’ve somehow managed to avoid these common constructs, are you paying taxes? Then you’re already a giver. Sorry.

In fact, you may recall this not-entirely-comprehensive view of the Elements of wealth management through the four-fold lens of our sources of motivation: Grow, Protect, Give, and Live (in no particular order).

Your eyes are likely going straight to the Give quadrant, right? And indeed, that shows how much of financial planning is dedicated to predominantly generous ends, but what if we also considered the additional Elements that may be nested in a different quadrant that references their primary purpose—but that also have generous implications? Here are all the elements that have some degree of generosity baked into them:

What’s the point?

We’re all givers, so let’s do it better. Let’s enjoy it more.

Let’s consider ways (always with the help of a qualified CPA) that we may divert some of the giving we’re compelled to funnel to our local, state, and federal governments to the causes and people that are most important to us.

And let’s maximize all the neurological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual benefits of giving—and put ourselves in an even better position to succeed and thrive, personally and financially.

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