January 2011

Defining Your Legacy

Author: Christopher T. Spires

When you are still firing on all cylinders, there may be no need to cut back on your retirement activities. Just because you have reached 75 and entered what the AARP labels the “older retirement years,” you don’t have to stop traveling, trying to perfect your golf game or working—whatever your choices during the most dynamic years of your retirement.

You may be enjoying what can be one of the most wonderfully fulfilling times of your life. More than anything else, it is likely that your state of health will determine when you must start applying the brakes. And that may not be for a very long time. It is no longer a novelty to find golfers in their 90s shooting their age or travelers in their mid-80s flying off to new destinations. Your life may still be a fantastic journey, but there will come a time to reflect—to plan your legacy.

Earlier in your retirement, you may have determined the smartest ways to withdraw funds from your nest egg. Perhaps you stayed invested in equities longer than previous generations, because you planned for a long, active retirement, not a short, sedentary one. As the years pass, it may be prudent to revisit your portfolio to decide whether any allocation shifts and changes in direction are needed to keep it in line with your situation.

Certainly, if you have not yet done so, it is time to update any legal documents, wills, lists of named beneficiaries, charitable causes and anything else you want to make part of your legacy. Studies show that surprisingly large numbers of even astute investors fail to tend to such matters. Names of beneficiaries on your IRAs, for example, supersede your will, so check their accuracy. In addition, make sure that a trusted family member or friend knows the whereabouts of your vital documents.

Modern technology has added a new problem: username and password confidentiality. You can save your loved ones a great deal of anguish if you share this information, or at least keep a list of usernames and passwords along with account numbers and other information. Banks and financial institutions, to guard against unauthorized persons obtaining access to your money or your identity, may require death certificates and other information before they will unlock accounts and allow anyone else in. Even spouses with joint tenancy may have to supply death certificates and corroborating information—and wait weeks—to get access, unless they know the correct information.

Handled appropriately, with the right financial plans, trusts, charitable contributions and family bequests, your legacy can last for decades. Just as your vision and interests defined your lifetime accomplishments, they can now determine your role in your family’s or community’s story.

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