top of page

Giving for Animals Stories | Eric Arellano

This profile is part of the "Giving for Animals Stories" Series. Eric Arellano is a software engineer at IBM Quantum. Eric took the Giving What We Can pledge to donate a part of his income to animal charities.

What inspired you to start donating to the animal advocacy cause and what motivates you to continue?

After graduating from university, I tried teaching middle school computer science for a semester, but I quickly realized that I liked software engineering way more. Still, I wanted to have an impact through my career. Earning to give has allowed me to both have a job that I love—getting paid to solve a puzzle—and to help create the world I want to live in.

Earning to give helps me to feel far less anxiety about climate change and factory farming. I know that I alone am not enough to solve these things. But I find inspiration in the story of the man throwing back starfish:

> After a storm, thousands and thousands of starfish are stranded and suffocating on the beach.

> Someone sees an old man throwing a single starfish back into the sea, followed by another. They ask him, "Why are you doing that? Don't you realize you can't make a difference? There are thousands of them!"

> The man picks up and throws another. "I made a difference to that one."

I can't achieve animal liberation on my own. But every single animal's life that my donations can help matters.

Earning to give has also resulted in neat opportunities to volunteer! Thanks to my getting to know the organization staff as a donor, I've found NGOs often need software engineering help, yet don't always know what they want. For example, I helped Dharma Voices for Animals to understand their Thai team's field notes written in Thai by setting up a Google Sheet that automatically translated the notes into English.

I don't know if I will continue earning to give forever—life is unpredictable. For example, I'd be happy to change to a lower-paying job if it had a promising impact. But for now, I feel grateful every day that I've found this path that lets me love the work I do while helping to create a kinder world.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking the pledge/earning to give for animals, but is unsure?

The idea of Coast Financial Independence has been a game changer for me. It's where you have enough saved for retirement that you can theoretically stop saving for retirement thanks to compound interest, so long as you cover your living expenses every year until retirement. Reaching Coast Financial Independence has empowered me to feel more comfortable donating aggressively—like 35% pre-tax income in 2023—without being as concerned I'm neglecting my future well-being.

Before reaching Coast Financial Independence, I still strongly encourage donating at a lower percentage, including trying out 1%. Someone gave me great advice when I got my first paycheck in high school to donate from the start to build an ethic of giving. It is easy to keep deferring giving. "I'm a poor college student" becomes "I just graduated and am broke from moving" becomes "I'm saving up for a down payment" and so on. (That being said, debt and financial goals are legitimate things to worry about! That's why I encourage starting with giving 1%.)

The other reason I am biased toward giving now, rather than later, is because we need to end factory farming now, not in 2073. The book Die With Zero talks about how the average age of inheritance is ~55 years old, but that money would be so much more useful in someone's 20s. It's the same with nonprofits. Regardless of Earning To Give, I recommend the book Die WIth Zero to everyone for thought-provoking advice about how to balance the present vs. future.


bottom of page