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Choosing Your Legacy

Mike Drak

ONE OF MY FAVORITE movies is based on A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic. It’s about the mean and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, a money lender who constantly bullies his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and rejects his nephew Fred’s wishes for a merry Christmas.

Scrooge lives only for money. He has no real friends or family, and cares only about his own well-being. As the story goes, on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. They teach him about the Christmas spirit through visions of Christmases past, present and future. In each visit, he sees either the negative consequences his miserly nature has created or the good tidings that others bring about through their love and kindness.

Scrooge sees his future death—dying alone with no one to mourn him. He has his money and his possessions, but nothing else. He finally understands why qualities like generosity and love are some of the most important things in life.

He’s grateful when he realizes he has a chance to redeem himself and change his future. This is the important message conveyed by Dickens. If Scrooge can change and improve his future, then anyone can. Dickens reminds us that we still have a last chance to be remembered as we would wish. But we need to start living that way today, while we still have the opportunity to change the direction of our life.

For many of us, the pandemic has spurred a re-evaluation of our values and priorities. Similar to Scrooge, we were all sent to our rooms by the man upstairs to think things over. We were given a lot of time to take inventory of our life and to think about what our future life could be like. The pandemic has also reminded us of our own mortality—that life is short. That caused many of us to reprioritize things.

When I used to think about my legacy, it was about having a will and leaving behind as much as I could for my kids. But because of the pandemic, when I think about my legacy these days, I don’t think about how much money I’ve managed to save or the stuff I’m going to leave behind. Just like Scrooge, my focus has changed to the good I have done and the people I’ve touched. That’s what gives me meaning now. Everything I do these days is for meaning, not money.

Imagine you’re age 90 and looking back over your life.

  • Are you proud of it?
  • Outside of your will, what will your legacy be?
  • Did you live the life you wanted to live?
  • Did you miss out on anything?
  • What can you do better?
  • What do you want to change?
  • Did you serve as a good role model for your kids and others?
  • What’s missing from your life that you want to add?
  • What’s left that you need to do?
  • What will your story be when it’s told to someone after you’re gone?

We all want to arrive at the end of our days knowing that we did everything we could to live the life we wanted. You don’t want to end up like all too many people, who finally figure out how to live while lying on their deathbed, suffering from regret.

Retirement is all about choices. One of the most important choices you’ll make is what kind of person do you want to be as you age. Do you want to be a grumpy old man or woman—or like Scrooge on Christmas day?

Mike Drak is a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry. He’s the author of Retirement Heaven or Hell, published in 2021, as well as an earlier book, Victory Lap Retirement. Mike works with his wife, an investment advisor, to help clients design a fulfilling retirement. For more on Mike, head to BoomingEncore.com. Check out his earlier articles.

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