Legacy: The Net Worth Statement of One’s Life

Just as a singer needs to “find their voice” to project their uniqueness into the world, we each need to find our unique legacy.

Finding our legacy is about determining what matters most in our life, our work, our relationships and our involvement in activities.

One may even say our legacy is the net worth statement of our life’s body of work.

Many individuals write epitaphs or eulogies to try and capture the essence of one’s life, passions and purpose.

And when laid alongside our estate plans and financial net worth statement, we can view the congruency (or lack thereof) between what we said was important and what we left behind as the reflection of our collective life’s effort.

When your number is called, and the ledgers are tallied, what will be left to say about who you were?

How will family and friends remember you and describe what you valued most?

If we want to consider what we value most today, we can look in our checkbook and our calendar.  Where and how we spend our time and money tends to be an accurate reflection of what matters most to us, right now.

And when our stated values of what’s important become in-congruent with our actions and the allocation of our limited resources (time, energy and money), we can feel out of balance and sometimes even out of control.

So, if finding our legacy is about being clear on what matters most, then funding our legacy is about who gets what and when.

Many would consider a “legacy” to be what’s left at the end, to remember, to share.

The reality is that over half of Americans will retire broke (see Chart I below).

Chart I – Percentage of Income Americans will have at Retirement

Most of you reading this blog post fall well above the outlier $300K+ range.

But why wait until you die before aligning your spending and giving with your values?

Why not be intentional about finding and funding your legacy now, while you are alive.  This way, you will be able to see and share the difference you can make in the world.

To many this task may be daunting, so we have summarized this process into three easy steps.

Step One: Reflect

A good values clarification exercise is to write out your own epitaph of what you believe would be said about you when you’re gone.  You might write two versions.

  1. What you believe people would remember you for
  2. What you would want people to remember you for

To the extent the two versions differ, there may be work left to do.

If you are brave, ask three people who know you well to write their most honest and candid assessment of how your epitaph would read, reflecting your best and worst qualities.

It could provide valuable insights for shaping your future.

What do you want to be remembered for?  Philanthropist, family man/woman, friend, business owner, community member?

Do you want to be remembered for your faith, your wealth, your compassion, your toughness, your sense of humor?

What is the one thing, character trait or circumstance you would like to change today to remove the “worst of me” from your epitaph?  What is the one thing you’d like to do, see, achieve, experience, complete before you’re gone?

Step Two: Prioritize

Today is a really good day to begin the work to find and fund your legacy plan.

Finding it is largely up to you, though we would love to hear your story, your legacy plan and your epitaph (all versions!).

Funding it is where we can help you even further.

Today’s funding plan may involve more intentional allocation of resources (time, energy and money), a more precise budget plan to fund what matters most, first.

And tomorrow’s funding plans could include the development of a Planned Giving Platform to be sure what matters most ultimately goes where and to whom you want it to go, on your terms and on your timelines.

This could involve a donor-advised fund allowing you to give today, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then have funds distributed when you want, maybe years from now.

Priority and commitment are key to helping you fund your legacy.

Step Three: Establish a Giving Plan

For many, establishing a giving plan is often avoided simply due to the confusion of not knowing how to set it up or where to start.

In fact, 44% of American parents do not have a will or living trust in place and 27% do not have trust documents in place (see Chart II below)

Chart I – Percentage of Parents Lacking Trust & Estate Documents (www.caring.com)

To many, estate plans can be daunting and seemingly complex legal documents.

However, a “Legacy Plan” can be as simple and straightforward as deciding what matters most, who you want to be, and be known for, and how you want to impact the world once you’re gone (and just as importantly, while you’re still here)!

LotusGroup is committed to our slogan “Make. Life. Count.”

We would love to talk more about finding and funding your legacy.

Let us know when and how we can serve you in this critically important life plan.

Best,

Guest Writer – Douglass Reese (Independent IAR with LotusGroup Advisors)