When talking to your friends, family or your broker about whether there’s going to be enough money to retire on, there’s a good chance that the issue of “legacy” – what you want to leave behind when you’re gone – will not come up at all. Or, it will not be at the forefront of your retirement plan.
This is a serious oversight. Most people care about their children and grandchildren and would love to leave something of value behind for them. For many people, this is a big priority. Or maybe they want to leave something to their church, their college or some charity or cause that is close to their hearts.
Sometimes it’s more than just a wish – it’s a necessity. Some families have disabled or partially disabled family members who are going to need additional support. In other cases, retired people might observe that their grandchildren are behind the eight ball in some respects. Perhaps they have a gift rather than a weakness, and the grandparents want to see that the opportunity to develop that gift will exist during their lifetime.
This isn’t always a matter of leaving a will or a trust and some kind of funding behind when you die. You can choose to leave a legacy during your lifetime, or to leave part of it during your lifetime. This gives you the pleasure of seeing the good that comes from it. It enables the recipients to express the gratitude that they rightly feel. In some cases the help will be of greater benefit if it’s given sooner rather than later.
There is more to legacy than money. For most people, the financial legacies they leave behind are more symbolic than life-changing. Take the estate a typical middle-class family leaves behind, divide it up among several children, and it’s a nice little windfall. Some bills get paid off, some long-desired goodies are purchased, maybe some money goes into a grandchild’s college savings fund. No one gets rich, and while life goes on a little more easily for a while, things soon settle back more or less to where they were.
In many cases non-financial legacies are more important. Our wisdom, our family history, our own story and the lessons it teaches and the knowledge and experience of who we really were and how we lived our lives are what our remaining family and friends will be able to keep in their own minds and hearts, and maybe even pass along to others down through the years.
Far from disregarding legacy, we should be putting extra focus on it. When we’re gone, our legacies are what survive us. How do you want to be remembered?