Some may think I am about to speak out of the other side of my mouth as it relates to financial planning. How it is important to start off with goal setting, refine these goals, budget accordingly, and then use whatever forms of planning you can to help you achieve these goals. Perhaps, that may not be the right place to start. Perhaps the best place to start is with legacy.
Legacy is how you are remembered by others. I loved my grandmother. I knew her growing up and remembered when she passed away while I was in college. When I came back for her funeral, I also remember that during her eulogy that the person talked about her volunteering for this charitable group, the twenty years she played the piano for the church, etc. However, as I went around I overheard a number of conversations that truly captured her legacy. “Who was she again? You know, Mary Sue… she was the one with all of the good recipes.” Or “I am going to miss her flower arrangements so much…” Not one person aside from the eulogist talked about the charities or the twenty years of playing the piano for the church. Most people talked about her cooking or her flower arranging. That was her legacy. My grandmother was a great cook who freely gave out recipes and loved to make dried flower arrangements. I will suggest there are far worse legacies one can have.
There are some important lessons to be learned about legacy from this example. It is other people who in the end decide our legacy. We may do some very worthwhile actions in our lifetime, but they often may pale in comparison to who we are at our core. Though I know my grandmother played the piano, in the end, I too have to admit that I could see how most people would remember her for her cooking and her dried flower arrangements. I would personally like to add that she was a doting grandmother to me.
There are others who may commit a tragic or several tragic mistakes which will haunt them beyond their graves. I will not mention names specifically in this case. They are mentioned often enough in the news for one to readily come up with a list. The lesson is that though it can take a long time to build up a positive legacy, like reputation it does not take long to develop a negative one.
The good news is that even though we can only influence our legacy, we can take actions to change how we are remembered assuming we find it important. The story goes that Alfred Nobel had a life-changing moment when he read his obituary. From someone who was perhaps best known for his propagation of destruction, he went on to be known as the person who honored those who bettered humanity with his institute for Nobel Prizes. Perhaps this would be a good time to stop and think how you would like to be remembered.
Some may wonder why this relates to financial planning. If one truly cares about how one is remembered, this would suggest that one may need to take different actions and/or set aside resources whether time or money to help shape one’s legacy. This could be life-changing for some as it was for Alfred Nobel when he read “his own” obituary published by a French newspaper.
As always, please send your thoughts, comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org