By Todd DeKruyter

Leaving a Full Legacy

Have you ever heard a good joke on death rates? No? So why is that? Why are most jokes about death and mortality bad? Well, because none of us like thinking about our own mortality. However, we all would like to think that in some way we will live beyond our final breath. We want to impact eternity. What I’m saying is that we all want to have a legacy.

When we talk about legacy that’s exactly what we are talking about, your life echoing beyond your last breath.

We all want our lives to count. When the dust settles from our career and life, we would like to have an impact on our kids, friends, and family in a way that continues.

In order to leave a legacy worth remembering, we need to have intentionality. We need to live our lives by design, and not by default. You won’t just wake up one day and discover you’ve created a legacy by accident. But I think we do need to wake up to the opportunity in front of us—our family legacy. I’d love to see us wake up. I’d love for us to see to the broader picture, or metanarrative of our life.

We’re all put on earth to make an impact. As a Jesusloving Bible guy, I might even add God designed us to make an impact. We are designed to make a significant contribution to the world.

The question that we face is not if we will be remembered, but how we will we be remembered and by whom.

Let me say here — this is not easy, right? Most wealthy folks are the first of their family to be wealthy. In fact, according to James Grubman, a full 80% of wealthy are not raised with wealth. This tells us a lot. First, chances are if you’re wealthy, you’ve most likely not faced the dilemmas of having more than enough. Second, your parents aren’t much help in navigating these unchartered waters of wealth. Third, the financial lessons your parents taught you as a child don’t help you navigate these waters with your own kids either. Growing up it was “we can’t afford it.” Now, what does it look like to say, “We won’t afford it”?

You need to understand your family story. You need to have purpose and design to your legacy in order to be purposeful think through the end. What story do hope will be told one day?

It makes sense to live your life in such a way that it’s a good story to be told. No matter your youth or age, choose now to start living a legacy that echoes on into eternity.

Allow me give you four brief tips on how to increase the chance of your family remembering you well.

1. Decide to put some intentionality to your family legacy.

My guess is your business has a vision and mission statement or a culture that’s been identified by some core values. These statements and values have done well to guide and set the course for your business. Most businesses have some similar sort of vision, because without one it’s unlikely that business will flourish.

But what about your family? All good family legacies should start with the same sort of intentionality that a good business does. However, while I’m sure you know your business motto, have you sat down to come up with a family motto? Do you know why your family exists? Have you thought through what the purpose of family is? When we neglect to chart an intentional course for our family, we resign it to struggle and aimlessness, and yet often we find it difficult to understand why.

The first step needs to be taken. Do you want to leave a legacy worth remembering? It starts with a choice, in a moment—well, like this one. Are you ready to decide?

2. Leave a full legacy, not just a financial one.

Money is like fire. It has immense ability to be a blessing and a curse; cook your food and burn your socks off. You can pass it to your heirs with both blessing and curse potentially resulting. Money, however, is just one part of a legacy. Leaving a complete legacy and a full inheritance is focusing on the non-financial pieces alongside the financial ones.

True wealth is more than money. A families’ true wealth includes five distinct areas or capitals. Others have their own version of these categories, but here is how I see it. The five capitals are financial, intellectual, emotional, character, and spiritual. I’m going to briefly break them down and give a question and currency for each capital.

The question with Financial Capital is: How much treasure do you have to invest? The currency is dollars and cents, pounds and pennies.

The question with Intellectual capital is: How much creativity and knowledge do we have to invest? The currency here is concepts and ideas.

The question with Emotional Capital is: How much relational equity to invest? The currency is your family, friends, and network.

With Character Capital the question is: How much integrity do you have to invest? The currency is work ethic, motivation and attitude.

And finally, Spiritual Capital’s question is: How much spiritual impact do we have to invest? The currency is wisdom and influence.

It’s common to talk through financial literacy, intellectual quotient, and even in the last 40 years we’ve added emotional intelligence or emotional quotient. These are all good. But why not add character capital? Who wouldn’t want their kids to have a high character quotient? What would it look like to develop their character capital and their spiritual capital?

The truth is that financial capital might be the easiest of these five capitals to pass along, as a result the others often suffer neglect. A full inheritance includes passing all five capitals.

3. Put resources behind that intentionality.

It’s one thing to merely decide this is going to happen. But if you don’t put intentionality, time, and resources behind your legacy, it can only go so far. Think for a second about how much time and energy you put into planning your financial life. How much did you pay your state planning attorney? What do you pay fees to your investment manager? Tax Advisor?

Now how much money have you spent to plan legacy? If you’re like most people, family vacations may be the only intentionality on the family side.

If you plan on being serious about building into a family story legacy, you need be willing to put some resources towards legacy. Now, it doesn’t have to be crazy. But have you bought any books on the subject? Have you attended any conferences on family legacy? Have you shared any articles on this with your kids? Have you engaged in deep conversations with close friends on what family legacy would look like?

The Mullins Exercise

Let me tease out the five capitals and how you should resource them a little bit more. I call this the Mullins Exercise. It’s named after my friend Frank Mullins who taught it to me.

Imagine for a second you can only pass one of the five capitals. Which is the most important? Are you going to pass financial, intellectual, emotional, character, and spiritual capital? Which of these is the chief one for your heirs to inherit?

Take a moment to determine your answer.

If you are like most people I walk through this exercise, you chose character or spiritual. Most do. Those two are deeper than the others. For me, the other capitals are governed by the spiritual capital and informed by your spiritual worldview. My worldview is informed by the Bible. So, for my family the Bible and spiritual capital inform the order and priority for the other capitals.

Similar to determining your chief capital, imagine for a moment you could only pass along four capitals but not all five capitals. In other words, you have to bankrupt one capital. Which would you leave out?

Take another moment to think about it.

Again, if you are like most, you would choose to say that financial capital is the least important of the capitals. If financial capital is the fire, then the other capitals are flint and kindling. If you would choose to disinherit the financial piece but still pass on the flint and kindling, your heirs can make their own fire. But if you pass only fire with nothing else — ouch! Bad results happen.

So if you, like most people, would choose to bankrupt the financial capital — therefore considering it the least important—then why do you spend most, if not all, of your planning dollars and resources on that particular capital? Now I’m not advocating for equal planning dollars for all capitals. Done well estate, tax, and financial planning are not cheap. But why do we leave out the legacy planning? Why do the non-financial capitals get left behind?

Make a decision. Leave a full inheritance. Put resources to your legacy.

4. Put it on your calendar.

I have green grass when the task of fertilizing my lawn actually makes it onto my calendar. Working out happens when it gets into my daily rhythm. Dates with my wife or kids happen when I add them to my schedule.

I’ve found I have a higher likelihood of accomplishing tasks when I plan out a time to do them. When I don’t put an item on my Outlook calendar or on my phone, it doesn’t happen. For legacy planning, it needs to make it as a block of time on your calendar.

Stop right now and think through your calendar. Put a time to talk to those you need to about this. Send a text or an email and begin the process of thinking and talking this through with your team.

Let’s lean into this! Let’s be people whose lives matter in eternity! Let’s also matter where it truly matters. Let’s leave a legacy of values and stories that our grandkids will emulate and be proud to talk about. This is what it truly means for our lives to echo beyond our last breath.

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 Todd DeKruyter is the President of Family Meridian. After years of managing people’s middle school kids as a youth pastor, Todd decided it couldn’t be any harder to instead manage their money as a financial planner. Perhaps as a contrast to working as an executive in a wealth management firm, Todd’s fun side found rather odd outlets through things such as a backyard chicken farm (he lives in the suburbs), a taste for wearing old school plaid pants (stop by the office and see), and of course his prize collection of crayon art (donated by four small artists who live in his home). Todd is married to his beautiful wife Janelle, and she thinks that Todd finally found the perfect union of his pastor’s heart and his business mind when he became president of Family Meridian. For more information, visit