The average percent of income donated to charity by levels of income is sadly very low across the board. According to several of the largest charitable foundations, the average income donated to charity ranges from just 3% to 5% of annual gross income.
Not surprisingly, the average percent donated to charity is the highest for lower income households. But the absolute dollar amount donated to charity is highest for the highest income households.
Donating money is a very personal decision. There is no right or wrong amount. Anything more than 0% is good in my eyes.
Doing your own taxes helps you think more about such topics as giving. You start wondering whether you’ve given enough or too much. You look for answers to figure out what is the norm and proceed to adjust within the band. Furthermore, you input different charitable scenarios to see how your tax bill changes. It’s all very educational and thought provoking.
The Average Percent Of Income Donated To Charity By Income
Below is a chart from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. It shows that people making between $45K-$50K donate the second highest amount to charity at 4%.
Households making $100,000 – $1,000,000 donate the least amount of their income to charity at between 2.4% – 2.6%.
Households making $10 million or more donate the highest amount of their income to charity at 5.9%. This is great to see as one would think once your adjusted gross income is over $10 million, you have plenty of disposable income to spare!
The households earning $200K – $1,000,000 are likely crunched the most because of taxes. Therefore, it makes sense these households would donate the least to charity.
Deciding How Much To Give To Charity
We now know the average percent of income donated to charity is between 2.4% to 5.9%. If you’re looking to be more charitable, let’s use other people or institutions as a guide.
Back when Joe Biden was Vice President, he donated $4,820 to charity, or 1.44% of his $333,182 salary in 2009.
Meanwhile, Obama donated about $329,000 to 40 different charities, or roughly 6% of his $5.5 million 2009 income (largely from books and royalties). Obama also donated $1.4 million of his Nobel Peace Prize proceeds to 10 different charities as a straight pass through.
In other words, Obama donated $1.723 million out of a potential $6.9 million in income, or roughly 25%.
Now that Joe Biden is President again, let’s see how much he will donate, especially now that he’s a deca-millionaire.
Religion Donation Recommendation
The Bible refers to Jacob promising to give a 10th of what he receives back to God. “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the a tenth unto thee.”
Buddhism discusses alms giving to monks and nuns as a way to spiritually connect, show humility, and support the community. Although in Buddhism, there is no exact percentage figure suggested to donate to charity.
How Much The Super Rich Donate
Warren Buffet pledged 85% of his entire US$50+ billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His rational is to give it away to people who will live longer than him, and who know how to give better. In Warren’s case, he is giving away almost his entire net worth, which still leaves billions more to be passed down to others in his immediate circle.
Do you really want to donate your money to an inefficient government? Heck no! Which is why if you’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate more than the estate tax threshold per person, I highly suggest spending and giving more aggressively while alive. Paying 40% of you estate to the government is such a waste.
How Much The Poor Donate
Perhaps the poor doesn’t pay a large absolute amount in taxes, but the poor do contribute a healthy amount to charity.
The 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey shows that households with incomes below $20,000 gave 4.6% to charity, higher than any other income group.
Households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 donated 2.5 percent or less. Only above income levels of $100,000 does the percentage rise again.
Stuck In The Middle
It would be great if all of us amassed billions of dollars like Warren Buffet. Then we could give away billions and still be rich.
Unfortunately, many households are stuck in the middle. Middle-income and upper-middle income households can often pay a hefty amount in income and other taxes. Such households may have mortgages, car payments, and student loans. Then there is the expense of children.
If you’re making $200,000 – $250,000 and already paying a 32% marginal federal income tax, a 8% marginal state income tax, and a 7.65% FICA tax on your first $137,700 of income, the propensity to donate income to charity likely declines.
The Give Nothing To Charity Ideology
Then, when you find out that roughly 44% of Americans pay no income taxes (too old, too young, or too poor), then your desire to donate to charity might decline even further.
Given tax revenue is used to build social programs, one could logically assume that paying taxes is a form of charity. The charity is just not being redistributed as efficiently as most would like.
As America heads towards a bigger government, the omnipotent government should be responsible for supporting charitable organizations and eradicating poverty.
It’s pretty clear that when given a choice, most Americans would want more Social Security benefits, more subsidized healthcare, more unemployment benefits, student loan forgiveness and more.
If you go visit Singapore, for example, you won’t see poverty on the streets. That’s because their benign dictator system has ensured that all people live a reasonably comfortable life.
The government provides subsidized housing, has a central provident fund (social security), solid infrastructure, and a flat tax system. The government is doing its job in ensuring that everyone has at least a certain standard of living.
If we are relying on the government to fix our problems, we should also lean on the government to eradicate poverty and more.
Joe Biden announced another $1.9 trillion stimulus package in 2021 to help middle-class and lower-income households. The new stimulus package calls for providing $2,000 in stimulus checks, $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits, and more. Further, Joe Biden wants to cancel student loan debt of $10,000 for everyone.
Who is going to pay for all this stimulus? Taxpayers.
A Solution To The Redistribution Of Redistributed Wealth
To help alleviate poverty and help society, may I suggest one final simple solution.
Those who pay no income taxes at all donate more to charity. Perhaps a minimum donation percentage is 5%, half of what the Bible suggests.
To suggestion helps prevent people from not paying taxes and not donating to charity. By increasing the breadth of charitable contributions, more people benefit. Further, it feels great to give instead of only receive.
Perhaps a simple donation formula for everyone is: 20% (Avg. effective tax rate) – An Individual’s Effective Tax Rate = How Much To Donate. Of course, if your existing effective tax rate is already higher than 20%, you should feel good that the government is utilizing your income for the greater good.
Recommendation To Build More Wealth
If you want to donate more of your income to charity, then you should track your income and wealth more carefully. Do so by signing up with Personal Capital. It is a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place. The better you can track your wealth, the more you can optimize it.
Personal Capital’s best feature is its Retirement Planner. It uses your real expenses and income to calculate what your future retirement cash flow will look like. There is no rewind button in life. Plan accordingly!
I’ve used Personal Capital’s free financial tools since 2012 and have seen my net worth skyrocketed since then.
Photo: Mumbai Beach at base of Queen’s Necklace, SD.