plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

October 15, 2008

blog action day – poverty

Filed under: giving — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 9:13 am

Does everyone else find that it’s easy to identify other people’s problems?

I was talking to an Aussie and a Yank last week and we were discussing politics, or rather our respective political systems and parties. The Aussie mentioned that she’d voted for Kevin Rudd in their last elections and was absolutely delighted that he’d given a formal apology on behalf of the Australian government for the Stolen Generation of Aborigines.

Which reminded me that I think the single biggest, most important and most difficult problem facing Australian society is that Aboriginal life expectancy is still 17 years less than that of white Australians. That single statistic actually highlights the vast array of issues currently facing members of the oldest continuous culture on the planet. Whatever people are trying to do about it, they need to do more, and better. It’s not really good enough.

As I said, it’s easy to identify other people’s problems. Because there’s actually enormous disparity in life expectancy between the rich and poor in the UK as well. Men in Glasgow have a life expectancy that’s 11 years less than men in London.

Poverty is closely correlated with lower life expectancies. People in poverty have worse diets and lifestyle, poorer housing, are more likely to work in physically taxing jobs, and often have worse education for their kids and may be be able to access healthcare.

The problems within individual developed countries however, don’t really compare to those in less and least developed countries. Life expectancy in many countries has been decimated by the Aids epidemic. Because with malaria and TB running rampant, it needed to get worse ūüėź . The number of people worldwide who live on less than $1 a day is unbelievable. I know that some things are cheaper in other countries, but not really things like pharmaceuticals.

We, you and I, could do something about this if we wanted to. If you and I each donated some money, that would help. We are after all, rich beyond many people’s wildest dreams. And giving money will make us each feel richer – there’s nothing like a warm glow on a cold autumnal day.

I’m donating September and October’s adsense earnings for Blog Action Day 2008. What are you doing?

Other bloggers who are getting involved

July 11, 2008

weddings and gifts

Filed under: giving — Tags: , — plonkee @ 11:10 am

I am not and never have been married. Which of course means that I’ve never had a wedding. I am invited to weddings from time to time, and of course weddings are gift giving occasions. Since I’m always the giver at these things, I’ve got more opinions on that side of things, and I’m going to share them with you.

advice to the happy couple

If you ever look in etiquette books, you’ll see that the bride and groom are always advised that their wedding is not a grabfest and they should refrain from suggesting directly that gifts are required or even anticipated. In English culture, it is definitely not considered polite to mention gifts on the invitations that you print, and including an insert about a registry is also frowned upon. Note that as with all etiquette rules this is culture specific.

Send thank you notes to all the guests that you invite who turn up (regardless of whether they got you a gift), and those who don’t turn up who send best wishes, congratulations or gifts. Essentially, everyone that you invite should be getting a thank you note. If they ignore your invitation and your wedding, then (and probably only then) you needn’t bother.

advice to the guest

Get a gift. If you’ve been invited, get a gift regardless of whether you’re going or not. It’s true that you don’t have to, but it is expected, by society at large, that you will. No gift needs to cost a lot of money and it doesn’t need to be taken from a registry. It should simply be something appropriate to both you and the couple, as far as is reasonably practicable.

There are exceptions. But if you’ve been invited, politeness requires that you send at least a card with your best wishes. Failure to do this is really an insult to the couple. Meaning to be rude and doing it is one thing, but inadvertently being rude is something to be avoided.

double standards

So, I’ve suggested that couples getting married definitely shouldn’t expect gifts from their guests, and guests definitely should send gifts to couples. Does this feel like a double standard to you?

It’s not. The rule of being polite and courteous is that you put yourself out in order to make things more comfortable for other people. It is more polite not to expect a gift than to expect one. But on the other hand, it is much more polite to send a gift to a wedding than not to send one. It indicates that you care about the couple, and that you support their marriage.

If you suspect that you’ve only been invited in order to solicit a gift, then you can either fulfil their expectation and send a gift, or send a gift of nominal cost – which could just be a card. If you aren’t that close, and they moan about it to other people, they will only make themselves look bad. Sort of giving them enough rope really.

what do I actually do?

I consider myself pretty lucky. All the weddings I’ve been invited to have been for people that I would consider friends to some degree or another. If they’ve had a registry of gifts I’ve always bought off that, which has worked out well because some/most of them have had very different taste in stuff to me. Otherwise, my standard gift is a bottle of champagne or wine, or extremely posh chocolates for non-drinkers. Plus a card filled with best wishes. I can be a bit cheap I guess, because I normally spend in the ¬£20-¬£25 range (approx $40-$50). I would push the boat out for siblings or parents (and any other close relatives if I acquired them) but haven’t had the occasion to yet.

what about you?

What do you think about weddings gifts? Do you feel as more or less obligation to send them than I do? Let me know in the comments.

April 10, 2008

giving and the gift economy

Filed under: giving — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:14 pm

Far too frequently I fantasise about winning Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (not the lottery,¬†I understand basic probability). My current thoughts are that with the money I would invest about half of it (maybe pay off the mortgage, the rest probably in index funds). The other half of it, I’d be giving away.

Only about £100k (10% of the £1m) would be heading in a truly charitable direction, with the other £400k being split amongst my close family Рsiblings and parents. I enjoy giving, and feel that this would be the right thing for me to do.

This leads me to thinking about gift economy. From wikipedia:

A gift economy is an economic system in which goods and services are given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future quid pro quo.

I find this concept really easy to understand. The point is that you give things away. Giving things away gets you more status / karma / brownie points etc, and those are really important, more important than things. In a gift economy hoarding is bad. If you hoard things then you are disrupting the system, meaning that people in need will go without and you will lose your good name (in some sense).

The beauty of the gift economy is that¬†everything that people give has to be received by someone. In this way, as long as everyone¬†pretty much takes part, you¬†don’t lose out.

I’m always struggling to explain¬†gift economies to people because they fixate on how you¬†know that you get back as much as you put in. This is frustrating to me, because¬†part of the whole point is that you probably don’t. But¬†the status/karma/brownie points that you do get are more important as a marker of¬†success than cash.

Gift economies are kind of the opposite of capitalist economies. It¬†seems reasonable that¬†a gift economy works best on a small scale where all participants are connected to each other. It’s plausible that¬†a gift economy only works on¬†a small scale.

As with all types of economies,¬†gift economies¬†rarely exist in pure forms and¬†for all products.¬†The most notable real life examples are found in traditional Pacific Island cultures (dying out somewhat), but they exist in extremely modern cultures – open source software is essentially a gift economy, as is economy of blood donation in the UK. Recently (although it’s not described as such)¬†Trent @ the simple dollar tried to describe the gift economy that exists within parts of his extended family and if you think about it, it’s normal for gift economies to exist inside nuclear families.

This has been my best attempt at explaining what a gift economy is. To a certain extent, there’s a gift economy within my own family (siblings and parents) although it operates partly as a market economy as well. What do you think?

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