Leaving a Legacy

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On August 5th my mom celebrates her 90th birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!! How time flies. A month from now I’ll be turning the BIG 6-0. It’s shocking—to me too! Time just won’t stand still, however. We just have to make the best of each day, each year, and each decade. Certainly, the older we get the more we face the reality of our mortality and the more selective we get about how we spend our time.

When I was a kid, my mom had a way of holding time in place. She was age 29—every year for about a decade. Then, years later, she was age 39 for about a decade. I suppose that made her feel younger. A lot of people do a lot of different things in order to feel younger. I’m not opposed to these things—as long as they’re ethical and legal. Who doesn’t want to feel younger?

There are things that do in fact make us feel younger. Things like: getting 8 hours of sleep each night; eating revitalizing food; strength-training; prolonging the vitality of our skin, our hair, and our body; staying out of a rut—trying new things, surrounding ourselves with some nostalgia from our youth—movies, music and memorabilia; and cultivating a greater sense of optimism by nixing our inner naysayer, so that we’ll have more positive energy to motivate ourselves to do youthful things.

So there are many helpful things we can do to defy our age and seemingly turning back the hands of time from their constant, unrelenting march forward. But as we all know, as expressed by Benjamin Franklin, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

It is true, time and tide wait for no man. And, this being the case, we must make the best of our time and our years. This ties directly to the financial planning work that I do. I always ask my clients, “What is it you want to accomplish?” “What are your life goals?” Most people will answer with things like: “I want a comfortable retirement, not worrying about money.” “I’d like to travel, help the kids, and leave something to charity.”

This type of questioning about future goals and objectives is routine for us. We are used to looking down the road and making decisions about going to this college or that college, studying this or that, taking this job or that job, and making this investment or that investment. And we can get an annual dose of goal setting by laying out a new set of New Year’s Resolutions come January 1 each and every year. Pretty typical, right?

Is there another way? Well, every once in a while, I approach this life goal question a little bit backwards. Sometimes I ask my client the question like this: “How do you want to be remembered?” Or, “If you could write your own obituary, what would you want it to say?” Think about that for a moment.

This makes my head spin. Wow! In business, we talk of planning with the end in mind. Or simultaneously setting up your new business and planning your exit strategy. To abbreviate, we might say, “What’s your end-game?” Obviously, asking the question this way turns things around. It ties in and makes sense of the many quotes you can find about “living your life on purpose.” Some people will respond with their “bucket list,” the personal list of experiences or achievements that they hope to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

So, no matter where you are in life right now, “What’s your end-game?” “What is you legacy?” “How do you want to be remembered?”

If you answer those questions seriously, the next step would be to ask yourself, “If I want to be remembered like this, what must I do now?” It is essentially the same planning you’ve always done, but it requires you to think backwards. And, you break it down into manageable steps. You create a checklist and begin working your way through the list. Step by step to living the life you want.

If your philosophy is, “He who dies with the most toys, wins!” you’re probably not much interested in what I have to say. On the other hand, if you believe in loving your neighbor and leaving a legacy, you may already be pondering the idea of planning with the end in mind.

Now, back to my beautiful mom…she has created (and is still creating!) quite the legacy. As I was growing up, mom was the Den Mother of a Cub Scout Troop and President of the Alexander Valley Elementary School PTA. She was very involved with our community and took us kids to the Spaghetti feeds, 4-H meetings, swimming lessons and to church. Now, in her later years, she spends time with family, gardens, plays bingo, paints, and loves going out to the flea markets and garage sales. She’s always looking for a “good deal.” Not for herself, however. Her greatest joy is finding a good deal for one of her friends or a family member. She loves giving and helping—and that’s a wonderful legacy!

Warm Regards,