Admit it. Most of us who have struggled financially have indulged in a daydream or two about how our lives could and would so be so much better, if only we were rich. Have you ever allowed yourself to move beyond the daydream and really examine just what would be different? Have you wondered how your daily life and the lives of those around you could change? Have you thought about the impact that you could make in the lives of those beyond your family and close friends? What if you could change the world, and start now?
Many conversations about sudden wealth revolve around paying off debt, travel, and the ever popular “buying Mom a house.” Occasionally someone will mention helping their favorite charity or tithing to a church, but the conversations often stop there. I believe that where the conversations usually end is where they need to begin. We are meant to contribute to society, to enrich not only our own lives but the lives of others. Wealth can give us the freedom to do that, and making it a personal mission to improve the lives of those in your community may just be the true motivating factor that will help you get out of debt and become financially independent.
The rich are often made out to be villains in our culture, especially if you grow up in a home where money is scarce. This can lead to complicated issues with money, causing some people to subconsciously sabotage their best efforts to improve their economic status in life. If you find yourself falling into that category, stop. It is possible to become wealthy without being dishonest, without taking advantage of the less fortunate. Not only is it not a sin to be financially free, it is one of the best things you can do to take care of your family and make a difference in your community.
Did you know that almost 80% of U.S. millionaires are first generation, and that many of the wealthy volunteer? Imagine the good you could accomplish if you didn’t have to work eight hours a day. There is a reason that most volunteers are wealthy (40% of the wealthy volunteer) or retired (over 50% of the retired volunteer): after the novelty of not having to go to work every day wears off, you begin to look for productive ways to fill the hours. While some Americans take up hobbies that only improve their own quality of life, many find that doing something good for the community not only helps others, but also enriches their own lives far more than they ever imagined.
Every life needs balance, variety. To spend every waking moment in a single pursuit may sound romantic, but in reality it is usually the road to burnout and failure. A single hour per week spent in the service of others often becomes the most looked forward to hour per week. Therefore we should not wait for financial independence to volunteer our time and efforts to a worthy cause, but once we are spending part of our time in worthwhile causes we should continue to strive for financial freedom so that we have more time to do more good deeds.
So what good could you do for others while you are also working to gain your financial freedom? Suppose you like to garden. Today approximately 1 out of 6 Americans are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always have the means to adequately feed themselves or their family. You could do wonders by gathering the materials and volunteers needed to help a local food bank start and maintain a community garden. Two of the largest building supply companies in the United States earmark a portion of their earnings for charitable contributions within the communities they serve. A local nursery could donate seedlings to help jump-start the community vegetable patch. There are gardening clubs all over America with “Master Gardeners,” experts on planting and caring for the particular fruits and vegetables that do well in their climate zone. These master gardeners love what they do and often make themselves available to train others in the fine pursuit of home gardening. Almost every community has talented chefs and home cooks willing to share their expertise and passion by teaching food preparation and preservation.
Newspapers and local television and radio stations are always looking for “feel-good” stories to report on, and can be some of your strongest allies in getting the word out. What a wonderful legacy that would be, a community garden that not only helps to feed the hungry, but also teaches them how to grow their own nutritious fruits and vegetables. All of this can be accomplished before you gain your financial freedom.
Gardening not your thing? Maybe you were raised by a single parent, and now you want to do something to help other parents raise happy, well-adjusted children. Organize a not-for-profit daycare, or an after school program that teaches music or art.
Work with the homeless. Volunteer at a shelter for battered women. Help find a good home for stray dogs and cats. Visit the elderly, read to children at the library. Make the world a better place than it was when you got here. Start now, and as you build your financial freedom you will also see your good works multiply and improve many of the lives in your community.
Start volunteering while you are building your wealth. While we all have a different definition of what it means to be rich, the common denominator is freedom. Money is freedom; the freedom from worrying about paying your bills, and the freedom to have more choices in life. One of the choices we can all make right now, every one of us, is to do what we can to improve the lives of others. Do this and you will find that the good works you have done will be far more satisfying that the money you put in your bank account.