A Legacy of Values, an Inheritance Worth Giving

-A guest blog by Paul Forbes, Vice President of National Relationships-

I picked up some great advice from a mentor about 14 years ago:

Leave a legacy worth leaving,

memories worth repeating, 

hugs worth receiving. 

The truth is we all leave a legacy. The difference is whether or not we are intentional about what kind of legacy we’re leaving. We all make memories, but are they the kind our kids and families want to relive? And hugs? Well, we will have opportunities to give them in good times and in sad times, but the important thing is to be intentional about giving them. 

The key to a strong foundation 

The choices we make build up who we are, lay the foundation of our values, and grow the families we hold dear.

It is so important to spend time discerning what it is you want to leave with your family, and what legacy God wants you to leave with your family. What does that look like? Be intentional  and have faith in pursuing clarity about that. It’s not always easy with God stretching you in your journey.

As kids grow, they don’t always want to listen, and they have thoughts of their own! That’s not a bad thing, but it is something you have to prepare for. Make sure you spend time with them as a family unit, articulating what is important to you and what your family’s values are. How do they play out? Create an environment and culture that sets the stage for and nurtures those values.

Set yourself up for memories and hugs, for good and bad times.

Everyone experiences their life journey a little differently, so spending intentional time together — even in short snippets — establishing values and what it means to be a family together is vitally important. The foundations you lay with your own family become the foundations upon which future generations are built.

Legacy beyond estate planning

It’s interesting when you start talking about legacy because so often it goes into estate planning and a financial exercise. Traditional, secular advice is to leave as much as possible to your kids and split it evenly.  But this is one of the most unwise things you can ever do. From a Biblical and human perspective, two major questions arise around inheritances:

  1. What do you hope an inheritance will do for your kids? 

Most people would say they hope an inheritance would enable opportunities and enhancements for their children they may not otherwise have.

  1. What do you fear an inheritance will do to harm your kids and what does that look like?

Families who set inheritances up with this secular context can ruin their kids’ work ethics with privilege, selfishness, greed, and potentially destroy family dynamics. 

That becomes the legacy.

But with work, intentionality, and forethought, we can avoid ruining our families in that way. 

Don’t think about an inheritance or legacy solely from the standpoint of money. I suggest looking at it in three ways.

  1. For spending (the traditional realm) 
  2. For shaping (to shape your family with experiences)
  3. For sharing (to give to others) 

What does this mean for you now? It means not waiting, maybe passing on the inheritance and helping those around you while you’re around to see it. Help with mortgage down payments and impact their lives for the good (but not necessarily make them trust fund babies). It means using money for family activities, mission trips, shared experiences, helping send grandkids to summer camp—things that will help shape your family’s values. Talk about giving to the same organizations that have been important to you, and make sure they are important to them. You can give your family a tool like NCF, letting kids and grandkids have their own accounts, and then your family is giving together. You may have heard the phrase,  “Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.”

You can raise your family to get excited about giving! 

Some practical ideas:

  • As kids are young, you can get them outside of their typical comfortable surroundings. If they have more toys than they need, help them pick and choose which ones to pass on to others who may be in need. Personalities even among toddlers will start to surface: nurture attitudes of service and giving.
  • As kids get older, encourage volunteering. It can be to bake, make projects, or serve others. Think beyond the holidays and the popular soup kitchen options.
  • Family mission trips.
  • Family vacations can include intentional time. Leisure time can also include devotions and conversations about family values, legacy, and what kind of difference you want to make in the world 
  • Let your kids have their own money they can give away, and a pool of money to make choices about what the family can choose to give to together.
  • Share giving opportunities with their friends and significant others as they get older.
  • Take bigger service and mission trips as kids get older. Sign up for family camps together. Shared experiences and serving experiences are key.
  • Open an NCF fund as a wedding present for your kids when they get married.

As a parent trying to do these sorts of things, it’s training for kids to live and for you to let go. They will have to learn to make their own giving decisions for themselves, and they learn it from you. That’s your real legacy.