To me the question isn't how much I should give away, but how much I should keep. I see my money as belonging to whoever needs it most: every dollar I spend is a dollar out of the hands of someone who needs it more than me. I’ve always felt that way.
I was lucky enough to find someone who thinks similarly about giving. Jeff and I both care a lot about improving the world, and we married in 2009. Since college, we've been giving about 30% of our income each year. This year, we're earning more and will give 45%.
In recent years, we've gotten more interested in finding really effective charities. We believe there are a lot of good organizations out there, but most don't have much evidence showing what your donation accomplishes. We've been impressed by the quality of the evaluations done by Give Well, and we use their recommendations in deciding where to give. Given that some charities do a lot more good than others, we want to find and use the best evidence we can.
We've also been thinking a lot about career choice. Although I used to really focus on pinching pennies, I now see the benefits of trying to earn more money in order to give more. As a social worker (not a top-earning career!) I'm not the best role model here. But when people consider how they can support important causes, I hope they will consider trying to earn more money and not just spending less.
Jeff and I have never been rich by American standards, although we certainly are by world standards. We find that if we plan carefully, we can afford the things we really value even on a small budget. Right now we're saving for the expenses that will come with our first child.
Strong social ties are an important source of happiness for us. We do a lot of cooking, walking, playing board games, and making music with family and friends. We love traditional music and dance, and Jeff plays mandolin in a dance band. As the community of effective altruists grows, we've enjoyed meeting people through organizations like Bolder Giving, Giving What We Can, and 80,000 Hours.
I’ve encountered a lot of people who think that giving a lot of one’s income must be very difficult and dreary. That hasn’t been our experience at all, and I write at www.givinggladly.com about the upsides of that life.
Over our lifetimes, we expect to save hundreds of lives and improve many more through our donations. It's an amazing opportunity!