When charitable giving goes too far

Does our 16-year-old donate too much to charity?

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From the January 2015 issue of the magazine.

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charity_donateQ: Our 16-year-old son works part-time and always donates 25% to 50% of his $300 paycheque to charity. To encourage him to donate less, we agreed to a 4:1 match. But last year we had to increase our charitable donations by thousands just to keep up with him. This is a “nice” problem to have, but should we be concerned?

A: Parenting your “Gandhi-junior” must have its challenges, but I don’t think you need to be concerned. Your son is learning the value of hard work, so as long as it is legal, I wouldn’t worry what he spends his money on. I admire the good intention behind the matching program, but I would pause it and have a talk about the big picture. What causes does he feel most passionate about? And how could he contribute to those causes in an even more significant way? Instead of $150 here and there he could save his money and travel with “Me to We” to build a school in Africa—making a difference and getting incredible experience. He could save for a university degree in international development, or buy a used car to allow him to deliver for “Meals on Wheels.” He can contribute three things to charity: money, time and expertise. Perhaps a little less of the first could be offset by more of the other two, increasing his impact on the causes he cares so much about.

Bruce Sellery is a frequent guest on financial television shows and author of Moolala. Do you have your own personal finance question? Write to us at ask@moneysense.ca

4 comments on “When charitable giving goes too far

  1. He might not see it as 50% of his income, but buying 15 families mosquito net. It is unlikely he would keep up the percentage when he get his full time job in the future. I would suggest setting up automatic transfer to RRSP when he turns 18, so he pays himself first.


    • Why wait until 18 years old to start his RRSP? Do it now! (Then TFSA when he’s 18).

      “Charity begins at home”, as they say.


    • Don’t need to be 18 to have an RSP!


  2. Charitable organization don’t need help they need cash. It sounds like you have a wonderfully caring and empathetic child. That’s worth far more than the money he is donating. At a minimum, donate it in your name so you get the tax refund though. Over $200 you get 45% back.

    “charity starts at home”. You should be ashamed of yourself. This kid sounds like a wonderful human being and you want to turn him into a cash hoarding commoner. This child does not sound common and that should be celebrated.


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