Leaving a Legacy of Wisdom

by Ashley Baldwin

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a reunion retreat with other well-established and successful professionals in the field of financial planning and wealth management. We shared our best practices and the wisdom garnered over the years—wisdom which may be nurtured as “seed capital” for future generations of planners.

One presentation in particular, given by Ben Combs was most memorable and insightful. It was entitled Legacy: Why Leave All of Your Wealth and None of Your Wisdom?  Ben’s presentation was the impetus to start a short blog series on Estate Planning, so that some of the valuable ideas discussed during our retreat could be passed on to you. 

The first in our series will focus on the idea of leaving a legacy. We’ve already told you the wonderful story of how our dear departed friend, Jeanne, in her waning years, asked us to set up a gifting plan for her that would support the needs of children’s education, the elderly, and the working poor. 

 Of course it’s important to have a plan in place for distributing your assets to your heirs and loved ones. But you are more than the sum total of your accumulated wealth. Throughout your life, you have had rich experiences; you have accumulated knowledge and wisdom, and you’ve learned from your mistakes.  We may fail to realize that our experiences have untold value, and that others can learn from those experiences.

So how can you leave a wisdom legacy?

How many of us wish we had known our grandparents better?  Who would not treasure the unexpected discovery of an old secret diary left in a dusty attic? Or a faded handwritten love letter from your grandfather to your grandmother—the one mailed from the front lines?  From ancient cave art to tales told around campfires, stories have been told and retold over eons, and have created the fabric of our lives. 

Story telling is in our DNA, and future generations of your family will also appreciate a chance to benefit from your wisdom. But where do you begin? Here are a few tips offered by Ben: 

Start by triggering your memory and doing an inventory of your life.

  1. Make a list of people who have added meaning to your life. Include the things you learned from them, things you admired about them.
  2. Make a list of the things that have given you the most pleasure and fulfillment. What was so special about them and what traits did it bring out in you?
  3. List the places you’ve lived and jot down memories of people and experiences you enjoyed while there. 

Today there are plenty of tools and resources available for writing and archiving your stories. If you need some guidance, your tech-savvy kids or grandkids will know what to do.   

And sorry . . . but just saying you are not a writer, is no excuse!  Let them interview you and record the conversation. It can be transcribed and saved.  Getting your family involved can be a rewarding way to share the experience of telling your story.   

Everyone has a story!  Don’t miss the opportunity to tell yours and leave a legacy of wisdom. 

So I’m taking my own advice and making a legacy video, documenting pictures of my elders, and telling stories for others to share.  We’ll make them easy for anyone to download and select the parts that they want to keep.  With the video and pictures stored in the Cloud, they may last much longer than the faded tintype photos that were found in our great-great grandmother’s photo album. 

Along with the stories on video, written memories, and pictures, I’m hoping to leave a legacy that can be shared from generation to generation.  My great-grandchildren will be able to connect to the traditions and history of the people who came before them.