ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! LarryNocella.com

20Jan/11Off

Join Kiva! You Can Help People and You’ll Feel Rich!

I have a wish that goes like this: somehow I become independently wealthy and no longer need to be a cube jockey to support myself. I can live off the interest on my scads of cash. I devote myself to helping others become as fortunate as I am. (Like Undercover Boss, only not exploitative.) I use my money to assist people with their dreams, lend them money for a business, or save their home when the bank threatens to foreclose after they've gone broke thanks to a devastating illness and a pay-or-die healthcare system. Stuff like that.

Of course, it's a fantasy. I'll probably never be that terribly rich unless I win the lottery. I suppose I could somehow write a bestselling novel, but I'm realistic about my odds. My stories don't revolve around vampires or lawyers (same thing?) and my non-fiction doesn't self-contradict by raving about how I unquestionably love America while simultaneously complaining that America has gone down the toilet.

So it's all just a dream. Or was. Until I found Kiva.org.

You simply must visit this site. It takes Nobel-prize winner Muhammad Yunus' ideas of micro-loans and makes them accessible to anyone. The short explanation is this: people across the world request a loan from a local funding agency. You select who you want to lend to, send your money and click. But wait, you're not rich, how can you possibly help? The genius of Kiva leverages the networking of the internet. It combines dozens of people like you, all with a little bit of money, to make a sizable loan. (Usually in the ballpark of US$1,000.) Together, you team up to become underwriters of a small-business loan!

So right about now, being a smart person, you're looking for the catch. Good on you. Stay sharp. Before you go putting down your hard-earned money, check out the Kiva loan risk advisories. If all goes well, you get your money back, you can withdraw it or re-loan it. Kiva does, however, openly explain that some loans may default, and you could lose your money.

If only big time banks were as honest! Wall Street investment firms hit you with a monster prospectus that no one in the world reads, and in microscopic print somewhere includes a tiny line, "Results not guaranteed." Which absolves them of anything and everything, apparently.

Kiva is much more honest about the reality of investing risks. They note their precautions and what they do to prevent them. Still, you might lose your money. Maybe you take part in financing someone's farm and a flood destroys it, causing the borrower to default. This is the real world of investment, not crybaby Wall Street where you can mobilize lobbyists to bail you out.

So losing money sounds bad of course, but your portion of the loan is only US$25. And really, that's not much to those of us in the USA. That's how much you spend on a couple funky-colored martinis with pretentious names. Or a a couple pizzas delivered. Or less than half a single Xbox game.

Yet that same amount, contributed by dozens of people, can make a difference to someone in a poorer country. That's where I think Kiva really gives back. It makes you realize how rich and how fortunate you are. What's peanuts to you can make a real difference. I've learned I don't have to become rich, I have to realize I already am rich. I don't have to be a zillionaire to make a difference, I already am.

So skip the crappy pizza and donate. Go to Kiva.org and be part of the solution. Thanks.

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Larry Nocella writes The Semi-True Adventures of Lar blog at LarryNocella.com. He's the author of the novel Where Did This Come From? The world's first CarbonFree(R) novel according to Carbonfund.org. The book is available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle eBook. It is also available for other eBook readers.