My sister recently gave me a diary our mother had recorded her thoughts in back in 1989. Mom was a prolific note taker and wonderful at writing her experiences and thoughts at the end of each day. 1989 was especially significant to me because our son was born on January 6th that year. She and my stepfather had a winter home in Florida and it was interesting to read how they secretly decided to drive up to Spartanburg to surprise us in the hospital the day after Tyler’s birth. She wrote about how good looking he was and how she got to hold him for long periods. This is from her diary on January 13th, one week after Tyler’s birth, “We went over to Spartanburg to see baby Tyler. He’s still so beautiful and good. Reminds me so much of Noel when he was a baby. Such a sweet little boy he was.” I read that 30 year old comment for the first time just a few days ago. I never knew my mother kept a diary. But reading those words all these years later, even more than 20 year after her death, I can hear her enunciating each word. I sent copies of these pages to my son a few days ago. He told me it brought a tear to his eyes. During the first month of 1989 my mother visited a new grandchild (her 15th and final one) and a new great-grandchild. She lost three good friends and attended their funerals. She happened up on a car on its top that belonged to a grandchild (Ginny was not hurt) and watched President Reagan’s farewell address on the 11th. Why am I telling you a 30 year old story about a 76 year old lady? And what does any of that have to do with investing? This is why it’s important;
When my mother and step-father died in 1997 there wasn’t much there in the way of a monetary inheritance. They had lived well and used up most of their money. But a real legacy isn’t made up from just the ‘stuff’ they leave behind. While most of us older baby-boomers would like to leave something to our kids to make their path a little easier, that isn’t always possible. But there is something we can do for our kids, grandkids, and all the generations that will come behind them. We can leave them our memories, our stories, our values. While we don’t really think much about what we are doing today, our descendants a hundred years from now will find it utterly fascinating. Think about this, if you could go back and have a conversation with your great-great-grandfather and ask him about a day in his life, would you do it?
If you really want to leave your family a lasting legacy, make a record of your thoughts and values and leave that for your kids to discover. I can almost guarantee you they will cherish it in the years to come more than they will your remaining IRA.