Why Meaning Matters in Legacy Planning (and how to find it)
Last week marked the first week of the school year for our family. Like most families, we donned our special first-day-of-school outfits and then trouped everyone outside for those first-day-of-school photos. We have a letterboard that usually hangs in our playroom that I take down once a year to replace with words about the first day of school and what grade my kids are in so they can hold it while they smile for the camera, and we document the occasion.
It has become a tradition of sorts for me to use that time to update the message on the board for the following year. When I’m done plucking off all the letters that spelled out my kids’ new grades, I replace them with a new saying for us to contemplate during the new school year. Last year our phrase was “Be generous with your kindness today,” and we talked about how our kindness was a gift and something we got to choose to share with others each and every day.
This year, I’ve been ruminating on a phrase by the Franciscan priest and writer Richard Rohr. He says, “The good, the true, and the beautiful are always their own best argument for themselves, by themselves, and in themselves.” His point is that so often, the things that are good are usually true, and the things that resonate with us deep down as truth are often beautiful, and the things that strike us as beautiful are also good.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do, if anything, with financial planning and wealth management. To me, the good, the true, and the beautiful are apt descriptions of the things that give our lives meaning – things that lie at the intersection of wealth management and financial planning. At the end of the day, what financial planning is really about is asking what you want to do with your resources. And so often, the answer to that question is about what matters to you – what is meaningful to you.
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, or the science of happiness, defines meaning as using “your signature strengths and virtues in service of something much larger than you are." What is that larger thing? If you’re unsure, I suggest you look around at your life and ask yourself what you believe is good, true, and beautiful.
For those of you who have gone through our process, you know that we always start with basic needs, but that’s typically a less interesting part of the legacy planning process. Of course, we want to ensure your necessities are met, and you are sheltered, clothed, and fed. But what happens after that? Then we start to talk about what you value and what brings richness to your life. Is it travel? Is it spending more time with your family? Is it buying your dream home and hosting your friends and loved ones? Is it being charitable and having a positive impact? These questions breathe life into a living legacy plan because they’re about creating a plan that enables you to live as fully as possible by leaning into the things that make your life worth it in the first place.
Starting next year, we’re excited to offer a new service called Impact Planning which will provide strategies and reporting to help you maximize your charitable plan and take your impact even further. In addition to helping you understand the best vehicles and timing for your giving goals, the service will include a giving portal that helps you budget for your giving, track and make gifts, research charities, and ensure that you follow applicable giving rules.* If you’d like to learn more about this service, we’d love to sit down with you and hear more about some of the ways you’d like to have an impact with your resources and share some of the ways we might be able to help.
One of the things that I love about Sherwood is that in addition to having the technical skills to help our clients advance their meaningful goals, we have also built a wonderful culture driven by doing good and having a positive impact. I can offer numerous stories on the generosity and care exhibited by any one of our staff, and I’m proud of the ways we are both committed to helping our clients have an impact and live lives of meaning, and the ways we seek to do so ourselves. If you’d like to learn more about some of the things we’re passionate about, I invite you to check out our impact page.
*Minimum asset size applies to giving portal access.
Rohr, Richard. “Love and Beauty.” Center for Action and Contemplation, June 13, 2016. https://cac.org/daily-meditations/love-and-beauty-2015-01-12/.
Martin E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness (New York: Free Press, 2002), 263.