What does it mean to leave a legacy? That’s a question that people have been pondering for quite a while. After all, Benjamin Franklin was offering words of advice on the topic in 1738 in Poor Richard’s Almanack. The famously witty founding father wrote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” When you consider how much of Franklin’s life revolved around reading and writing, his advice makes sense. However, your approach to the world may be different. That means you’ll have to decide for yourself. In your mind, what does it mean to leave a legacy?
What Does It Mean to Leave a Legacy?
When deciding what it means to leave a legacy, you’ll need to define what a legacy is. Collins English Dictionary defines it as “money or property left to someone by a will.” In addition, it can also be something handed down from an ancestor. Psychology Today insists that it’s important to think broadly about the concept of legacy. While money and material possessions can be a part of your legacy, experts here insist that your legacy is what you most wish to leave behind. In that sense, the actions that you take throughout your life are already impacting others and shaping your legacy. Ultimately, you can define what legacy means for you and take steps to leave the kind of legacy you want.
Leaving a Financial Legacy
If you’re fortunate enough to have assets that you’re able to pass on to others, there are several ways to leave a financial legacy:
- Leave money to your family or friends so that they can gain a financial head start in their own lives or enjoy some extra financial security.
- Endow a scholarship. Doing so can help generations of students attend school. Then, they’ll be able to go out into the world and use their gifts to help others.
- Gift money to a charity. You could set up a trust to benefit a nonprofit organization, museum, foundation, or cause that you’ve always supported. Or, you could simply gift a specific sum outright.
Leaving Heirlooms and Other Property
Possessions don’t need to have great monetary value to be priceless. Reviewing your possessions and leaving a list of who should receive what can make a difficult time easier for those you eventually leave behind. Consider both sentimental and intrinsic value as you decide who will appreciate your treasures. If there’s a story attached, you may want to write it down so that your loved one will have a copy of your account. Too often, families only realize how special these tales are when the details are lost to time, so having a written version can be invaluable. You may wish to write a letter or assemble a scrapbook for each of your heirs so that everyone has something tangible. Has anyone put together a family tree? If not, taking the time to assemble one can be an amazing legacy. While the ads for genealogy websites make tracing your ancestry look simple, it’s far from easy when you lack basic facts about your family’s history.
Leaving a legacy isn’t something that has to wait until you’re gone. Although bequests generally aren’t passed on until after a person passes, it’s best to make memories while you’re still here to do so. Spending time with other people so that you can pass on the skills that you’ve learned, the knowledge that you’ve gained, the values that are important to you, or your family lore can be a fantastic and fulfilling way to shape your legacy. Participating in your community is another great strategy. Volunteering can be a fantastic way to interact with others. It can help to shape the perception of who you are and the mark you make on your world.