Conscious Aging: Grappling with How Much is Enough?

Those of you who know me well know that How Much is Enough? is the title of my first book, published in 2002. “How much is enough?” is also a question — one that I suspect most of us revisit from time to time.

I’ve always been charitable financially, feeling that part of human decency is responding in whatever way we can to the needs of others. My late husband Jerry believed that too. The need now is going to be greater than ever, because of the Republican sweep of Congress. If we get the promised huge tax cuts for the wealthy, billions of dollars in new military spending, and a big infrastructure bill, there will literally be no money left in the federal budget for programs that deal with climate change, poverty, scientific and medical research, foreign aid, protecting human rights, education  — anything.

At the same time, I’m at an age when medical bills can occur suddenly and spiral out of control. I have no faith in Trump’s promise to protect Social Security and Medicare for those in my age bracket. Trump demonstrably cares about two things: winning adulation, and enriching himself and his family. Anything else is negotiable.

Those competing dynamics create a push me-pull me feeling about charitable giving. I see that the need is large and growing. In the moment I have enough, and can afford to share. At the same time, I’m at an age when calamity can arrive suddenly and unbidden — most particularly in the area of personal health. That makes me want to hold on to what I have, against the day that I might need it.

How do you think about this, at whatever stage of life you may be in? Do you believe in sharing with others? Does the current political environment make you more or less willing to act on that belief? I’m curious to hear your thoughts, which I trust might enlighten my own.

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