Tool Examiner: Designing Your Financial Legacy

This “Tool Examiner” article looks at the Designing Your Financial Legacy tool.

Many have a strong desire to give to others.  They feel blessed and want to repay society for that which they have received.  They may call this a “debt of gratitude.”  Others say they “want to make a difference.”  Either way, they see strong needs in the world and want to respond in some way.

The term “philanthropist” tends to conjure images of society’s elite who bequeath a portion of their tremendous wealth to large institutions such as hospitals, universities, and museums.  However, current trends in charitable giving indicate that a growing number of philanthropists are ordinary people who share an extraordinary desire to give back and to make a difference.

Instead of inherited assets, these new philanthropists are likely to bring their own earned income to their favorite causes and to give generously while still living.  Another trend is to support human services and community-based organizations rather than the larger, more prominent charities.  Many also want to provide financial support to family members who face special challenges in life and for whom additional financial resources would ease their burdens.

The new philanthropists tend to be more results oriented.  They carefully scrutinize their charities because they want to know how their dollars will be used.  They are also eager to engage other family members in a more conscious approach to giving, and in passing along their values and wishes to the younger generation.  The new philanthropists are also choosing non-traditional channels for giving such as Giving Circles and Donor Advised Funds.  In short, philanthropy today has a new vitality and a new hands-on orientation.  These individuals have discovered that their life satisfaction has multiplied through sharing their financial resources.

The Designing Your Financial Legacy worksheet is designed to gather information from your clients regarding their current charitable activities and financial contributions.  In addition, your clients’ responses and the resulting dialogue will also help you to assess the priority they place on giving of their time, energy, and financial assets.

Often individuals have a greater interest in contributing their personal resources than their actual level of participation indicates.  This worksheet will give these individuals the opportunity to express that desire to you and to also identify the obstacles (real or imagined) that have inhibited their charitable inclinations.  Perhaps the cause is simply not knowing how much they can afford to give away, or maybe it is not knowing how to measure the effectiveness or trustworthiness of particular charitable organizations or causes.

Completing the Designing Your Financial Legacy exercise provides your clients the opportunity to reflect on their current level of giving and to assess whether or not their personal resources are being directed to the charities, causes, and/or individuals that are most important to them.  Visualizing makes great use of one’s imagination.  When your clients imagine what and how they want to give, these images can be used to guide and direct their giving plan and financial legacy.

If you are meeting with a couple, give each individual a copy of Designing Your Financial Legacy and ask them to complete their worksheets independently.  Discuss similarities and differences in their responses to increase awareness, understanding, and communication between the spouses/partners.

Note: The Designing Your Financial Legacy tool is included in Money Quotient Licensing Level 4.  For information about becoming an M.Q. Licensee, please e-mail  “Tool Examiner” articles take an in-depth look at a specific tool from within the Money Quotient suite of Financial Life Planning® materials, and provide tips and techniques for successfully using the tool with clients.

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