Nov 20 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®

What Does It Mean to Leave a Legacy?

Many people want their time on Earth to have meant something – to leave a legacy. If you've been wondering what mark you'll leave on the world, this article is for you. Here's what to consider when deciding what your legacy should be, and how to ensure your finances make it possible.

A legacy often looks different for childfree and childless people.

Based on my interactions with Childfree and childless folks, it seems to be less important that we die with a lot of money to leave behind. Many of us would prefer to have enough money to manage our affairs while we're alive, and what happens to whatever's left (ideally as little as possible) when we die doesn't seem to matter much. You can call this the "die with zero" approach. People with children, however, often consider their children – or the money they leave behind for them – their legacy. So this is yet one more way that Childfree and childless people differ, and our financial planning is therefore different. 

Revisit George Kinder's 3 Questions

If you do want to leave some sort of legacy behind, be it financial or otherwise, a good way to explore what's important to you is to revisit George Kinder's three questions, and specifically the last one.

1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.

2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)

3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

Do you want to "die with zero" or leave money behind?

If you do decide that you want to leave some kind of financial legacy (perhaps a chunk of money to an organization that then names a building after you), your financial planning now should reflect that – your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help. Another thing to consider is fitting bucket list items into your long-term financial plan – these are activities or accomplishments you want to focus on while you're still alive. If you want to write a novel, will you take time off to do that? What about planning to spend time (and money) with loved ones while you're still alive? Your legacy (if you want to leave one at all) is certainly worth thinking about, so you can make the appropriate financial moves to ensure you're on the right track.
Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr. Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” Dr. Jay is the co-host of Childfree Wealth Podcast. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.

He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications.