Lessons in financial giving from Elizabeth Gilbert

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Elizabeth Gilbert is the best-selling author of “Eat Pray Love,” a hugely popular memoir of her spiritual journey while recovering from a bad divorce. The sales of “Eat Pray Love” (and income from the movie based on the book) made Elizabeth Gilbert wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, and once she had more money, she found herself giving more of it away.

Financial generosity is important, but Elizabeth Gilbert discovered a few drawbacks to giving money away. In this article she wrote, “Confessions of an Over-giver,” Elizabeth Gilbert describes how too much charity can be a bad thing.

Elizabeth Gilbert wanted to help some friends who were experiencing financial difficulties. She paid off people’s credit cards, bought them plane tickets, paid tuition bills and even bought one friend a house.

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But what she didn’t expect is that all of this generosity had a few unexpected downsides:

  • Money changes relationships: Sometimes when you give money to friends, it changes the power dynamic of your relationship. Instead of being equals, one of you becomes a benefactor and the other is a recipient. This can create tensions and even cause the end of a friendship if you’re not careful.
  • Some people’s money problems aren’t really about money: Elizabeth Gilbert writes that some of her friends seemed to need money, but once they got the money it turned out that their underlying problem wasn’t really solved. Maybe instead of getting money, they really needed to work on the emotional difficulties that were keeping them from succeeding on their own.
  • You can’t afford to help everyone: Even a wealthy best-selling author can’t afford to fix everyone’s money problems. Sometimes people try to help their friends and families with financial problems, by donating money or co-signing on a loan, but there are risks as well as rewards of generosity. Take care of yourself and your family first, and don’t undermine your own financial security by trying to help others.


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Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s article, “Confessions of an Over-Giver.”

Photo Credit: Erik Charlton, photo sourced on Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Licensed.