Out in the Open

'There's always someone who needs the money more than I do'

Julia Wise gives 30 to 50 per cent of her income to charity each year.
Julia Wise gives away about 30 to 50 per cent of her income to charity every year.

To say that Julia Wise and her husband are generous is an understatement. Last year, they clocked about $160,000 in charitable donations.

Julia typically gives 30 to 50 per cent of her income away, and has donated more in the past.
Julia Wise (Courtesy of Julia Wise)

Growing up, she was thankful to have been raised in a family that allowed her to get a good education and not have to worry about money. When she was in university, the reality that not everyone else had it so well kicked in, and Julia decided to act.

"I remember being in a shoe store and I had picked out these red shoes — I was in college — and I really loved these shoes. I remember being in the checkout and thinking 'Is it really worth the $30 or whatever they cost, for me to have these shiny new shoes when someone else could use the $30 to feed their family or get a vaccination that their child needs to keep them safe?'"

Even though she ended up buying the shoes, it got her thinking. So many people in the world were lacking the ability to spend money in the same way, and she started to question the value of her purchases.

There's always someone who needs the money more than I do.- Julia Wise

Julia used to imagine someone standing next to her who would benefit from the money she was considering spending. But she took it to extremes. When she got upset over spending a few dollars on a candy apple while on a fun trip to an apple orchard, her husband had to ask whether this method was a sustainable and healthy way of going about doing a positive thing

Now, they establish a certain percentage of income that they will donate annually — instead of having to decide whether or not to purchase something in the moment. 

"We are pretty frugal. We've also been lucky though to have good jobs that earn fairly high salaries, so even after giving away half of our income, as we did last year, I think we still have plenty to live on — certainly more than many people have."

"I have heard criticism from people who I think just don't actually have a good sense of what our daily life is like. Some people have said 'How can you give money to other people when you have children?'"

Julia sees donating large portions of her income as a way of making positive use of her privilege, instead of ignoring it or feeling guilty for having more than others. For her, it's a way to help make the world a better place, and will help teach her children about the family's values.

This story appears in the Out in the Open episode "Perfect Strangers". It originally aired on May 7, 2017.