Introduction by Jane Nowak, Financial Planner and MoneyGal2020: A year or so ago, I was very fortunate to participate in Dolly Garlo’s “7 Steps to Creating Your Legacy” program. What a fantastic experience to be in Dolly’s program! For those of you who are asking yourself “Is that all there is ?”, as your guide, Dolly can help you envision, design and plan your personal legacy. Hint: Leaving a legacy can be about so much more than money.
By Dolly Garlo, RN, JD, PCC
The Limited, Technical View
There are reasons few people apply the word legacy to themselves. The traditional term “legacy” in a legal sense is essentially the money and property left at the end of life to others – to your heirs (family members or other individuals or institutions) – who decide what to do with it after you’re gone. Preferably in accordance with your documented wishes, but possibly not. In another word, from this limited perspective it’s about “inheritance.”
Most people spend their lives working, maybe raising families, building a nest egg for big expenses – saving for college or retirement, taking vacations, buying a house and avoiding debt, making investments – in the day-to-day living of their lives. If they’re smart and diligent with a penchant for money management, they may handle all these finances and estate planning matters themselves; if just smart, they find and hire a great, honest and ethical advisors who can help protect and grow their assets.
Most people also don’t think a lot about what should happen to all of it after they are gone, mainly because they don’t want to think about passing from this earth. Or because they just assume their kids will get it or deal with it all. Or that they’re just not “wealthy” enough to be considering something like legacy.
But legacy is so much more than that. Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” That’s a little broader. But both legacy and wealth are much broader concepts still, with great application to everyone.
The Broader More Personal Perspective
Legacy is really about contributing your unique gifts to the people, places and things in the world you care about, in a way that is authentically you. It is about nurturing and giving back, or better said: giving forward in a way that carries on. Everyone can do that, and everyone is doing it whether they are consciously aware of it or not. So actively, consciously creating your own legacy during your lifetime — can begin at any time you start to focus on it.
Your “legacy creation” can take any number of forms and sizes – indeed will be unique to you, your interests and your circumstances. It may involve your finances and assets, raising funds from other contributors, and it may involve your skills and effort, or all of the above. Most importantly whatever you choose your legacy to be, it will be consciously fashioned and delivered in a way that allows it to persist in the world, after you step away from it, creating a sustainable, enduring benefit for future generations.
Each one of us has the capacity to dream, define, and develop such a vision – and make it happen tangibly. Best of all, pursuing it results in an experience of great joy and meaning – which, as it turns out not only feels good, but research shows is good for us and has physical, mental-emotional and spiritual benefits.
Legacy, Money And Wealth
So what is wealth then? Money and wealth are very different. Conceptually, money is an idea, backed by confidence, representing work truly done that is exchangeable. Precious metals and real property are similar, if only more tangible. But the idea and confidence part are invisible concepts – which all humans possess, can develop and can use to create something significant from that invisibility. We can make something from no-thing, a thought becomes a great work of art, a building, a business or even an environmental education program or rural medical clinic that helps thousands. Money and other tangible exchangeable commodities are only some of the tools of wealth.
Twentieth century visionary and genius Buckminster Fuller defined wealth not so much in terms of dollars and cents (or rubles or pesos or yen), but this way: “the measurable degree of established operative advantage.” That essentially means doing the greatest good for the greatest number for the greatest number of days going forward. More like dollars and sense, with a lot of the latter – meaning, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the money.
“Bucky” called wealth “an irreversible advantage” – something that cannot be expended to reorganize past events, but only to organize events going forward in preferential ways. Thus, wealth is something that allows us to move forward and create preferred ways of being or doing in the world – in legacy terms, to make a difference that may last for many, many generations. Contributing the tools of money and tangible assets can indeed help accelerate our ability to move forward and create great things, but the invisible aspects of developing the confidence to have great ideas and move them forward to make things better in the world are at the heart of wealth … and of developing your legacy.
For your own situation about money and wealth, consider the Global Rich List, at www.globalrichlist.com. This website demonstrates where you fall on a spectrum from the richest to the poorest people in the world — financially speaking. Enter a figure for poverty level annual income in the United States of $12,000 a year. It shows that figure is in the TOP 12.88% of the richest people in the world. If you have a college education, a computer and a cell phone, you are quite likely in the highest wealth category in the world. Bravo! Have even more. It is an abundant universe and your financial prosperity – achieved with integrity – provides an example to others of what is possible.
But What’s Enough? And Then What’s Next?
The harder personal financial planning concept is deciding what is “enough” for you. If you don’t, no amount of striving or acquiring will ever be enough – you’ll just want more and more. Once you know what is enough for you materially, then you can focus on what you really want personally, based on your values and interests and how you want to spend your precious life energy. And you can focus on building wealth and creating legacy – using your particular interests, special talents and pursuing the things that give you joy and meaning to create more beneficial things in the world, in an enduring way. It will do you, and maybe many others, a lot of good.
A legacy is very personal. Your legacy will include the sum total of what you’ve done in your life, and what you consciously choose to impact. It may also include people you have touched or affected in some way, maybe even indirectly; your career or business; your contributions of money and time; or even something sustainable you build personally, your own legacy project. All these things are very much about YOU. More important than your wealth and assets, your legacy is about what lies deep in your heart and even how your soul wishes to express itself. The material goods mainly relate to the mechanics of the legal and financial approaches to legacy. How they are put to use and how you make choices about that are the bigger, very personal part.
If you’ve done well financially, your legacy may well involve your investment portfolio, and sound financial and estate planning as well as business planning may be an important component of your legacy. While these are important mechanics and means, legacy is more about your personal choices, how you spend your life energy and what you’ll be known for by someone. While that may not be (or need to be) fame or celebrity, hopefully it includes something you’ve produced during your time on the planet that has beneficial future impacts. Legacy is about actively engaging in the subjects, ideas, issues and even places that are important to you, where your involvement feels significant and fulfilling.
Those are big and important subjects to consider … and then consciously act upon.
Dolly Garlo, RN, JD, PCC and partner Eliza Crouch, R-PT, CPCC – “Dolly & Eliza” – collaborate on developing www.CreatingLegacyNetwork.com. Providing individual and group coaching and consulting services, their focus is helping mid-career professional and business women (and enlightened gents) ready for what’s next, who want to make a significant difference in the world. Their comprehensive “7 Steps to Creating Your Legacy” program helps hone that vision and develop a practical blueprint to make it happen. Mastering money helps develop the needed “generosity factor” which they explore through their “Overcoming Underearning & Achieving Financial Mastery” program to help women get on the road to financial independence … and support positive change.