When charitable giving goes too far

When charitable giving goes too far

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


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 [email protected]