The owner decided he could trust me. He has several million dollars in real estate and other investments. He went deeper and began to talk about more important issues than building or preserving wealth. We shifted to what he should do with his wealth. Maybe he had a similar conversation with one other person, maybe not. He switched to a deeper level with this statement. 

My Friend: “I’m in the season when I want to have an impact.”

Me: “So are you thinking of the inheritance or the legacy?  

Legacy is what people do, say, and think, because of your impact on their life. Legacy is behavior and attitude. The people you impact. will live out your legacy. 

Inheritance is who will get your wealth. The material goods, the dollars, deeds, and diamonds, are the inheritance. Your heirs can spend or invest inheritance.”

My friend was focused on the use of his wealth. He showed little interest right then about his impact on people he dealt with and cared about. That topic would not on the table now. He asked for my thoughts on how to choose what to do with his current wealth.

Me: “What matters most to you? When you’re gone, which people and what causes do you want to impact?”

My Friend: “Tell me more; I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

Me: “There’s more than one way to express the idea. Some people talk about service beyond self. Others ask, “What do you want to live after you?’ Here’s what some other investors chose.

One family knew their family members were financially established. They left token amounts to younger family members and directed most of their funds to the hospital that provided their cancer care.

Some people donate to the San Diego Foundation. It’s like a United Way for approximately 500 organizations that support our local community. The San Diego Foundation distributes funds to whatever organizations the donor chooses.

Another option is to give to or through your faith assembly, perhaps at your parish, congregation, or temple. There are religious charities that serve specific populations. Some examples are Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Service, and Lutheran Social Services.”

My Friend: “My family’s set up. What burdens my heart is hungry people who need food today.”

Me: “There are several faith-based organizations that serve that need. There are secular organizations too, like Meals on Wheels.”

As we talked more, my friend reckoned that Meals on Wheels appealed to him. The volunteers use their own vehicles to render service, and they routinely serve the same households. I’m part of a discussion group of men who want to live lives worth imitating.  Two members of the group depend on Meals on Wheels to supplement their nourishment. 

My Friend: “If I’m not being too personal, what are you and your wife doing with your wealth?”

Me: “Our right answer will differ from yours. But since you asked, we’re people who take the outrageous claims of Jesus seriously. Our faith matters to us. We aim to treat people the way we wanted to be treated. We may or may not do it well, but we routinely aim for that standard. Once we leave this material world, there will modest bequests to our extended family, and the bulk of our humble estate will go toward evangelizing in the Third World. You’ll use your resources for what you value most.”

My friend will think seriously about what matters. Hopefully he’ll choose wisely how his resources will be deployed, now and after his passing. I hope his plans for inheritance will work out. I’ve seen the kids sue each other too many times.

Perhaps the decision to make Meals on Wheels a beneficiary will affect what my friend does in the unknown amount of time he has left. He may choose to become directly involved in the cause he cares about. He might choose to drive a hot meal a month to some shut in. Maybe he’ll take a grandchild, son, daughter or in law with him. Maybe he’ll tell a few people why he is giving up an afternoon a month.

Those actions go beyond inheritance and into the realm of legacy. Those people will think about him and the values he demonstrates. They may see him as an example to follow and incarnate his values. They may tell stories about him after he passes about what was important to him.

How about you? Within the next hundred years you, my friend and I will be gone. So how will you answer these questions?

What matters most to you? When you’re gone, which people and what causes do you want to impact? My friend believes that we should do some of our giving while we’re living.

What will you do within the next week to implement your plan?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.