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The Idealog guide to things you can do with your money to reduce social inequality (even if we're unqualified to give financial advice)

You want to make a positive difference in the world. You have some money. So, how do you do the greatest amount of good with the money you have? Here are some options, even if we're about as qualified for giving financial advice as an actual kākāpō would be for coaching the All Blacks.

Top image: Honiara Central Market in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. Photo by Ben Mack.

*NOTE: Seeing as we still sometimes eat cereal straight from the box and will be paying off our student loans until we're 258 years old, we are not in any way, shape or form legally qualified to give financial advice. But apparently there are laws around this kind of thing, so apparently we have to post this here. But you can trust us, right?

Social enterprise

These are organisations that, while they make a profit, spend part of their earnings on social good. Examples in Aotearoa include the One Percent Collective, Ākina Foundation, Eat My Lunch, Pomegranate Kitchen (read our story on them here), and more. They’re also found all over the world – but, obviously, much more needs to be done to promote equality and end inequality, and particularly to make sure social enterprises are held accountable for what they do with the money they receive and just how much good they’re really doing.

Impact investing

According to David Woods, deputy chair of New Zealand’s Impact Investing Network, this is essentially investing with a goal of making a difference, particularly in terms of sustainable development. Primarily geared towards businesses and organisations, Woods says this can include investing in solar energy projects in the Pacific, clean drinking water programmes in East Africa, jobs programmes in Northland, and more.

Woods says that since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of the 2000s, more people have been speaking out about the importance of using their money for good – providing fuel for impact investing. The Impact Investing Network (IIN) provides a platform for discussion and coordination across the developing impact investment sector in Aotearoa. Further, a National Advisory Board (NAB) for impact investing in New Zealand has been launched, which will connect New Zealand to global market developments and to steer strategy and governance of the emerging market.

Woods says impact investing can be thought of as an enterprise that makes social enterprises possible – kind of like how you need roads for cars to drive on, or telecoms to build networks for smartphones and the Internet to operate.

Philanthropy/charity

Most of us are familiar with this one: donating money to a worthy cause to help others, be it large gifts to a university (donate enough and get a building named after you, even if on the surface the pairing appears nonsensical, like the Albertsons Library at Boise State University in the US – named after grocery store magnate Joe Albertson), a small donation or gift to a non-profit (like donating your furniture to the local women’s refuge or Red Cross), giving money to a church or religious organisation (if you're religious and believe the same things the particular church or religious organisation does), microfinance (think Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank), and more. Billions upon billions of dollars are donated around the world each year, helping millions of people in need.

But, unfortunately, we also know not every organisation claiming to be a charity is - in fact - a charity, and there are more than a few scammers out there (not to mention organisations that coerce people into giving them money). Here in Aotearoa, before giving an organisation your hard-earned money, be sure to check out the Charities Register to find out if they are, in fact, a charity. Knowledge is power.

KiwiSaver

There are a lot of KiwiSaver schemes out there for New Zealand citizens and residents to invest their earnings. The problem: some of those schemes invest your money in weapons, cluster bombs, landmines, cigarettes, and other things that cause untold human suffering. Feel that knot in your stomach and lump in your throat? Not exactly a pleasant thought, huh?

After revelations of such came to light wayyyyyyyback in 2016, there’s a pretty good chance some funds are still being invested in them. Unless you think armed conflict is a great way to make money and/or have an unhealthy obsession with the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War, odds are you’d rather your money go to things that make the world a better place. A lot of KiwiSaver providers are aware of this, too, like Simplicity. Helping solve social inequality is one of the key missions of the organisation (check out managing director Sam Stubbs’ piece on how saving can help reduce social inequality here). Here’s to hoping every KiwiSaver adopts the same ethos and commitment to transparency.

Pay more taxes than you owe

It’s possible in some countries, like the US. And when you do so, the government can then do more (hopefully good things), like fund important programmes to provide subsidised housing for people in need. Plus, you can usually deduct the extra tax you pay from your taxes next year. To each their own.

*NOTE: Seriously, go back and read the first disclaimer about our financial woes and fitness at giving advice. Something, something grain of salt.

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