3 Ways We Leave A Legacy, So Make It A Great One!

Photo from City of Boston Archives

Photo from City of Boston Archives

Legacy Building

What do all second term U.S. Presidents and failed, former Presidents have in common? They are all on a quest to build a unique legacy for which they will be remembered in the history books after they have passed away.

The reason I know this? At the time of this writing, we still have alive with us the longest surviving/retired former President and perhaps greatest example of legacy rebuilding: Jimmy Carter. Since leaving office in January 1981, Mr. Carter has been working extremely hard on rebuilding a failed Presidential, personal legacy. He has been busy doing amazing charity work with Habitat For Humanity. He also founded The Carter Center whose mission is “guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering; it seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.”

But, who can blame former President Carter for working so hard on building a better personal legacy post 1981? President Carter has been branded as one of the worst presidents, especially in recent history. Here’s how Wikipedia records his presidential legacy:

The Independent writes, “Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president.” While he began his term with a 66 percent approval rating, his had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving …

… His administration suffered from his inexperience in politics. Carter paid too much attention to detail. He frequently backed down from confrontation and was quick to retreat when attacked by political rivals. He appeared to be indecisive and ineffective, and did not define his priorities clearly. He seemed to be distrustful and uninterested in working with other groups, or even with Congress when controlled by his own party, which he denounced for being controlled by special interest groups. Though he made efforts to address many of these issues in 1978, the approval he won from his reforms did not last long.

In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan projected an easy self-confidence, in contrast to Carter’s serious and introspective temperament. Carter’s personal attention to detail, his pessimistic attitude, his seeming indecisiveness and weakness with people were accentuated in contrast to Reagan’s charismatic charm and delegation of tasks to subordinates. Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Carter was the first elected president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.

Ouch! When Wikipedia writers write that about your Presidency, you would be busy rebuilding your legacy, too!

Good And Bad, We’re All Leaving A Legacy

Will President Carter really be able to ditch the legacy of his failed presidency? Unfortunately for him, no, he won’t. But, we will all be able to look back and see that he has done some amazing work after leaving office. He didn’t just roll over, give up, and go on vacation for the last 32+ years. He wanted to make a difference after leaving office, and he certainly has accomplished his mission.

All of us are leaving a legacy each day. Some days, I’m sure our legacy looks amazing. On other days, probably not so much. But, we all have a daily opportunity to leave a legacy to those around us through what we say, through what we do, and through what we give.

3 Ways To Leave An Amazing Legacy, Today

We leave a legacy by what we:

  1. SAY. Our words have an impact on those around us. Proverbs 15:1-2, 4 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” We have to be so careful with the words that come out of our mouths! Just remember that people will remember those words and attitudes behind your words. Maintain a positive, loving attitude with the words you choose! Also, related to this area, we live in an amazing time in history where we can leave our very own personal words to succeeding generations through written digital documents, as well as audio and video recordings. I don’t know about you, but I know little to nothing about my grandfathers and great-grandparents. I think it would be a really amazing to hear their voices and see them on a video recording. I would love it if they had compiled some Jones history in their personal journals. In today’s digital world, you have an amazing opportunity to leave a part of yourself to the next generation!
  2. DO. Our actions really do speak louder than our words. 1 John 3:17-18 tells us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” It’s easy to tell people that we love them and that we’re praying for them. It’s hard, though, to take the time out of our busy schedules and help others. When we do, though, this is what people ultimately remember about us. Be proactive and take time today by loving others through your actions.
  3. GIVE. We will be remembered for what we gave while here on this earth: our time, our talents, and our treasure. Proverbs 13:22 states, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” If we claim to be a follower of Christ, then our lives should look like His. Our Lord was the ultimate giver; He gave His very life for us! Give of your time and energy to your spouse, kids, and friends. They will definitely recall the time you spent with them after you have gone on to be with the Lord. Give financially to your church and those in need. Also, be proactive in setting up your estate planning to give financially to both your earthly and spiritual families when you pass from this life to the next.

Questions: So, how’s your legacy building going? Like former President Jimmy Carter, have you been diligent in creating a better legacy?

The best legacy building happens proactively, on purpose. Don’t forget to both say AND do, today! Write stuff down regarding your family history. Compile all your writing journals, audio and video recordings and keep them in a secure location. Keep your legacy legal documents up to date. Leave an amazing legacy of love to those you leave behind.

5 Action Steps For Planning Ahead And Leaving Well

Photo by jimmedia

Photo by jimmedia

The Certainty of Death

One day, you are going to die. Ponder that statement for a moment.

None of us really like to think about or even talk about this subject. One day, though, all of us will pass away.

I recently read the statistic that over 70% of Americans don’t have any kind of written plan for their death. But, as I mentioned above, there is a 100% certainty that we are all going to die. That seems kind of rude, doesn’t it? In our modern society, it would seem that most people aren’t willing to admit that they are going to die and plan for it, even for the sake of their families.

How you live today and prepare for tomorrow has a tremendous impact on your legacy. Right now, you have an incredible opportunity to leave a powerful legacy that can last for generations to come. But, you can’t drag your feet. You can’t wait any longer. The time to do something about it is right now.

A funeral home here in my hometown is currently using a powerful new slogan in their advertising campaigns, “Plan Ahead. Leave Well.” This is great advice that we should all take to heart.

Action Steps For Preparing Your Legacy of Love

  1. Have a written plan. There are numerous legal documents that need to be completed: wills, living wills, trusts, power of attorney, and health care directives. My suggestion would be to get with an attorney, pay a few hundred dollars, and get it all taken care of correctly for your own peace of mind. In your paper work, don’t forget to establish an executor of the will as well as someone to take care of your minor children in the event that both you and your spouse were to pass away at the same time.
  2. Provide for your family’s financial needs. If you were to die today and you don’t have enough money in your estate to take care of your funeral expenses, as well as take care of a surviving spouse, minor children, and any other additional financial obligations, then you need life insurance. A typical rule of thumb is 10 times your annual salary. So, if you were to make $50,000 a year, then you need to have at least $500,000 in quality, term life insurance. Get this immediately. Do not delay. The best legacy you can leave your family is that you took care of them, financially.
  3. Organize all your important paperwork. You need to have all your legal paperwork from action step #1, plus your lists of life insurance policies, important contact information, funeral wishes, and a listing of any material assets that you want to pass on to other people. All of this should be clearly put together in one place.
  4. Place all of your paperwork in a secure location. You might consider a fire-proof safe in your home. A quality safe will run you $150-200. Or, you may want to go the route of a safe deposit box in your bank.
  5. Tell somebody. This means you’re going to need to have “the talk” that no one wants to have. You need to tell your family members all of these details. You need to get with the executor of your estate, give them copies of all your paperwork, and discuss the details of your plan.

Parting Words of Encouragement

Don’t be part of the 70% who have no plan. If you currently do not have an updated estate plan in place, then cross over and become part of a unique club of the 30% who have prepared their future legacy.

None of us have a guaranteed lock on a long life. Be sure to plan ahead and leave well.

Questions: Are you prepared to leave well? For those who are prepared to leave well, do you have anything to add to these five steps? Are there any action steps that I left out?