Planning Your Legacy: Where to Start

By Elaine Floyd, CFP ©

As a generation, baby boomers are starting to wonder how we can leave our mark upon the world. What, besides material possessions, can we hand down to the next generation? How do we capture and define the wisdom and values that we’ve cultivated over decades of experience? How do we pass these precious assets down to our children, grandchildren, and the world at large?

Anyone who’s lived a full, rich life has the potential
to leave a vast legacy in the form of stories, letters,
photographs, and teachings. But where do you start?
How do you begin to harness the knowledge and
experience of your life and arrange it in a form that will
live on after you’re gone?

What is legacy?

A person’s legacy can take many forms. It could be
as simple as a carefully crafted letter to loved ones
expressing the values and sentiments you hold
dear. It could be a series of scrapbooks containing
photographs, mementos, and handwritten notations.
It could be a collection of recipes, or a series of short
stories, or a video in which you talk about your life and
what you’ve learned.
You might start by asking what part of yourself your
family would want to hold onto after you’re gone.
Do you possess knowledge of your family’s heritage
that isn’t written down anywhere? Write it down. Do
you have a special skill, such as cooking, gardening,
woodworking, or sewing? Make a video or write out
instructions or, better yet, schedule a series of “classes”
in which you teach grandchildren how to perform one
of these valuable home arts. Did you learn important
lessons through adversity earlier in your life? Tell the
story of what happened and what you learned from it.
You have a wealth of knowledge and experience that
will someday be gone—unless you take steps now to
preserve it.

Start simple

If the idea of capturing the whole of your life and
making it accessible to future generations seems
overwhelming, start small. Start with the facts about
you and your family. Draw a family tree or list the
names of grandparents, great-grandparents, and other
ancestors as far back as you are able to go.
Write down key facts about your life, including when
and where you were born, where you went to college,
details of your first job, when you got married, and
other milestone events. Make a list of the important
people in your life and how they influenced you. This
information alone will be valuable to your family
members, but it can also serve as a framework for going
deeper into each event or relationship for the purpose
of crafting stories and identifying life lessons to be
shared with loved ones.

Go deep

Now choose an event and make some notes about
it. Don’t worry about perfect writing. You’ll polish it
later. Just get the content down. Start with the facts.
Then jot down your thoughts and feelings about what
happened. What did you learn from it? How did it shape
your life? What do you want others to know about your
experience? What can they learn from it? Once you open
the floodgates, the memories and thoughts will flow.
Do not edit them. Just get everything down. No one will
see this yet. Consider it raw material for your legacy.

Create your legacy

Your legacy might be one or more of the following:

  • A series of short stories or essays of 500-1000 words
    each in which you write about an event, a person,
    an idea, or a value you hold dear. Short stories may
    be easier for your loved ones to digest than one
    long, rambling memoir. Easier for you to write, too.
  • A video of you telling a story or imparting a piece of
    knowledge based on something you’ve learned or
    experienced in your life.
  • A letter or series of letters written to each child,
    grandchild, or other person close to you in which
    you recall shared experiences and express your
    feelings for that person.

Build new memories

In addition to the tangible items that capture a piece
of who you are on paper or video, your legacy also
includes the memories of you that your loved ones
hold onto. Going forward, build new memories by
spending more time with the people you are closest to
and work on making those experiences memorable. At
future family gatherings continue to recall stories from
your times together (“Remember when…”) in order to
reinforce those memories.

Building a legacy that lets loved ones know more about
who you are and how you lived is the closest thing
to being immortal. It’s the most valuable thing you
can leave behind because it’s almost like you’re not
leaving at all. By sharing the content of your life you
will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of your
loved ones long after you’ve left this earthly plane.



Elaine Floyd, CFP®, is the Director of Retirement and
Life Planning, Horsesmouth, LLC., where she focuses on
helping people understand the practical and technical
aspects of retirement income planning.
Devin Kropp is not affiliated with Larson Financial Group.
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