I presented the following question to the kids in The Knowledge Bank: Why do people spend all the money they receive as gifts or prizes? One of the students responded, “Because people want to buy the things they cannot have under regular circumstances.” At that moment I witnessed an 11th grader transform into a psychologist and, as unfortunate as it sounds, she was exactly right. Some people believe they are entitled to their personal desires, but they are wrong. Despite what is in the news or what was said during the presidential campaign, people in this country are not entitled to anything but the freedoms granted in the constitution. The sooner you understand this realization the more successful you will be in life and the less heart break you will experience in life. I think there are several contributors to the “entitled” mentality. I think capitalism, our economic structure that allows private ownership of the production and creation of goods and services for profit, add to it. I also believe the images in the media contribute to the sense of entitlement. The entertainment industry sends the message that there is a relationship between luxury and happiness, but in reality we know (or you will know after you read this article) that money or luxury cannot provide you with happiness or completion, but GIVING can!
In one of my first articles for thecorereader.com, I described the best Christmas I had ever experienced which was defined by the quality and quantity of the gifts I had received from my parents. Even though I loved the Concords, ten speed bike and ping pong table I received, the most MEANINGFUL Christmas I had ever experienced was when I took someone else Christmas shopping. One year in high school, as a member of the student government association, I volunteered for a community service project that was sponsored by a local fire department. Our assignment was to take a less fortunate elementary school student Christmas shopping to find gifts, not for the child, but for their family. I remember walking through k-mart with this kid who was less than half my age, but had showed more strength and courage than I had at any point in my life. He told me stories of his daily struggle with poverty and bullying and how he was taking it all in stride. It was fulfilling to see him verbalize his struggles with such a positive attitude. It was just as fulfilling to see his eyes get brighter and brighter as our cart filled with gifts that weren’t even for him. Looking back on that day now as an adult, I realize that this kid possessed a perspective on life that should be modeled by everyone in our society. He truly understood that it is better to give than to receive.
In my work with The Knowledge Bank, we have established four core values of sound financial management which are Work, Budget, Save and Give. The first three are pretty self explanatory, but the last one gives some people pause. No one ever says that giving is not important, but people often wonder why I place emphasis on giving when teaching youth about personal finance. My answer is that I am working to develop successful and financially prosperous leaders for the next generation. I would be doing them a disservice if I did not teach them to contribute their gifts and talents to someone else who could use some assistance. Besides, there is always someone else involved in our personal success and there is no better way to repay that favor than to help another person. A pond that has water flowing into it but no exit for the water to escape develops scum. I believe the same thing happens with people. If we receive without giving, we turn into scum. This holiday season allow your happiness to be tied to your contributions to someone else and you’ll experience a level of joy greater than you would feel receiving any gift for yourself.