In 1937, my maternal Great Great Grandfather, Will Carr, who was born in 1870, purchased around 60 acres of land in Panola County, MS. To make the purchase, he borrowed $800 from a White man, and put some of his animals and farm equipment up for collateral. By 1938, just one year later, he completely paid off the land in full and received the deed in his own name. That must have been one of the proudest moments of his life, because documents indicate that he lived on or near the land, and worked on that same land, for many many years before actually purchasing it. In fact, 57 years earlier, on the 1880 census, as a young boy, he was living right next door to the White family who owned that same 60 acre parcel of land from the 1880's until 1921. So for him to be able to purchase that same land as a Black man in Mississippi at the age of 68, in the contentiously racist times of 1938, must have been a monumental day for him and his family. If you get nothing else out of this blog post, please remember that "ownership" is a powerful thing, and it's something that all of us have a right to. Never fall for the weakness associated with the thought process that says "ownership is not for everybody". That is something people who don't want you to have anything, want you to believe. The responsibility that comes with ownership is empowering, and the benefits of ownership far outweigh the burden of having nothing!
Today, that land is still in my family and is owned by one of his other Great Great Grandchildren. It's been 150 years after his birth, and although we have no pictures of my Great Great Grandfather, we know his name, his demeanor, what he deemed important, his diligence, his work ethic, his character, and his reputation. In a small town in rural Mississippi, where he was born and raised, he managed to display a lifetime of integrity, and a good enough reputation to borrow money from a man who very likely saw him as inferior. Along with all of that, we know he paid his bills on time and cared deeply about his name. He was a man of his word and a man who understood the value of ownership. Roll all of that up and you have what is called a LEGACY.
We don't know these things about him because its written in a well articulated book, or displayed on someones mantle in picture form, or in the chapters of his biographical memoirs. We know these things because of what he left behind! The fact that we know things about him that we don't know about other relatives born during that generation, speaks volumes and points to the fact that when someone leaves something, it adds to what the world says and thinks about them hundreds of years after they leave this earth. My Great Great Grandfather died in 1943, only 5 years after paying off the land, but he had a daughter named Lou Daisy Carr (shown in the picture above) and a granddaughter that valued his wishes to keep the land in the family, and to this day, it remains. That's powerful!
Today, more than 150 years after the birth of my Great Great Grandfather Will Carr, his name and his legacy lives on because he left something tangible, and of value, to his family who came after him. He was thinking about the future long before the future was here.
Now, If you don't care about your legacy, that is fine, and feel free to keep doing what you have been doing. But, if you want to make a difference to generations that come after you, similar to my Great Great Grandfather, read on.
1. Don't be scared to talk about money. Money should not be secretive or taboo. If you are afraid someone is going to hit you over the head and steal all of your family wealth, than you either watch too much tv, or you simply have not learned how to properly protect your money. The chances of that happening are there, but they are pretty slim as you learn more about money. When you spend a lifetime of never discussing money, your chances of not having any are astronomically higher. We have to intently eradicate this culture where we simply don't talk about things like "money", family history, and things we previously have been taught are just taboo. You have the power to change that in your family. As soon as you finish reading this blog post, plan a meeting with your family and discuss these things.
2. Go online TODAY and set up a Will. You'll spend about an hour reading and about $100 to set it up. This is less than concert tickets, less than a night out of dinner and a movie for a family of 4, and less than the outfit you purchased for your last night out on the town. For basically pennies, you can literally set up something that will be beneficial for your family and loved ones when you leave. A Will is going to designate where the things you leave behind are to go to. A Will is not complicated. Its simply a legal document where you expresses how your property is to be distributed upon your death, and the names one or more persons to manage the your estate until its final distribution. Please read my blog post.....for more information on Wills and Estate Plans.....add blog post.
3. Get a Term Life Insurance policy IMMEDIATELY. It's cheap. No more Go Fund Me campaigns. If you don't have life insurance, it's flat our irresponsible on your part. I hate to sound so hard here, but one of the worst things you can do, financially, is to know you are going to die someday, but never set something up for those you are leaving behind. There are no excuses here. Life insurance is for those you leave behind, not for you. Don't be selfish here. If you leave nothing else for those you leave behind, leave them some money so that they can properly bury you, and they can go on to live their lives without the financial worries and burdens that come with the loss of losing you. It's only fair!
4. Change your thinking so that you think LONG TERM with your money and your possessions. Change the way you think about money. Think about the financial future of your Grandchildren who are, or are not yet born. Where do you want your family to be financially in 30 years, 50 years, or 100 years? How about 150 years from today? Do you have something such as land, money, artwork, a gun collection, or something of value, that you want to remain in your family for the next 200 or more years? These are the types of questions you have to begin pondering, if you want to leave a legacy.
5. Purchase Land and/or Property. You know that old house that your parents, uncle, grandmother, or aunt paid off, that was in the inner city, and sort of run down to the ground a few years ago? Some people are purchasing those homes and fixing them up and keeping them in their family. You can do the same. Maybe it's a piece of land or an old commercial property. Land itself is very speculative as an investment vehicle, but the one thing they aren't making more of is land and space on the planet. If you can get a piece, get it, develop it, hold it, and pass it along. If this means just owning the land and doing nothing with it except paying some taxes on it, consider it. Land will cost you money to maintain and hold, but the benefit of owning it could prove more important than we all realize in the next 100 to 500 years.
Ask yourself what are you doing with your money today that will affect your child's grandchildren and great grandchildren? If that answer is "nothing", then you can do something about that. Can you predict what they will do with money, or anything you leave, NO! But that is not a good enough reason to not think sensibly about the future of your money and your things. There is also an equal chance that your wishes and plans can and will be manifested and carried out in 150 years by your future love ones. You never know.
We have to leave behind that part of our culture that only cares about ourselves today, and start to change our thinking, so that we recognize and celebrate our heroes in our families before us that left things for us, and at the same time, we begin to prepare and plan for our lineage that will live on after us. If it wasn't for my Great Great Grandfather purchasing land for his family 83 years ago, we wouldn't know much about him today. That one act of purchasing land will allow his legacy to live on hundreds of years! Let that sink in.
What do you own today, what can you pass down, or what can you do, that will leave a legacy that will be helpful, beneficial, and worthy of conversation and reverence 50 years from today, 83 years from today, or 150 years from today? Ownership is not a sin or a burden, and the added responsibility of ownership will provide you with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and power.
When you own it, pass it down, and leave it for others coming behind you, you are leaving a Financial LEGACY!