Before Passing Along Valuables, Passing Along Values

This article in the Wall Street Journal reminded me of a project from my school years many, many years ago.  We were assigned to visit some elderly people in our community to ask them about their lives.  The results were fascinating.

Previous generations had to pass along their parents’ and grandparents’  experience and wisdom by telling family stories.   Modern technology allows the older generation to speak directly to their descendants via video records.

Todd Fithian recently made a film for his four children.

“I took the time to capture my stories, life lessons and family traditions, many of which have been passed down to me from my parents,” says Mr. Fithian, a 43-year-old managing partner of Legacy Cos., a Hingham, Mass., consulting firm to financial advisers. “These things have a trickle-down effect, but rarely do we take the time to capture them.”

Mr. Fithian’s video is part of a burgeoning effort in estate-planning circles to ensure that life lessons are passed on to loved ones. Educators, financial advisers and technology providers are approaching the task on two fronts: encouraging and helping older adults to share their stories and values before they die, and teaching adult children and grandchildren how to tap their parents’ and grandparents’ thoughts.

We can, of course, continue to pass along family lore during holidays and family gatherings.  But I have often wished I had brought along a voice or video recorder so that I could capture those stories for my children and grandchildren.

As we get older, we often share regrets.

Take the topic of risk. Much of the advice tends toward the bold. “What you are going to regret is what you didn’t do rather than what you did,” Mr. Pillemer says. “It’s criminal if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that come up in your life.”

It’s a reminder that many of us never create a “Bucket List” and act on it before it’s too late.

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