We spend a lot of time worrying about money, don’t we? First, do we have enough for ourselves? Should we work more or work longer; are we saving enough; can we afford that trip; and how much should we spend on ourselves and on gifts?
Later, the questions change. We start to reflect on our mortality and our legacy and we think about preplanning for the inevitable. Have we made our funeral or memorial arrangements; do we have our wills and estate plans in place? And how much will we be leaving to the children and grandchildren? Very often these are dollar and cents questions.
But is money our greatest and most important legacy?
According to a major study by the Allianz Life Insurance Company, money is not our greatest legacy. And its not just Allianz who is telling us this, it’s us! During the course of last year, Allianz commissioned the 2012 “American Legacies Pulse Study” – an update of their groundbreaking 2005 study. The results may surprise you – they certainly surprised me.
It turns out that money is not our greatest legacy – it is our life stories:
Eighty-six percent of “baby boomers” (age 47-66) and 74 percent of “elders” (age 72 and older) said that family stories are the most important aspect of their legacy. Family stories! Money and the passing of personal possessions is still important, but less so: 64 percent of baby boomers and 58 percent of elders checked that box.
This echos the findings in 2005, with 77 percent of both boomers and elders citing the importance of family values and life lessons as the most important part of their legacy.Hmm. Life Stories. They don’t cost much. But do the kids really agree? Don’t the children have an expectation of being taken care of – at least a little bit? Not according to the Allianz study.
Of more than a thousand people surveyed, only 4% of the (adult) children said they felt they were owed an inheritance. (Actually, its their parents who put the pressure on themselves here: 14% of the parents said they felt the owed their children an inheritance.)
Family stories help the children and grandchildren get to know us just a bit when we were young – getting things right and (even better) getting things wrong; family stories that are funny or serious; family stories which contain lessons or wisdom or history. Family stories humanize us and the kids – especially when they have grown up themselves – value them more and more.
Let’s all try a bit harder to preserve our life stories.
Kids, take the time to question and listen – don’t just arrive in time for the turkey then settle in front of the flat screen for the big game. Come early and help with the preparation and learn the traditions. Parents, make time and create opportunities to reflect and pass on some of your history – and try not to lecture or judge (hard I know – for me anyway!).
It turns out our greatest legacy is not our money, it is ourselves – passed on to our children and our grandchildren through our time and our stories. Take the time to preserve your life stories to video. It is your greatest gift.