Financial Literacy

Take care of yourself first

When you look at others’ problems, it is natural to want to help. But what are you giving up in order to help someone else? In many cases, you may give up some time or effort, or you might even provide some money to someone else. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, unless you can’t afford it. You need to take care of yourself first.

Don’t put your future at risk

Look at the impact that your actions will have on your future. It would be nice to pay for your child’s college, but does it make sense? How is your retirement? Are you using money that should be funding your retirement to pay for college? If you put your future at risk, are you really helping anyone?
The same is true of giving to charity. While you might want to be generous, you also need to consider the impact on your own finances. Giving too much, and putting your own finances in jeopardy can be a real issue. After all, how can you really help someone else when your own situation is such a mess? And who will have to bail you out if you overextend yourself? These are things you need to think about.

Taking care of your health

You also want to take good care of your health. Running yourself ragged isn’t going to help anyone. And, in the long run, unhealthy habits can lead to higher overall costs in your life. Look at your situation, and make sure you have time to take care of yourself and maintain your health.
You need to take care of yourself emotionally as well. While being there for someone is important, be realistic about the toll it’s taking. Are being drained emotionally for the sake of someone else? It’s one thing to be a shoulder to cry on, and quite another to be constantly exposed to never-ending negativity. It’s just not healthy, and it can have dire consequences down the road.

Focus on getting yourself right first

Even though it sounds selfish, you really do need to take care of yourself first. You need to put your finances in order before you start financially helping others. And you need to be healthy if you are going to help others with their physical and emotional burdens. You will be much better able to help others if you don’t need as much help yourself.
Learn to say no. Sometimes, you need to say no in order to keep yourself sane, and financially solvent. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone you can’t give them money when you aren’t in a position to do so. And, if you don’t have time to spend hours working on a project for someone else, you need to be upfront about it.
It’s good to help others. Helping others can bring benefits to your life. However, if you are struggling yourself, it’s much harder to provide that help to someone else. Think about what you can do to improve yourself, and get your finances in order. Once you have done that, you’ll have more resources that you can use to help others.


  1. Andrew

    Actually many charities can and do take major parts of any money people donate. In some cases upto 70%. Someone has to pay the wage of the cold caller.

    But still the point remains its more important to look after your own well-fare before you start paying a telemarketers commission. Donate only when you truly have the ability.

    Although, there is some good charities. Such as Medicines Sans Frontier, they take less than 2% for admin.

  2. Mike Elliot

    I think I disagree, at least in degree. It’s a balance and I’m not sure you’ve nailed it.

    If we wait until we are financially secure before helping others, we’ll be waiting until we’re well into our fifties or even later, for most folks. A little extra sacrifice here and there to get the kids through college or to help out Mom if she needs it is still worthwhile even if our finances are not yet in great shape, no?

    And if you or I are stronger emotionally but not yet totally together (who is?), we still have an obligation to help others who are less strong when we can (particularly those who look to us as a first support like family members and close friends) while trying to avoid over-commitment.

    My ability to enjoy good fortune (money and health) seems to be dependent upon my willingness to share some of it with others who are less fortunate. This seems to matter even during the journey to good financial and emotional health… and not just when I reach the destination.

  3. krantcents

    This reminds me of PF 101, pay yourself first! It is code for savings which gives me a lot more choices in life.

  4. CF

    I struggle with this at times – my parents always seem to have money troubles. I help out where I can because if I didn’t, who would?

  5. Derek - Freeat33

    I agree. Besides the obvious cost of paying for kids education, it was my experience that the kids who were financially involved in their schooling got better grades. I say help… But don’t hand out. You won’t be doing your kids any favors.
    If you disagree than you can join my kids crying about how “unfair life is”.
    suck it up, buttercup!

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