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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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Don Southworth
Don Southworth
6 months ago

Thanks Mike. Scrooge and you are looking good with your legacies.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
6 months ago
Reply to  Don Southworth

It’s a work in progress Don. I’m planning on making 2022 a breakout legacy year for me and continuing in that vein for as long as I can.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
6 months ago

Great piece, Mike. I’ve been a big Christmas Carol fan since a child, both the book and movie. My favorite is the 1957 version with Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

I have this weird theory that all the great works of art are somehow about redemption, and this certainly fits.

Merry Christmas.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
6 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Thanks Rick and I’m a big fan of the 1957 classic as well.

Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
6 months ago

Interesting the short list of fictional characters that, even if you haven’t read the stories, people still know what is meant by calling someone a “Scrooge” (or a “Sherlock Holmes”). That tells me the kind of person Scrooge represents is timeless and universal, as is the warning not to be like him. Nice piece.

Bob G
Bob G
6 months ago

Write your obituary, then go back and read it. That will let you know what was important to you and how you want to be remembered.

Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
6 months ago

Excellent advice for all to consider.

IAD
IAD
6 months ago

Great post! Thank you!

R Quinn
R Quinn
6 months ago

Well stated. The dash between matters.

COVID has changed my thinking about a lot of things, about what I have, what I miss, how vulnerable we can be, how important my family is, how isolation must feel for people alone in normal times and sadly, how inconsiderate and ignorant some people can be.

I listen to what some people say about others who are gone and I say to myself, yikes, I hope I’ve done a bit better or at least tried.

Bob G
Bob G
6 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Assuming you mean the dash between the years on your gravestone. HERE is a great country song about “The Dash”. As always, listen to the words.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bob G
Mike Drak
Mike Drak
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob G

Thanks for the song I loved it!

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