The Ripples OF Giving

The following is a guest post by newcomer Jeremy Johnson, a husband and father of two girls (a 2 1/2 year old and a newborn).  He recently created a website dedicated to helping people realize their dreams and ideas, make progress on them, and see them through to completion.  You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @JeremyNJohnson.  Enjoy!

Have you ever wondered why some people give thousands or even millions of dollars to charities and other organizations for a good cause?  Why do some people spend hours on end selflessly parting with their finances and free time just to help other people?  Could it be for the tax breaks alone?

There’s a formula for wealth and happiness that confounds the grumpy and unfulfilled person.  It’s not that other people are just lucky and born happy.  It is that the ‘lucky’ and ‘born happy’ person has discovered one of life’s most simple, yet lucrative formulas for real wealth and happiness.

You’re probably wondering what the magic formula is by now. What could possibly give you wealth and happiness that overflows your financial and fulfillment coffers?  The formula is giving – giving of not only your finances, but of your time and talents, without expectation of reward.  Pure and selfless giving well beyond what you could ever expect to receive back is life’s magic formula for real wealth and happiness.

The effect of throwing a stone into any body of water is really fascinating. Even a small stone will hit the water and cause a ‘ripple’, that is it will cause the water around it to cascade outwards creating an area of effect far greater than the size of the stone that initially hit the water. And the bigger the stone used, the greater the ripple effect.

Methods of Giving

Some may have the notion that giving a 10% tithe to a religious institution is important. Or some may believe that giving 10% of your income to a charity is sound practice. These are indeed both great ideas and will provide financial support provided you give your money to institutions that are reputable.

In addition to financial giving, a 10% (or some percentage of your choosing) of your time, abilities, and talents can and should also be given to others. And by giving, I don’t mean with the intent to get paid for it – that doesn’t count! This is simply serving one or more people with the unique gifts and talents you already have.

Financial giving is usually straightforward. You cut a check or hand over a pile of cash to the group or person you want to serve. But giving of your time, abilities, and talents requires the examining of the groups or individuals you wish to serve. It requires examining the unique value you have to offer and then finding the areas in which individuals and groups are challenged.

The Benefits of Giving

The giving of 10% of your time, talents, and abilities to help others where they are most struggling is not normal behavior. Life tends to pull us towards what we can do for our families and ourselves. By giving yourself to a cause greater than who you are, you strengthen others selflessly and increase your ability – and the needs of others at the same time.

If you think that’s crazy, think about reciprocity and karma.  Think about affecting a large whole through your gifts and talents.  Think about throwing a stone into a pond and from that small stone, a ripple effect moving outward, affecting a larger whole.  Think about the wealthiest and most fulfilled people and the large number of people their charities benefit in the world, both financially, and through time and service.

The strengthening of a whole happens when others are made better through your unique gifts.  Perhaps your unique gifts create something that saves the time of others, or brings people together in a cohesive group, which adds to the success as a whole.  Perhaps your giving prevents someone from going downhill in their life and then that person begins to add value and the ripple affect grows and grows. Your ripple source will continue to bounce and affect others well beyond your initial offering.

Your simple acts of giving enhance those you affect.  And by doing so, you are in turn enhanced and exposed – in a good way – as someone of great value. And if you don’t believe there is anything in it for you, think about the course of each life you enhance through your unique talents and gifts – and the people then enhanced by them.  It’s often about your gift to the world and the faith that reciprocity will find its way back to you while at the same time not expecting it.

From personal experience, I know that giving of me reaps rewards far greater than had I sat on my can and done nothing or selfishly promoted myself.  The rewards of selfless giving include financial and personal growth rewards! I’ve increased in human understanding and intelligence through serving others and learning what helps them.  I am a more capable employee at my full time job because of the lessons in life I am learning through giving to others.  This allows me to work in a position that pays a higher salary than I would otherwise get had I not learned to focus, solve problems, and learn to serve others.

My Own Personal Experience and Observations

Do you think people like Oprah Winfrey or Anthony Robbins are in the position they are because they got lucky?  They touch many lives with their unique gifts and talents.  And they spend time giving of themselves on a constant basis. Anthony Robbins and his charities feed countless people during Thanksgiving.  Oprah developed a school program for young people.

I spent two years in Ireland in voluntary service (from age 19 – 21), which I paid for.  I was not paid directly for my service.  Indirectly, I am reaping the benefits of learning to work hard and serve others – even if it is many years after the fact.  Who knows what ripples I created when I was a young man there and I do not need any financial reward to know I did wonderful things.

I recently discovered the Yakezie Oda – a like minded group of individuals with websites related to personal finance. I began observing their interaction with each other. From that observation, I noticed a need for a better way to manage the club and the Alexa rankings. I knew I had the technical skill to pull it off and I am so impressed with what I’ve seen from the members of it, that it was a simple matter for me to volunteer my time and energy to create a new, automated page to store their club and Alexa rankings that will ultimately save them time and energy.

What’s in it for me? Nothing – I do it freely. However, I do believe I have genuinely made some real friends in a short amount of time, and you cannot put a price on that at all.  I promise any of you reading that if you solve the challenge that someone or a group is having with your unique talent, you will feel a sense of fulfillment, and increase your networking and friendship with those you help.  But do it for fulfillment, for bettering and helping others, which in turn will strengthen the whole and not just yourself.


Find your own unique talents, gifts, abilities, and just get to know people. You will find so many ways to give to others, not just financially.  Just listen and watch people.  You will quickly discover the challenges they are facing.  Use your unique talents and gifts to fill in the gaps for the challenges and difficulties of others.  If you are really interested in wealth, this is the greatest way to generate it – a high valued solution to a number of people’s problems.  Not only is it fulfilling, but it increases your potential as a human being and solves real life problems.  You just might find your life’s work while serving someone and have it be a means to provide for you financially for the rest of your life.

Readers, what are your unique talents and gifts?  Who are the people that would most benefit from your service?  Who are some people in your life that have shared their unique talents with you and made a difference in your life?


Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Follow on Twitter @FinancialSamura and subscribe to our RSS or E-mail feed.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    I think most bloggers give of themselves regularly. We sure aren’t in it for the money.

    JA is awesome! I work with them sometimes too. Which JA do you work with?
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Retirement Alphabet Soup: 401(k), Roth IRA – Where Should I Start? =-.

    • says

      Mike, that is so true and something I have been both amazed and impressed by – I’ve found so many bloggers out here, sharing their knowledge to serve other people. It really is awesome – anyone who says the world is going down hill, I tell them about the many people I am meeting online who are contributing to the world.
      .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Video – Garden Of Life Series Part 1 =-.

  2. says

    Really liked the post Jeremy.

    The biggest benefit I see when I give time, money, etc… is the relationships you form. Giving is a great way to meet like-minded people.
    .-= RJ Weiss´s last blog ..Learning from the Past | History of S&P 500 =-.

  3. says

    Once I’m out of debt I plan to start giving. I’m currently giving my time away from my family to make a better future for them.

    I’m a excellent painter (houses, etc) I work with people who are involve with Habitat for Humanity and I would like to help them out on the weekends.

    I also have a unique ability to teach troubleshooting skills to other people. I would like to get involved with my local school system to help high school kids in vocational classes. In my senior year of high school I took a 4 hour Vocational class that help me become the Engineer I am now.

    Cool post Jeremy, Welcome to the crew!!
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..Discipline Your Way Out Of Debt =-.

  4. says

    Jake and I have made a decision to only contribute time/money to organizations that benefit animals. We don’t agree with the values of most charities that benefit people (exceptions being donating to particular politicians during campaign time and to support breast cancer/other disease research).
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..When I Act Dumb Chicks Want To Sleep With Me More =-.

  5. says

    Hi Honey… Ok your name is Honey, that sounds like I am talking to my wife, but I digress – I love organizations that benefit animals. And you are right, there are ‘charities’ that claim to benefit people that do not do any such thing. I knew I had to add the condition near the top, “provided you give your money to institutions that are reputable.”

    Do you have any pets? We have four cats and absolutely love them!
    .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Video – Garden Of Life Series Part 1 =-.

  6. says

    Great article Jeremy!

    This makes me evaluate those gifts that I have and charge others for my service. Although, the scripture says a mans gift will make room for Him. It doesn’t mean he has to charge in the form of money.

    The man will possibly reap in other ways such as learning some of life’s greatest lessons along the journey of sharing his talents. This really opens up my mind of thinking in ways I can give back instead of get back. Thank you so much for sharing such a great article!!
    .-= Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey´s last blog ..You Know You’re Favored by God When… =-.

  7. Geek says

    I’ve heard charitynavigator is pretty good.
    The thing that a lot of people don’t get about giving is that if you’re in debt, you have the power to give more later than you can possibly give now, if you just pay it off first.

    As for me, I’m not a believer in karma (or most things. I’m largely an apathetic agnostic), and I haven’t much need to make myself feel good by feeling like I’ve made a difference in other human lives. I do give a bit to the Humane Society, however, because of the terrible things other humans do to animals. I feel species guilt.

    • says

      Hi Geek, you make some interesting points – if you are in debt, you should take care of yourself first and foremost. As for the ‘karma’ side of things – I will admit that I don’t see a ‘force’ greater than myself bestowing good things to those who give. But what I do see and feel is growth and progress when I (or anyone else) shares a unique talent or gift with someone and that person is strengthened and able to do and give more.

      I’ll be expounding on this in response to Sam’s questions below. Thanks for your thoughts Geek!
      .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Video – Garden Of Life Series Part 1 =-.

  8. says

    Hey Jeremy,

    Thanks for writing your article. I really enjoy this topic, as you may or may not know that almost all the revenue generated from this site goes to local charities here in the Bay Area.

    I was just wondering what are your thoughts regarding the following:

    1) How does one decide how much to give if they are currently in debt?

    2) If your debt is mangeable i.e. only have “good” debt, and cash flow is fine, how should one go about determining how much to give as a percentage of income, if that’s the right way?

    3) What are your thoughts on the Obama administration deciding to reduce the deduction percentage amount for high income earners who contribute the large majority to charities? Do you think it is fair that those paying the 35%, and next year 40% Federal tax rate no longer can deduct their donations at a 40% rate, but now at a proposed 28% rate while others can continue to deduct equally what they pay?

    4) Given the asymetric deduction levels, do you think charities will be punished as a result? If so, why do you think Obama wants to punish charities and people who give money to help others?

    5) Finally, how strongly do you believe in karma? And if you do believe in karma, is it possible to give without thinking about the potential good karma one may receive?


    .-= admin´s last blog ..The Best Financial Advice I’ve Ever Heard From A Comedian =-.

    • says

      Sam, that’s very cool you are using site revenue to give to local charities – do you mind if I ask which types of charities you prefer to give to?

      Now for answers to your questions:

      Q: How does one decide how much to give if they are currently in debt?

      A: It depends on the kind of debt. But I believe that giving no matter what reaps benefits beyond what you can see. In the case of having a lot of debt, don’t focus on giving financially at first. Find a way to give to others through your unique gifts and talents. Use your extra money to get rid of the debt to a comfortable level – which you must decide. To me, that is the simplest approach to start with. There are some who are able to increase their income by going into massive amounts of debt. That would allow you to give more, but is an advanced approach that I think most people are not comfortable with (including myself). So once you feel ‘comfortable’ with your level of debt, start investigating ways to give of your finances. For me, I give about 10% of my income to charity/humanitarian aid.

      Q: If your debt is mangeable i.e. only have “good” debt, and cash flow is fine, how should one go about determining how much to give as a percentage of income, if that’s the right way?

      A: How much of a percentage must be figured out by each individual according to his or her beliefs. Some may be fine with giving a few dollars a week, some may feel 10% is the right amount, some even more. Honestly, if you are just not sure, do 10%. It’s an easy number to remember. Otherwise, decide what you are comfortable with and start there.

      Q: What are your thoughts on the Obama administration deciding to reduce the deduction percentage amount for high income earners who contribute the large majority to charities? Do you think it is fair that those paying the 35%, and next year 40% Federal tax rate no longer can deduct their donations at a 40% rate, but now at a proposed 28% rate while others can continue to deduct equally what they pay?

      A: That’s definitely a sticky question. From what I understand, if you make more than $250,000, you are now at the 28% rate as opposed to 40%. So I will go back to my analogy of the ripples from my post. Obama’s administration is creating a ripple with this. I am certain there are those with greater than $250,000 in income who will give less to charities because of this. I’m not sure what the exact ripple effect will be. Maybe charities will buckle down and make do with less. Maybe some charities will dissolve due to lack of funds. I’d like to think that if a charity really has the right people running it, that a way would be found for that charitiy to continue with less. It will require resourcefulness from people, but I think those who are up to the challenge providing unique value with their charities will handle it.

      The wealthy could also cut back on expenses and give more, that certainly is an option. The question is, “Will they?” So to sum up, some charities will probably fold, some will cut back. But all will have to use their focus and determination to get by and not let external events derail them. The not letting external events derail is a personal philosophy of mine.

      As for the Obama Administration’s deductions being fair – I don’t think that there is much in the world that is ‘fair’ or ‘even’ and this is no exception. There will be people hurt by this – if they choose to be hurt. I believe individuals must equalize ‘fair’ through their own resourcefulness and determination to provide value to others and increase their own skills and value.

      Q: Given the asymetric deduction levels, do you think charities will be punished as a result? If so, why do you think Obama wants to punish charities and people who give money to help others?

      A: I will define ‘punished’ as having less money here and losing the ability to provide as much as they were before. I think the charities that will be ‘punished’ are those who use this as an excuse to gripe or complain. Even if you don’t agree with the lopsided tax benefits, you still have a choice in what you will do each day, in how you adapt and respond. I believe the charities who have resourceful people behind them will find a way to re-tool, adapt, find other ways to provide value, and in general continue on providing value independent of the smaller amount of money coming in.

      Q: Finally, how strongly do you believe in karma? And if you do believe in karma, is it possible to give without thinking about the potential good karma one may receive?

      A: I do believe in karma. It is possible to give without thinking about potential good karma received. But I believe this is flawed for one main reason. Receiving good karma adds to who you are. It enhances you. It increases your abilities to give and help others. If you received nothing every time you gave, there would be no inrease in what you were able to give. Receiving is of course secondary to giving, but the two go hand in hand! You must realize that you will gain back by giving and have the mentality that you can do more and more with what you receive. If one truly wishes to give, then they should truly wish to increase in wealth, ability, and receiving good karma for the opportunity to give more.
      .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Video – Garden Of Life Series Part 1 =-.

  9. says

    I really liked this article. This topic of giving is something I believe very strongly in. I currently tithe 10% of my income and routinely donate to charities whenever I hear about them. I also find an easy way to help was through donating to world vision for the recent Earthquakes in Hattie and Chile.

    I also liked how you stressed giving 10% of your time. I have heard that topic preached about before, but I honestly have not really practiced it too much.

    Finally I agree that giving without a doubt gives you a much better feeling than getting. It is for this reason that I completely overextended myself this last Christmas, going all out on friends and family, and I’m still paying for it. But what did I do it? I honestly love to make people happy! Despite the fact that I have a financial website, and am the go-to-guy on finance matter at work and home, I still managed to spend too much, I guess my heart is bigger than my brain!:)
    .-= MyFinancialObjectives´s last blog ..The Benefits of a Giveaway =-.

  10. says

    I agree that the art of giving causes a ripple effect. Giving comes in many forms like time, money, and service as mentioned by Jeremy. In The Science of Getting Rich, there is a chapter entitled The Impression of Increase. Wallace Wattles talks about leaving every person you come across better than when you found them. Even small things like smiling and telling your co-worker that she’s doing a great job is a form of giving.
    .-= Kristine´s last blog ..Term vs Whole Life Insurance – The Battle Begins =-.

  11. Brandi Grays says

    Jeremy, this is a great post. I am so glad that you talked about the power of giving. I believe that the more that you give the more that you receive. Giving of yourself in ways other than money can often build confidence, relationships, and your bank account.

    I cant wait to hear more from you.
    .-= Brandi Grays´s last blog ..Do You Meetup? =-.

  12. says

    Great post Jeremy and thank you so much for your contributions to the Yakezie. It really has been an amazing journey.

    I believe we often focus too much on the giving to charity etc… Not that we shouldn’t but that we have so many opportunities to give in our day to day lives. Provide some financial guidance to a coworker. Let a neighbor cry on your shoulder. Help the little old lady cross the street etc…

    My kids were taught young to hold doors open for others. Over the years they have commented several times about how people walk by and don’t even say “thank you.” While many don’t notice these small gestures of civility and friendship its all the other forms of giving to others that make the world a better place.
    .-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..What Sacrifices Are You Willing To Make? =-.

    • says

      Hi Lean, thanks, I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to the Yakezie and the fine group of people that they are. You all are mentors to me, starting with Sam here and all the way on down. The guidance we give individually to people is a good point – I am going to focus on that as well – too often I focus on how I can give online or financially, time to step it up in person :)
      .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Video – Garden Of Life Series Part 1 =-.

  13. says

    Great post with a message we don’t hear often enough. Giving without expecting anything in return. It is hard for me to keep my motives 100% pure when I give, because even if I do so without any exterior motives, I always know that I will eventually, some day, some how, receive a positive payback, even if it is simply the satisfaction of knowing that I did the right thing.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not beating myself up. I am just saying there is a law of reciprocity: in the big picture, givers will always be blessed by their giving.

    Thanks again, and welcome to the Yakezie Challenge!
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..The New Health Care Bill: A Prescription for Diminished Health Care =-.

  14. says

    HI….i think people can solve their problems and they can do their work more confidently some time for peace of mind and some with the price aside from everything we can use our thoughts to get better and better.

  15. ctreit says

    I have volunteered my time at a homeless shelter and found the experience very rewarding. It also opened my eyes to the plight of homeless people who are really just like you and me except that they don’t have a roof over their heads.

  16. says

    One of my most stimulating volunteer efforts was in a one-on-one reading program for former prison inmates. Seeing life from my particular student’s point of view expanded my thinking in lots of areas. Ability to read is invaluable and it was very satisfying passing this on to others who really needed it.
    .-= savvysavingbytes´s last blog ..You get what you pay for…Baloney! =-.

  17. says

    This is a wonderful, fantastically inspirational post. I’m going to try my best to give more than I have been lately. Tithing is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while now, but now I know that I really should be doing so. Great guest post.
    .-= Roger´s last blog ..Lessons from NCECA and My Family =-.

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