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Visualizing Your Legacy

September 14, 2014 06:45AM | Print this page
by Jeanne Hoff

Visualizing Your Legacy

A legacy is what you leave behind after your death.  It is usually thought of as money, but it could also include things like family treasures and stories, photographs, and personal keepsakes.  

But a legacy is more about sharing who you are and what you have learned that you want to pass on to the generations that follow you. Your legacy should be a gift that you leave behind to ensure that you will be remembered beyond your time on earth.

How do you want to be remembered?  As the devoted father who played ball with his sons, even when he didn’t feel like it? As the loving mother who taught her daughters how to bake chocolate-chip cookies from scratch? As the parents who taught their children the values of a life well lived, with manners, a sense of personal responsibility and integrity, generosity and caring for others, always striving for excellence?

If the amount of money you leave behind, whether it is large or small, causes your loved ones to fight over it, what then is your legacy? History and the courts are full of true stories of rich people fighting over money after a family member dies. It sells newspapers and makes for good books and movies.

I once heard a radio show about money, where a woman called in to ask how she could save $500 to leave as a legacy for her only child. She explained that she was poor and could barely make ends meet, but it was important that she leave something behind for her son after her death. The radio show host, a financial planner, told her to forget about the money, but instead, to write her story — her family history — and let that be a much more meaningful legacy, her legacy of love.

What would you see and hear if you could attend your own funeral?  (I realize this is a stretch … but keep reading.)

Would you see people angry and upset with you because you left behind hurt feelings, broken relationships, unfinished business, memories of family fighting, debt, and messes for your loved ones to clean up now that you have passed on?

Or, would you see people truly saddened by your loss, people quietly crying, sharing loving memories of your life and times with them?  Listen carefully.  You might be surprised at the lovely things people remember about you.

Now would be a good time to decide how you want to be remembered. Why not put together a family history including lots of photos of relatives and family celebrations? Write the story about every picture. Include treasured family recipes and certificates and medals of recognition of every sort?  Leave things that represent who you were in life, for your family to keep after your death.

I understand how reluctant people are to talk about their death, but you might at least begin to think about how you want to be remembered.

Tags: boomers life changes financial planning jeanne hoff legacy

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