Helping Someone Make a Living

Steve Lear |

By Steve Lear

There’s a saying: "Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Most people believe it originates in the New Testament; however, the closest biblical language is "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men," which is something very different. [1] Some attribute it to Confucius or one of several other ancient Chinese philosophers. [2] However, in fact it appears to date from a mid-19th century magazine story (we’ll ignore for the moment the late 20th century update — “Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat all day and drink beer.”) [3,4] 

Regardless of its origins, I believe it’s true – of all the forms of generosity, the highest form of helping others is to help someone make a living.

There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Giving a gift of money
  • Lending money
  • Hiring someone
  • Giving or lending money for education

Some specific ideas include:

  • If you run a business, this means that you do NOT try NOT to hire people. Too many times, business operators just look for ways to cut staff. Instead, think differently. Think of your business as an opportunity to provide people with the means to earn a living.
  • Lend someone $20,000 to start a business at no interest or low interest. Help them get off the ground and later they can pay you back. Get a promissory note and if the business fails, you can possibly get a tax write-off. [5]
  • Help someone who needs more formal education, or to learn to a practical skill, such as typing, or to develop better self-awareness and self-understanding. Give or lend them the tuition money for school or simply for a class.
  • Hire interns. Note I said hire, as in “pay money to.” Not paying interns is engaging in the practice of slavery. Even minimum wage is OK. But it’s not OK to use someone if their only compensation is the ability to put the experience on their resume. Just make it part of your budget, like keeping the lights on.

What about employing people to do things you could do yourself but don’t like to, such as mowing your yard or cleaning your house? If you have the resources, I believe it’s OK to give someone else the ability to do any of these jobs, with the following caveats:

  • Use your new-found “free time” to do something meaningful to you
  • Pay them fairly
  • Pay them right away
  • Pay them extra for a job well-done

In summary, there are innumerable benefits to helping someone earn a living or helping them prepare to do so. The individuals you help will learn valuable skills, which they can use to help you, themselves, and others. You get the benefit of their labor, which can be good for your business. You can also get more free time to pursue something meaningful to you—perhaps volunteering to help others in some other capacity. It’s a vicious circle—in a good way!








The views and opinions shared in this article are strictly those of Steve Lear and do not represent Affiance Financial or Private Client Services. Further, nothing in this article should be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with your financial professional.