How to leave a legacy

You don’t need to be a millionaire to leave a meaningful legacy to your loved ones. Here, how to start thinking about your legacy, and how to start building it now, both in financial and value-based ways

My 3-year-old daughter is just starting to understand the concept of memory, and as a result, almost every third sentence begins with, “Do you remember?” She is reading details about something she and I shared. When she asked me if I remembered the dark rollercoaster ride we took in December, the ducks who stole our potato chips in April, and the birthday party I threw her last week, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How will she remember? Me?”

In this article:

Why are we thinking about legacy now?

My question sounds bleak, but as a mother who lost her own mother, I fully understand that life is not permanent. Because of my history, I have been proactive with my finances. I have life insurance and a will, making sure that no matter what the future may hold, my daughter will be provided for.

While finances are an important piece of the age-old puzzle, intangible assets are just as important – memories, experiences and values. An inheritance should include both financial and emotional components so that your loved ones can feel comfortable in both the assets you leave behind and the values ​​you pass on.

Here’s a primer on how to leave a legacy for your loved ones.

Take control of your finances (if you haven’t already)

We all know that babies are expensive. Whether you’re expecting your first child or your youngest, managing a growing family’s budget can be difficult. According to a recent study, 53% of millennial parents have less than $5,000 in savings.

Saving is hard, but don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to finances. Know what you have, including retirement accounts and investments, and what you owe, including student loans or other debt. Knowledge can help you choose a saving strategy as you can know what is going well and which areas may need more attention.

Create a worst-case scenario plan

If you or your partner died unexpectedly, how would you care for your children?

Thinking about “what if” scenarios may not be fun, but you need to do it if you want to create a realistic emergency plan to protect and provide for your family.

Life insurance is part of that emergency plan.

The lump sum payout from your life insurance policy’s death benefit can help your loved ones pay for daily expenses, child care, future education costs, and more. The peace of mind you’ll gain from taking out a policy may be less expensive than you think, especially when you reach your 30s and may be thinking about starting a family or leaving a legacy for future generations.

For example, a $500,000, 20-year policy issued by MassMutual or its subsidiary CM Life to a healthy 30-year-old woman costs about $15 per month. That’s less than IPTV or two acai bowls for lunch. A 36-year-old man in excellent health can buy a 20-year term life insurance policy worth $750,000 for as little as $30 a month. Your prices will depend on a range of factors including your age and general health.

If you’re interested in knowing how much (or how little) your premiums will be, you can get a free life insurance quote online.

Plan your own future

Of course, you want to give your children everything. One of the smartest ways to provide a long-term financial legacy for them after you’re gone is to develop a solid retirement savings strategy.

Helping with your children’s education is a great goal, but there are no loans for retirement. If you don’t have a financial plan for your future, your children may have to provide for you one day. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is freedom from future financial burden.

Look into your employer’s IRA or 401(k) offerings, if possible. Consider contributing at least enough to get the full match if offered.

You can also set up your own IRA, either traditional (tax deferred) or Roth (taxable now).

A sound retirement portfolio provides two benefits: (1) your ability to utilize the funds in your portfolio to meet your financial needs in retirement, and (2) if your children are the beneficiaries, the funds in your portfolio will be transferred to them if you die before using them. Working with a financial planner can help you find the best path for you.

Create a will

Everyone needs a will, especially parents. Not only does a Will designate the guardian you want to care for your children, but your Will also opens the door to having a valuable conversation with your loved ones. When you place your cards on the table, you will clear up confusion and clarify the things that have value to you.

The monetary values ​​of the items in your will are irrelevant. When you leave a vinyl record collection, a valuable guitar, or a stack of magazines to a child, you show how much you appreciate that person and trust them with the things you hold dear.

Build a legacy with charitable gifts

As you draft your will, you may want to consider charitable causes to which you may wish to bequeath assets. Although you may not have the means to make donations now, legacy gifts are greatly appreciated and keep your name alive far beyond your lifetime.

Naming charities in your will can also help family and friends know where to donate in your name in your honour. My mother was the president of the senior center in our town, and before she passed away she asked for donations to the center in lieu of condolence flowers. I love knowing that her memory lives on in a place that was so important to her, and whenever I pass the building, I feel connected to her in some small way.

If you’re interested in leaving a charitable gift, find out how to donate assets after your death to a charity, educational institution or non-profit organization and have the conversation now with your loved ones. Be clear about your intentions and write them in your will now.

Building a legacy of values

Your legacy is not necessarily money left over for others. They are the lessons you taught, others’ memories of you, and the life you lived.

My mother’s legacy was her commitment to others, her love of adventure, and her belief that life should be fun. When the weather is nice, if I take time off work, pull my daughter out of daycare, and take a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach, I’m living my mother’s legacy. I even told my daughter how much her Grandma Gail would have loved her on this day.

I hope these memories stick in my daughter’s mind. For me, creating that intangible legacy is essential, so I prioritize family time as much as possible.

start now

I’d rather take a vacation and go to the beach than focus on financial tasks, especially when I’m desperately hoping that a will or beneficiary of my IRA won’t be necessary for decades. But I know that if I do these things now, I can truly enjoy my time with my daughter.

The great consolation of my mother’s death was that all her papers were in order. As my family and I dealt with our grief and tried to imagine a future without her, we were not burdened by financial confusion or infighting over “stuff.”

I want the same thing for my daughter. I’m building my own legacy to make sure I can give her the same emotional and financial freedom.

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About Anna Davies

Anna Davies is a creative copywriter, magazine editor, and award-winning feature writer. I wrote to New York times, New York Magazine, Refinery29, luster, deerAnd others, and published 13 novels for young people. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with her family and loves traveling, running, and trying to find the best cold brew coffee in town.

Read more by Anna Davies

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-focused life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that making decisions about life insurance, your personal finances, and your overall wellness can be very simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency, backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that making decisions about life insurance, your personal finances, and your overall wellness can be very simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they will make your life less difficult if they are right for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide tax, legal or investment advice, and should not be relied upon. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their tax or legal advisor.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a term life insurance policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in some states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC . In New York, the term Haven is DTC-NY 1017. In California, the term Haven is DTC-CA 042017. The term Haven Simplified is a simplified term life insurance policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in some states, including NC) issued by C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by AM Best Company as A++ (Superior; highest category out of 15). Rating is as of April 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for Plus Rider, which is included as part of a Haven Term policy and provides access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. Racer is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual is responsible for providing the benefits and services accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party suppliers (Partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

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