Change Ourselves. Change The World

“Everything done was done by a human. You are a human. You can do it.” – Axel Hoogland

Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Ghandi

“We are not the rational beings that traditional economic theory assumes… Financial institutions and regulators need to accept the reality of (behavioral) biases and design products and policies around them.”Dean Karlan – Yale Economist and Founder of IPA

“Bucky championed a design revolution, maintaining that it was far easier ‘to reform the environment than to attempt to reform people.’” Page 10 Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth

It is very disheartening to me that these two great minds, Buckminster Fuller and Dean Karlan have both basically given up on the ability of people to change. They have decided that it’s easier to provide situations that can steer people a little in the right direction instead of asking people to wake up and see the complete truth. As I’m only 26 years old perhaps I am still coming at the world with a bit of a naive view but I think that it may be thinking like this that has gotten us in our current situation of people plodding mindlessly through life. If we assume people aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions why would it ever occur to them that they would be able to?

Words have power and if people are continually told that something is to complicated for them to understand, for example the stock market, of course they will be afraid of it and be willing to pay massive amounts to people to manage their money. Now that is just a waste of their money. I could become a mutual fund manager right now and beat 90% of fund managers by just investing in Index Funds. I would become rich but I would be engaging in the dumbing down of society as well as basically robbing them. Luckily there are already places like Betterment that are taking that over by robot and hopefully in the next 10 years they will have that market locked up and the mutual fund managers will be done robbing people.
I still have a fundamental belief that if we share as much information with people as possible they will be able to make good rational decisions. To be able to do this there are a lot of inherent biases we need to remove from people’s minds. The first is the thought that “someone else is so much smarter than me. I could never do that.” My favorite self created quote to combat this situation is “Everything done was done by a human. You are a human. You can do it.” If that doesn’t sum up the world I don’t know what does. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and change the world by changing yourself!

On Giving

“No one ever became poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

In 2014 the Gross World Product (GWP) was between $87 trillion and $75 trillion. GWP is a count of all the money “made” from sales of good in a year in the whole world, legal goods. That comes to $16,000 per person. This means everybody! The old. The sick. The hurt. The children.  This means that if money were divided equally each person would have about $16,000 a year to live off of. How much did you spend last year?

The Motley Fool said that the average American spends $140 a day or $51,000 a year. That’s crazy!  $51,000/$16,000=3.2 (Subtract one for yourself) So that means that the average american is using 3.2 people’s worth of money! Now I’m certainly not saying I’m exempt from this situation. I am fortunate to have a high income. I have been considering how to effectively use this gift I’ve been given. What could we do with that money instead? Give it away!

This study by the National Center For Charitable Statistics shares some facts on giving. The “normal” US family gives between 2% and 6%. Honestly, 6% was better than I was expecting, but that’s for people who make $10 million +. For us “mortals” There’s a correlation between lower wages and higher percentage of income given. Ranging between up to 4% for people making $45k while those making between $100,000 and $2 million are giving around 2.5%. While that is more money total, we should all remember the great words of Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility.”

There are a myriad of reasons the “normal” person doesn’t give. One is we are afraid we won’t have enough. We compare ourselves to our neighbor who undoubtedly has more stuff than we do, but if we compare ourselves to, for example, the Syrian refugees, we seem to have a lot. If you are reading this on a computer you already have electricity and internet which puts you ahead of most people in the world. If you have electricity you likely have running water and a reliable grocery store within 30 minutes of your house. If you have a steady job you are already more privileged than most in the world.

No one told us it was good to give. Some people are just so caught up in the consumer lifestyle in the US from watching crap like Jersey Shore and The Kardasians that they think all you can do is spend money on stupid crap. For these people I will just say, stop watching that crap. Also stop going to the store to buy whatever strikes your fancy. I know the power of advertising as much as anyone. I walked into Walmart yesterday just to “Look at the new Star Wars toys” since I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with Star Wars or entertainment (besides Disney disregarding 30 years of continuum books to make boatloads of money on new toy deals but that’s an argument for another day). But the sheer volume of new toys for that is staggering! Also I succumbed to buying a handful of new Hot Wheels, naturally Fast and Furious branded. Marketing is tough stuff! That’s why it’s just better to stay away!

Another reason we don’t give more is we don’t think our money will be used effectively when given to a charity. This is a valid concern. Some people I talk to don’t want to donate money abroad because they are unsure if it will actually reach the people they are trying to help. That is a great and valid concern, but we shouldn’t let it paralyze us. There are plenty of sites that independently audit non-profits and give them effectiveness ratings. An alternative would be that you could donate to a charity in your town. Most of us spend time with people in the same boat as us, economically. We feel uncomfortable going to a different part of town where the houses are a bit run down. We should embrace those people. They are our neighbors also. The more we embrace uncomfortable situations the more comfortable we will become in them. We also might just help some of those people out of those situations and that will be good for everyone. For these people I’d reference Matthew 6:21.

“Where your treasure is there also your heart will be.”

If you are donating money to some organization and also volunteering there you will be able to be sure that your money is actually helping others. An added benefit is that you aren’t out spending money if you are volunteering!

How will we see this world improve for everyone? We have to start with ourselves. If we don’t help our neighbor, why would we expect anyone else to help them?

So how does your giving compare to the “average person”?

How does your yearly spend compare to the world per capita income? Could you live on less and still enjoy life? I’d challenge you to think about those questions.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi