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Wealth Management

Does Charity Begin at Home or Abroad?

Is better to support those in need in the U.S. or focus on those in the poorest nations?

My best friend donates only to charities that support health, education and microcredit in the world's poorest nations. She argues that her donations have more impact there than in the U.S. and that America's poor are much better off -- in material comfort and opportunity for advancement -- than the poor of other nations.

But I believe that my first (and maybe my only) obligation is to my community and my country, especially with growing inequality of wealth in the U.S. Which is the more ethical position?


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Each of you has a good point, and I commend both of you for your thoughtfulness. Too few Americans give generously -- say, 10% or more of their annual income -- to charities either domestic or foreign. I hope that you and your friend can persuade each other to broaden your giving profiles.

You should select some charities that share America's good fortune with the very poor of the world in a cost-effective way. And she can easily find some U.S. charities that focus on critical needs in our own nation -- say, improving public education in depressed urban and rural areas.

How important is the bottom line?

I'm under pressure from my boss to replace a longtime supplier whose prices are substantially higher than another's. Our current supplier is known to pay better wages and benefits than other firms in its field. What's the ethical approach here?


It would be shabby to replace a longtime vendor without plenty of notice and a chance to improve its pricing. And the final decision should consider not just price but also quality, service, and the supplier's reputation for integrity and good employee relations. If your current supplier can meet you halfway on the other firm's price, I would hope your boss would see the benefit of honoring this long relationship.

Have a money-and-ethics question you'd like answered in this column? write to Editor in Chief Knight Kiplinger at