He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

The always thoughtful Starita Boyce had an update on LinkedIn that got me thinking:

Not everyone can give a five-figure cash gift to the endowment fund. But, everyone can gift a life insurance policy.

I put this alongside the fact that Latino and African-American average household wealth is shockingly, shockingly, shockingly low compared to white and Asian average household wealth. Under $7,500 vs. ~$70,000 and up. I mean, what??

I think of Chris Rock’s line, “Shaq is rich. The guy who owns the Lakers is wealthy!”

I think of the story a couple of years ago of entrepreneurs offering a share of their future life income in exchange for an investment in their business.

And of course, there’s the fact that as a percentage of income, those lower on the income ladder give the most.

And it gets me thinking about what I’d call a “personal leverage factor.” What resources can you mobilize through your very existence, your very person?

What Starita is calling on people to recognize is that their personal leverage factor extends beyond income. A middle-class family saving to send two kids to college without much discretionary income for annual gifts to nonprofits (seems like a low personal leverage factor in terms of philanthropy) can have a decent-sized life insurance policy that can be part of a bequest (higher personal leverage factor). It’s a way of saying, how does society value your life? Depressing to think that one can be reduced to a number – or to that number among several others, but what Starita points us to is understanding the full extent of our personal leverage factor.

The great thing about philanthropy and volunteerism is that they extend, or even multiply, your personal leverage factor. (By the way, this is part of why social media are so appealing.) Perhaps this is another measure of wealth.

(This doesn’t even get into interpersonal leverage factor. And I’m sure personal leverage factor has something to do with the relationship between philanthropy and democracy, my two questions. Material for future posts….)


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