“Generational wealth, that’s the key,” said hip-hop artists and entrepreneur Jay-Z in his song Legacy on his new album 4:44. He’s right.
Legacy is a critical concept to smart retirement planning. Wade Pfau, a leading retirement researcher and professor at the American College, a higher education institution for financial planners, calls “legacy” one of four pillars of retirement planning. The other pillars are longevity, lifestyle and liquidity.
I think the concept of legacy is becoming increasingly important to more people because we’re enjoying longer, healthier lives, on average. The prospect of longer lives offers an unprecedented opportunity for older Americans to rethink and re-imagine what they want to accomplish later in life and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind.
The personal finance conversation about legacy typically focuses on inheritance and charitable giving. Money is important, but put finances aside for the moment. Generational wealth can also mean tapping into your skills and your experience to make a difference in your community and the wider society.
Like an estate plan, figuring out how and where to put your knowledge to work takes time. There is no shortage of need. Here’s a three-part strategy for deciding how best to pass on your generational wealth in skill and knowledge: Introspection, networking and getting out of your comfort zone.
Major life transitions are a good time for introspection. As the late Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech at Stanford: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Networking with friends, neighbors, former colleagues and acquaintances helps connect those dots. Your network will also come up with ideas for passing on your human capital. Ask your network, “What do you think I should do next to leave a legacy?”
Gain inspiration by getting out of your comfort zone. Go on a retreat. Take classes in subjects unfamiliar to you. Immerse yourself in different cultures.
Older Americans have much to offer that can help improve the odds of success for so many, including young people, the disadvantaged, newcomers to the United States, first generation college students and fledgling entrepreneurs. Passing on your knowledge and human capital — your generational wealth — can leave a far more powerful legacy than your bank account and charitable giving ever will.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.