The world is filled with challenges that make life difficult for so many people. Climate challenges such as the fires in the west, or hurricanes along the gulf coast. Political challenges such as the turmoil in Afghanistan. Local challenges such as food insecurity, homelessness, and access to quality education. And so many more.

For those wanting to make a difference, you have to consider what you have at your disposal. For example, you can think of wealth as having six elements: money, time, talents, wisdom, network of relationships, and mind & body. So, when it comes to being charitable and giving back, which of these areas of wealth do you have that could make an impact? Does it make sense to try and work harder to earn more so you can donate more money, or should you instead donate something like your time?

Then, the question becomes deciding on how much to donate and figuring out where to focus your efforts to get the biggest bang for the investment of your time. What follows are some ideas to get you thinking about using your wealth (whether it’s money or time) to help others in whatever way makes the most sense for you and your situation. These ideas are a great starting point for you to begin thinking about how you can have an impact. Think of this as the first step, not the last step.

Earn More Money; Give More Money Away

Figure out how to earn more money using your marketable skills and talents (whether through a side hustle, working more hours in your current role, or moving up the corporate ladder), and give away all or some of the extra earnings. There is a good chance your effective hourly rate using your marketable skills is higher than the equivalent hourly rate for volunteering. For example, you might be a lawyer who can charge your clients $250 an hour. If you volunteer at the homeless shelter serving meals, the market equivalent of that job might be $15 an hour. Plus, if you enjoy what you do, the benefit is you can do something you love while helping others, and you can target your contributions on nonprofits that focus on your area of concern.

The cost is you may lose the personal touch. Many people find writing checks to charities not that satisfying. They miss the personal connection of helping others directly or being involved in discussions and decisions around how to best serve those in need. In our previous example, serving meals at the homeless shelter will often give you a chance to interact with those in need, learn more about their struggles, and really understand how your efforts are making a difference.

Volunteer Your Time

How much time should we spend volunteering? Should we donate an hour a week, five hours a week, or ten hours a week? The needs of the world are enormous, and our time is limited. What is the right balance?

Start with an assessment of your available time. How much sleep do you need to feel good the next day and not be chronically tired? How much time do you need for personal necessities such as eating, showering, and dressing? How much time do you need for personal time to exercise, meditate, journal, or just do something for yourself? How many hours a day, or a week, do you work? How much time, if any, is left? Don’t forget, there are only 168 hours in a week—no more and no less.

If you start answering these questions and realize that there doesn’t seem to be any extra time in your weekly schedule, where will the time come from? Said differently, what will you stop doing to give yourself time to start volunteering?

Career Change

For some of us, the idea of volunteering is just not enough. We want to make a meaningful difference, and we want to do it full time. This happens more often than we might realize. It is a person who leaves the high paying corporate job to take a job working as a teacher, or as an executive director of a local nonprofit. These individuals decide they would rather live on less, with less material comforts, in order to have a job that they feel is making a meaningful positive impact.

If you feel the pull to go in this direction, we encourage you to investigate the implications of this decision. How much will this impact your lifestyle? Maybe you have been living considerably below your means, and it won’t impact your lifestyle much at all. Maybe you will have to make significant cutbacks such as moving to a smaller home, pulling your kids out of private school, or changing the way you vacation or travel. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The goal is to make your decision with your eyes wide open.

We also encourage you to look at your Life Priorities. (If you haven’t done this exercise, your Wealth Enhancement Group financial advisor can assist you.) What are your top three priorities? How do they align with your desire to work for a nonprofit? If, for example, you chose priorities such as living simply, being part of a community, and choosing your own path, moving to a non-profit might be a good fit. If you chose priorities such as financial independence, having a comfortable life, or travel, you might ask yourself how this career change aligns with those priorities, and if your priorities changed.

Many of us look at the world around us and want to make a difference. Figuring out how much time to allocate to helping others, and the best way to spend that time, is not an easy question. Once you know how much time, and whether you are looking to volunteer or work full time, the next question is where and how do you invest the time. Our Behavioral Wealth Specialists can help you create a framework to consider these complex questions and find solutions that work with your unique situation, talents, and passions.

David Geller

David Geller

Director, Behavioral Wealth Management

CFP® David joined Wealth Enhancement Group through the partnership with JOYN Advisors, where he acted as CEO and Co-Founder. He is the creator of the Behavioral Wealth Management™ model. A model that focuses on aligning wealth management with the integration of human emotions while taking into consideration an individual’s talents, wisdom, network and relationships. David has been featured in a number of prominent outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The...Read More