by Will Clayton ’12
I want to talk to you about my demographic:
- I am twenty-something
- I am a “young professional”
- I make too much money
I know that last one is a bit of a taboo in our culture—I mean, who really thinks they make too much money? And while it’s certainly not true for everyone, it happens to be true for me and for several other recently graduated scholars (and for many scholars graduating in the coming years). Last year this demographic welcomed half a million new bachelor-wielding graduates who survived for the past twelve months on $10K. This year their jobs pay more than $50K. Suddenly all these young people, like myself, make this rapid transition from the college budget—where we live on less than we’ve ever had—to the young professional budget where our incomes increase by some magnitude approaching infinity. And seemingly, our expenses do the same. Quarter beer night is no longer good enough to see our friends, so instead we get dressed up for bottle service at some bar named “Séance.” I exaggerate, but you get the idea: our standard of living is on a dangerous gravity-defying slide. It seems that there might be some opportunity here in that momentary pause when we recognize the independence and freedom of our first job’s financial security but just before we begin to sit comfortably in that salary. I decided to exploit that opportunity. I created a budget for savings and various life expenses, but also one for charity. I decided to donate a bold 22 percent of my income to charity as a test to see if I could still live comfortably within my means. Turns out that it was not only possible, it was easy. I was still accustomed to a college budget and hadn’t yet developed the habits for spending money the way a typical young professional might. And interestingly, the behavior scales. If the whole demographic who graduate making more than $50K were to do donate even half as much, 11%, we would create a brand new $7 Billion industry dedicated to . . . well . . . that’s the next problem. I had to decide what to do with this money, which turns out is pretty fun. I put it in a separate bank account and decided not to think of it as mine, but someone else’s I had to spend. I started with random acts of kindness: buying someone’s gas or groceries, anonymously sending flowers to distant acquaintances, and giving Sacagawea dollars to the man on the corner. Then I started making donations here and there: to the Morehead-Cain and the Boy Scouts and other places that were important to me. But it wasn’t enough. The money still sat there accumulating a few years down the road, so I made a rule that I had to spend it. That’s when I started the Broughton Travel Fellowship at my high school for underprivileged students to travel during the summer before their senior year. Besides literally changing the trajectory of several students’ lives and being a fun project to work on in my downtime, it cost me nothing once I had decided that the money wasn’t mine. This was my story but yours could take one of endless and interesting possibilities. They tell us that Millennials have this desire to go out and change the world. This certainly isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s a great way if you find yourself drawn to a job or career that also happens to pay well. A philanthropist doesn’t have to be an old man with a monocle and a top hat. And she doesn’t have to be an investment banker or a consultant. It can be you, and it can be a part-time job.
Will Clayton is an associate with The Boston Consulting Group