Legacy Planning Is a Journey, Too

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It’s certainly well known and by now is probably bordering on the cliché: “Life is a journey, not a destination. “

But over usage hasn’t changed the basic meaning of the phrase. While there are a number of nuanced interpretations, basically life’s journey is simply how life – and the person living the life — progresses from one situation to another, filled with circumstances, positive and negative, effortless and challenging, successful and unfortunate.

Life never stops changing. Even those who attain their goals, such as reaching the top of the corporate ladder, becoming a parent, buying the house they’ve dreamed of, can’t stop there. Business changes. Kids grow up. Houses are sold.

So why then do we tend to think of a plan – financial, estate or legacy – as a destination?

We sit down for a week or two, identify goals and priorities, map out our strategies and tactics for achieving our objectives, and then only check in on the plan at pre-determined intervals or if a life-changing event occurs.

That method may have worked very well when our lives were more regulated and less hectic. Change didn’t happen as often or as quickly. We could expect to journey through life in easily identifiable stages according to the “learn, earn and return” paradigm.

How different our lives have become.

Life’s journey now sometimes appears to more to a rollercoaster ride than a mindful progression from one stage of life to the next. Many of us find ourselves having to relearn while we earn or in order to earn in a new job or endeavor. And definitely for many of us the earning part of our lives can be in almost constant flux. Jobs come and go. Interest rates and stock market returns go up and down. Salaries may stay level while the cost of living increases. And all can occur at a mind-numbingly accelerated pace.

It’s time to recognize that our financial plans and our legacies are indelibly linked with the patterns of our lives. Our plans need to be treated as journeys, not as a particular place or position to be attained and suddenly everything is set. Our plans need to be as flexible and fluid as our life journeys have become.

  • Careers today don’t move in a straight line anymore. For some, the line itself has or is starting to disappear. A career path can look more like a spiral with learn, earn, repeat as people move from different types of work or to take advantage of evolving career opportunities.
  • Where once the focus of a plan may have been to put aside enough to supplement a company’s pension plan at retirement and maybe have something to leave the kids when we’re gone, retirement funding is shifting from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution 401(k) plans where more of the financial burden falls on the shoulders of the employee.
  • Workers are staying in the labor force longer in order to shoulder more of the financial burden of retirement. While, at the same time, more and more workers need to think about the possible financial impact of being unemployed or under-employed as the business and job arenas change.

These are just a few of the job market and economic changes that can require corresponding shifts in planning.

Where once the main goal of a plan might have been to accumulate funds for retirement, a shift in career strategy may require a shift in financial planning as well. The priority might now need to be ensuring an emergency fund to cover living expenses for six months to a year due to a job loss or the need to retrain.

Where once an estate plan may have focused more on estate tax implications and protecting financial assets, a shift back to accumulation of wealth may be needed as savings and other resources have been depleted by economic disruptions.

Where once a legacy plan may have been focused more on the financial assets to be passed along, transformations in family dynamics and structures may have shifted the focus more toward passing along values, stories and traditions.

LegacyShield as a company recognizes the need for our products and services to be an integral companion on our clients’ legacy planning journeys. Safe, secure digital storage has become a necessity. Having 24/7 online access to information has become the expected norm. And being able to create, store and share this information with the appropriate people while protecting it from unauthorized usage is a major requirement that LegacyShield offers today’s clients.

For all of us, the destination is the same. Let’s make sure we enjoy the journey by matching our plans to our needs at every step along the way.

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