It’s never too soon to begin planning for your retirement.
What kind of life do you want to enjoy in your retirement years? How do you want to be remembered by your loved ones after you’re gone? With thoughtful estate planning now, you’ll be able to leave behind the type of legacy you prefer.
In 2019 survey data collected by Merrill/Age Wave, the following was found to be true:
- 18% of Americans 55+ have a will.
- 43% of Americans 55+ do believe that estate planning can make it easier for their loved ones to grieve after a death.
- 69% of Americans 55+ wish to be remembered by experiences had with loved ones in their lifetime.
The numbers show that even though great importance is assigned to having a will, trust, or legacy plan, most people 55+ haven’t followed through with the task. Why do you think that is?
Why People Hesitate to Plan Their Legacy
It can be intimidating to approach the process of creating a legacy plan. There may be complicated scenarios regarding the dividing of assets, or uncomfortable conversations to be had between aging parents and their children. It’s hard to talk about money with loved ones, or what the plan is for sentimental collectibles.
It can also be difficult to face one’s own mortality. You may prefer focusing instead of enjoying your retirement, taking trips with your partner, spending more time with the grandkids, or playing more golf than ever before.
Another reason why people hesitate to plan their legacy is that they feel they simply don’t have much to give. It isn’t easy to set aside money for retirement, let alone a sum that could someday be an inheritance for posterity or a donation to charity. Feelings of guilt and shame may prevent a person from looking at other, non-monetary options for leaving a legacy.
Why a Legacy is Important
Before you argue that leaving an inheritance for your children spoils them, think about what it really means to leave a legacy.
If you spend your life with the goal of someday leaving a mark on the world, it motivates you to be better. It gives you purpose and helps you cultivate a set of values that makes you a valued member of your family and society. The example you offer to your children, friends, and coworkers can give a purpose not only for your life but for the lives of others.
Tips for Planning Your Legacy in Retirement
If you’re fortunate enough to be in the golden years of retirement, it’s still not too late to put the finishing touches on your legacy. Here’s what you can do:
- Gradually Open the Conversation – Without diving right into the type of funeral you’d prefer, or where you want to be buried, you can start a dialogue with your loved ones regarding your wishes. Perhaps start with letting them know how important it is that they avoid feeling burdened by making any final decisions about you, should the need arise. Explain that it’s a love for your family that is leading you to get everything in order now.
- Having these frank conversations before it’s too late can be a game-changer. You can all come to the realization together that it’s perfectly acceptable if the legacy you leave behind isn’t tangible. Additionally, if the physical things you will to your family don’t hold monetary value, it doesn’t mean they’re worthless. You’d be surprised how meaningful a piece of costume jewelry, an old book, or a childhood toy can be. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones if any items in your home have emotional value to them.
- Explain Your Motivation – When your family and friends understand the reasoning behind your planning, it can be easier for them to accept the terms. Be open about what you plan to do with your assets, and how you want your legacy celebrated. Discussing this now can ease the burden later; your children won’t argue over what to do with whatever you’re leaving behind because they already know your wishes.
- Update Your Plans as Needed – Even if you’ve had the delicate conversations necessary with your loved ones, be sure they understand your plans may change. If additional children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren enter the picture, you may want to alter your will to include them. Or perhaps you change your plans for where and how you’d like to spend your retirement, so you sell your home and relocate to a new community. This can alter what assets you have available. Although a will or trust is legally binding, you can talk with your attorney about making amendments as needed.
- It Doesn’t Have to be About Money – Remember how 69% of Americans said the most important legacy they want to leave behind is in the form of positive memories? Well, memories don’t have to cost a thing. You can leave a lasting impression on your loved ones just by spending time together. Initiate conversations, send letters, take walks, volunteer in your community, and just be an overall presence in the lives of those you love. After all, “the power of a person’s life is the stories they leave behind” (Bill High).