Defining a Life Well Lived—Everyday Legacy
A study on leaving a legacy found most people evaluate a life well lived in terms of loving relationships and social impact rather than money.
Forbes contributor Richard Eisenberg summed up some of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study’s key findings in an article, also mentioning Lyndsay Green’s book, The Well-Lived Life: Live With Purpose and Be Remembered.
Green defines legacy similarly to how I’ve been speaking and writing about legacy in recent years.
“We are all leaving a legacy, whether we like it or not,” she writes. “Our legacy is a combination of the way we live every day and the impact it has on our friends, our family, our community and the world, as well as how we prepare others for life without us.”
Apparently there quite a few people who embrace this view of legacy when asked, though most have some work to do to align their priorities. The Merrill Lynch study found the following:
- 94% of the respondents defined a life well lived as having family and friends who love me.
- 75% said a life well lived was making a positive impact on society.
- Only 10% said accumulating a lot of money.
People want to be remembered for how they lived. Indeed, 60% of respondents said they wanted to be remembered for the memories they shared with their loved ones.
Practically, that may mean writing stories down, recording them or digitizing photo collections.
On leaving inheritances
Many people recognized the need to have their affairs in order. Only 55% of the survey respondents age 55 and older even have a will.
The survey found disagreement on leaving an inheritance.
Only 36% of Boomers and 44% of Xers believed that leaving an inheritance to children was a duty. On the other hand, 55% of Millennials believed that such a duty existed.
On a related issue, 65% of the respondents believed that it was better to give some of their money while they were alive, while only 27% wanted to wait until they died.
Taking action on legacy
In her book, Green tells how she was given a legacy exercise while doing research for the work:
Imagine life ended abruptly right now and tomorrow would be a world without me. What responsibilities and commitments would be left dangling? And what messes—concrete and emotional—would I want to have sorted out?
As she told others about the exercise, she saw people take action to align their lives with the legacy they desired to have:
- one woman repaired a rift with her brother
- some started volunteering more
- others gave more money away
- some updated their estate plans
- some wrote memoirs
But many realized that their children and family would have no idea of the stories of their life.
They realized that those stories would likely die without their family knowing them, the reason for their choices—good and bad.
Green’s exercise is a good one for us all to address.
If any of us had to exit the planet tomorrow, what would be left dangling? Financially, relationally, emotionally?
Take action today for your legacy of tomorrow.
Photo by Sarandy Westfall on Unsplash