Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#GivingWeek 2015: GMGH Annual Charity Donation

This week is #GivingWeek. #GivingWeek is organized by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, but shoutout to TurtleInvestor for informing me about this so I can incorporate it into my post.

#GivingWeek aims to encourage people to engage in 3 activities: Volunteering, Donating or Fundraising. Personally, I will be donating money. If you have any reservations about making a donation, perhaps knowing that there is a special SG50 300% tax deduction this year on your donations might help push you over the fence and be the encouragement you need to take action.

Similar to what I did last year, I plan to donate all my blog advertisement earnings to charity, as well as match it one-for-one and top up to round up the final donation amount.

The amount of AdSense earnings that I have this year is: $323.40
Add my personal donation of matching it one-for-one is: $646.80
Rounding the amount up to the nearest $10 for easy contribution is: $650

Not having my own domain and hosting is a real money saver too, so that is maybe about a hundred dollars a year that I'm saving using the free blogging service by Google.

Last year I made my donation through the SGGives portal and I eventually donated to 16 IPCs that were eligible for an additional one-for-one matching by ComChest.

This year, I think #GivingWeek will be trying to push their own website portal to make donations which seems very similar to the SGGives portal. I will still be looking for those charities that qualify for the ComChest matching to double my impact. I have not identified the charities that I am planning to give to yet because there are so many, but I should be making my donation before Christmas this year.

Please look forward to the follow-up post in the coming weeks! The next part of my post is about how I reconcile my support for capitalism and meritocracy with charity.


Having money isn't a crime to the society

One of the few ires about being an Asian financial blogger is swimming against the tide of taboo that is embedded in our culture, which is that money shouldn't be talked about openly. However, since financial bloggers implicitly do so, apparently it is suddenly okay for observers to tell us what we should do or should not do with our money.

There is a certain notion that people who like to talk about finance are capitalist pigs with no hearts. All we apparently think about is how we can amass more fortune by allegedly screwing over other people. Apparently, we are also ungrateful for the society that we live in that have enabled us to be financially successful. Those who are successful and on the top could have only got there by stepping on other people along the way. Since we are so focused on becoming millionaires, we need to pinch and save ever penny that we can get our hands on and we don't have any human decency to spare a thought for the less fortunate or those in need.

Sure, you can think that, but I don't believe so. That seems to be more like the logic of a sour person who is frustrated with their own lives instead, especially if they keep on making comparisons to others. Everything is everybody else's fault and they are just perfect. Pfft. They are just projecting their own problems onto other people.

Karma and "Fairness"

I have friends from different religious backgrounds and I also have friends who do not follow any religion. However, quite universally between my friends who are religious and those who are not, they all seem believe in a simplified version Karma, which is "Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people", or "What goes around, comes around".

I know this might come to a shock to most people, but I do not believe in Karma. I don't think that anybody is keeping score and hatching a devious plan to "balance" out the bad, or even reward the good. It is a great way to encourage more positive social behaviour, but I just don't see how that works in any sort of semi-practical way (I admit, it could be argued that it is much too complicated for my feeble mind to understand).

However, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate or understand Karma. It is a great way of thinking. One of the things that I do believe in is that people should treat other people the way they would hope to be treated. The notable difference here is that just because I treat other people nicely, it does not mean that I myself would be treated nicely by others. It's a two-street and I only control one direction.

Is life "fair"? Obviously it is not, and I don't think it can ever be fair. Whether we should strive for fairness is a different debate altogether.

Capitalism and Meritocracy

My non-belief of Karma and my support of capitalism and meritocracy surely conflicts with the idea of charity then, does it not? Surely someone that thinks there is no such thing as divine retribution and also thinks that what people have got is somehow a culmination of what they deserve can't possibly care about others, right?

I believe that individuals or groups of private owners (capitalism) is the best form of economic system that we have so far because the rewards that it offers (money) is a pretty effective motivational tool for most people. The capitalist system also allows socialism to exist in pockets within its ecosystem, but not the other way around. The best example that I can think of are not-for-profit (different from non-profit) co-op credit unions that provides services to their members, such as easier loan approvals at lower interest rates. (FYI, I am a member of a co-op and there are many co-ops in Singapore, but that's a different story for a different day.)

To me, meritocracy seems like something that follows after a system of capitalism has been established. When there is a sense of ownership over assets, which people will then accordingly maintain and look after, it allows meritocracy to thrive. People now have ownership over their own skills and time. Between two people with similar skills, the one who clocks in more hours will get the better reward. Between two people clocking in the same hours, the one who has superior skills will get better rewarded. This isn't rocket science and I think this is pretty much the closest we can get to a universal agreement about the concept of fairness (but like I said, life ISN'T fair). Rewarding people who cultivate and improve their skills and are willing to spend more hours working to produce a final product - be it a good or service - is a good way to motivate them to continue their good performance, and also offers peers a glimpse of what their futures could be. Meritocracy would not exist without capitalism, because people would not be recognized for the different levels of skill and time committed.

I believe that the "skilled and hardworking" should be rewarded the most. This is different from being "skilled" or being "hardworking". Working 12 hours a day on a farm sure is a bitch and it is hard work, but try convincing anyone that a farmer should earn more money than a doctor (not talking about drug farmers). Yes, I took the 2 extremes, but that is just to make the point clear. Hard work counts for nothing if you're not applying that hard work well. Hard work is extremely overrated. I wish people would stop saying, "if you work hard, anything is possible" because it clearly isn't. If you have a smart plan and have realistic steps and actually work to complete those steps (note: no mention of hard work), you can achieve your goals. "Hard work" is too simplistic of a concept. It propagates the fallacy that all you need to do to achieve your dreams is to do it more times. Harder. Faster. Sheer insanity.

Being such a cynic and, so far up to now, heartless, how is it possible for charity to reasonably exist without conflicting with everything else that I support and believe in?

Fitting in the concept of Charity to help those who cannot help themselves

Firstly, let's acknowledge one thing. In a capitalist system, poor people DO exist. In fact, in any economic system there will always be some people who are poor and some people who are rich. The existence of a lower class is not proof of a flawed economic system, because show me a system where there isn't any distinction? Show me a system where poverty doesn't exist. Or at least justify your stance why poor people should not exist!

I believe that we were all dealt difference cards in life to begin with. To think that a son of a billionaire and the average person have the same opportunities and privileges in life is naive. Of course the son of a billionaire is starting the race way ahead of everybody else. Born in a rich family? Great, put in half the effort and get the same outcome. Born into a poor family? Unfortunately, you need to work twice as hard to get the same outcome. Ain't nobody said that life was going to be fair.

However, the world that we live in now isn't so unforgiving and harsh as that and I think that's a good thing. I believe that people who are handicapped just because of the luck of the draw should not be penalized and have no social mobility. Many governments are already "equalizing" the playing field to their own perceived notion of what is "fair" and what is not. I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing. If the system is already stacked against them to fail before they even start, that to me is not something that I would like to see in the society that I live in. People should be able to determine to at least some degree to how they want their lives to pan out, rather than it already being predisposed from birth. But I'm also not saying that anyone can be Bill Gates.

Personal obligation to give to Charity

With many of my readers below the age of 40, giving to charity is a very confusing thought. Almost nobody is prepared for retirement yet. There are bills to pay, family to look after and raise. How can money be spent on others when there isn't enough for yourself yet? That's a great question. If you can't afford it, don't give to charity. Nobody is forcing you to give to charity, especially if you don't have enough for yourself. Look after yourself first.

However, the next question is... how much is enough that you feel comfortable parting away with some of the excess? After you buy a car? After scrapping the Japanese car for a continental one? Buying a second car? Upgraded to a condo? 2nd property? Overseas property in Malaysia / Thailand? And then London? How much stuff and money do you need so that you are comfortable to give some excess to charity? If the answer is that it is never enough, perhaps now might be a good time to realistically think about what it is in life that drives you and what do you what to achieve in life. If not having a yacht and the latest Apple gadgets makes you unhappy, you have way bigger problems in life then "Should I give to charity?".

Perhaps I have come to this conclusion rather early in life, but I figured out how to be happy, what I want in life to be happy, what steps I need to complete to work my way there and I'm doing it. I'm not just talking about doing it, I am actually doing it. With the ground already broken and I can see the work in progress being done, I'm quite confident that I know how things would end up for me. Sure, nothing in the future is confirmed, but I give myself pretty good probability that I'm going to end up in a comfortable situation. And that means that I will have some excess that I can afford to part with.

It's hard to say whether in the future as I become more successful, my lifestyle would also accordingly move up and my "needs" gets upgraded along the way. Personally, I hope it doesn't, but there really isn't anything wrong if it does. You've got the money in the bank, you want to buy a Rolex watch and that would make you happy? Go do it. I'm not advocating a lifestyle of selling all your worldly possessions and living simply and in the rough. I'm not advocating any lifestyle at all. I'm just verbalizing why my views on how seemingly conflicting topics can exist is a framework harmoniously.

As long as you can answer the question, "How much is enough?", you would be in a good position to examine your current status to see if you are suitable to donate to charities. If you know how much is enough, and you don't have enough yet, don't worry about it, next time maybe. If you don't know how much is enough, by default, it is never enough. But that's just my thinking about it.


I should wrap up my thoughts because what I wrote is a rather big web of ideas that are all over the place. I think that if you want to be happy, you need to look at yourself, not other people. If giving to charity makes you happy, give to charity. If giving to charity makes you miserable, don't give to charity. The tough part is figuring out if you'll actually be happy or unhappy!

Just like my non-Karmic belief that I cannot control how other people treat me, but I can only control how I treat others, I believe that all you can do is be the change that you wish to see in the world. Whether or not that change does eventually come about, that is beyond our control. But it is a bit comforting knowing that you at least did something instead of nothing.

PS. I'll be away for the next 2 weeks.


  1. Kudos to you for donating to good causes!

  2. Great post and great attitude towards life you are sharing here.
    Enjoy your break (I assume it is a holiday).


Observe the house rules.