Giving It Away Before They’ve Earned It

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December 11, 2010; Source: Wall Street Journal | As the author of this article from Wall Street Journal aptly notes, billionaires who’ve pledged to give away most of their wealth aren’t likely to endure any hardships as a result. But what’s in store down the road for three Rutgers University students, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, are making plans for a lifetime of giving before they’ve even graduated from college?

Of the trio, Nick Beckstead and Mark Lee, both 25, have promised to begin donating any income over their stipends until they graduate, and after that they say they’ll give away—until they retire—half their annual post-tax income. The third member of the giving fraternity, Tim Campbell, 26, is committing to giving away 5 percent of his income now, and hopefully more after earning his Ph.D. and entering the work world.

These very public lifelong giving pledges follow the group’s plans to launch a Rutgers chapter of Giving What We Can. According to the Wall Street Journal, the initiative, which was started by students at England’s Oxford University, encourages people in wealthier countries to pledge a fixed percentage of their earnings to charity.

Beckstead brushes off worries that it’s too soon and “too idealistic” for him and his friends to make such bold promises, unlike Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who started the Giving Pledge for themselves and their fellow billionaires who already have plenty to give. Beckstead says that when you account for how little most people make in developing countries, even a person earning “$25,000 is in the top 3% of the world’s wage earners.” As fellow giver Campbell adds: “It puts things into perspective and makes you realize you’re on a much higher ladder than you think.” You have to give them credit—and a big hand—for that kind of thinking.—Bruce Trachtenberg