Are You A Genuine, Or Conditional Giver?

This post is not only about becoming debt free, it’s also about charity and giving.  This story triggered some questions for me, and I wanted to ask you what you thought about it.  If you have ever watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition then you have seen many communities come together for families who needed some help.  In 2006, “a Cincinnati home builder, a handful of Cynthiana contractors and everyone of that town’s subcontractors, churches, painters, drywallers, carpenters, restaurateurs and good-hearted others, to donate tons of materials, labor and time to help build a house for the Hassall family.

Why Did So Many Sacrifice For This Family?

This is the story that inspired a town to come together and give so much:

“The Hassalls were mighty deserving. Brian, a Cynthiana police officer, had been shot when he served as a Transylvania University officer and had continuing trouble with migraines, significantly aggravated by light. His wife, Michelle, was a much beloved high school music teacher who had a long battle with cancer as well as a blood disorder. They had two young adopted children, one with special needs.”


I think that this, meaning the private sector, is where charity and giving have the biggest impact.  As Dave Ramsey stated in his Town Hall For Hope event back in April, “if we were debt free, we could GIVE the Government out of a job.”  Nothing was wasted, and so much was gained from this, unlike the massive Government programs where money seems to disappear into thin air.  People around the town claimed that taking part in such a generous act changed them forever.  That is perfectly understandable since giving, if done in the right selfless spirit, causes you to step back from your own problems to recognize that others are worse off than yourself.  Did it really change them forever, or was it just a momentary feeling to hide the true motives?

Should A Sincere Act Of Kindness Have Strings Attached?

The reason why this story interested me so much is twofold.  After 3 years of living in this house, the family announced that they are putting the house up for sale.  The reason they have given is because they want to become debt free.  The other reason is because that desire to become debt free came from taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University workshop at their church.  Now maybe I would have been a little more excited had they claimed it was because they read Enemy of Debt, but no matter where they learned about it, their decision to do so is AWESOME!

“The small town that built the house out of a genuine desire to provide a safe haven for this particular family is reeling from the news of the proposed sale.”


Now some people in the town who donated time, resources, energy, and had many sleepless nights are angry over their decision to sell?  This makes me wonder if people really understand selfless giving.  Did they really have the heart of a giver when sacrificing whatever they gave, or did they just feel good about the fact that they could say they took part in something this big?  If you give someone something isn’t it rightfully theirs?  Can’t they do with it what they wish to do with it?  Should you require a contract for the recipient to sign before the gift can be handed over that says what they must do with it, if they decide it is no longer needed?  More importantly when you give someone something does it give you the right to control them?

Cynthiana resident Sandy Sageser begins her letter of May 21 simply: “The entire Hassell (sic) family story is a disgrace and humiliation to this community ….”


What the Hassalls are being charged with, in not very veiled terms, is this: They took what Cynthiana so lovingly gave them, and they are profiting by it.  The Hassalls don’t see it that way.  For starters, Extreme Makeover‘s producers paid only their second mortgage, which they took out to pay for the adoption of their son. After the old house was torn down and the new one built, they were left with a first mortgage on a house still valued at $117,000 (according to property records), much larger utility bills and a new and larger tax bill.


Why should the Hassall family feel forced to stay in that house forever, just because it was built for them at a time when they needed it?  Should they have to keep the house even if the new utility costs caused it to become a burden, instead of a blessing?  Now some of the same people are questioning whether or not they deserved it.  This causes me to wonder if certain people who feel this way, truly had a GENUINE DESIRE to do what they did.  Why does selling the house because of their desire to downsize, and become less burdened by debt, mean that they are less deserving? They got a free house but still owed money on the first mortgage of the house that was demolished.

As Always Here’s My Opinion

I feel that when someone gives a gift, their should be no strings attached.  Receiving the house helped them 3 years ago, and selling it today is going to help them as well.  Morally their is no obligation from the recipient to keep the house, it was a gift!  I do think that the Hassall’s should consider giving a portion of the proceeds, which amount to about $350,000, to some charitable cause.  If they are downsizing, then they could buy a home for $100,000-$125,000, pay off their debt, and give $100,000 or so to a cause that would provide another family with a free house.  I strongly believe in the “Pay It Forward” philosophy.

When I needed a car my father in law was kind enough to give me a Mitsubishi Galant for free.  It was mine to do with how I pleased, and after it served my purpose, I gave it to a friend that was in a similar situation that I had been in.  I would have not felt right making a profit off of the car that was given to me, even though I was under no obligation to give it away myself.  In this scenario we are talking about a much larger item but should that matter?  At least the Hassall’s didn’t put it up for sale 6 months later and then go on an expensive cruise with the proceeds. The gift was not lost because the family is still able to benefit from the free house, it’s just won’t be the same house!

Being Debt Free Will Enable The Hassall Family To Give Like Never Before

What if this families desire to become debt free enables them to give more back, after experiencing the impact that giving had on them?  Should that become a consideration?  They no doubt felt the generosity surrounding them, and now maybe they want to be able to return the favor to someone else in need.  After all, the last lesson in Financial Peace says that if you build wealth and do not give then you missed the entire point of a Total money Makeover!!  (They’re not wealthy because of this gift, but being debt free will give them an opportunity to give.  So it is safe for me to assume that that lesson could have touched their hearts, and caused them to experience the emotions from that wonderful day in 2006, all over again.   So I guess some would rather they stay in debt, instead of sell just because they were so generous with their time and efforts.  I would argue that while they might have been generous with their time and efforts, they weren’t so generous with their hearts.   That is something to think about the next time you decide to give someone a helping hand or anything in the name of giving.

While some where angry, many gave their support, and for me, these next two statements sum it up:

“The end result was I didn’t do it to benefit me. We did it to benefit them.”


“This is not a crisis,” Love said. “Kids going hungry in this county because their parents are out of work is a crisis. It’s a house. (This judgment of their actions) really irks me. It’s silly and childish. If the people who volunteered are upset, did they miss the whole point of helping their neighbor?”


Honestly some of the comments I read here disgusted me!  If you expect something from your giving, maybe you should consider doing nothing, because your heart is not where it should be for the job!

Have you found yourself in a similar situation?  Where you felt obligated in some way to those who gave, or felt betrayed by someone who you tried to help?  What do you think of this specific story and what would you recommend that this family do?  Should they stay in debt or should the people in this town get over themselves?  Leave a comment and let’s discuss it!

About Brad Chaffee

9 Responses to “Are You A Genuine, Or Conditional Giver?”

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  1. Chad says:

    I have to agree with the people that were quoted at the end. This was a gift. If they are being burdened and can buy are more modest home with no mortgage, then the intended purpose of those that helped is being met. They are being helped. That was the reason the others gave their time and energy. Not to force them to stay in the house until they die, but to truly help the financial situation. Paying off the house that they had, or building a nice modest home they could afford to live in doesn’t make for compelling television. Building a Mini Mansion that get’s revealed from behind a tour bus does make good television. I think the people that are upset need to examine their motives and standards. They are a little askew.

  2. Brad Chaffee says:

    Absolutely Chad! The only time I could see outrage and genuine anger being legitimate is if the people giving found out that the story and reason the gift wa given turned out to be false. This is nothing like that at all, and those people should be able to move if they want to. The higher utility bills and insurance costs are good enough reason for me, and the wanting to become debt free tops it off perfectly. They are making a good decision for their family and that is what counts. Some people are just selfish and give for the wrong reasons.

  3. petermike says:

    WoW jejej In a world full of scams… this has to be the King!

    Now i know what i have to do when i want to make some money (or become debt free). Scam people to believe i really need a house and build it for me and then resell it.

    This is the worst scam i have ever heard! Shame on them.

  4. petermike says:

    btw… Madoff was way bigger, but at least he scammed people who were trying to make bigger money returns out of their investments (aka used their greed against them)and not passionate people who wanted to genuinely help a fellow in “crisis”.

  5. Brad Chaffee says:

    Goodness Pedro! I am starting to wonder about you man! LOL What evidence do you have that supports your belief that this was a scam, other than your obvious attraction to conspiracies? You seem to associate anything having to do with money as greed & evil, am I correct? Also what would they have had to do to convince you that it wasn’t a scam? So people who invest are greedy in your eyes? This makes me wonder why in the world you waste your time reading this blog? I plan to become very wealthy and I also plan to give a lot of it away, so I suppose you consider me as greedy and evil for not only wanting to do so, but for helping others realize that they can do the same. You know money is AMORAL right? It is not bad or good, so why can’t you use some of your energy to do good with it instead of thinking anyone that wants it or has it is evil? Counter the bad done with money by doing good with it yourself. Also, just because someone has money doesn’t mean that they took advantage of someone to get it, and FYI providing a legitimate service to someone looking for it, is not taking advantage of people.

    To compare this to what Madoff did is ridiculous! There is absolutely NO comparison at all!

  6. petermike says:

    btw… brad i felt a little bad later and wanted to say something positive for you intended and since i later realize not all the details are present.

    you said “When I needed a car my father in law was kind enough to give me a Mitsubishi Galant for free. It was mine to do with how I pleased, and after it served my purpose, I gave it to a friend that was in a similar situation that I had been in.”

    -This is beautiful brother. You gave your car for free. You passed your gift and made it a gift for someone else (not profiting at all).

    Plan A, sell their house for a family in need for what is left in their mortgage ($117,000) and move on with their lives. Meaning they accept to pay a new full mortgage (or maybe go rent for a while) and are giving that house away for no profit. Then it is acceptable… but i tell you if they keep any of the profits shame on them.

    Plan B, sell their house for 350,000$ and give 233,000$ to charities(350,000$ – 117,000$ = 233,000$). This is also acceptable since they accept to pay a new full mortgage (or maybe go rent for a while) and are giving that house away for no profit.

    Now if they want to pay a new house in full and pay off the current one they live in and to become entirely debt free. then this people are a joke and in fact its a humiliation to the good will people that helped them. It would be unethical.

    Just like our last post… not giving a tip is not require. however if you don’t do it. You are classless and unethical.

    I hope one of this two is what they have in mind.

    thanks for sharing! 😉

  7. petermike says:

    btw.. i read your blog because i fully agreed with your article about renting vs buying that was posted in cnn a couple of weeks ago. and i subscribed to your newsletter so i get this to my email.

    a lot of people are mislead by the same people who want to sell them a fish. and i found a lot of value in that article and a few others i read later.

    I am doing well myself but i like to keep my feet on the ground by reading stuff like your material which some seems really good advice. I am making 90k$ per year right now in Florida which is not bad and between savings and investments i have 200k$ and i do not own a house. When i wanted to buy one in 2006 i decided to stay out of the market and still feel its not worth since they are not getting any value overtime. I rent a room for 500$/m with all utilities included and still drive the car my dad gave me 7 years ago for free. i am 27 years old.

    thanks bro and good work! 🙂

  8. Brad Chaffee says:

    Thanks for clarifying! Renting a room for $500 is awesome! If we could sell this house and get out from under this debt, we would do so in a second. That is something that many people consider as insane, but we understand the value in not only not owing someone else money but also being financially prepared for the responsibility that comes with home ownership. We are currently refinancing out of our interest only loan, that we got before we decided to go on a financially responsible plan, which is the main reason we could not sell. We have paid zero down on the principle because of the stupid loan which gave us no room to bring down the price to a fair asking price. Believe me when I tell you that we would be renting in a second and still consider that as an option once we pay down on this loan enough to be able to sell without a loss. We want to be 100% debt free so we can have more options, with no bondage!

    As far as my car, that was the only thing I could do as I do see it as unethical to make a profit off of a gift. I do not consider what they are doing to be making any profit though or at least that is not what I got from any of what I read. Their plan is to pay off their remaining debt from the mortgage they had from the destroyed first home. I do agree, and stated so that they should strongly consider giving any extra to a charity that will help someone else. Thanks for reading man, you really spice things up over here at EOD. LOL

  9. petermike says:

    i am glad you are making the right choices and sharing it with the world web community to use as selfmotivation tool. i am glad i avoided the mistakes you made, if it were up to my friends i would have bought houses, left my engineer job and be stuck like a friend who owned 8 houses last year and had to foreclosure all of them after buying big Mercedes and stuff b/c he was buying/selling. he did it from 2005 to 2008.

    back to the article, i just hope they make the ethical choice which ever they choose to follow. easy money is not worth making an unethical choice. it will always hunt you back and make you miserable.

    later man

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