Bucket lists are usually filled with places you want to go, people you want to see, and things you want to do. Even just seeing the words “bucket list” probably brings an idea of an experience or dream vacation to mind. I know for me, personally, having the opportunity to explore Europe and play golf in the UK, on some of the oldest golf courses in the world, is very high on my list.
However, bucket lists don’t just have to only be used for places to go and fun things to do. For example, you could develop a charitable bucket list to help your community and people in need. We recently shared an article on social media, Forget Bucket Lists, that suggests regular bucket lists should be dumped completely.
In the article, Arthur Brooks states that “we should all dump our obsession with bucket lists. Reverse bucket lists are where it’s at.” The idea behind his statement is that most bucket lists are usually filled with enjoyable things you want to do. When we get what we want, it’s a good feeling, but the feeling can vanish quickly. Then we inevitably move on to wanting something else. He calls this the “satisfaction formula” where satisfaction = getting what you want. However, it is important to consider if this is true satisfaction? After extensive behavioral research, Brooks concluded that the satisfaction formula should look like this instead: satisfaction = what you have/what you want.
This updated formula creates a reverse bucket list (lists of wants to do away with), where you should find yourself closer to satisfaction in the present. A good way to implement this is to change every “want” to something that you could give. Here are some ideas for filling your own giving bucket that can connect your money to your life in more meaningful ways.
1. Develop your mission
If you’d like to move beyond spontaneously writing a check or clicking a donation button when the giving mood strikes you, consider formalizing your giving with a plan. The plan will vary based on your specific situation, but it will ultimately outline the goals, guidelines, and timing of your charitable giving. Aligning your whole family around a specific charitable plan sets a great example for future generations, and can also motivate younger family members to carry these goals as a part of your legacy.
2. Identify the best way to give
In most cases, the easiest way to give is to set up a recurring donation with a charity or nonprofit. No matter what cause or problem you’re trying to help, cash is always welcome. It doesn’t have to be packaged, shipped, and unpacked to have a positive impact. Most charitable organizations will send you a giving statement at the end of the year for tax purposes, but it’s always a good idea to keep your own records as a backup.
If you want to address a need that’s closer to home or underserved by existing charities, you might also consider opening a donor advised fund. Partner, Thomas Talbott, goes into detail about the eight things you should know about donor advised funds in this article last year.
3. Get your hands dirty
While giving plans often focus on financial contributions, consider contributing your time towards your giving bucket with in-person volunteering:
- Your local food pantry or meal center appreciates your help serving families year-round.
- You could help organize a food or clothing drive in your neighborhood.
- Retirees might consider mentoring the next generation of professionals. There are opportunities to work part-time at a nonprofit where others will benefit by learning from your professional skills.
All this talk about bucket lists reminds me of a book my fiancé reads to her students at the beginning of each school year. The book is titled How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath. Rath writes, “So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice – one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.” With this in mind, it might be time to revisit your bucket list to see how you can fill other’s “buckets.” You might even experience an increase in satisfaction by using your bucket list to help others.
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