“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” – Chinese Proverb
We have been in business for over 20 years and in that time we have noticed a growing trend of parents, and especially grandparents, who want to leave something valuable to their progeny. This can take many forms, the most common of which is to bequeath assets, either directly or through a will. But you might consider passing on something that may ultimately prove even more valuable: a summary of life’s lessons learned as well as priceless advice on developing character and values in addition to wealth. Indeed, the proliferation of courses in the classroom and on the Web on how to compose memoirs and autobiographies reflects the growing popularity of these testaments.
Perhaps because they are consumed by the complicated and demanding business of life, most people depart this world without leaving much of a record of their time. I recently bought an old stock certificate for my son, Steven. It was issued Feb. 16, 1875, by the Chemical National Bank of New York to James Lenox Banks, M.D., of New York. Out of curiosity, I tried running a Google search to see if I could learn something about this one-time investor. But there was not a smidgen of information to be had. I thought, “How sad that a person who was educated as a physician and probably worked hard at healing the sick could just disappear, likely without much of a trace. Was this a life without meaning? Probably not! But whatever this person accomplished in the course of a lifetime has essentially gone unrecorded, and his family and society in general are probably the poorer for it.
Just the opposite is true for President Gerald R. Ford, who recently passed away at the age of 93. Go to Google and there are thousands of pages about his life and legacy. So while most of us are not famous like President Ford, we can still leave an account of our lives for the benefit of posterity. More folks are now deciding they want to tell their story, to explain how they prospered, share their beliefs and describe how they fit into the larger events of their time. This reminds me of the question Jack Nicholson keeps asking Adam Sandler in the movie Anger Management. He keeps asking Sandler who he is, because Sandler is having difficulty explaining himself. It’s an excellent question! Think about it. Who are you? This is an excellent effective way of communicating who you are and what your life is all about to your children and grandchildren and, eventually, their children.
As a possible first step and as part of our ongoing commitment to serving the needs of our clients, R.W. Rogé & Company would be happy to put you in touch with a professional writer and editor. Following an established interview-based format, you will be able to create an effective biographical summary that will become an important personal component of your estate. If you have an interest in pursuing such a project, please give me a call. Success in life creates legacies, but money is obviously only a part of the larger picture. Money, in fact, may not be the most important part of your legacy. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to tell the whole story and share your unique experience with future generations. It’s easier than you think.