Wisdom//

Women and Giving: Increasing the Happiness Quotient

Studies show that giving to charity boosts your happiness. But what's the right way to start?

Vera Kandybovich / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Vera Kandybovich / EyeEm/ Getty Images

By Karmen Lai

It’s a rare woman who would say she has no need of any more money. Whether they’re looking for work, already employed, retired, or married to someone with a comfortable income, or living off of accumulated assets, they can think of things they could do with extra cash. Many struggle to make ends meet from month to month, and spend entirely too much time worrying about where the next dollar is coming from. But guess what? As happy as it makes women to get money, studies show they’re even happier when they’re giving it away.

Americans are among the most generous people on earth. A recent Gallup poll found that, within the last month of being queried, three out of five Americans had given money or volunteered time, and about three-quarters had helped a complete stranger. In 2014, taxpayers deducted close to $190 billion for charitable contributions. (That’s only what people reported on their tax returns. Many more dollars, of course, went unreported.)

American women, it seems, are even more generous than men. Although in general, they earn less than men, have less money in retirement, and outlive their spouses, a recent study shows that Boomer and older women in particular are more likely to give – and give more – to charity than their male counterparts.

Studies show that when people give to charity, they feel happier. There’s a catch, though. The emotional rewards are greatest when they feel connected to others. Writing a check to a faceless charity may not give as much happiness as buying school supplies for a particular neighborhood school whose students live on the same street. Helping another person in a direct and specific way strengthens a feeling of community.

So, how can you increase your happiness quotient? No matter how busy or strapped for cash you are, you can help others. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Write a check.

Find a charity that’s meaningful to you. Donate in memory of a loved one to an organization that your loved one cared about. Support medical research for a condition that has affected your family. Give back to the same scholarship fund that helped you get through college.

Donate your time.

Drive people to appointments. Read to people in nursing homes. Become a big sister or brother. You can do these good deeds by participating in an organized charitable activity, or just by helping somebody you know.

Help the planet.

Pick up litter. Turn off extra lights. Carpool. Educate your children to be good stewards of the earth.

Pay it forward.

If someone has given you a good recommendation, do the same for somebody else. If you get an unexpected little gift or favor, think of someone else who might derive the same pleasure by getting a similar surprise from you.

Show thoughtfulness.

Acknowledge others’ deeds. Say thank you. Notice when someone has done something positive. Delivering sincere, heartfelt comments can go a long way.

Many good deeds don’t even take much of your time or money, like inviting a friend, neighbor, or relative who lives alone to share a meal you’re preparing anyway, picking up extra items at the store for someone who has difficulty getting out, or calling a lonely person for a chat. It’s really just a matter of making it a practice to turn your thoughts outward and toward the people around you.

There is no time like the present to begin sharing with others. If you are considering ways to give to charities, help your children or grandchildren with college savings, or provide support to other causes near to your heart, consider asking for guidance from a qualified financial professional who can help you understand the best ways to give back. 

Karmen Lai is a financial representative with Fortis Lux Financial. As Director of Strategic Initiatives, she uses her knowledge of the industry and passion for initiating and managing different ongoing projects with the goal of helping more people to turn their dreams into action.

Originally published at www.ellevatenetwork.com

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