In the developing world, altruism is a rare sight and can hamper one’s dream of leading a lavish life. But there are certain professions which can be the best in supporting people to execute it.

Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher and one of the world’s most famous living philosophers says that becoming a hot shot in finance may be the best way for a bright graduate to help the global poor.

A movement of donors known as ‘effective altruists’ encourages people to give big chunks of their income, typically around ten percent but in some cases more than half, to charities that alleviate global poverty.

The website says : Effective Altruism is a growing social movement that combines both the heart and the head: compassion guided by data and reason. It’s about dedicating a significant part of one’s life to improving the world and rigorously asking the question, “Of all the possible ways to make a difference, how can I make the greatest difference?”

People who chose altruism

Matt Wage came top of his class at Princeton, where he was taught by Singer. There, he and his friends looked at research which said it costs “around $3,340” to save a life, and Wage looked at how best he could set about helping.

Charity 80,000 Hours, named for the time a typical person spends at work during their life, helps people pursue ethical careers. “Some people have skills that are better suited to earning money than doing good directly,” its website says.


Wage decided this applied to him. He accepted a job, with a fat salary attached, in an arbitrage trading firm on Wall Street, with the explicit purpose of doing what 80,000 Hours calls “earning to give”.

Christopher Smith, 24, works as a strategy consultant in London earning over 50,000 pounds ($78,000) a year, a career he says he chose for its high earning, and thus giving, potential.

“I did think about working directly in a charitable organization,” he said. “But I do not, or did not when I graduated at least, have the skills that would allow me to do that very well.”

Singer on number of altruists

According to Singer, it is hard to know the exact number of people who ascribe to effective altruism, although thousands have made the Giving What We Can and Life You Can Save pledges. He recommends one should give it a try, do it for a year if someone isn’t sure whether to make the jump to effective altruism.


“One person I know who’s involved in The Life You Can Save said ‘the life that I saved is my own, because I now really feel that I’ve got a purpose for my life, and its meaningful and I’m happy what I’m doing’,” he said.