Give it away

aussie_money.jpgWhat are you prepared to give away? I guess that depends on what you truly value – not what you say you value – but what you really do value.

An Australian academic has just made a pledge to give away half of his lifetime earnings. Dr Toby Ord reckons that his days as a student weren’t too bad so he’s going to continue living like a student so that his money can help make the world a better place.

Dr Toby Ord, a 30-year-old ethics researcher with the Future of Humanity Institute, has agreed to give up 10 per cent of his annual salary, plus any yearly earnings above £20,000 (AUD $35,631).

Dr Ord says if he lives like a student, he should be able to give away around £1 million (AUD $1.78 million).

“My student years were not extravagant, but were immensely enjoyable, with the chief enjoyments such as reading beautiful books and spending time with my wife and friends costing almost nothing,” Dr Ord said. –

That’s a tough act to follow but it really does raise the question for each of us of what we are seeking in life. Are we seeking better relationships and simple pleasures or do we still run after material goods? We might say that money doesn’t buy happiness but do our lives back that up?

I love the fact that Dr Ord has picked up on the fact that the things that give him the most pleasure and give life greater meaning are not things that money can buy. I do wonder why so many of us keep chasing things that we know will never make us happy when the opportunity to enhance our lives and the lives of those we love are already within our grasp.

I need to be honest and say that I couldn’t give away half my yearly earnings. I’m not on an academic’s wage. In fact, my wage looks very much closer to the amount that Dr Ord has agreed to restrict himself to using each year. Out of that money our family supports a number of worthwhile causes yet I have to keep asking myself, should I be doing more? Our standard of living is still extremely extravagant compared to those I’ve seen in places like India, Haiti and Dominican Republic.

The good news is Dr Ord doesn’t expect us all to cut our earnings in half. He’s launching a site called Giving What We Can, encouraging us all to examine what we can be doing to alleviate the suffering of others in our world.

One of the great things about giving money away is the freedom that it gives. It says that my money doesn’t control me – I control my money.

If you do decide that you need to use the resources you’ve been given to create a better life for others there are many organisations doing great work around the world. Let me encourage you to check out Compassion. I’ve seen their work first hand and I seen the proof that the money donors give makes a world of difference. You can visit Compassion Australia or the Compassion International site.

So what do you really value? Think about what truly matters to you, examine the way you’re living, and see if the two match. It’s a challenge we all need to face.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Last year I started a non profit organisation, the Australian Prison Foundation, because I wanted to do something that made a difference ( This year we have launched a National Prison Book program which provides prisoners with free reading materials. Our aim is to provide books to prisoners and enhance prison library and educational services. Unfortunately many prisons cannot keep up with the demand for educational resources and books, we provide these materials to improve the lives and communities of prisoners to greatly reduce the likelihood of their return to the prison system. Our aim is to create a safer community and a more humane prison environment.
    It has been a wonderful journey and I have met some very interesting people in the process. It has taught me so much about myself and my abilities, I have learned new skills and it has been personally very rewarding.

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