Intentional Money: Using your Power for Good

donate ethical consumerism giving goals impactinvesting Jan 17, 2023

What is “Intentional Money?”

 Intentional is defined as “done on purpose; deliberate,” and “stresses an awareness of an end to be achieved.”  When you are intentional with the money you have, you are deliberate with where that money goes, and have an idea of what you achieve by using your money in different ways. 

There is an abundance of information, education and interest in making money and financial literacy.  Another powerful, and I would argue equally important, part of financial literacy is what we do with the money we have when we put it out in the world. 

 “Money is Power”

 This common saying is ingrained in many people’s thinking, with the corollary that it’s the people with large amounts of money that have large amounts of power and influence.  History, politics and what we see in the news every day certainly supports this.  For those of us with choices of how we can use our money, we do have opportunities to consider what ends our power is achieving – and it can be more than we realize over our lifetimes.

“The typical lifetime gross income range for American males is $1.13 million to $3.05 million, and $510,000 to $1.86 million for women.” (The discrepancy in these numbers is another issue altogether.) Over a lifetime, and over a much greater number of individuals, this can be significant when used intentionally. 

How do we use our money?

 Our money can be a way to support what we want to see in the world, when we are spending, investing or saving, and donating.  It is important to realize that the choices we make when we take these everyday actions, accumulated over a lifetime, can be a powerful way to live our personal values.


 From our choices when shopping for everyday goods, to our large or lifetime purchases, each of those choices has an impact on the world around us.  A purchasing decision can be considered a political act – we are voting with our money which companies will succeed, and what business practices are acceptable.  It’s worth taking a moment to think through some of those choices.

 Ethical consumerism is based on the idea that when making purchasing decisions, it is important to consider factors beyond the price and performance of the final product.  Where was the product made, and by whom? What is the product made out of? What are the political, ethical, and environmental values of this company behind the product? Taking even small amount of time to reflect on your values and how they align with or oppose your purchase patterns is a way to be intentional with your everyday power.

 Saving and Investing

The basic act of choosing a bank for our everyday checking and savings account can have significant impact over a lifetime.  When we bank, our money does not sit untouched in a vault, magically growing until we are ready to take it out and use it. The banks use it, and how they do can vary widely for different banks. For example – “Commercial banks are generally stock corporations whose principal obligation is to make a profit for their shareholders,” whereas “credit unions are nonprofit institutions that seek to encourage savings and make excess funds within a community available at low cost to their members – credit unions’ financial powers have expanded to include almost anything a bank or savings association can do.”

 Likewise, our investments directly support businesses, and we can choose to align our investment portfolios with our values in many ways.  One way to do this is with impact investing.  The Global Impact Investing Network defines impact investments as investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Another opportunity to do this is with ESG Investments Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing is a set of criteria that investors can use to screen for certain values in companies. Environmental criteria screen for a company’s impact on the natural world. Social criteria examine a company’s efforts in promoting social justice within and without their organization. Governance criteria focus specifically on company leadership: their actions, interactions, objectives, and accountability, among other factors.


This can often be the most direct way to support groups working to make an impact on the causes we care about most. The majority of Americans make direct donations, and their contributions add up – in 2021 56% of Americans donated to charity, with individuals contributing a total of $326.87 billion.  Collectively we make a significant difference in the world around us.

Often people make their donations without any significant research or comparison of charitable organizations.  Fundraisers are targeted, particularly in times of tragedy, for us to make quick reactive donations.  These can fill in immediate needs, however, having a simple plan can make all the difference to give effective donations to groups aligned with our values.

It is important to take at least a small amount of time taken to assure that you are donating to a valid (not fraudulent) organization, that you understand what the charity evaluation websites are actually grading (these can be easily misunderstood), and that the organization’s goals are evidence based, effective and align with your values.  Taking this a step further and having a personal giving plan can also help you maximize your impact and well as your own personal benefits, including tax benefits.

Intentional Money

 You can harness the power of your money to maximize your positive impact with intentional giving, investing & spending - no matter the amount.  There are simple steps you can take to align your money with your values, that can benefit you and others.  To continue learning about these opportunities, sign up for the newsletter to get easy, actionable steps.


Together we can do so much good! 

You can be the change you want to see in the world through effective, efficient, and impactful philanthropy. Check out my course, The Physician Philanthropist, for a comprehensive education on and strategy for maximizing the impact of your giving both for you and your causes

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