This month we’re focusing on leaving a legacy. Here is an overview of the month.
1. A Life Well-Lived. This month’s first week covered the importance of leaving a legacy of a life well-lived. We learned how our lives impact all those who follow us, and we introduced the topics we will review later in the month.
2. Principles to Live By. Two weeks ago we covered key principles to live by that will help you leave a legacy. These will be the foundations of a life that leaves an impact on others. The principles we live by are the basis for the kind of legacy we will leave behind. We also began our how-tos by looking at how to leave a relational legacy. All of life is based on relationships, and we choose what direction those relationships go. We can live our lives in such a way that when we are gone, people are impacted by the relational legacy we left behind.
3. The Importance of a Spiritual Legacy and an Impact Legacy. Last week we covered both how to leave a spiritual legacy as well as how to leave an “impact legacy.” The core of who we are as individuals is spiritual. We were created with the intention of relating to God through our spiritual life. One of the greatest gifts we can leave behind is a spiritual example and legacy. We also talked about how to leave a life legacy that impacts people. There are those who live on this earth and then just disappear, leaving little more than a trace. And then there are others who, through their legacy, live on in others for years to come. We talked about how to be the latter.
4. Financial Legacy. This week we will look at leaving a business legacy, a financial legacy and a family legacy. We will see how the businesses we operate have a deeper impact than we might have imagined. We will talk about establishing a strong financial base that will provide for others long term. We will also look at one of the most important aspects of legacy, those we touch most deeply: our family.
So let’s talk about the topics for this week!
Leaving a Financial Legacy
Our finances are an integral part of our lives. They play a part of each and every day. Whether we are earning, purchasing or planning, we deal with our finances on some level virtually every day. What our financial estate becomes, just like every area of our lives, is a product of the choices we make. If we make good choices, we will go in the right direction. If we make poor choices, we will end up leaving a financial legacy of poverty and lack.
But one of the realities we deal with as humans is that while we can make all of the right decisions and everything we touch may turn to gold, there will come a day when our money will no longer be ours. As the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.” So, after we have passed away, we not only leave our money behind, we will also leave a financial legacy.
The financial legacy you leave can be either positive, just as all of the legacies we have looked at this month, or negative. The choice is yours. You decide what kind of legacy you leave as it relates to your finances. The choice is yours.
To help you think through the issues surrounding a great financial legacy, here are some thoughts for you to consider:
Have a Plan. Just as in every area of life, we must have a plan—a plan for earning, saving, investing, giving, tax reduction, retirement and where our money will go when we are gone. By doing so, you will go much further and leave a great example for those around you.
Have a Goal. Goals keep us moving in the right direction. They give us something to shoot for. They keep us moving in a forward direction. They help us measure progress and stay motivated. When you have goals you will reach greater heights and leave an inspiring example for others.
Have an Advisor. If you go to the gym to work out to maximize your health, you get a personal trainer. If you want your car to operate at its best, you take it to a mechanic. If you want to stay healthy, you go to the doctor. If you want to grow spiritually, you seek the help of a minister or church. If you want to be emotionally healthy, you visit a counselor. It makes perfect sense then that if you want to be successful financially, you need to have an advisor. Find one you are comfortable with and who will understand what you want out of life, someone who understands and appreciates your values.
Invest. It is better to gain profits than wages. Investments provide us with the opportunity to reap profits. You must risk in order to gain the reward. You must place your capital at risk in order to gain the financial reward. That is capitalism at its core. Those who start the businesses and place their capital at risk will earn more than those who they hire to run the machines in the factories. Invest in your own business or in another person’s business through the financial markets.
Stay Out of Debt. Debt is nothing less than a killer. Debt is the exact opposite of investment. When you invest, you get the principle back and then some. When you borrow, you give the principle and then some. Remember the old Proverb that says “the borrower shall be the servant of the lender.” True indeed. It is better to be the lender than a spender.
Tithe and Be Generous. Make it a goal to give away a percentage of your income to your church, the less fortunate or a charity that you believe in. Believe me, not only will you feel good about it, but so will they. Generosity does wonders for both parties involved. It helps you keep the power of money in check, and it helps them by providing much-needed funds to carry out their mission. Over your lifetime, if you are methodical about this, you will be able to do a tremendous amount of good in the world.
Enjoy It Now. Save enough money now to ensure your security and the security of your loved ones, but also enjoy your wealth now! Take that trip. Buy that second home. Give that gift to a loved one. Money is a tool to provide for us on two levels: that which we need and that which we desire. When you have the needs covered, spend some on what you desire. If you plan on leaving your wealth to your children when you die, give them some now so that you can help them understand what to do with it, and then you can experience the joy of watching them use it and enjoy it themselves.
Teach Your Children About Money. One of the best things we can do is to teach our children about money. Teach them the principles. Teach them to work hard and smart and to increase their earning power. Teach them to save and invest. Teach them to be generous. This is one way that you can pass on a great understanding of finances and create a great deal of freedom in their lives.
Keep Your Family Up to Speed on Your Finances. Of course, our finances are our own business, but, ultimately, our finances become our family’s business. It is important for us to make sure that our family is aware of where we are with our finances. This is particularly true with our spouse. Too many men have died prematurely and left wives who didn’t know much about where the money came from, where it went or how it was invested. And as we age, it is important for our children to know more about our finances so that they can help us take care of them and plan for their future after we are gone. Believe it or not, this should take place earlier rather than later.
Diversify. “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” they say. Why? Because if that basket falls, all your eggs will be broken—and nobody likes broken eggs! Have some savings that you can get to quickly. Most financial advisors recommend six to 12 months of living expenses. Put funds in the safe, long-term investments, perhaps a two- to five-year certificate of deposit.
Invest Some in the Equity Markets. This is most easily done through mutual funds (and that gives you diversity as well as an alternative to buying a single stock). Invest in real estate. Whatever you do, cover your security first and then move into investments that can provide greater and greater profits. The key is to make sure that if one area goes south, you can recover because of the other areas you have invested in.
Use Insurance. The right kinds of insurance are part of your investment expenditures. You can use insurance to protect your life and property—and it is smart to do so. If you make $100,000 a year at age 35 and have a spouse and three children, what will happen to them if you were to die suddenly? An investment is an expenditure that will provide returns in due time. For instance, a healthy 35-year-old can get more than $1 million in life insurance for less than $100 a month. It is a wise decision to provide for your family in case of an emergency. Either doing so or not doing so will certainly leave a legacy.
Utilize Legal Entities and Structures to Protect Your Wealth. If the government allows you to protect it using a legal structure, by all means, do so. If you can take a tax deduction, by all means, do so. As long as you always maintain your integrity and stay well within the law, use every legal opportunity you can to keep your money. You worked for it—keep as much of it for yourself and your loved ones as possible! Consult a financial advisor, such as an accountant or lawyer for the best advice.
Use Your Wealth to Bless Others, Not Manipulate Them. Money is a tool that should be used for good. The more money we have, the more we can use that tool to help others. Unfortunately, many people use their wealth to manipulate others. I truly believe that a successful person is the person who uses their money to help and bless others in a generous way. The person of integrity does not seek to use his or her money to use, coerce or manipulate others.
These ideas are designed to give you some thoughts on ways you can live your life and use your money in such a way that you do good with your money in this life. Finances are powerful. Money can be used to do many incredible things. It can also be used to destroy. The key is this: Which way is your money being used? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining what kind of financial legacy you leave behind.
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
The family is the first and last group of people most of us spend time with on this earth. It has an incredible power to shape us. That is why it is so important that we proactively decide what our family legacy will be and then work to build it. The ideas below are designed to help you do just that!
Top seven tips for leaving a fantastic family legacy:
1. Forgive. We start with forgiveness because it is probably the most important principle for families. Those who are closest to you are the most likely to hurt you. It is the law of close proximity. If you are close enough to another person long enough, they will do something to hurt or offend you. Then you have the option to forgive or hold on to the offense. If we are to have successful families whose success transcends generations, we will need to fully implement the act of forgiveness.
2. Spend time with your family—as a group and individually. It takes time to build cohesiveness. Spend time with your family as a whole and individually. It is important to give time to the building of our families. Even 15 minutes, done each day, will create better relationships.
3. Create family memories. Do activities together that will be memorable, and take pictures and record video. Keep journals and scrapbooks of the events. Make sure that you remember what good things have happened in your past together. Life goes by quickly, children grow up and memories fade—unless you have pictures! Do fun things and make sure you keep those memories alive.
4. Don’t let distance separate you. Kids grow up and move away—that happens. But today there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not staying in touch. Telephone rates are so low, you should be able to talk to your long-distance relatives at least once a week, if not more often. E-mail or texts are even better for “shooting off” the latest family news. We live in an unprecedented age of communication. The only reason someone wouldn’t communicate today is because they don’t want to. If you want to build a family legacy, pick up the phone and call.
5. Laugh together. It seems that the family that laughs together stays together. There is nothing like fun to bring a family together. Rent funny movies, go to plays, remember the fun times at family gatherings, and laugh at the past (but not at any one person’s expense). Laughing is good for the soul—the individual and the family. Laugh with your family, and watch the bonds grow deep.
6. Say “I love you” often. You have heard the old joke where the old woman says to her old husband, “Honey, it’s been 50 years since you told me you loved me.” The old man replies, “I said it at the wedding, and if anything ever changes, I’ll let you know.” Well, folks, that doesn’t cut it. We need to hear that others love us, and they need to hear it from us. And it becomes even more powerful if our actions back up our words. Don’t let someone in your family wonder if you love them—tell them!
7. Carpe familia—seize the family! You have heard of carpe diem—seize the day. Well, it is time for us to seize our families and all of the opportunities that they have. We must begin to see the possibilities of our families and seize the opportunities for greatness that each family has. Yes, our families can be great—and get even greater—if we set our minds on developing a family legacy. Have you “seized the family”? If not, make that commitment. Don’t let your family fall apart! Get it going and growing into greatness!
Your family represents the most powerful force for shaping and molding your life and the lives of each member. When we proactively take hold of all that they can be by using these principles, we will see those families do great things and leave wonderful legacies.
Get started—it is never too late!