Monday, February 8, 2010

Solidarity with Economically Suffering Americans

While I have been preparing for the experiment, I've realized a secondary aspect of the experiment which wasn't particularly clear to me when I came up with the idea, and one which is perhaps just as important: 


I am putting myself in a position similar to so many Americans who are suffering from the massive job loss striking our country.


In retrospect, this seems like a no-brainer. Cutting out my income for a month is functionally similar to losing my job. Suddenly, no money is coming in. (Of course, I get to keep my benefits, and I know that the salary will resume at the end of March, so I don't claim that psychologically it will have the same impact.)


This became clear to me a few days ago, when I got paid and paid my bills, only to find that there was very little money left. For a moment, I was confused. Actually, for a couple of days. We'd increased our giving a bit, even before the experiment, in an effort to tithe to our church. (I'll get to the potential significance of tithing in another posting.)


Then it hit me. I'd increased my car payment - doubled it, in fact - a couple of paychecks ago, so that it would be paid ahead enough that I'd not have to pay it during the 40 Days of Giving experiment. So even now, we're giving roughly 10% of my W-2 income (the day job) in a charitable auto-deduction that is matched by my company, giving 10% of all income to our local church, plus doubling a nearly-$200 car payment. That's a substantial bite out of the paycheck, and it's being felt, because we can't really yet dip into savings to make up the difference.


When I proposed the experiment, I honestly hadn't really anticipated how much of a sacrifice it would be sure. Sure, I figured that I'd come out of it without much in the savings account, but I had a decent amount in savings and didn't really expect that I'd lose out on that much. However, part of the savings will have to be dipped into in order to pay back, and thus give, the portion of my income that normally goes to benefits. The full impact of this hadn't really occurred to me when I originally proposed the experiment.


So, in addition to examining the potential benefits of giving, I'll also be looking at what happens when an income goes away ... which given the current unemployment rate (and predictions for the future) is something that more and more Americans will be facing until we get our economic house in order.


This might sound like I'm discouraged about this, but quite the opposite: I see it as a worthwhile new dimension to the whole project. I think this experience will make me more appreciative and aware of the abundance in my own personal economy.


And, after all, maybe I'll be able to give to someone in need who hasn't had the foresight to save up a bit of a buffer.