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[Today’s post is from staff writer Stefanie – click here if you’d like to write for VOSA]

I am a leftist, MSNBC loving, pro-choice supporting, same-sex marriage advocating, yoga practicing, humanist, vegetarian, liberal, democrat.

Despite that vivid image you probably have in your head right now of who I am and what I stand for, there is cornerstone of my life philosophy that stands in stark contrast to all of those things- I am a huge proponent of personal responsibility.

As such, I am of the often unpopular opinion that those in serious debt should not give financially to others. While I strongly advocate for responsible charitable giving and helping those who are less fortunate, I find it highly irresponsible to put your own finances at risk for the sake of such a cause- however noble. Remember that zero net worth is still higher than negative net worth.

Of course when you’re walking home from work in the middle of a freezing cold winter night and see a famished, destitute man, woman, or child suffering on the sidewalk, it’s hard to employ that stone cold logic and refrain from giving. In fact, you might reasonably argue that it’s just as irresponsible not to give when people are starving to death outside your door- even if their net worth is technically higher than your own. Which brings me to the question at hand, what is my fiduciary responsibility to others?

Clearly I can’t take financial responsibility for every human being in extreme poverty, standing at death’s door due to malnutrition, the elements, or otherwise. I can’t even do that for those I encounter in my own experience- it would leave me no better off than them and certainly in no position to be of any help.

Despite the human and emotional elements that come into play- guilt, sadness, helplessness, etc.- like most financial decisions, I still think it’s best practice to tune out the overwhelming calls of the heart and gut and remain as grounded as possible in the numbers.

Increasing your financial deficit for the sake of another human being, while emotionally satisfying, can prove catastrophic. It’s okay to prioritize yourself and your family, it’s okay to be selfish with your financial resources, in fact, I’d consider it a necessity until your debt is well under control.

Rather than letting the emotions sway you into giving when you can’t afford it, use them to motivate you to take control of you’re debt so that you’re more able to give in the future. There will always be more people to help and more causes to support. Financial giving doesn’t have to be equally spread out over a lifetime. Not being able to give today doesn’t make you a bad person or set a precedent for not being able to give tomorrow.

As for those scenes and causes that cry out to your heart and humanity- find the responsible, non-financial ways you can contribute. Rather than throwing money at the struggle, throw your humanity at it- have a conversation with those suffering on the street, fundraise for the cause, volunteer what time you have.

As for fiduciary responsibility- that lies first and foremost with yourself.


About the Author: Stefanie O’Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to “live the dream” on a starving artists’ budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.

P.s. If you’d like to write for VOSA, see how on the contributors page.

Image Credits: © Depositphotos.com / artistan

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