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Hiking the Yosemite Falls Trail with elevation gain 2,700 ft (circa June 2018)

A Life of Philanthropy

One of the first posts we published on SerenadeWind talks about our relationship with money . When we began to dig into that topic, a natural extension to pursuing a minimalist life is a life of philanthropy. 

What does a life of philanthropy look like?

Lean into values

Friends and colleagues who know me have witnessed that when I set a goal, there’s a high certainty (approaching 100%) that the goal will be achieved. Whether I am quick to set an objective or take my time arriving at it, my value system is defined by integrity and honoring my commitments.

So, at the beginning of this year, I drew a line in the sand and declared that I wanted to pursue a life of philanthropy. Andrew is in full agreement of this ethos (although I suspect he has embraced this tenet all his life).

The shape and execution of philanthropy still needs to be defined. In the meantime, we have made donations to various causes every month since the line in the sand was drawn. These gifts were made as the needs have presented themselves. 

Non-profit Charter

If we go back to what we wrote, we toyed with the following idea:

How about we set up serenadewind.com with a non-profit charter in mind?

The concept is simple:

Whatever funds that come in will go toward paying boat expenses (including upgrades, maintenance, etc.) and any surplus in excess of some threshold will be given away to causes we believe in.

In the pursuit of minimalism, we don’t want to continue to accumulate money because it will end up owning us. Since the beginning of this year, we have donated to eight organizations roughly 50% of what has already come in through our funding.  

Cash in – Cash out

You may be wondering how we’ve been able to fund charities and organizations over the past few months especially since I retired from Warner Bros.

Andrew, of course, continues to draw income, but we’re not touching any of that. We are also not drawing down on our savings, since that makes up our cruising kitty and we want to be able to sail for many years to come. 

At the moment, the funding is coming through a single source: unemployment benefits.

When I first shared the news of retiring early to some colleagues, a few insisted that I file for unemployment. I was loathed to pursue this, until I thought,

Why not try and if it works, I’ll give it all away.

The decision to do this came at a price: insomnia. Now, I had something at stake where I originally had been laissez-faire. When I discussed it with Andrew, he was in full support of my dropping the matter altogether, and I did so for a few weeks. However, on the morning of the hearing with the judge, I did some quick prep work. The hearing itself was scheduled early afternoon when I was with my mom to address some leg pain that mysteriously began. 

Virtual Hearing

The amount of unemployment benefits in question totals roughly USD $9,000 (before CARES Act  and potentially over $20,000 with CARES Act). In theory, I could set aside 10% to cover taxes and give the rest of it away to those in need. 

While the money is nice, I’ll be honest. It means a lot more to me how it was secured. The most empowering moment came when I was speaking to the judge about my case. He asked a series of thoughtful questions over the course of 45 minutes. When the hearing concluded, he stated that the decision would be sent via regular mail in a couple weeks.

Regardless of the decision rendered, I felt vindicated. I had a chance to share my story to a neutral 3rd party and it felt liberating. If you want to learn more about the case, I will provide a brief write-up about it, which will be posted tomorrow. In reality, I didn’t have to wait that long. Less than a week later, the decision came in the mail.

When I read the decision, I set down the pages, walked over to Andrew and told him the news.

Then I did a happy dance.

Andrew laughed.

Second Mountain

I am reminded each week of how lucky I am to be in a relationship that fully encourages a life of growth and exploration. We are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. It first began with our relationship with money (which will continue to be tested throughout our lives) and extends to pursuing a voyaging life on the high seas. 

We refer to this period in our lives as climbing the second mountain. It’s a concept that has been widely circulated through the publication of David Brooks writing. If you have 5 minutes to spare, check out his video on “Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?”

We know the life we are leading is unconventional and not for everyone. The chronicle of our journey on Serenade Wind is largely to benefit those who may be curious about alternative approaches to living a full and balanced life.

For us, life is not about following a prescribed path. It’s an opportunity to choose your own adventure!

Today, in recognition of National Ocean Month, we have donated to Sailors for the Sea who advocates green boating practices. We have learned a lot over the past few months about what we can do to live with a greater awareness about how we impact the environment, which we profiled in Going Green and Ethical Sailing.

Post Script

This story was originally written at the start of this month. Over this past weekend, I received some news about a childhood friend of my brother’s who recently passed away.

Victor Kuo was both a public school teacher and philanthropist, working with organizations including FSG Social Impact Advisors, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and Global Chinese Philanthropy Institute

Thank you, Victor, for modeling an honorable life and may you rest in peace.