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Three Keys to Leaving a Lasting Legacy

How do you want to be remembered once you’ve left this earth?

Whoa, Hogan, slow down! I get it—it’s a heavy question! But I want you to give it some thought. You see, leaving a legacy is more than giving an inheritance, a trust fund or a real estate empire to your heirs.

Sometimes the most powerful legacies don’t involve much money at all. My grandparents are a perfect example. I cherish my memories of hanging out with my grandmother and grandfather in our tiny town in Kentucky. We’d play cards together or work in the garden. They’d share family stories and traditions. They were passing on a legacy. Now, I use those stories to teach my boys what it means to be a Hogan, to be a man, and to be a Christian.

Here's one thing I know about legacies: They don’t happen by accident. If you want to get serious about leaving a legacy, there are three key factors you need to understand. But first, let’s define what a legacy is and why it’s important.

What Is a Legacy?

A legacy is an enduring impact that you make on those who outlive you. Most of the time, it comes as (or includes) a gift, such as an inheritance, a family business or property. But it’s not limited to possessions or money. A legacy is an opportunity for you to change the world for good!

Leaving a legacy is like tossing a rock into a pond. There’s an initial splash followed by ripple effects that continue on once the rock has disappeared. You might have a small rock to throw or a big boulder, but each one of us will leave something behind us. It’s up to us to decide how far those ripples will travel!

As a Christian, I take the idea of legacy seriously. I believe that everything I have is a gift from God, and I’m called to manage it well. For me, leaving a legacy is about doing things God’s way, for his purpose, to bless his people.

Why Is a Legacy Important?

A legacy gives you an opportunity to live for a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. It allows you to change your family tree, not just for your children, but for generations to come! You can decide to use everything you have—wealth, resources, talent and relationships—to bless those around you.

Money is a gift. And when it’s handled well, it can transform your family, your community—even the entire world! Here’s one of my favorite Bible verses on the topic: 

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22 (ESV)

“Children’s children” is a great example of the ripple effect we talked about earlier. Think big! Think beyond your immediate family! Dream about how your legacy could change the lives of the people you love. Maybe your gift will pay for your granddaughter’s wedding or provide scholarships for underprivileged students to attend college. The possibilities are endless.

How to Leave a Lasting Legacy

Like I said before, no one leaves a legacy by accident. You must live life on purpose and come up with a plan to protect your legacy and make sure the baton is passed to the next generation. Here are three keys to leaving a lasting legacy.   

1. Pass along your values.

In addition to leaving an investment portfolio or a house to your offspring, I want you to think about the values you’re instilling in your family. These are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Quality time: The best gift you can give your family is the gift of your presence and the lasting memories you’ll create together. You can’t leave quality time for your family in an IRA. You can only do that here and now! So, work hard to prepare for the future, but never forget that life is precious.
  • Family traditions and stories: Those who outlive you need to know their part in the thread of your family history. Practice the traditions that have made your family special. Go through old family pictures and tell stories about them. Interview your family members and get digital recordings of your own story that future generations can listen to.
  • Work ethic: Have you set an example of hard work for your friends and family to imitate? Have you sat down with your children or your close friends and had real conversations about what it looks like to live a life well spent? 
  • Money management: Teaching your children and grandchildren how to manage their money is a lasting gift that will set them up for lifelong success.

Here’s the bottom line: What kind of spiritual and relational impact do you want to leave behind? Set aside some time to answer this question, and then come up with a plan to make it a reality!      

2. Practice outrageous generosity.

If you want to multiply your legacy’s impact (and have fun while you’re at it!) then come up with a plan for outrageous generosity. Giving will inspire joy like nothing else! It’s the antidote for selfishness and one of the greatest secrets of a meaningful legacy.

I have the privilege of working with Dave Ramsey, who has always modeled outrageous generosity. He loves giving stuff away! For our Christmas celebration in 2019, Dave fulfilled a lifelong dream of giving away $1 million in a single day. Each one of our team members (myself included!), plus members of our community, got an outrageous gift from the Ramsey family. I still remember the looks on people’s faces!  

Dave has a choice to make just like you and I do. We get to decide if we want to hold on tight to our money and our possessions or loosen our grip and share what we’ve been given. 

You can start practicing generosity at any time, with any dollar amount. Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to create this legacy. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to model this behavior for your children here and now.  And since you can’t take any of it with you when you go, start planning now for how you want your wealth to be distributed once your time has come.

3. Have a plan to transition wealth.

Money is a good thing, but if it’s handled poorly, it can ruin people. I’ve coached dozens of people whose families were torn apart by money fights and unmet expectations while sorting out an inheritance. But the good news is, you can safeguard your legacy and protect your family by coming up with a plan to transition your wealth. 

Estate planning is the process of coming up with a legal plan for transitioning wealth. It will take some focused time and effort to create your estate plan, but trust me—it’s worth it! The most important thing you can do today is make a legally binding will (if you don’t already have one). This is your bread and butter when it comes to wealth transition.

I encourage you to think through how you can safeguard your legacy in these four areas:

  1. For yourself
  2. For your spouse
  3. For your children
  4. For your friends, extended family and community

One key of successful estate planning is to make sure that the responsibility to manage the money (or business, or real estate properties) is transferred along with the actual assets. So, once you’ve thought through the plans and created all the necessary legal documents, get ready to have age-appropriate conversations with your family about the future. You don’t want to catch anybody by surprise!

Create Your Legacy Plan

If you’ve made it this far, I want you to know that I like the way you’re thinking. I admire your intentionality and desire to leverage your wealth for good. The reality is, most people don’t even think about leaving a legacy. And I’m glad you’re not like most people!

With intentionality and hard work, you can make a difference in your family tree, and even in the lives of strangers that you’ll never meet. To make a detailed plan for leaving a legacy, I encourage you to check out Dave Ramsey’s six-lesson course on how to leave a legacy.  

The Legacy Journey teaches a biblical framework for building wealth, securing your family’s future, giving generously, and impacting the world for generations to come. And now, you can access this course as a part of Ramsey+!

Your legacy won’t happen by accident. You’ve got to create it on purpose!

Start The Legacy Journey

Make an impact for generations to come. The Legacy Journey is now a part of Ramsey+.

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Chris Hogan

About the author

Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Chris Hogan Show. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, Fox Business, Yahoo! Finance and the Rachael Ray Show. Since 2005, Chris has served at Ramsey Solutions, where he gives practical money advice on retirement, investing and building wealth. Learn More.