"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells." - Dr. Seuss
Question #92923 posted on 02/20/2020 8:48 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Last year, I invested a fair bit in the stock market. I was very confident that it would do well, and it actually did substantially better than I anticipated. So now I've got about $50,000 that I can use in a myriad of ways.

My personal ambition is to pay off my mortgage in less than 10 years so that I can have the financial freedom to serve my community with greater impact -- I have far more interest in that than going to Disneyland or live concerts, buying expensive cars, or going on international leisure travel, etc. I think it's more important for me to aid the jobless than entertain myself.

The problem is, if I decide to put it toward my mortgage, I'm going to first have to pay about $7000 to the feds, and $1600 in state income tax. I'm not a huge fan of the way tax money is spent (or the insane fact that our national debt is now more than our annual GDP).

But, maybe if I just use the money to spin up something charitable now, that's just as well, and I can take a few more years to pay off the mortgage in the long run.

So if I can start a business or non-profit (or some other tax-deductible application), the $50,000 would be about 20% more effective (in the immediate future) toward my end goal than if I just pay the $8600 and taxes and put $41,400 toward my mortgage.

If you had the opportunity, what kind of jobs/charity would you create? Would you start a soup kitchen? Buy a plot of land and make a public garden? Start up a business where you pay yourself minimum wage but hire jobless people and pay them well?

What community needs do you see around you that you could pro-actively solve yourself if you had the resources?

-Ol' Libby R. Tarian


Dear Libby, 

Honestly, respect. It's really great that you would choose to use your money that way. Also, THANK YOU for asking this question. As you might have been able to guess, I have a lot of ideas here. Some are more researched than others. 

1) Small affordable housing community for the homeless in large cities. I'd start with SLC and Portland probably. Basically, you build "tiny houses" for people to give them a place to come back to while they get back on their feet. I have a lot of respect for the Veterans Community Project and what they're doing. I would place a community garden on the property that people could help maintain to bring down food costs as well. I think it's really important for people to have a place to call home and give them stability. I think Yayfulness would have more knowledge about effective ways to carry this out. 

2) Create something like Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone in other neighborhoods that could use it. Even though I know grit isn't all of the equation, the HCZ is incredibly intensive and involved and seems to be turning out really good results for the people involved and the community that benefits from it. I would want to do some impact research to see what else I could do to improve it, but I definitely want to help improve the lives of impoverished populations by providing them more opportunities and ensuring they have the mentors and support they need to be successful in their endeavors. Geoffrey Canada's hope is that the children that leave the HCZ come back to improve their community, to turn Harlem around.

3) Pay off people's rents to help save them from getting evicted. I don't have a charity in mind or a particular plan to implement this, I just am furious that people could be working full time with children and still not be able to afford a place to stay in places like Milwaukee and Detroit. It's abominable and exploitative and if I had the money I would try to prevent it from happening to as many people as possible. 

4) Do what Kristen Bell does and buy supplies for teachers off their Amazon wishlists. Then spend more of my time advocating for and putting money into fair compensation for teachers. 

5) Research the best way to create parenting programs for people. You have to work around the fact that the impoverished often spend insane amounts of time working and don't have a lot of minutes to dedicate to taking a parenting class. But from research recently published by one of my professors and supported by Annette Lareau's research suggests that differences in child achievement are created very early on and may be largely the results of behaviors at home. If we were able to enable more parents with the tools they need to help give their children a better life, we could try to reduce those differences. This is part of how Utah seems to have good achievement scores while having  the lowest per child investment costs in education in the entire nation. It's because we have communities built into our religious structure that is designed to help people be successful. 

6) Invest in aeroponics to help bring fresh food in unimaginable quantities and at low prices to people living in food deserts.

7) Like guppy, I would consider helping lots of people pay off their medical bills. 

8) Provide school buildings to children in developing countries. I don't want to tell people how or what to teach their children, but I do think kids should have good, safe, clean buildings to learn in. 

9) (only sort of joking) Rebuild the Talmage building. It smells like feet and makes me claustrophobic. The math nerds need a better place to study.

10) Expand community programs like the Sunshine Club at Wasatch Elementary to be more readily available to the entire city, which will help to create bridging social capital, which enables people with less privilege to benefit from knowing and being friends with and interacting with people outside of their social circle. This can help to lessen the catastrophic effects of isolationist & criminalizing approaches to poverty. Remember what Bryan Stevenson said? GET PROXIMATE. 

11) Help expand The Equal Justice Initiative and the Innocence Project. 

12) Create free entry Social Education Museums all across the country to make sociological knowledge more available to people. You can go to learn about civil rights, craniometry, the housing crisis, comparative policies, etc. Maybe there will be guest lectures and art exhibits. I haven't hashed it out yet. 

I have more, but that will have to do for now. 




Dear Libby,

I've been taking a few classes about measuring the impact of non-profits, non-profit models, etc. With all the research and learning I've done, I've come to the conclusion that I don't know enough to actually make a difference.

Here's what I would do. I would keep investing the heck out of the money because it looks like whatever you're doing is working.

Then I would take a few years and dedicate myself to an issue. I would learn about it. For example, if I was interested in social justice I would read news stories and research articles. I would get out into the community and talk to people. I would research different organizations and the strategies they are taking to work on solving the problem. I would get educated about relevant policy.

While I was doing that I would find a way to volunteer. I would look for local organizations and try and give them ~5 hours a week. This would help me learn how to run a non-profit, and how to work in the space. 

Finally, and I think this is the most important, I would find a way to advocate for the cause. That could mean educating my friends, writing letters to newspapers and congressmen, attending city and county council meetings, and talking to relevant community businesses, governmental organizations, and NGOs.

Thank you so much for asking this. It made me reflect on what I can and should be doing now even when I don't have a lot of money.

Hope this helps!




Dear friend,

Be like this incredible church and pay off people's medical debts. 

-guppy of doom


Dear Liberal Arts,

I think it would be super cool to start a really cheap restaurant that sells bulk items at a low price. For example, we make Mac N Cheese or soup and sell a good portion at $1 per cup. Or selling bananas for ¢25 each and apples for ¢50 each, basically buying food in bulk and then selling it below market price (ex. Uncrustables can be bought 18 for $10 at Costco). I think this sort of business would work especially well on college campuses, where it is already a good idea to sell cheap things, but I would try to make it so that the things we sold were also healthy. I think you could name a restaurant like this CHEAT (Convenient, Healthy, Ethical, Affordable, Tasty) or something like that. The emphasis would be on providing solid food at a very good price, and then we would be transparent with our costs. Because we only make a little bit of money on each purchase, I don't know exactly how we would pay employees (hourly or by how much they sold), but we could possibly hire people looking for jobs and a place to stay, and then put a bed or something in a back room for them to sleep at. Most of this idea comes from the Philippines, where this sort of thing happens a lot and there is a lot of street food and people selling things out of their houses. I'm not sure exactly how effective this plan would be at achieving my vision, but I think it would be pretty cool.

I think that it would also be cool if there were a restaurant that had a suggestion box or some sort of survey that customers took to suggest improvements, so maybe we could incorporate that.



Dear Libby,

A few years ago my mom had an idea for a non-profit that she wants to start someday, so if I suddenly had money to put toward a non-profit, I would probably help my mom with her idea. She calls it her "laundry and literacy" idea. My mom is an elementary school teacher, and one year she had a student who would often wear clothes that didn't fit and would come to school super tired, without having done their homework. Eventually my mom found out that this student was often up late driving with their mom to the nearest laundromat almost an hour away so they could do their laundry.

So here's where my mom's idea comes in. It's not totally fleshed out, but basically something along the lines of opening a laundromat or a little center next to a laundromat that also has books for kids to read, places for kids to do homework, people to help kids do homework, places for kids to take naps, snacks and toys for kids, etc. all while parents do their laundry. Obviously this isn't the case across the board, but my mom figures that families who don't have a washer and dryer at home are probably among the most vulnerable and need the most help. Thus "laundry and literacy."