How to Give Money (and Get Happiness) More Easily


If you have more money than you need, you should start giving some of it away.  That’s the lesson I learned about a year ago, when I took a gamble and donated $100,000 to a variety of charities, centered around the Effective Altruism movement.

More on Effective Altruism: The Life You Can Save website, and my earlier article on the subject.

At the time, I had no experience with giving to anyone other than immediate family and friends, so I didn’t know how I would feel about it. But over the course of this past year, I have had many late nights to reflect on life and what it means to live one that feels worthwhile. There have been successes and failures, mostly happy times but also plenty of sadness shared with my siblings as our Dad made his departure.

During all this questioning of life, I kept thinking back to the times I’ve been less selfish and less fearful, and more willing to help other people. These were the things that reassured me that my life was indeed a good one, and that I wasn’t squandering the opportunity too badly so far. In short, being a good person was by far the most reliable source of happiness.

So. If hard work and generosity are what bring meaning to life, it makes sense to keep at it, even when it seems difficult. With this in mind, I vowed to make another round of donations of equal or greater size this year.

The Tricky Side of Philanthropy

While most people would assume that giving away money is easier than making it, when surveying wealthy people I have found the opposite is often true. After all, once you build a prosperous business or career, the income becomes almost automatic. You indulge in your natural and joyful tendency to work hard every day, and the money keeps flowing in, often faster with each passing year. There are no decisions to be made, and you know every dollar of net income is going somewhere worthwhile: to you.

But to give money away, you have to overcome a whole new set of challenges:

  • Overcome your fear of having less money.
    After all, more is always better – you can always benefit from more security, right? (this is actually wrong, but it can be hard to recognize)
  • Figure out who is most deserving of your money.
    It took so much time to earn the money and overcome the fear of giving – the last thing you want is to see it go to waste.
  • Figure out how to get that money to the worthwhile recipient.
    You have to find their webpage, mail a check so the credit card company doesn’t steal 3% of your donation, and ask politely that they don’t put you on their mailing list and hound you for the rest of your life.
  • Sort out the tax consequences. In most cases, you can deduct charitable donations on the “itemized” part of your tax return, but until you hit the itemizing threshold of around $10,000 you might not get any benefit. On the other hand, certain charitable expenses are deductible directly from your business income, if you run a business.
  • “Too confusing already. Forget it, I’ll just keep my money.”
    And thus, you end up in the same trap that keeps many people from being generous.

Since I had already pushed through the pain last year, I knew I could handle it and repeat the same thing this year. Just write the same checks and mail them to the same places. Job done.

But then I noticed a few shortcuts that make things even easier:

  1. Betterment Investing just added a spectacular no-cost automatic donation feature. Using their existing tax-optimized system, they allow you to donate your most appreciated shares directly to any of their many connected charities. This gives you the maximum tax deduction right now, while reducing your taxes further when you later withdraw from your account later in life.
  2. Paypal has a similar feature: even from within the minimalist phone app, you can click a “donate” icon and transfer out surplus bits of your balance directly to a large selection of good charities. Paypal does its part by not taking any fee for these donations, no matter how large. You can use up existing paypal balances, or have them draw through your connected checking account  – I found this was a very smooth and easy way to try your hand at giving.

MMM Headquarters Becomes an Automatic Philanthropy Machine

MMM Headquarters shows off its holiday style, just last night.

I noticed that PayPal feature because I happen to have a constant, growing surplus in my account these days, as a result of starting the MMM-HQ Coworking space right here in downtown Longmont.

The money side of this situation is pretty interesting:

  • We bought the property (which now hosts two businesses) for $225,000, which means my half cost me only $112,500.
  • Then I spent about $30,000 in materials and subcontractors to whip it into shape. (Plus about 700 hours of my own labor, which I happily donated)
  • We now have about 60 paying members at $50 per month each, for a total of $3000 per month or $36,000 per year.
  • But the coworking space is still kind of quiet during the days, so we can sign up a few more people and bring this annual number to $50,000.
  • Property taxes ($4k), Utilities and Beer ($1600), and ongoing upgrades ($10,000) only consume 30% of this budget, leaving a huge surplus, as long as I keep running it myself and don’t draw any salary.
  • Many people and companies have started donating supplies to us, in an unprompted show of generosity. Authors send us books, Nimbus Roasters keeps our coffee stocked, Bunch Bikes sent a fancy electric cargo bike, Aerobis sent some cool strength training equipment all the way from Germany, Flatiron Spice Company brought in red and green chili spices, Lefthand gave us a discount on beer kegs, members are donating useful equipment like 3-D printers and weight training equipment from their homes, and the list goes on.So I figured, in the spirit of all this sharing, why don’t we make this building a philanthropy machine? Its ongoing profits can be donated to charities – both local and international – on a regular basis. Along with doing a lot of good, this will probably give all of us members a stronger sense of belonging.

What if I’m Not Ready to Give?

I’m writing this post to encourage people who have plenty, to consider giving it to help people (and parts of our natural environment) truly in need. If I can prompt you, wealthy person, to decide that giving to the world’s most effective charities, is even better than getting a slightly better car or leaving your children an extra-large estate, then this post might be the most effective one on this whole website.

But I do not want to make anyone feel guilty for not giving away money, when they don’t yet have a surplus. If you’re working hard and saving effectively for financial independence, abundance will come. If you’re not there yet, don’t stress out about it. There is no “tithing” in the imaginary religion of Mustachianism.

Details on Easy Giving

Some of the staff of Givewell in San Francisco office perform the “Mustachian Salute”

As part of writing this article, I made part of my $100,000 donation via Betterment’s new system. I have three accounts with the company (my public Betterment Experiment, a rolled-over IRA, plus a personal taxable account with the largest balance of the three). All three accounts have seen rapid appreciation due to the current boiling-hot stock market,  so there are lots of capital gains available to harvest.

Donating appreciated shares expands the power of your giving compared to just giving cash, which is quite a neat trick. This quick table from Betterment’s new Charitable Giving Explainer page lays it out very simply:

In this example, your donation nets about 19% more tax savings than a direct cash donation.

So I tried the same thing in real life. The largest of my donations this year ($70,000) was to GiveWell, through the Betterment system.  As I fired it up, Betterment automatically estimated my tax savings in real time:

This $70,000 donation will cut my 2017 tax bill by $22,841.. AND reduce my eventual capital gains taxes by $4188. This is the true power of donating appreciated shares.

As with last year’s donation, this biggest chunk went to charities based on the Effective Altruism philosophy. What this means in practice is, “Create the best results for humans possible, on a worldwide basis, with each dollar.”

I believe this is both the most humane and the most logical way to donate money, because of the following course of events which has been proven again and again:

Improve developing world health and education
-> these people have better lives immediately
-> but also the more empowered people also choose to have smaller families
-> world population growth slows and eventually reverses -> everybody wins.

So in this round of donations, here is where the money went. You can click each charity name to get to their own website for easier research.

Charity Amount Funding Source
Givewell $70,000.00 Betterment
World Wildlife Fund $10,000.00 Betterment
Doctors without Borders $10,000.00 PayPal (MMM-HQ)
Amazon Conservation Association $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Natural Resource Defense Council $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Bicycle Colorado $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Total $105,000.00


Note on giving through GiveWell: I followed up with a note to donations@givewell.org directing that they use the contribution for “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”.  This is a necessary step as it’s not yet shown in the Betterment interface.

Note on Donating Appreciated Shares: you don’t need a Betterment account to do this, it just makes it easier. Several other financial institutions make this possible, and Vanguard has a nifty “Donor Advised Fund” feature.

And don’t forget the possibility Donor Advised Fund: you can set aside a larger amount right now (while the tax rules remain favorable to charitable deductions) and give it away over time. See more details at Vanguard and the Physician on Fire’s article about this great strategy.

Got Questions?

Since this is an unusually important topic, I will try to invest extra time into answering questions in the comments section. And if you’re an expert on any of these subjects – philanthropy, investing, tax policy, the developing world, medicine, or the environment, please feel free to do the same.

Thanks, world, for another prosperous year and here’s to the next one!

  • Fritz December 4, 2017, 1:34 pm

    Pete, congrats on the success of MMM-HQ Co-Worker space, SO wish I were close enough to utilize it!!

    There’s no doubt in my mind that it is, indeed, better to be “Give” than to “Receive”. I’m evaluating Vanguard’s DAF, and love the idea of moving into a phase in my life where I can watch the gifts I’m able to make having an impact on the lives of those who need it most. Thanks for the inspiration, and the example for us all!!

    • Cubert December 15, 2017, 11:57 am

      Just made a $600 donation to GiveWell. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Pete!

      Hey Fritz – If you’re ever in Minneapolis, you can utilize my basement office. Not as “Hollywood” as Mr. Fancy Pants’s in Longmont, but I do have wireless internet services and fine berber carpeting.

  • Lily He-Prudhomme December 4, 2017, 1:42 pm

    I always feel like my donations are not enough. I’m one person and I have no idea what they’re doing with it etc. We give an annual $450 dollars every December to our dog’s rescue. She’s an important love in our live. We adopted her for $450 2 years ago (even though her care and surgery costs probably were in the thousands for the rescue). We made a habit of giving the same amount every year as a symbol of gratitude. Hubby says: “it’s like every year we get a Grace again!” Hehe.

    “and ask politely that they don’t put you on their mailing list and hound you for the rest of your life.”

    Bawahaha right on. My in laws donated ONCE to the alumni program and they have been hounding them for years. No call blocking because they change numbers to bypass it. Then they found OUR address SEVERAL times and started dialing us for money. This was UC Berkeley by the way. Not some small college in need of money. I truly doubt we could ever. Ever. Donate to higher education. They’re wasting their time.

    • Kelsey Logan December 4, 2017, 1:58 pm

      As someone who works in the NPO field, please know that every little bit helps. The world is made better by donors like you!

    • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance December 4, 2017, 3:25 pm

      Yikes! Sorry to hear about the incessant requests from the calling centre. I once worked as a caller at my grad school, I know how persistent they can be.

      There is a bonus for whoever can solicit the most donations, so everyone tries to get that piece of the pie.

      I know it’s annoying. But the money is supposed to go to financial aid and other educational purposes, so I guess it’s not too bad. I used to get those calls all the time. I just asked them to remove me from the list.

      Mr. FAF and I have given family money. We have also made a. couple of donations here and there, but it’s not in the thousands or anything. One day.

      • Nacho December 4, 2017, 6:48 pm

        Unknown 510 numbers go straight to voicemail. Ha.
        I’ve probably gotten 30 calls at least from them.

    • Nacho December 4, 2017, 6:47 pm

      UC Berkeley is the worst!!! I graduated from there six years ago and never donated, but they call their alumni relentlessly.

    • Mary December 5, 2017, 12:00 pm

      I can top that. I get weekly calls asking me to donate as an aluma of UC Berkeley.


      • Lily He-Prudhomme December 11, 2017, 11:09 pm

        I just showed my husband these replies and we’re having a barrel of laughs. So glad we’re not the only ones constantly on UCB’s hit list!!

    • Melissa Rohlfs March 30, 2021, 12:51 pm

      @lily he prudhomme, hey I raise money for a community college. So, technically “higher ed,” but not Ivy Leagues. All colleges/unis ask for money. You know the last thing they want to do is keep wasting time and resources asking for funds from people who have no intention of ever giving. If it’s more than a nuisance to you, it might be worth about 5-10 min of your time to look up the UC Berkeley Foundation, send an e-mail or call and ask them to add you to their “DO NOT CALL” list. They will. OR you can always open up one of those letters, write it in big letters across the letter, stick it back in the return envelope, and send it back to them. They’ll get the message.

  • PoF December 4, 2017, 1:44 pm

    I’m glad to hear of your latest and largest round of philanthropy. Bravo!

    I finished funding my donor advised fund(s) to my retirement goal of 10% of our nest egg, and have started giving more generously from it. 2017 is an excellent year to give generously; tax changes may make it more difficult for many middle-class and even upper-middle class families to have enough deductions to actually itemize them if the standard deduction is doubled.

    I also worry about an elimination of the estate tax and its effect on generous giving from the big fish. Financial Samurai has previously stated he would donate any money in excess of the estate tax exemption and encouraged others to do so, but that incentive may disappear, as well.

    I’m happy to answer any questions on DAFs. I’ve opened three, still use two (Vanguard and Fidelity) and recommend Fidelity or Schwab due to their lower minimums to open and much smaller minimum grants.


    • Fritz December 4, 2017, 2:00 pm

      Hey Doc, I owe my interest to Vanguard’s DAF to you. Thanks for your generosity, and for paving the way.

    • Becca December 4, 2017, 3:04 pm

      I am also worried that this new tax plan would eliminate the tax benefits for charitable giving for most Americans. Since this year is the last year we’re certain that itemizing expenses still makes sense, I’m thinking I’m going to quickly open a Vanguard donor advised fund and take the tax advantage while there still is one. Then I can give money out from it each subsequent year with pre tax money, regardless of how the tax law changes. I’m hoping that lots of other people do this, to help offset the ensuing drop in donations to charities as the tax break goes away. I was hoping this article would specifically address this, as it’s very timely.

      • JB December 5, 2017, 9:48 am

        That is the third rail of taxes. They won’t eliminate charity, but can limit the phase out or the amount given in a year.

      • Fritz December 5, 2017, 12:28 pm

        Becca, that’s exactly my thinking. I opened my DAF with Vanguard this morning. Simple process -took less than 10 minutes. I suspect they’re seeing a rush to DAF’s prior to 12/31 due the tax law action. The other benefit for me: I’m FIRE’ing next June, so this is my last year pulling in the full salary. I’m in a high tax bracket, so getting the deductions front loaded is a big boost.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks December 4, 2017, 1:45 pm

    Well done. Glad to see the MMM hq is humming along, and the profits are being put to good use. Just leaves me wondering, whats the next grand project?


  • Steve D Poling December 4, 2017, 1:47 pm

    Strangely enough I was walking just now and the thought occurred that I wished those exhorting me to give money didn’t make their living receiving money. (You see I go to a growing church that is in a building program. And I have friends who are missionaries. This has exposed me to a lot of pleas for money for good causes. And it is year-end and everyone in the charity business is shaking the money tree right now. So your post wasn’t what I had in mind.)

    • non profit employee, Canada January 4, 2018, 7:22 am

      As someone who works in the field and has worked closely with other orgs in the sector…it’s an ongoing frustration of ours too, trust me. It is a LOT of work to generate the kind of money it takes to run really effective programming. Confounding factors:

      * Regular, stable funding would eliminate a huge amount of the need for solicitation. New charities will still always pop up and ask for money for whatever rare situation isn’t covered, but it’s still very ridiculous to me that thousands of individual donors must be sought out to pay for what I would consider basic social services (i.e. basic medical care, food banks, legal representation or advice). I know that overall the sentiment (especially in the US) is that government is an inefficient way of providing services, but no more so than all of the time that goes into trying to get those funds otherwise. I had an intern from Sweden one time and she was SHOCKED at all of the things the “social profit” sector is responsible for in Canada/US. Sweden doesn’t have a strong culture of volunteerism/philanthropy/being harassed by charities because they don’t need to. They have a strong social value that they expect the government to provide these services to look after each other, and that “other people” are worthy of care (we have a culture of believing that you have to be really destitute and have a great story to be worthy of care, and that most people receiving charitable services are parasites).

      * “Overhead” being frowned upon by donors is also a huge challenge for us. Overhead includes things like: paying a competent person to do actual proper financial oversight instead of making an unpaid intern look after our books. It means having an administrative person on staff to write the reports that are required to go back to our various funders to show that we did what we said we would with the money, rather than the actual program staff who are supposed to be saving the earth/children/homeless having to tack this on to their job. Not only does this free the program person up, the reports will probably be better since someone with that skill is doing it. It means that we can have someone on staff to help increase the organizations capacity by supervising volunteers. As a Volunteer Coordinator (i.e. “Overhead”), it amazes me that people say “Why not just have volunteers do that?” as if adding an extra 10-20 staff will just be a free thing. It is exactly like hiring employees – you still have recruitment, screening, onboarding, performance management, dealing with all kinds of interpersonal conflict, retention/appreciation and termination to deal with. I have 250 volunteers that I need to do this for, which adds a lot of value to my org, but can you imagine a manager in the for-profit world supervising 250 employees for low pay, with no administrative support and…you can’t use money as an incentive to keep people? The amount of emotional labour/intelligence involved in “paying” people in gratitude is huge.

      This is getting long. The last thing I will say – if anyone feels like they have ideas on how things could be done more efficiently in non-profit work, consider joining the board of directors for a local charity. It is volunteer work, and the sector is plagued by terrible strategic management because it is a lot of work and you get no financial pay off, so a lot of people don’t put in the work that’s needed. You can volunteer to walk the dogs at the shelter if you want, but if you want to actually make a difference, join the board and help them write their budget, hire their Executive Director, etc.

  • Keenan December 4, 2017, 1:55 pm

    Hi MMM!

    Thanks for sharing links to the places you donate. I’m still in college but absolutely love the idea of using my future financial power to effect positive change in the world. As of now, I’m leaning towards being more selfish and donating to my community so that I can see and feel the impact. I am considering donating to a variety of local causes and wondered if you had considered donating to organizations that improve the safety/cleanliness of the locality or sponsoring community oriented events?


  • Kelsey Logan December 4, 2017, 1:57 pm

    My husband and I decided that next year, instead of giving up Airbnb as we won’t need the extra money, we are combining it with our charitable giving. The last two years we have made nearly $6k which is about 6% of our annual salary. I know that the average amount that people give each year is 1.5% of their salary, I can feel good about quadrupling the number even if it’s not much in the grand scheme of things.

  • Shravan December 4, 2017, 2:17 pm

    Great job MMM and kudos to you for doing what you are doing.

    Quick question – How did you research about Givewell? My biggest issue with charity is only 0.2-0.3 of every dollar you give actually goes to the ‘real’ cause. How do the numbers for Givewell look or for that matter betterment’s?

    I know that should not be the reason for not giving, but that really makes me think a lot and sometimes just not trust.

    If you have done any research on this, it would really help a lot of readers as I am sure there are more like me here who have trust issues. :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 4, 2017, 3:10 pm

      Hi Shavran – I started a few years back by reading “The Life You Can Save”, which led me to reading the website by the same name, learning about the Gates Foundation and GiveWell.

      The charities recommended here are generally well over 90% efficient, especially the GiveWell top choice (Against Malaria). If you ever find a charity that is way down at 0.2-0.3, it seems fairly unlikely to be a bad choice.

      Also check out Charitynavigator.org for a bit of information about charity analysis. That side casts a wide net and does quicker analysis, while GiveWell does a super-deep dive into just a few charities before recommending them.

      • Mr. FWP December 4, 2017, 4:21 pm

        Now, I am curious what metrics they use. 90+% financially efficient? What about efficiency in meeting underlying emotional needs? Physical needs? Needs for thing like proper stewardship. (Which this community – and MMM – understands.) Often, throwing more resources at a problem can actually make it worse. (We all know this intuitively: you don’t hand an alcoholic a $100 and tell him he’s better off. And it’s not because you don’t love him. It’s because he has problems that aren’t able to be addressed quite as simply – by money or material goods.)

        I don’t mean this critically – I am genuinely curious how it can be reduced to a one-dimensional metric. Or, at least, what that one dimension measures. I would imagine that any effective charity (that deals with people – land conservation is different) would need to be measured in several ways.

        Moving money around is easy. Truly helping people – overcoming problems of the human heart, selfishness, inculcating growth, and the like – is often much more challenging.

        • johnny ro December 4, 2017, 7:02 pm

          It is only one metric. While it can be gamed by the charity reporting its own ratio, it is useful.

          A good charity spends 90 cents of each dollar they receive on its program, meaning, spend to help people. The rest of the dollar is overhead and marketing/fundraising.

          A bad charity spends almost nothing on the program, and instead consumes all with overhead and fundraising. And salaries of family members of the CEO.

          A narrow view but an important one.

          A second financial view to asses a charity is to look at the personal compensation of the CEO of the charity.

          $1 million a year = does not feel like non-profit work. A CEO of a large charity is presumably able to make $1 million in a corporate setting.

          $200k, for a large charity, that is non-profit work.

          • Matthias December 5, 2017, 4:37 am

            Why is receiving more money for a CEO of a charity a bad thing while it seems to be OK for any other kind of enterprise? I think NGOs have to be lead in a good way as well. And if they can make more money (and subsequently help more people, causes etc.) by employing the “best” then I am willing to accept a higher salary. After all, those employees also want to have a share of a good life besides being humanitarian (this refers rather to the lower level employees obviously).

            • Mr. Money Mustache December 5, 2017, 9:40 am

              CEO salaries is one area where my views are kind of wild as well. Feel free to laugh at the excessive idealism of my thought process:

              – by the time you reach typical big-company CEO age (45 and above), you should have already figured out money, and thus be financially independent. If you don’t, you probably suck at money – should you really be running a company?

              – if you already have millions of dollars but still want to keep earning millions of dollars per year, you may be somewhat weak or greedy – again, should you really be running a company?

              – the ultimate CEO is someone who is very talented, skilled, patient, and generous, and so passionate about the work and the company that they would do the work for free. Also, for a company to be worth running, it should really be creating good in the world rather than just exploiting a niche that happens to generate money. The “would I do this for FREE?” test really helps filter those situations out.

              These are pretty unusual claims and the more hardcore capitalists would disagree. But I argue that if Mustachian philosophy and the Position of Strength spreads further, these thoughts would become self-evident.


            • scott December 5, 2017, 3:13 pm

              uhhh wow. Those really resonate with me. If only thats how corporations worked.

            • Eden December 5, 2017, 9:25 pm

              I LOVE your CEO philosophy.

              While I’m at it, I would like to thank you for putting this website together and writing these posts. We were Mustachians before we ever knew the term. However, you did accelerate out FI and we hit it this past May 8th:)
              Thanks again and I look forward to see what else your brain is working on.

            • kruidigmeisje December 6, 2017, 4:02 am

              The CEO of the Health Ensurer I am with (dsw.nl), lives this way: he donates his salary to the company & good causes. He likes his work, and doesnt need the money.
              He is not well liked in politic circles of the insurers world in our country: he says his mind, which focuses on the client (the insured person who should get care whenever necessary) even when politics sways towards financial profit or political safety.
              His insurance company performs well, always the first to announce premiums (which are low) and has never drawn negative comments from the regulators. So, as a mustachian I can happily reside there, but I guess it is a rare case.

            • Eric the Bicyclist December 6, 2017, 3:29 pm

              Evidence suggests that higher salaries for CEOs return worse results. On the contrary, I’m unaware of any solid evidence suggesting that higher CEO salary is good for a company (If anyone has any, please share!). Here is my source (Forbes):


            • lurker December 10, 2017, 4:45 pm

              brilliant. period

            • Margin of Saving December 15, 2017, 8:20 pm

              The CEO of a corporation is supposed to generate shareholder value. The thinking is that you give him/her a ton of stock options, then they’ll generate that value. Of course, those options come at the expense of shareholders, but nobody cares if everybody gets rich.

              The CEO of a charity is also supposed to generate shareholder value, but shareholders are the recipients of the charity. Of course, the more money the CEO makes, the less the recipients get. Since there isn’t any stock that can go up in value, it’s less of a win/win situation and more of a zero-sum game.

              That’s why I think it’s important for CEOs of charities to be conscious of how much salary they take.

            • Anne December 18, 2017, 7:10 pm

              I really love this position, MMM, and I hope you can develop this into a Big Serious Rant. Or a bestselling book on appropriate leadership. There have got to be loads of real-world examples where your point is sharp and lethal. Keep it coming!

            • Laura December 6, 2017, 2:10 pm

              Thanks Matthias for making this point. I am a nonprofit staff member and find the “overhead myth” as it’s often called among nonprofit employees very troubling and ultimately flawed. It sounds as though many of the commenters on this blog are responding to the multimillion dollar salaries that are often reported for national-level organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. There are viral emails that get passed around every year around the holidays warning people not to donate to these organizations because of numbers pulled years ago on their CEOs’ salaries.

              I am not here to argue on behalf of those organizations, because I believe that when you get to the point of earning a seven-figure salary it’s another argument altogether. Where this “overhead” argument becomes problematic is when you look at the vast majority of nonprofits and their employees’ salaries, which are those of small to medium size organizations working at the state and local levels. Most of these organizations in my city have CEOs making no more than $125,000 a year, which is generous but still modest compared to CEOs in other industries. These organizations are still subject to the judgement of others using the “overhead” equation, but the truth is that their finances are not even comparable to national organizations with hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in the bank. It’s simply apples and oranges.

              It is difficult to explain how change happens through nonprofits to those who do not work for them. You have to remember that these are people, working day in and day out for the community with often fewer resources than other sectors and more expectations. How we can boil this down to a simple “90% efficient” judgement seems very narrow minded to me and lacks sophisticated understanding of social change. I would recommend the blog Nonprofit AF to anyone seeking an insider’s perspective on running a nonprofit organization well.

            • AnAlaskanGuy December 6, 2017, 3:30 pm

              I’d like to add my voice to Matthias & Laura here.

              I watched this TED talk a few years ago, and it really made a lot of sense to me about some of the misleading ways we think about non-profits: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong/transcript

              The really big idea that came across to me is percentages, overhead, etc. tend to miss the bigger picture, which is scale of operation.

              Imagine you have a non-profit with a $1 million operating budget and “90% effectiveness” – theoretically $900,000 is going directly to the cause.

              Now consider a non-profit with a $500 million operating budget and, say, 50% effectiveness. So, 50% of their money is going towards “overhead” – marketing, fundraising, staffing, etc. but $250 million is going directly to the cause.

              If you just compare each company’s overhead percentage, you might conclude that the first company is a more effective company to support, even though the second company has more than 250 times the capacity of the first.

            • PaulB December 11, 2017, 8:54 am

              The Salvation Army has very low salaries for all employees including senior executives. In my experience having served on the board of a secular organization helping the poorest in our metropolitan area, SA consistently does more with less resources and less tooting their own horn than any other large organization we dealt with.

            • MLH December 19, 2017, 6:50 am

              Laura, thanks for mentioning the Overhead Myth. I also am a nonprofit staff member. I think this becomes troublesome too even when comparing organization of similar size. Compare a 2 million dollar organization that spends 10% on overhead and serves 3000 people to a 2 million dollar organization that spends 25% on overhead but effectively serves 4500 people because, in part, they have better systems (IT, accounting, etc), more happy, healthy and better compensated employees, better overall work environment, etc. In this scenario, the second organization is ‘doing more with less’ actually.

              Many of the same things that make for-profits effective — including the ability to invest in infrastructure, both physical and social, that doesn’t directly touch the product or service — are what make not-for-profits effective. Regardless of the aim (mission, profit, etc) or source of funding, we’re all just people in organizations trying to reach a goal effectively and efficiently.

              I don’t think the overhead question is completely useless, but I d0 think it is often used improperly. There are a LOT of other and better ways to measure the effectiveness of not-for-profits.

          • Axel Hoogland December 17, 2017, 6:48 pm

            Analysis of how a charity uses money is a nuanced process and should be looked at from many angles. Here’s one perspective. Maybe CEO’s of charities aren’t overpaid.
            Look on YouTube for “The way we think about charity is dead wrong | Dan Pallotta” A TED Talk

  • Accidental Fire December 4, 2017, 2:21 pm

    Huge congrats on the world headquarters and the momentum it’s building up. Sounds to me like you’re at the “big-bang” stage of maybe building a large charity/philanthropy organization. One with cargo bikes and beer – very cool!

    • mike December 4, 2017, 6:12 pm

      How about a non for profit bike charging and bike use station? Win win for all who partake.

  • Mustard Seed Money December 4, 2017, 2:33 pm

    I think it’s really interesting that the only thing that people don’t get tired of is giving. The more people consume the less happy that they become over time. I find it interesting that while we think that consuming will make us happiest, in reality giving is what really makes us happy. I definitely look for opportunities to give through my Church and threw random acts of kindness, paying for people’s meals. I always get a thrill doing these things but can’t even imagine on the scale that you can do :)

  • Ms99to1percent December 4, 2017, 2:41 pm

    You def know how to give gifts that keep on giving. Keep it up!

    Just like you, a lot of our giving goes towards education. Education can change a lot of the issues you mentioned such as poverty, overpopulation,…

  • Stop Ironing Shirts December 4, 2017, 2:53 pm

    Pete – Congrats on another successful year and doing great things with your money. It’s great to see entrepreneurs want to leave this earth a better place!

    I am personally using a Fidelity Charitable Donor Advised Fund. I agree with getting over the fear of “I will have less money”. It’s real!

    Congrats again.

  • Steveark December 4, 2017, 3:03 pm

    I’ve always given 10% of my gross pay to non profits from my earliest career days. I think giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away helped me put money in the right place in my heart, as something of only moderate importance. Ironically some of my early retirement side gigs keep me on the opposite of the issue in litigation from some of your charities. But that’s a long story, good on you for giving back!

  • MrWow December 4, 2017, 3:24 pm

    This is really interesting and something we really hope to engage in in the future. Excited to see where it goes.

  • Rafe Husain December 4, 2017, 3:27 pm

    This guy (Rick Steves from PBS) used 4 million to create a homeless women and children shelter. I love the idea

    • Taylor December 11, 2017, 2:44 pm

      Thanks for sharing this link – that is awesome! I love that he did that. What a great way to have a direct, lasting impact in a person’s life. Sounds like he made it more than a shelter; it’s a place for women and their children to call home.

  • Kris December 4, 2017, 3:45 pm

    If I were nearby the co-working space sounds awesome! Slight diversion – do you have a local tool lending library? If not, you might want to consider adding that function to your space, esp. as lots of people have tools they aren’t using 99.9% of the time, which others could benefit from borrowing rather than having to buy. Thus (to tie it back in to the subject!) leaving more money for them to donate to worthy causes. =)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 4, 2017, 3:56 pm

      Yes! The coworking space does have a growing collection of tools, bikes, and other stuff available for members to borrow.

  • Kristine December 4, 2017, 3:59 pm

    I love that you donate so much each year! It’s an amazing opportunity to give back to the world.

  • Jason December 4, 2017, 4:12 pm

    It must feel amazing to give back on such a grand scale. Today my donation’s are not nearly as impressive. I plan to donate large sums myself…some day. I appreciate that your not face-punching those of us on the path to FI for not making our own $100K donation right now.

    • Anne December 4, 2017, 7:51 pm

      That’s cool what you are doing, but I have two comments.
      1) I too have a donor-advised fund, at Fidelity. One nice thing about it is you can TOTALLY send gifts ANONYMOUSLY. That way the organization does not know to bother you with more requests!
      2) Great that you are so generous, but I think that might discourage people from setting up smaller accounts. I started my Fidelity Charitable Gift fund in 2000 after the death of my mother, and gave about $10,000; a little less than a tenth of what I inherited. I have made periodic contributions (including one appreciated-stock contribution) during good years since. I tend to disburse the money fairly quickly and have a balance of around $3700 in the account today. I planned to donate $4000 in January as I itemize in alternate years (and still will I guess but with no tax benefit, sigh); donating now wouldn’t help as I need to pay two sets of property taxes to exceed the threshold and paid last year in December. Over the years I’ve disbursed $35,065.00 in mostly small grants, so in spite of my being nowhere in your league hopefully I’ve helped some people and things over time. You don’t have to start — or continue — with such big amounts. And if you made that clear, maybe people wouldn’t feel they had to wait to do this.

  • Mr. FWP December 4, 2017, 4:16 pm

    Completely agree, MMM, and am glad to see you post about this! This is my favorite post of yours in a long time. I recently encouraged other bloggers to do exactly what you’re doing – encourage others to give back. (I ended up writing a whole post on how and why we give – and encourage others to do the same.)

    From personal experience, we treat our giving like investments: we are investing in an organization (financially) and research it accordingly. People can be selfish, charities can be wasteful (or ineffective), and so we use resources at our disposal to examine our giving targets much as we would our investments – and treat it as more of a partnership.

    We love our investments, too. They’re doing more good in the world than anything we are doing with our own normal money (like paying our bills – necessary, but boring): helping people overcome addictions, past abuse, chronic problems, and the like. We look back – especially in hard times – and are encouraged by how we were able to play a small part in helping others’ lives.

    We have also learned another lesson through giving: we (westerners) like to think that the world just needs more of our money. You (MMM) combat this directly with this blog, but not everyone is a reader – so our culture remains materialistic.

    Yet people have problems in a variety of areas: physical, emotional, spiritual, and so on. So it’s important for us to choose places that recognize – and value – that variety. Otherwise, westerners can throw money at a problem thinking it will help . . . when in reality, it may make aspects of the problem worse – hurting all involved. (If you ever have time, see my post re: giving re: how this works for us.)

    Personally, we look back and enjoy what we gave away the most. Those dollars change lives and encourage us to become a part of valiant ministries that are helping others directly. The world could be so much better if we would all take the time to invest in giving.

  • Doug December 4, 2017, 4:23 pm

    Just glancing through the post on “How to Give Money”. Did I miss the part about donating from an IRA to reduce part of the RMD that would count as income to someone 70 1/2 or older?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 4, 2017, 5:04 pm

      No, you didn’t miss it because I didn’t write anything about that part. In fact, I had never heard of that rule – very interesting and worthy of further research.

      • BigMig December 5, 2017, 5:45 am

        You can use up to $100,000 of RMD per year in transfer directly to individual 501c3 charities. Cannot go to a DAF. It helps in that in reduces your overall adjusted gross income (AGI) which feeds through other parts of your tax return – affects deductions, exemptions, etc.

      • Susan Forsythe December 5, 2017, 5:25 pm

        These are called QCDs (Qualified Charitable Distributions). I set mine up through Schwab with a minimum of fuss and bother.

    • Anne December 4, 2017, 7:53 pm

      Great point and is already in my plans for when I reach that age. Mr. Money Mustache probably didn’t think of it cuz he isn’t old enough to be close, like me! :-)

  • Elmar December 4, 2017, 4:41 pm

    Pete, thanks for the mention. Cool to see your coworking space flourish! In 2016 we got rid of all xmas discounts and instead donate a portion of each sale to a children in need organisation each year. Customers get the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good while paying the standard price.

  • Tass December 4, 2017, 4:42 pm

    I wonder if you could talk a little about how you chose your three environmental charities? I have recently stopped giving to such a charity that I believe has become untrustworthy, and I’m looking for a new one.

    In my research, I found Cool Earth through the network of Effective Altruism – Giving What We Can called it “the most cost-effective charity we have identified to date which works on mitigating climate change through direct action, and also the overall most cost-effective climate change charity which can reliably reduce emissions without risk” – but the fact that it isn’t rated by charitynavigator has given me pause.

    (Incidentally, I’m also looking for a reliable charity that combats human trafficking; considering the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, but not sold. If anyone has any thoughts/recommendations on that I’m interested to hear.)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 4, 2017, 5:01 pm

      Hey Tass – so far I’m still reading up on environmental options. I’ve followed the Natural Resource Defense Council for years, and learned a bit about Amazon Conservation in the process. So now, I will have to check out this Cool Earth option as well. If it comes with the EA’s approval, that’s a very good starting point.

      I’m also working on some real-life stuff when it comes to the energy side of climate change, since that is something I actually know about (unlike medicine and diseases). Promoting electric cars over gas, installing solar energy systems (eventually some large ones, hopefully) and then the big one: starting a utopian car-free city. These all take some money to get going.

      • Tass December 4, 2017, 5:51 pm

        I’d love to hear back if you gain any new insight!

        I reread your previous charitable giving article and realized I have also been letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, in terms of waffling over where to donate and donating nothing in the meantime. Thanks for the kickstart; I’ll be turning that around this month.

        • Tass December 5, 2017, 3:05 pm

          Here’s the Giving What We Can source, by the way; they evaluate Cool Earth, as well as a charity called Solar Aid “which sells pico-solar lights in rural Africa,” and another called Sandbag which purchases CO2 credits in the EU. Super grateful for the analysis the EA movement has produced!


          • lurker December 10, 2017, 4:40 pm

            Permaculture anyone? Growing some food around your house is environmentally brilliant IMHO. I thought Canadians liked to garden? they are so freaking amazing at everything else……
            cheers and happy holidays!

      • JF Morissette December 4, 2017, 7:21 pm

        Thanks for the really interesting article.

        One environmental option I like is to give to conservation charities, like you did for the Amazon. I give here in Canada to Natura Conservancy of Canada, which aims to protect our biodiversity, at different scale, mainly where there is a lot of pressure from the developed area. But what I plan to do next is to buy me a piece of land and restore it, rewild it, and eventually give it to a conservation charity. I will have fun rewilding it and see the nature comes back while at the same time doing a good thing. I know that I could just give money to charity but part of the fun is to enjoy the process also.

        While I’m at it, I highly recommend you to read Feral by George Montbiot. It is about this whole idea of rewilding our planet, and our heart at the same time.

        • Kevin December 5, 2017, 11:35 pm

          that is truly an awesome goal. it’s in my long term plans too, if ever i accumulate the money. i already sort of tried doing this at my parents place before i moved out. in 20 years the backyard (which is in a typical sprawly suburb of Canada) will literally be a forest, and i will be pretty happy.

          • veronica December 9, 2017, 2:13 pm

            I’ve been doing this in my backyard here in Toronto for the last 20 years too! It takes only a few small changes. Much to the horror of my neighbours, I don’t rake up the leaves or cut down the flowering plants until spring. And I ‘haven’t gotten around to’ chopping down the rotting apricot tree. Two weeks ago a flock of finches descended on and stripped clean the brown-eyed susan seeds. And this morning it looked like birdfest in my backyard – a pair of woodpeckers, a pair of bluejays, a posse of robins (aren’t they supposed to be gone south by this point?), a gang of starliings – all poking under the leaves, or pecking at the bark of the tree or having a drink from the pond. It takes very little to make a yard welcoming for nature. Future post idea MMM?

      • AlisonVG December 5, 2017, 4:45 pm

        Rather than STARTING a utopian car-free city, why not work towards shifting your current city to better embody these goals? That seems like a more efficient use of resources and existing buildings/infrastructure. Building a whole new city from scratch would take a ton of resources – undeveloped land, infrastructure, building materials, etc. That does not seem like a plus for the environment to me. plus, by working in an existing community, there is the added bonus of educating and bringing along thousands of non-mustacians. Sure, it’s alot more work… but what else are you going to do with the next ~40 years?

        • Mr. Money Mustache December 6, 2017, 11:00 am

          I’ve thought about that too – and in fact many of us here in Longmont are working to do exactly that.

          However, the US population is going to expand massively in the next 40 years, no matter what we do. This means we need loads of housing.

          Do we want this to happen in slightly improved versions of our insanely stupid and inefficient current urban planning model, by tacking a little bit onto the side of every city?

          Or do we want the FIRST EVER non-bullshit city in the US, to create a revolutionary example that others can then follow?

          I argue the second path would be far more efficient. As an analogy, should Elon Musk have taken a junior engineering position at General Motors back in 2005 and started pushing for electric cars, or was he wiser to start Tesla, prove that electric cars are the best thing ever, which has now FORCED every other carmaker in the world to promise to completely give up gasoline engines in the near future.

          I’m no Elon Musk, but doing the initial math on the project shows that it would be pretty darned feasible. The secret sauce is the access (through you the Mustachians), to a large number of people who would actually be willing to move to such a place once we got it started.

          • Carl December 11, 2017, 6:27 pm

            Wow. I don’t know why this comment isn’t getting more attention. You may not be Elon Musk (and do you want to be?), but creating a new type of city from scratch is definitely taking a page from his book.

            It would be really interesting to hear how far you have taken this idea. Is this something that has come across your mind a couple times, or do you have location picked, plans drawn up, and the Moustachian horde should pack their bags? Aside from the usual suspects like greatly reducing car-clowning and waste, what are some of the key features you envision? Would you be happy with Copenhagen levels of cycling and badassity, which would be unheard of by American standards, or do you think that is aiming too low?

            • Matt December 12, 2017, 11:27 am

              Copenhagen is definitely aiming too low. While it’s a great city in its own ways, I think the plan should be to create a kind of city that has never been seen before. To create a city from the ground up to maximize the badassity and happiness of all the people within.

              Imagine: no cars (maybe a ring road around the city, but definitely no cars inside); copious cheap bike rental kiosks (for the few people who don’t already own bikes); separate bike/pedestrian infrastructure so people can zoom around the city at 20mph without endangering anyone; small, energy-efficient housing; tons of planned and impromptu gathering spaces for people (cafes, bars, squares, intersections).

              Jeez, cities these days are so inefficient and poorly-designed, the list could go on forever. And everything I’ve mentioned so far is simple infrastructure. The social element of a city organized in an intelligent way would be life-changing.

              Sign me up for the beta.

          • John N December 23, 2017, 1:44 pm

            MMM, check out “How to Unlock the Real Opportunities Within Circular Cities” (Assuming you’ve heard of the circular economy [recycling++])


            Also recommend Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth.

          • Johan February 8, 2018, 10:32 am

            Hey MMM,

            This sounds badass. Do keep us updated over the coming years on it :-)
            What do you think of Panasonic’s City Now project? They have one operating in Fujisawa and have a contract to bring some of the same concepts to Denver, CO.


      • cjm December 6, 2017, 11:56 am

        When you get this utopian car free city going please write a post about it so I know where exactly I should settle down when I reach FI! I sometimes think about where I would like to retire and though I haven’t researched ideal cities much I assume there aren’t too many choices out there that are ideal for car free living and other mustachian lifestyle choices, especially in Canada and the US. Other than Longmont of course, do you have any suggestions?

      • Boden January 1, 2018, 5:56 pm


        Another environmental charity to consider is the American Chestnut Foundation. If you are unfamiliar with the ACF, they aim to breed an American chestnut tree resistant to a deadly blight that killed billions of trees in the early 20th century. Successful reintroduction of this high-quality, fast-growing species to the eastern United States would have a massive impact- an increase in wildlife population, reclamation of environmentally barren strip mine sites, and sequestration of millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
        You can read about the chestnut here:

    • Kristine December 5, 2017, 12:11 am

      Oh, man. Finding a reliable/efficient environmental charity is so difficult! I have been a fan of the Rainforest Fund (Norwegian based) for years, but always wonder if it is the most efficient use of money.

      I also keep coming back to the Climate and Environment Funds (wanting to cast a vote with my dollar and all that), but they are all actively managed funds, making them significantly more expensive than index funds. Still, the environment is sort of important.

      • Bembenesaur December 7, 2017, 11:29 am


        I understand your struggle with investing in green funds when you want to manage the cost of your investments!

        I’ve come to an imperfect solution, for the time being. I’ve decided that I’m willing to tolerate an average expense ratio of up to 0.25%. So the bulk of my money goes into traditional index funds (expense ratios of approximately 0.05-.20) and a portion goes to an actively managed green mutual fund (1.25% expense ratio, on the low side for this fund category. But if other readers are aware of something better please fill me in!). I use Personal Capital to track the average expense ratio of my accounts. I buy more of the green fund when the expense ratio is lower than 0.25%. Otherwise, I stick to low-cost index funds.

      • Jessie January 2, 2018, 12:25 pm

        Hey Kristine,

        I would check out Betterment – they’ve noticed a similar problem and put together a hodge-podge “Socially Responsible” portfolio. It’s not perfect by any means and considers other issues besides the environment, but the fees are lower and Betterment is actively pushing the finance industry to offer more green/socially conscious funds at lower prices and participation in that portfolio is part of that.

  • Jeff December 4, 2017, 4:51 pm

    I so much appreciate your example of generosity and encouragement of others to consider this as a priority. I certainly agree that we may need to temporarily put our monetary gifts on hold if we are climbing out of debt, but I strongly believe that we do not need to wait until we obtain a certain amount of wealth in order to start the habitude of giving. The reason for this is because I believe I need to give as much as the recipient(s) need the gift!

    • Laronda December 5, 2017, 12:16 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree on not waiting to achieve a certain amount of wealth before giving to others. I understand the impulse, but it completely removes many of us from any responsibility of caring for our fellow human beings. And quite honestly, that magical point of “enough” keeps moving for many and the time to start giving is repeatedly delayed, all while people remain hungry, homeless and hurting. Can my family give $100,000 a year now? No, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give what we are able to. I work with low-income families in my community, and I’ve seen firsthand how much of a difference $20 can make, especially if 50 people each contribute $20. I’ve never regretted giving, and it’s always helped our family keep a healthy perspective on what we really have, which is a heck of a lot more than we sometimes think.

      • Concojones December 9, 2017, 8:18 am

        RE: giving before reaching FI: I wholeheartedly agree with starting the giving HABIT, mindset, before reaching financial independence. A dollar a week is already a start.

        RE: charity CEO salaries: more than 40-50k a year (i.e. a typical salary/lifestyle) does not seem ethical IMO, even if your market rate is 200k. The lesser salary is a way of giving (your time) to your charity. If you’re not ready to do that, chances are, there are more deserving people for that position.

  • Loonie Doctor December 4, 2017, 5:22 pm

    It is great to see consistently how the personal finance blogosphere has many people promoting giving as a part of financial planning. Our family tends to give locally to causes we are involved in. We usually do it anonymously as a challenge that we will match other money raised up to 5-10K. This has been great to both motivate others to give more since our matching effectively doubles their impact and our kids have thought it a supercool family secret.

  • Karen December 4, 2017, 5:59 pm

    We give money through Charles Schwab’s Charitable Fund. If you hold your investments in a Schwab account you can just move either cash or equities directly from your investment account to the Charitable fund. If you transfer equities you can offset some gains, because they will be part of your donation. A certain portion of the fund HAS to be contributed to charities every year, but the rest can stay in investments if you want to spread your contributions out for some reason. Contributing is easy because most major non-profits are in a database, and Schwab sends a letter with each donation. Also, as a rule we try to contribute locally as much as possible, partly because I live in poor rust belt city, and partly because we KNOW where our money is going if it’s going to the local food bank. I hope this was helpful!

    • PoF December 4, 2017, 6:49 pm

      Does Schwab make every individual fund donate from the DAF every year? Or is a percentage of Schwab’s overall DAF required to be donated?

      I think I’ve read in the Vanguard and / or Fidelity Charitable paperwork that 5% or so has to be doled out from the entire pool, but not from each account.

      I think it’s good to give both to and from a DAF, but with the DAFs I use, I don’t believe it’s mandated.

  • Jeremy December 4, 2017, 6:23 pm

    Happy to see you donating to Bicycle Colorado. :) I wonder how difficult it would be for smaller bike organizations to be on the receiving end of something like Givewell? We need more philanthropists like you in Maryland, i’m hoping to find a sponsor for the Salisbury Bike Party as we keep building a bike culture in our small City and encourage more people to ride bikes.

  • Stephen December 4, 2017, 6:34 pm

    I donate 10% of my income to fidelity charitables. I’ve never considered donating anything other than cash. I just send over 10% to them each pay check – they invest it in a fund I picked, and I can then send it to any 503c I wish whenever I want via their grant system. Would I somehow get more tax advantage by donating shares of stock instead? I never even considered this before reading this blog.

    • PoF December 4, 2017, 6:46 pm

      Yes. Donate the stocks / funds you own with the largest percentage of gains. The capital gains disappear. You don’t pay them; the charity doesn’t pay them, and you deduct the current value of the donated equities.

      If tax reform passes, you may not be able to specify specific lots when selling or donating, so 2017 might be the best time to effectively increase your cost basis in your taxable account by donating your winners.


    • scott December 4, 2017, 6:49 pm

      Yes. Donate appreciated shares. You won’t be taxed on the appreciation in value, but the 503c will receive the full FMV of the shares and you can potentially take a tax deduction for the full FMV as well.

  • ZJ Thorne December 4, 2017, 6:39 pm

    I love when you post like this and encourage us to use what we’ve built up to make the world better. Knowing that you have more than enough and using your platform in this way is really inspiring. I’m glad you exist.

  • JoeHx December 4, 2017, 7:00 pm

    One thing that stopped me from donating for awhile is the fear that they’ll mismanage my money… After I thought about, I figured it was more of a concern of me having control than that they’ll mismanage my (well, their) money. They probably will mismanage money – it seems mismanaging money is a part of life. I found that the Google One Today (https://onetoday.google.com/) app was an easy way to donate a little money here and there, and I could read a little of the charities before I donated.

  • Kanwal Sarai December 4, 2017, 7:04 pm

    Hi MMM,

    This may sound weird for some people, but I’ve found that the more I give the more I get. The universe has a strange way of working this way, some call it karma. My ultimate goal with my business is to earn enough to help as many people as I can. Your story is inspiring, and motivating, keep up the good work!

    BTW the MMM-HQ looks awesome!

  • Anonymous December 4, 2017, 7:11 pm

    I find it important to compensate those who work around us, especially those working low wage jobs When you eat out, tip generously. Tip your Uber driver. Give your house cleaner a generous bonus. Pay your employees a healthy Christmas bonus.

    Giving to charity is difficult. Giving to those around us who work hard and are under compensated is remarkably easy.

  • Apple_Tango December 4, 2017, 7:36 pm

    I think the “giving” muscle is just as important to work on developing as the “saving” muscle. Both are hard to do if you haven’t worked them out in a while. And it is important that even if you don’t have the extra cash, you can donate your time, advice, or items that you don’t need anymore. I think people should give regardless of income or amount. Even $10 can help someone out! I love this post! Happy Holidays!!!

  • Jamie December 4, 2017, 8:48 pm

    I’m still in the accumulation phrase, but did donate $500 last year. And then $1000 this year. To NRDC/ACLU/Planned Parenthood/local active transportation organizations/a medical facility in the area which among other things is quite excellent at supporting the local LGBT population.

    And now with the recent Senate passage of the tax bill (but this isn’t a political blog, so I won’t dwell on it). So there will be additional increases in 2017 giving and more in 2018, and directly to election campaigns. The numbers will of course continue to pale compared to MMM and others here, but I’m surprised at the amounts I’m considering and would certainly not have expected such a month ago.

  • Jeannie December 4, 2017, 8:53 pm

    Perfect post for the season! Anyone knows how to DAF in Canada?
    For my fellow Canucks, Money Sense has a list charities rated on their efficiency. I’m sick of the hounding from some charities though. I’ve been a donor with Plan’s Because I’m a Girl Program since College, I’ve decided not to contribute more than my monthly contribution and donate to other causes/more efficient charities. I have had several calls and in person contacts in the past months trying to basically shame me into donating more, and I have a problem with this kind of practice. Seriously, trying to bully people into donating more?!

    • Allison December 6, 2017, 3:26 pm

      In Canada you get preferential tax treatment on donations of certain types of capital property to any registered charity (same idea: no capital gains tax, full donation tax credit).

      Canada Helps has a really slick interface (they do charge a 2-3% fee though), but it is sweet. You choose all the charities you want to donate to, indicate number of shares/units, and they generate a letter of authorization for you to sign and send to your advisor. Canada Helps will also withhold your information from the charity if that is important to you (e.g., no calls!! no letters!! no pens in the mail!!)

  • Mrs. Kiwi December 4, 2017, 9:11 pm

    I went to a lecture this evening from the former EPA administrator, and her argument to stop climate change was to work towards ending poverty both domestically and abroad. Once people’s basic needs are met it’s easier to foster sustainable development.

    Thanks for shedding light on giving money again! We donate money every year to our local community garden and food bank system. They support the large refugee population in our community and provide urbanites access to gardening space. They also built up a joint CSA that growers can contribute to, learn small business/marketing skills, and earn a small profit.

    • Mrs. Kiwi December 4, 2017, 9:54 pm

      And now I realize I forgot to talk about my international development experience. I definitely like the Doctors Without Borders approach, and they do good work. Bridges to Prosperity (Denver based) is a cool civil engineering nonprofit that builds footbridges for remote communities worldwide. Finally, a Denver based (but internationally focused) water, sanitation, hygiene nonprofit that does good work is Water for People.

  • Matt December 4, 2017, 10:15 pm

    What are your thoughts on the Warren Buffet approach to charity? Namely, keep letting your money grow and grow until you’re really old and then figure out how to give it all away. Theoretically this should give you the most money to donate and thus the greatest good to society.

    • Ben December 5, 2017, 5:27 am

      I think this makes a weird assumption about how return on investment works. If I have 100k in an ETF for 20 years, there should be some return on investment, but what would the return on investment be if that money was put to use, for example, stopping Malaria right now?

      • Matt December 7, 2017, 6:17 pm

        Most charity doesn’t solve problems like that though. They mostly provide temporary relief from problems rather than fixing the root cause. There are exceptions of course, but I don’t think they’re very representative of most charity or non-profit efforts.

        • Ben December 8, 2017, 8:40 am

          Since this is the internet and you can’t actually punch me in the face I’m going to say something that sounds kind of mean and is probably not true :)

          Are you looking for a reason to hold on to your money or are you looking for how to make the greatest impact on society?

          • Matt December 9, 2017, 2:34 pm

            I think charitable donations should be taken very seriously. I think too often they’re treated as just another mindless purchase, but one to make you feel good about yourself instead of actually addressing a problem. I always get annoyed when people donate a small amount of money to somebody just because they were asked. I think we should think very hard about what exactly our donations accomplish and what is the optimal cause to give to.

            Personally, unless I have a huge amount to give I’d be very reluctant to hand somebody a check. I’d rather research what the organization needs and then go buy them that. Like buy food and give it to a food cupboard or buy tents and give them to the boy scouts or buy a new piece of lab equipment and give it to a university. As a general rule I never donate when asked but make an annual charitable donation like I described, but I worry that this is suboptimal and I should just wait until I have more to give.

  • Birju December 4, 2017, 10:17 pm

    Beautiful direction, few thoughts on EA, which I am quite familiar with (was on call with Peter Singer last weekend)-
    1-if you’re interested in one of the highest leverage points in EA world, factory farming, i’m happy to share as it drives much of my work given a similar EA lens
    2-you might appreciate learning about a network of donors who all follow EA approach, staring with Open Philanthropy
    3-you might be interested to learn about EA from investment standpoint also as there are plenty of stock/bond opportunities that are EA aligned also

    wishing you a wonderful week ahead and always in gratitude for what you offer to the world!

  • sciliz December 4, 2017, 10:37 pm

    You mentioned you wouldn’t mind some insight into some of the medical charities. I have some familiarity with a few:

    *Nothing But Nets does good work; they used to “nudge” via a specific request for small donations (e.g. $10 = one bed net). That was great for people like me who don’t feel they have a lot of surplus but do feel the need to give. I also like Donor’s Choose and Kiva, because they are so hands-on. Because you know exactly what you’re donating to, a lot of the “will this be effective” worry dissipates (of course, I am not an expert on either education funding or microloans, so I probably do make errors if the aim were to optimize dollars. It’s good for happiness though).

    *I am familiar with the types of research funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s Foundation, Michael J Fox Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Heart Association, Gate’s foundation (malaria), and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They all do some great work. Some foundations have different focuses- if you want one that provides care and support to patients (Parkinson’s Foundation is great), or if you want one that funds grad students (and thus gets high bang/buck- e.g. American Heart Association), you have to look into those details. But if you aren’t particular about those details, if there is a common disease that you care about, there is probably a foundation for it.

    I will say my personal view is that these dollars are likely to be less efficient than say, eradicating worms (e.g. the Guinea Worm Eradication Program at the Carter Foundation). That said, if you view a “portfolio” of “investment” gifts, consider medical research as your “small value tilt”. It’s optional, but you could get bigger gains (if you can tolerate a bigger “risk” of a “dead end”*).

    *Note: none of the research I’m personally familiar with is actually a “dead end” in the academic sense- it’s given out via peer review processes to deserving, hardworking, and academically productive researchers. But lots of projects produce papers and no patents, that’s the nature of the system.

    Great post!

  • Caroline December 5, 2017, 4:32 am

    Since you may have the time and money, have you considered setting up your own charitable organization?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 5, 2017, 9:43 am

      To a certain extent, you’re looking at it right now!

      My version of a charitable organization is just somewhere that I work as hard as I can while living a good life, team up with other people where appropriate, generate surplus money, and try various things with it.

      Right now, I don’t have anything useful to channel other people’s money into, so there are no donations required. But in some future projects, there may be a need. It’s good to keep things simple as long as possible.

      • Jess 4D Frugal December 5, 2017, 7:31 pm

        I love that you are using the blog surplus for good. Just the blog content is helpful for us readers. But actually giving back to the community gets your name further out there, potentially converting more mega-spenders into mustache-growing, earth-saving BAs, further expanding this ‘cult’ we all know and love.

  • Tara December 5, 2017, 5:39 am

    Happy to see your success turn into philanthropy! But also remind people that if they can not give money, giving their time is just as important. If you have a skill of use to a non profit, it can be just as needed. Our non-profit receives a lot of gifts for our overseas ministries and we needed an established acknowledgement letter for tax purposes to follow IRS laws. A lawyer donated his time to draft and approve a letter and now we’re set in that regard. Other things such as IT support, organizing offices, helping with end of year solicitations, etc. are great “back of house” ways to volunteer if you don’t feel you are a good volunteer to work directly with clients on the social service side.

    Just think what you’re good at and there’s probably a way you can use that skill at a charity. :)

  • EarlyRetirementGuy December 5, 2017, 5:59 am

    My partner and I are still very much in the accumulation phase of wealth as we are a long way off paying the mortgage and may be welcoming children to the world soon.

    Instead of donating money we donate our time to local causes. We volunteer at local charity events and are members of the local charity board so can help influence and see exactly where those raised funds go. I also represent my local community in local government which takes up alot of time but is extremely rewarding.

    When we are older and with suitable funds I’d like to donate by leaving an investment fund with conditions that it remains invested and any growth above inflation can be withdrawn and spent. I like the idea of leaving something which can continue supporting a charity for decades to come.

  • Mr. Freaky Frugal December 5, 2017, 6:01 am

    I’ve been FIREd for over 5 years, but I’ve only given little bits of time and money to Charities. I keep thinking that I want to keep a nice inheritance for my two adult sons, so I’m reluctant to give more.

    • Slim December 5, 2017, 7:32 am

      You could always skip concerns of how taxes will be affected and start donating time to local charitable efforts.

    • John N December 5, 2017, 12:12 pm

      Check out: Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan

  • Cassandra December 5, 2017, 7:16 am

    Wow, this is such a fantastic idea! MMM HQ sounds like an awesome place! Having a place where people can come together and share ideas, tools, things, etc and help one another seems like it’s bringing back the “village” and sense of community that our grandparents grew up on. I so wish there was a place like this in my town! Maybe one day.

  • James December 5, 2017, 8:06 am

    You’re a good dude, MMM. Respect on spreading the love.

  • Jamie V December 5, 2017, 9:04 am

    When I grow up, I want to be a philanthropist. It’s so good, and it makes me so happy, to see how you are giving back. I thoroughly enjoy reading these articles. Lots of times I feel like I’m never going to get there, but then I read your post, and I figure, well, at least someone out there is able to do something, instead of no one doing anything. :) THANK YOU!

  • Chris December 5, 2017, 10:04 am

    “being a good person was by far the most reliable source of happiness”

    I think this needs to become your header.

    Great post. Thanks for the constant inspiration.

  • Marie Mainil December 5, 2017, 12:03 pm

    Hello. Thank you for this great post. As someone who works in wildlife conservation and has seen the work of wildlife protection organizations of all shapes and forms, I am curious to know what made you decide to give to WWF. If you are into successful marketing for a cause, I get it, but if you are into impact on the ground, not sure I understand your choice. Feel free to get in touch for further discussion on the topic. Cheers, Marie

  • Andy December 5, 2017, 12:05 pm

    This makes me happy to see. Glad you’re putting those excess funds to good use and I love that you’re involving the HQ in the effort. Keep it up, Mustache!

  • Stephen December 5, 2017, 12:09 pm

    Some of the best advice I received during my college years was to start giving then. So I started giving $10 a month to a local charity that I respected. He said most wait until they have money they don’t need, but there is always some demand.
    Paying a bill, saving for college, saving for a house, retirement…..
    Start small, and it is just part of your spending.
    In fact one of the harder things in FIRE, is my income is less, and I have had to cut back on our giving. In some case to agencies we have supported for decades.
    As we age, we will be able to increase again. But for now we have to be cautious.
    thanks for your insight.

  • Mr. Fired & Free December 5, 2017, 12:52 pm

    Great read Mr. MMM.

    As a Betterment user, I had no idea about this feature. I’m guessing they probably sent out an email update at one point, but I can’t recall. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    Regarding the MMM HQ, please do keep us posted on the lessons learned and best practices that you come across in operating the space. I am very interested in doing something like what you have done in my community here in Maryland. In my experience, you are filling a gap that is needed in cities (both large and small) nationwide. When I was starting my business, I found the SBA and local Economic Business Development groups sorely lacking (both knowledge and infrastructure). What is so great about your space is that it is obtainable to the boot-strapping entrepreneur versus having to get my funds jacked by an operation like WeWork ($220 a month). Keep on, keepin on.


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