Part 9 – Create Your Financial and Personal Legacy
We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last eight weeks. If you have been following along, you should have a pretty good idea of areas in your life that you want to consider so that you can live your best life now and in the future. If you missed any of our topics, you can find links to each week at the bottom of this page.
Last week we talked about financial considerations. Financial preparation is very important and takes some serious time to make sure you are taking a realistic look at your future. This week, we’re going to discuss an inevitable part of our future – the part where we’re no longer in the picture.
Planning our legacy – financial and otherwise – is an opportunity to think about what and who really matters in our lives. Part of planning a legacy often involves a will or trust. It can also involve leaving a legacy of your life in other ways as well.
The Importance of Estate Documents
I remarried in my late forties. Because my husband and I both have children from previous marriages, it would have made sense for us to get a will and other important documents completed shortly after we married. Instead, we kept procrastinating. Finally, my son, who is a financial planner, told me that having some basic documents in place could save everyone a whole lot of additional grief after we are gone; family members would want to know our wishes as well as how to manage our final affairs.
We got our estate planning documents completed last year – after 20 years of marriage. We should have, could have done it earlier, but we weren’t alone. A recent survey indicates 57% of Americans don’t have a will or trust.
We can update our wills whenever we choose to do so. However, we now have peace of mind knowing that we’ve thought about the wants and needs of those who will be left after we are gone.
Some people choose to work with an attorney when creating a will. Others choose to use less expensive options such as online legal services. Whatever you choose to do, don’t wait too long.
The Value of Personal Histories
One of our grandsons wants to know everything about his grandfather’s life. He peppers my husband with questions whenever he sees him. We are now jotting down stories and family history so we can make sure our grandson has this important history after we’re gone.
My niece purchased a personal stories service for my sister on her birthday. Each week, my sister responds to a prompt such as, “What was one of your biggest challenges when you were younger and how did you deal with it?”
Of course, we don’t have to purchase a service to do this. My grandmother kept journals and made sure each of her granddaughters received one of these treasures after she was gone. I learned a lot about my grandmother’s character and how she thought by reading these journals.
We can record video messages to our loved ones that they can view after we are gone. We can also write personal letters to loved ones. Sharing our family stories and histories as well as letting others know what we have appreciated about them can be one of the most important gifts we can share. If you don’t know what you want to share, you can start by using some of the prompts below:
Prompts That You Can Use to Write Your Own Stories
- What are some of the strongest memories you have from your childhood? What are some of your favorite childhood memories?
- What details and information do you want to share about other family members who are now gone (e.g. parents, grandparents, etc.)? What aspects of their lives do you remember most?
- What do you think are some of the most important values and beliefs that your parents or family had when you were younger? How do you think those values and beliefs have influenced you?
- Have your values and beliefs changed over the years? If so, how and why? What is most important to you today?
- What stories have you shared about your life with others that you want them to remember?
- What are some of the funniest things that have happened in your life?
- What were some of the more embarrassing things that you ‘survived in your life?
- When you think about your life’s journey, what makes you most proud?
- What have been some of the most important life lessons you have learned?
- What kinds of challenges have you faced? Can you think of one or two that changed the direction of your life? How did you deal with particular challenges?
- What has given you some of the greatest joys in your life?
- Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ you’d like to share?
- What kinds of questions about your life have other family members asked you about?
You get the idea. Now you need to take action. None of us has a guarantee of a certain amount of remaining time. Jot down ideas as you think of them. Commit to writing something at least once a week. You can systematically go through all the questions that you want to address, or you can pick your own.
If you missed any of our previous discussions on preparing for your best life after leaving your career, you can find them here:
Part 1: The Gift of Time – How will You Use it?
Part 2: Planning for the Gift of Time
Part 3: What Really Matters?
Part 4: Freedom to Choose Your Best Life
Part 5: Social Connections Matter
Part 6: Living Our Best Lives
Week 7 – Maintaining Good Health Should Be a Priority
Week 8 – Financial Readiness for Retirement