Interesting question – take two

Last post we took a detour to discuss travel.  Travel is the most cited ‘want to do’ activity in retirement.  This week we’ll really spend time on the interesting question.

The interesting question

I was reading a practicing financial advisor’s article in a financial planning magazine and ran across an interesting question; “Is your goal to be the richest person in the graveyard?”

If you’re like me, the first place you went with the question was money, particularly a legacy to heirs of money.  Your legacy is important and financial planning around a monetary legacy is critical if it might be large. However, let me suggest that while money is a consideration, perhaps money should be the lesser part of your legacy.  You have already built a part of your legacy, cash and non-monetary, over the course of your life.  You now have the chance to add to your legacy in your pre-retirement and retirement years.  Let’s consider legacies.

What’s in your legacy?

In my case, my family members left me the values of honesty, hard work, perseverance, adaptability, and continuous learning.  I hope and believe that we passed these on to our children and that they will pass them on to the grandchildren. I have some friends that are retired teachers.  They are childless, but I hear stories of how even today former students will stop them in stores and remind them of the values and lessons they learned in their classes.  The legacies of some of my coworkers (many still living) to me included exemplary work ethics, technical excellence, generosity, sharing, caring about, and humor.


You have already left a value legacy.  You can build on it by making it explicit; consider writing an autobiography and pointing out the values you were trying to pass on.  One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of a typed transcription of my great-great-grandfather’s diary from several months in the 1860’s.  Your autobiography could connect multiple generations with your values legacy.  Don’t worry about the grammar and spelling, they will treasure your history and memories.


A number of our friends continue to create their legacy in pre-retirement and retirement by contributing to the community.  Some are committed to environmental causes; one keeps an entire mile of street free of litter as part of an adopt-a-highway program.  Another group helps with youth development by volunteering for Scouting.  Some friends do genealogy to document their family lineage. Still another set helps with anti-poverty and disaster relief through religious institutions and non-profits. Others help maintain our democracy by volunteering with their political parties.

I have attended a number of funerals where “the dash” was read.  Think about your ‘dash’ and consider how you might engage in the community.  Here’s a link to Volunteer Match which can help you find opportunities to meet your interest and abilities.

Back to the money

“Is your goal to be the richest person in the graveyard?”  The financial advisor indicated that he strongly encourages clients to definitely not be the richest person in the graveyard.  A different way of saying this is, ‘die broke’.

Why not be the richest person in the graveyard? A few reasons come to mind:

-quality of life

-estate tax

-smaller gifts instead of a large inheritance.

Hopefully your RIP is set up to provide you with a lifetime retirement income, regardless of how long you live.  If you spend too frugally, you could end up with a lower quality of life than you could afford, leaving a larger estate that was necessary.  Consider the balance in your retirement spending between quality of life and monetary legacy.

Even though the Federal estate tax limit has been raised, that does not mean your state’s estate tax has followed.  Dying with a large estate and no estate tax plan can cost a literal fortune.  I know of one middle-class family that wrote a $40,000 estate tax check because of poor planning.  With minor planning and gifting they would have had no estate tax due – ouch.  Charitable donations and gifting are a couple of techniques for avoiding any estate taxes.  If you will have retirement income outside of Social Security and/or a defined benefit pension, a checkup with an attorney specializing in estate planning will likely be well worth your time.

If you are fortunate enough to have some financial assets that you think might pass on to your heirs, consider multiple smaller gifts while you are living.  One advantage here is that you will get to see the next generation enjoying the gift, which may have been used for a home, car, or vacation.  One key rationale for smaller gifts is that they are less likely than a large inheritance to enable sloth or other moral hazards of wealth without work.

Consider what legacy strategies fit best for you, including dying broke.

Actions you can take include:

-Consider how you might answer the question, “Is your goal to be the richest person in the graveyard?”

-Consult an estate planning attorney to see what, if any, estate plan you might need.

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

You’re gonna die! But we can help with a surprise there, too.

WIIFY – A quick lesson on avoiding passing a surprise to your loved ones and a tip to potentially lower the costs. Learn a new ‘thing’ – tl;dr.  tl;dr means too long, didn’t read and is a summary for you! Note – not pretending to be an attorney here, just noting some generally available information and recommending you see an attorney.

tl;dr – Put your assets in a trust and make them easy to transfer and avoid probate at death. Use a legal plan to potentially save significant money on setting up the trust.

End of retirement planning
Sorry dear reader, but the end of retirement, as some euphemistically call death, will happen for all. When you die, married or not, someone has to handle your ‘estate’: real estate (house), tangible personal property (your gnome collection), and your intangible personal property (stocks, bonds).  Don’t surprise your loved ones, plan some in advance.

An easy way to not surprise your loved ones is to have most of the big stuff in a trust.  Work with a licensed attorney in your state on this. A trust is essentially a legal holding entity that can ‘own’ assets and give them or income from them to a ‘beneficiary’ (could be you) and lets the trustee (could be you while alive and, on death, pass to a spouse or child(ren) distribute the assets.  The distribution of the assets at death with a trust is much simpler, faster, and in my experience cheaper, than probate.  We only needed a death certificate to distribute the in-laws’ assets from their trust.

Legal plan
My daughter and son-in-law were going to get a trust and made noises about getting a trust as a birthday gift (the gift that keeps on giving!) Trusts are not inexpensive, so I looked at the legal plan available through their work.  It covered trusts and one of the attorneys in the plan is an excellent attorney that we used for out trusts. The legal plan cost was about $300, so they signed up for the legal plan and I gave them a $300 present, which saved them (or me?) about $700.

Up next – Look for the next update on Friday, July 28 at 12:30 PM.

Actions you can take:
Read more on trusts.
-Check out your legal plan at work or, if you don’t have a legal plan at work, search the web for ‘legal plan’ and see what the cost benefit is for a trust.

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.