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  I'm a fan of taking the simplest, reasonable route to wealth, then investing in something of greater importance, something that critics would agree improves humanity.
I agree with this, and have been talking to people about it under the moniker of "deferred altruism". My hypothesis is that someone who continually gives his time and/or money to worthy causes over his entire life may end up being cumulatively less world changing than someone who spends half her life making money, then switches to philanthropy or world changing ideas later.

The canonical examples are Elon Musk and Bill Gates, but of course there must be thousands of examples where the risk doesn't pay off, and the deferred altruist ends up unable to contribute much at all.

Perhaps I'm just finding a way of justifying being miserly now, but I certainly intend to pay it back in cash if I'm successful, or in time if I'm not.




One danger is that if you're not giving at least some in the meantime, it might be hard to part with it when "it's time". "Deferred altruism" is basically my plan, or at least I tell myself that, but this is something I worry about, so I try to give now, too.


My hypothesis is that someone who continually gives his time and/or money to worthy causes over his entire life may end up being cumulatively less world changing than someone who spends half her life making money, then switches to philanthropy or world changing ideas later.

How do you know how long you're going to live, such that you can switch from miserly to altruistic halfway through?


A will?


Perhaps. How many misers younger than middle age do you know who have wills?


Doesn't really matter how long a specific rich individual lives for this to work. As long as there is a culture of rich people doing it, then things would average out. Especially given that the life spans of very rich people tend to be longer.


To an extent this was my point too - if a decent number of people do this, then the few who get mega-rich and become philanthropic will make up for the many who fail to get mega-rich, and also the few who get mega-rich but don't become philanthropic. Well... hopefully!


I get your point, but it's hard to shake the feeling that "deferred altruism" is just an "excuse" to keep everything to our self. Also, I strongly believe it's hard to turn generous after being very selfish for a long time. Guess that's what andrewflnr said..


Yep, I get your point too. But I feel that we can't pressure people into altruism so if they aren't going to give anyway, then it doesn't matter whether they fail to do so in one lump sum or fail to do so continuously.


"...someone who continually gives his time and/or money to worthy causes over his entire life may end up being cumulatively less world changing than someone who spends half her life making money, then switches to philanthropy or world changing ideas later."

Couldn't have said this better myself. Thank you :)


I especially like the change in gender half way through. Almost certain it was intentional.


Yeah, it was intentional. I noticed a while ago that I almost always used masculine pronouns when the gender was really irrelevant so I've been forcing myself to switch it up a bit. I think I first noticed after reading a comment on an article on Fred Wilson's blog where a guest author did this too.


You mean spend the first half of your life as a man so you're paid more, and then change gender when it's time to give your money away? Brilliant!


Make sure you keep the emphasis on "may" - I think it's important to note that this is not a hard and fast rule, it's just a theory.



Thanks, this is very interesting.




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