Audrey is a passionate writer who covers a wide array of topics, including film/tv reviews, opinion-based pieces, and relationship advice.
Recently Elon Musk tweeted that he’s open to suggestions for how to donate money in a way that actually makes a difference, which he said is way harder than it seems.
I can imagine why. The ultra-wealthy like Musk must always be pestered by people with pipe dreams wanting a handout, or even tricked by people or groups requesting financial donations which they later greedily squander, leaving no meaningful effect from the donation. Plus there is the issue of their money being hard-earned, and wanting that effort to bless others, not perpetuate problems or be wasted.
Even so, I believe the following five suggestions are ways that multimillionaires and billionaires can donate funds to truly make a difference in our world.
Health: Help pay off medical debt
Most people are really struggling financially. Some ultra-rich individuals may be able to relate to this because they started out humbly, but many have forgotten due to the immense buying power they currently have. One of the greatest burdens on families in America are unanticipated medical bills. Some families can’t even afford monthly insurance, so when they have a surprise situation that requires hospitalization, they are left with a debt they’ll never be able to pay, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to millions. Even myself as a beginning teacher had a bad situation with medical bills. I made about $35,000 a year, but after taxes it was more like $27,000. My husband is very good with money and budgeting, so we were debt free and even on a low income were able to save up for big personal dreams, such as a trip to Spain to visit relatives and an electric car (my husband’s lifelong dream). A bout with appendicitis ruined both of those plans. Even with insurance, I was left with a $4,000 bill, almost 1/7th of my income. Now luckily I could pay it and receive the care I needed. However, many others are left crushed by their debt and wonder how to move forward, picking up numerous jobs and selling everything they own. An ultra-rich person pays their hospital bills and doesn't even feel it, while normal income families struggle to stay afloat after necessary treatments. Debt can be bought for pennies on the dollar. I think if the super-wealthy would randomly and secretly pay off people’s medical debt it would drastically change the lives of many americans for the better. It would also make the donator feel fulfilled and purposeful. (I have specified medical debt, because credit card debt is accrued by the person willfully while most medical treatments are not). If I were super rich, I would ninja-bless by buying medical debt and paying it off regularly.
Environment: Become an extremely low-interest lender for electric cars and solar panels, among other green energy
This may be silly or out of touch. I really don’t know much about this type of thing, so I may be out of my depth here. Still, this seems like a good idea. There are many people (like myself) who care deeply about the environment and would love to use clean energy instead of fossil fuels, but for the cost. Interest rates are too high for my liking which means if we want an electric car or solar panels without throwing tens of thousands of dollars away over the course of years, we will have to save up cash, which on our salaries will take a decade or more. If there were a lending organization that charges extremely low interest (like 1%) and no penalty for paying off early, we would probably take advantage of it. Doing this en masse would put clean energy in everyone’s hands quicker, and would begin to reduce our carbon footprint. If I had ultra-riches, I’d look into this in order to help normal families live greener. (Lending a billion at 1% would bring in millions for the lender while helping struggling families meet their environmental goals)
Small communities: support organizations designed to give back to small communities
I lived for a whie in one of the opioid-crisis hot spots of the whole United States. While there, it was amazing to me how small organizations designed to support families of addicts and drug users struggled to make ends meet and got so little support. Donations to rehab programs, halfway houses, and family support goes a long way. Many ultra-rich people just do not know how much poor rural people pitifully struggle day by day. A mom’s drug habit may mean her children have to live with the grandparents. Who is supporting these elderly people now raising kids all over again, having thought they’d be taken care of by their kids at this stage of life? Rehab programs cost thousands. How will the mother (or her family) pay for it? The key is not more big government programs and funds. The key to overcoming small community problems is with supporting local organizations all ove rhte US designed to give back to small communities. Drug use is just one small example. There are also issues of unemployment, homelessness, disease, poverty, and crime, among others. Small, local organizations need funds to help literally change the world one family at a time.
World economy: foment jobs in 3rd world countries
Why do so many people come to the US (my family included)? Jobs, jobs jobs. If more was done to help foment jobs in other countries, the world economy would grow more competitive and people would be happy in their homelands instead of having to uproot and follow the money, which is often not a lot compared to the cost of living in the US. If we tell our family in Spain what we make in the US, they think we are rich, but in all actuality, we would probably qualify for government assistance, and we are in a very low tax bracket. The salaries look enticing, but people come here and cram fifteen people in one house and work gruelingly hard, often to send that money back home to their children or family members. Immigration is one of the foundations of the US, and I’m not knocking it, but I am saying that creating fair, competitive jobs in other countries will only make things better, and the ultra-rich may have more capability of doing this than the average Joe.
Future leaders: support merit-based scholarships for teens, and financial literacy classes.
One of my biggest complaints after leaving secondary school is they didn’t teach us to file taxes, write checks, invest, or even budget. Teenagers have great potential for success, but they cannot fulfil it because they are not given the tools they need to live their lives the best they can. The ultra-rich should invest in the next generation by supporting their studies, as well as teaching them about money, investing, and financial literacy. We cannot keep throwing teens into the real world right after high school with no guidance and hoping they turn out all right. Also, the level of debt college students accrue is out of this world, and I do not think free college is the answer (after all, it will never be free--someone will have to pay for it). Letting the uber-rich guide teens in this way will hopefully help them make better choices, appreciate the merit-based scholarships, and prepare future leaders to stand up and lead the world into the next generation, without the whininess or entitlement that so often plagues young people these days.
Wise Donations Change the World
So there you have it, five ideas for making the world a better place, with one super-rich person’s donation at a time. If those who have will pour in a little bit to those who have not, society will flourish, and everyone will be blessed by it.
© 2021 Audrey Lancho