You are building your legacy right now
Paul Fain, CFP®
What does the term “legacy” mean to you?
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being a mentor at the Financial Planning Association’s Residency program. Working alongside five colleagues and training 28 resident students (newer financial planners), we pondered some of the “deep and wide” elements of personal financial planning, such as legacy planning.
Some of my cohorts equated legacy planning with estate planning, i.e., how money or property is left to someone via a last will and testament or a trust. Other planners described legacy planning beyond riches to the richness of an individual’s life. In other words, a legacy includes the impact that a person has on people and places (work, church, charity, community, etc.) during his or her lifetime.
When I got home from the week-long program in Denver, I asked my wife, “What is your (93-year-old) mother’s legacy?” She didn’t hesitate in answering, “Her blackberry cobbler in July of course!” As I nodded in agreement, I asked her what her legacy is. She replied again assuredly, “I’ve exposed our children to adventure and travel.”
With the residency still in my rear-view mirror, I am more aware that I am the long-term planner guy, concerned with what happens to material stuff at death. In contrast, my wife lives day-to-day with bursts of energy and spontaneity. In a kind of yin and yang balance, I feel encouraged by the legacies we are creating for our children.
What is your legacy? You are building it right now. You will leave it upon your death. And it will continue into the future. Your legacy is the totality of your financial successes and failures. It is your impact on the people around you. The values that you live by each day. The experiences and memories you have created and shared. Your legacy is the bank account you bequeath to family or charity; and also, the stories that will be told about you.
One of my favorite examples of a living legacy comes from a client, Wayne. Each year, Wayne gives his many grandchildren a self-prepared civics and history test. He provides a study booklet. He incentivizes a passing score with a monetary reward. A sample test question: “Who was the greatest U.S. president in history?” Answer: “Any response other than Abraham Lincoln is incorrect!”
Kudos Wayne, now that is a legacy story that I’ll bet more than one of your grandchildren will carry on in their own family traditions.
This article was originally published in the Knox News Sentinel on November 26, 2021