“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” – Bill Graham
As a financial advisor, I’m usually helping people plan for the future, whether it be children’s education, investment/income strategies, tax planning, retirement or estate planning. However, in recent years, I have come to appreciate the fact that life is a precious and fleeting experience and we may not be here whenever that planned for event is scheduled. Therefore, we also must live in the present, in the moment.
To not do so will rob us of the things in life which, in the final analysis, are more important than even financial success. See an article by Bonnie Ware, author of “Regrets of the Dying”. As a provider of palliative care for years, her book discusses the five most common regrets that patients had as they faced the last weeks of their lives. None of these regrets involved wealth or possessions.
In Luke Chapter 12 of the Bible, Jesus taught that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he or she possesses. It tells the story of a rich man who was so successful that he built even greater barns to store his crops and goods. He falsely thought that he could rejoice in all that he had and could take it easy for many years. However, verse 20 reads: But God, said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
So, going back to the “dash” in our lives, each of us should decide what we want it to represent. You’re probably aware of several exercises to help in the determination. One of these is to write your own obituary, including the things that you would like to have done and the things you would like to be remembered for. But like financial planning, your goals need to be in writing and they should include a plan of action along with a timetable for implementation.
In a simplistic sense, there are only two conditions necessary when it comes to making a difference in the lives of others: The existence of needs and the actions taken to meet those needs. There is certainly no shortage of needs in this world. Hence, there are infinite ways to make a difference, both on a small scale as well as in a more impactful way.
I would think that we would all like to live lives that have real meaning, lives that make a difference in the lives of others (see “Leave Your Legacy”). In my mind, it would be like concentric circles. The inner circle would represent ourselves. Hopefully, our life extends beyond this. The second circle would be family and close friends. This is where we begin to have influence beyond our own existence. The outer circle would include others. The lasting impact that we could have at this point is like a geometric sequence as compared to an arithmetic sequence. This is the essence of philanthropy. We know that our lives on this earth, at their longest, are short. Furthermore, we don’t know how long we’ll live. Therefore, we need to be purposeful and take action now, if we haven’t already, to implement our legacy plan. I’m reminded of the old adage that we tend to ignore, the important for the sake of the urgent. Then, there is the Chinese proverb that states – “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now”.
In developing a legacy plan, here are a few questions to ask ourselves.
- What do you see as your purpose in life?
- What do you want your life to stand for?
- How do you want to be remembered by family and friends?
- What will those beyond your circle of family and friends remember you for?
- What do you want to create that is sustainable after you’re gone?
- What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
- How can you serve others?
- How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
Once you know what you would like your legacy to be, it’s vital that you take action to implement it. According to an article by Marelisa Fabrega titled “How to Leave a Lasting Legacy”, having a plan can help in the following:
- Once you know what you want your legacy to be, you can start building it.
- You can start living in the way you want to be remembered.
- It will allow you to start doing what matters, now.
- Knowing what you want your legacy to be will allow you to make better use of your time and other resources.
- It will influence your day-to-day decisions in a positive way.
- Gaining clarity on what you want your legacy to be can give your life meaning and purpose. It will enable you to allow the legacy that you’re building to determine how you show up in the world each day.
- You will live your life as if you matter.
As for some specific ideas on what you can do, there is always the power of your financial support. There are things that you can’t do on your own, but through your financial resources, you’re able to support organizations whose missions align with your beliefs and concerns. But then, there are many things that you can do (see “How We Can Give”).
So, when living out your “dash”, be mindful of how meaningful and impactful your life can be. Come to grips with what is truly important to you. Seize the moment and make sure that your desired legacy is a part of each and every day. You can truly make the world a better place for being here. As a bonus, there is the immeasurable joy and satisfaction that you receive along the way.
Finally, as a Financial Advisor who helps to develop philanthropic strategies, don’t hesitate to let me know if there is any way I can assist you in developing or implementing your legacy planning.
“Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru