10 February 2009

Self-Serving Altruism

I filed our taxes this weekend. It gets less pleasant year after year. We're not married. We don't have any children or own any property. Basically we're sitting ducks for the IRS. I've been able to avoid them in the past by making less money, withholding nothing, making a lot of donations, and losing money in the stock market. But I've made some career advancements, decided to keep more of my earnings, and stopped trading. Now I only have donations to save me. The stuff we donated, plus the non-reimbursed costs from the move kept me from owing this year, but just barely. Now (while I'm in the tax mindset) I'm thinking of ways to avoid owing next year.

It's not that I'm a money hoarding Republican, or a tax avoiding Democrat. It's just that I don't like owing. I'm rarely willing to part with money I've saved. If I knew I was going to owe a year in advance, I'd pay it along the way and be okay with that. While that is an option, I'd still rather get cash back. I see as the government saying "thanks for being a good citizen." So I'm choosing to be a good citizen in advance, with the primary of goal of getting a financial kudos next year.

I've picked 7 charities and will donate to all of them throughout the year. I picked the Multiple Sclerosis Society just in case my money is enough to cure my mom. I chose the Rape & Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo Moorhead because I used to volunteer there and I know it provides fantastic services. I've also volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank and know my money will go far there. The guy with the hair runs a tight ship. I found out about Students Rising Above through my job. It's a scholarship fund for high achieving high school students who have had terrible childhoods. The other charities (United Negro College Fund, Red Cross, Salvation Army) are for the parts of me that think globally. In another month or so, I plan to set up automatic payments. It's self-serving altruism, but I'm ashamed to say it will work.

I should donate more. I know that. The most I ever donated was when I first moved to Fargo and made significantly less money than I make now. Yes my cost of living is higher, but that's no excuse. So now I'm hitting myself where it hurts. Charities can have my money. The government can't.