When we talk about leaving an inheritance, we’re talking about money, right?
Right. And that’s unfortunate because when it comes to making life better for our heirs, we should be talking about what we can do, as well as how much we can leave.
There are many non-monetary ways we can (and should) help the next generation. These are gifts we can give starting today – long before the reading of the will, and while we can see the happiness, satisfaction and security they provide our children and grandkids.
Here are six such bequests:
Make a will. If you already have one, make sure it’s up to date. You will save your loved ones untold time, trouble and heartache by providing even simple guidance on your wishes regarding everything from funeral arrangements to division of your assets to who gets that World War I German army helmet with the spike that’s been in the family for 100 years.
Get fit. This is perhaps the most important “living legacy” you can provide to your kids. Exercising and kicking those bad health habits boosts your likelihood of living a longer, more active life. You’ve got a lot of years ahead of you. Get into shape so you can use that time to enjoy and support your offspring and theirs. The flipside is dreadful. The last thing you want to become is a financial or emotional burden; someone who must be taken care of because they didn’t take care of themselves. Imagine how devastating it would be for everyone if your son or daughter had to quit their job to become your caregiver. Ugh.
Share your time, skill and knowledge. You know stuff. Put all that knowledge to use in ways that will make a real difference to family members. Help paint or renovate your daughter’s house. Teach your granddaughter everything you know about golf – and math. Fix up a used car to save your son’s family on a second vehicle.
If a family member owns a business, put in some shifts. Watch the grandkids on a set schedule that allows their parents to either save on workday child care or just have some alone time. The list is endless.
Live within your means. You want to be a net contributor to your family’s collective financial future, not a drain. Sure, a health crisis or other catastrophe might force you to turn to family for help. But needing the kids to bail you out of a jam caused by excessive spending. Well, that would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
Organize your finances. Don’t leave the family scrambling if you become incapacitated, or worse. Weed your financial records and shred what you don’t need. Put all your important documents in one place, and tell several family members where to find them. Do the same with your online accounts and passwords.
Help ‘em buy a house. Contribute financially, if you can. If your kid is truly committed to homeownership, you can do this by contributing money over a period of years. But your time and experience also have value. Offer to vet lenders, research possible neighborhoods, or help complete the mortgage application.
It’s true that you can’t take it with you. Not your money, nor your time, talent and experience. So, make the most of everything you have to build a lasting legacy for your kids.