What effect do you want your legacy to have?

Legal-Will and Glasses

John Ruskin, a 19th century critic and architect, once wrote: “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work, as our descendants will thank us for and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when…they will say, as they look upon the labor and the rock substance of them: ‘See that is what our father and mother did for us.’”

Ruskin understands that when we build, we don’t just build for the present and we don’t just build for ourselves. We build for the future; we build for those who come after us. We can look at estate planning in a similar way.

We work to make money, and we make money to save and invest so we can accumulate assets and provide the things we want and need. But what do we want our money, investments, and assets to achieve after we pass?

This is a much different question than “what do I want to leave for my family?” or “how much do I want to donate to a charity?” It’s the difference between wanting to leave $10,000 to a grandchild and wanting to help pay for that grandchild’s college tuition. The question gets to the heart of legacy planning and asks: “what effect do you want your legacy to have?”

Asking yourself this question can help you set estate planning goals and make decisions for your will or Revocable Living Trust. Viewing your estate as a tool to accomplish goals instead of something to divvy up can give you a better idea of how to use, grow, and pass along your investments and assets.

We believe estate planning isn’t about the things you own: it’s about supporting the people in your life and the causes you believe in. It’s about building for the future and leaving a lasting legacy.

So let us know: what do you want your legacy to be? What effect do you want it to have?

Your personal finances after graduation — part two

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Earlier this week, we shared a few basic ideas that you can use to build a healthy foundation for your personal finances after college. Today, let’s look at some specific things you can do and goals to work towards to get your finances off on the right foot.

Create a budget

On the surface, a budget is simply a system that you create to manage your money. However, it also encourages healthy financial habits. By keeping a budget, you regularly track your cash flow, monitor your spending, and set limits and rules for your money. These are all important skills to learn and exercise.

There isn’t one correct way to budget. The right budget for you is the one that you’ll stick to and one that moves you closer to your financial goals as efficiently as possible. For ideas and tips, check out our previous articles on creating a budgetContinue reading

Your personal finances after graduation — part one

Grad Caps 3

The transition period between college life to the professional world can be a formative time. It’s an opportunity to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle during the next phase of your life. This includes your personal finances.

Some people realize years after they start their careers that they need to get the financial part of their lives in order: they realize the need for smarter spending, paying down debt, and saving for retirement. Unfortunately, this realization often comes after experiencing the consequences of poor financial habits. Committing to improving your financial situation at any point in your life is a good thing but it’s much easier to accomplish when you start earlier in life: before you take on more debt, increase your necessary expenses, or make any financial mistakes. Continue reading

What does it mean to be financially literate?

Mint Making the grade

Click on the image above to view the entire infographic from Mint.com.

Financial literacy has been a popular topic in recent years. Type that phrase into Google and the search engine will return hundreds of articles that describe how lacking Americans are on the subject. There are movements to establish required financial literacy classes in grade school and high school. Personal finance blogs like this one seem to be more popular today than ever. Becoming a financially literate nation appears to be a priority.

But what does it mean to be financially literate?

Perhaps you’ve never thought about this question before; maybe you always figured you would keep learning about money matters and hopefully put it all to use someday. There’s nothing wrong with this approach on a personal level. However, there is value in having a set of financial literacy standards on an educational, organizational, and national level. Without one, it’s impossible to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the information, programs, and practices we advise and implement to improve financial literacy.

We know what financial literacy is and we have ideas about how to teach it. But how should we assess whether a person is “financially literate?” We’ll be researching and discussing this topic in the upcoming weeks and would like to hear your thoughts on the subject. You can leave a comment below or contact us with your ideas on what it means to be financially literate.

For more information on financial literacy in America, check out Mint’s infographic, “Making the grade: understanding America’s financial literacy.