More than 25 years ago, Gordon Gekko, the main antagonist in the 1987 film “Wall Street,” declared, “Greed is good!” From the excess and financial fallout of the ‘80s, it appeared that many people based their belief system on that line. Sadly, greed is like a cancer that when left untreated can destroy individuals, families, businesses, governments and economies.
Breaking the stranglehold of greed starts with releasing the thing that has the power to consume you. That is why in my book, 7 Money Rules for Life: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future (Revell, 2012), rule three is: Give Some Away.
Giving away some of your money quiets your desires and knocks the life out of greed. Trust me, I know. My ignorance about credit and debt, plus my skewed logic that I could have it all now and pay for it later, set me up to be greed’s dream client.
Credit was my accomplice, and with it I landed in a pit of financial despair. I’m a lot wiser now, and I want you to learn from my mistakes. Become a giver, and dump your greed. How? Here are four simple steps:
Develop personal compassion. Putting others’ needs ahead of our wants takes our eyes off of our selfish desires.
Develop generosity. A heart filled with gratitude expresses itself with generosity. Generosity kills greed and becomes the natural outflowing of your grateful heart.
Put others’ needs ahead of your wants. Take some of your wants and find someone who has a real need.
Give some of your money away, systematically and regularly, as part of your personal money management program.
Giving is the way to break the grip of greed so contentment can thrive. How much you should give is up to you, so don’t look to me or others to tell you. Only you can make that determination.
Once you have established the amount, here are five ways you should give.
Systematically. As you receive your income, take care of giving first before you do anything else.
Thoughtfully. This is a deliberate decision that needs to be based on good plans — not impulsive or driven by emotion alone.
Enthusiastically. If you are not excited or engaged in the need, you may have not found the right place to give.
Voluntarily. Forced giving is useless. Don’t let anyone twist your arm.
Cheerfully. Generosity brings happiness as sure as miserliness brings misery.
I cannot say that my battles with greed are over. I know that I could easily go right back to where I was if it were not for a mind-set of generous giving, a habit that changed the equation of my life. Giving has freed me from the stranglehold of materialism.
Question: Have you struggled with greed at any time in your life? What did you do to overcome those feelings?