Activities that give meaning to your daily life
and Your Legacy
Activities that aid the broader community and/or establish your legacy to the future
Home Topical Index to all subjects
Everything you do makes its own mark, usually small but occasionally larger, on society. And everything you do becomes part of the legacy you will someday leave behind: how people remember you and your effect on themselves and others.
By approaching civic activity and legacy in a conscious, purposeful way, you can help assure that your impact on society is not only positive, but also reflective of the specific values and interests that matter to you. And you can assure that, when you are gone, friends and family will retain positive memories of you and even that they remember you as, in some ways, an example to emulate and to pass along to others.
By focusing on the impact that you have on others, directly and by your example, you have the opportunity to sculpt that impact, to have it be what you want it to be, not just an unintended side-effect of your own existence.
Civic Activity and Legacy relate to other areas of Purpose:
- Getting started with purposeful activity, because the large-scale issues dealt with as part of Getting started lay the groundwork for deciding what kind of impact and legacy you want to have, and what kind of actions toward those ends would suit you.
- Work, because your work is inevitably part of your legacy, and because you can choose work, especially in the second half of your life, that benefits society and advances causes that you care about.
- Volunteering, because you can promote civic causes and improve your legacy through volunteer activities.
Civic Activity and Legacy relate to other areas besides Purpose:
- Spirit, because the impact you want to have on your community, or even the world at large, as well as the example you want to set for younger generations, should reflect your deepest beliefs and values.
- Love, because your desire to improve the lot of others whether family, friends, or the society around you is both an expression of your commitment to others and a means to strengthen that commitment.
- Avocation, because your efforts to be involved in civic action and to leave a legacy to family and friends can be an enjoyable as well as productive way to fill your spare time.
- Security, because your outreach to others may involve some expenditure on your own part, particularly where charitable gifts and financial legacies are concerned. And because such outreach improves everyones security, including your own, by tightening the bonds that unite you with others.
- Health, because the nature and timing of your activities in this arena are influenced by your physical and mental vitality.
Civic Activity and Legacy Sub-Topics and Resources
- Civic engagement: What opportunities exist for you to get involved in political, social, or other civic causes.
There are far more civic causes, and far more information about civic engagement in general, than we could ever aspire to point you toward. But here are some of the best places to help you get thinking about civic engagement, to find causes and activities that you might want to support, and to help you start up your own activities and events, if you are so inclined.
- Free resources:
- For general information on civic involvement and social change: The American Society on Aging Civic Engagement Initiative is specifically geared to older adults, and is a good place to start (rating = A). PlanetFriendly.net offers advice and external links on how to be an activist (rating = A). Encore.org focuses particularly on how people in the second half of life can transform their own lives and the lives of others at the same time (rating = A-). For more local information, use the links to State Service Commissions (rating = A), but also do an internet search on civic engagement and the name of your city or state to find programs, many connected with colleges, universities, or government offices, that can inform you about this subject and also link you to opportunities in your area.
- To identify causes, events, campaigns, and internships that might interest you, use the search tools at Idealist.org (rating = A+) or Care2.com (rating = A-). To engage in political activities, you should contact the local offices of the party or other group that interests you. For environmental causes, check out the Environment Alliance for Senior Involvement (rating = B), or the Defenders of Wildlife (rating = A for their use of local community action techniques, which you might find instructive, even if you favor some other cause). To get involved in inter-generational tutoring, go to OASIS (rating = A-). If youd like to volunteer within the Federal government, check out Volunteer.gov (rating = A).
- You can start your own community projects. Serve.gov from the Corporation for National and Community Service outlines several different kinds of projects you can do, and tells you how to get started, including defining your own project from scratch (rating = A-). Use VolunteerSpot.com to organize activities, sign up volunteers, and send invitations and reminders (rating = A). You can also use MeetUp.com to schedule meetings and events (rating = A).
- Change.org is a social networking website that aims to raise awareness about important causes and empower people to take action, (rating = A).
- Civic Engagement, a bimonthly publication of the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration, is available free online (rating = A-).
- Other resources:
- The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century, by John Gastil and Peter Levine, discusses the many ways citizens can be active in the political life of their communities (rating = A).
- It's Your World, So Change It: Using the Power of the Internet to Create Social Change, by Tom Head, explains how to use the internet to participate in, and even to take leadership roles in, civic and social change (rating = A-).
- How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein, shows how certain people have taken initiative to address social problems, and have made a difference (rating = A-).
- See also:
- Charitable giving: What methods are available for you to financially support organizations and causes that matter to you?
- Free resources:
- Besides giving cash, you can donate property, you can create various kinds of charitable trusts (some of which will allow you or a loved one to use property for life, with ownership passing to the charity at death), or you can establish a family foundation. Charitable Giving Methods is a nice write-up intended for charitable organizations, but is just as informative for you (rating = A). If you actually want to use one of the more sophisticated techniques, large charities will be happy to help you set it up, or you can consult with your favorite financial institution or an estate planning attorney. Some of this is further dealt with in the following section, on Financial legacy.
- Before you donate: Charity Navigator evaluates the financial health of over 5,500 of the countrys largest charities, including the ratio of income that actually goes into charitable programs, and includes comments pro and con from other site visitors (rating = A). The Better Business Bureaus Wise Giving Alliance also rates charities, lets you review any complaints that have been filed against them, and provides other guidance about charitable giving. A list of state offices is available from the National Assocation of State Charity Officials, where you can check on complaints or find out about smaller charities not listed in other sources (rating = A). Guidestar is another service that can provide information about charities, including copies of their IRS filings, but a fee is required for copies of such documents, and registration is required for most other information (rating = A-). Giving Wisely, a web page from the California Attorney Generals office, gives useful tips about how not to be scammed by phony or dubious charitable appeals (rating = A-).
- Just Give.org, Network for Good and Care2.com allow you to donate to charities online (ratings = A). Universal Giving allows you to donate to international charities online (rating = A).
- IRS Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions explains tax deductibility of donations, including vehicles, other property, and mileage allowances (rating = A).
- You dont necessarily need to be wealthy to set up your own private foundation, which enables you to make tax deductible contributions directly to deserving individuals and groups who are not themselves tax-exempt. Naturally, there are a lot of rules and there is a lot of paperwork to do. IRS Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization gives all the relevant information about how this works. But it is generally best to talk with an attorney or accountant with experience in this area, before proceeding.
- If you are in a position to be a large-scale donor, you should be aware that philanthropy is an industry in and of itself. You can learn more from the Council on Foundations, the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, the Foundation Center, and the Philanthropy Roundtable (ratings = A-).
- The Direct Marketing Association can help you get your name off of mailing lists you dont want to be on, if you find you are receiving too many solicitations from charities (rating = A).
- Other resources:
- Smart Generosity: Everything You Need to Know About Charity, Philanthropy and Giving Wisely, by Renata J. Rafferty, explains how to be educated about where your donations are going, and how to make sure they go where you want them to (rating = A-).
- The PricewaterhouseCoopers Guide to Charitable Giving deals with the tax and accounting technicalities of different charitable giving methods (rating = A).
- Creating a Private Foundation: The Essential Guide for Donors and Their Advisers, by Roger D. Silk and James W. Lintott, helps you avoid the unpleasant surprises that often arise when people set up foundations on their own (rating = A).
- Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy, by Peter Frumkin, helps you think through the rationale and the effects of larger-scale giving, and helps you figure out the best way to achieve your aims (rating = A).
- Wise Giving Guide, published quarterly by the Better Business Bureau, offers updates to their latest charity evaluations, and also discusses other topics of interest to donors (rating = A-). Your first issue is complimentary, but you need to make a donation to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to continue receiving it.
- Other publications on philanthropy include The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The NonProfit Times.
- Professional advice related to charitable giving is generally handled by estate planning attorneys. For more information, see the next section on this page.
- See also:
- Financial legacy: What plans can you make to see that other people and causes are provided for at your death?
Every adult should have a will. If you dont have one, the laws of your state will determine what happens to your property (legally referred to as your estate, whether or not you own any land). In almost all cases, you could make a better choice yourself, and in many cases the state rules would be strongly contrary to a given individuals wishes.
But beyond merely avoiding the absurd, you can and should decide what people or institutions you feel strongly that you want to help when you are gone. The financial arrangements you make - whether via your will or via other documents - can benefit family, friends, and/or religious or civic causes, and they also become a permanent part of how you will be remembered.
- Free resources:
- For both basic and detailed information on estate planning, the Rocket Lawyer Estate Planning page starts you off, and can take you just about anywhere you might need to go, including to free legal forms and to estate planning attorneys in your area (ratings = A+).
- Public Legal Forms offers free, basic forms for a Last Will and Testament for all U.S. states, with variations by marital status and by age of children, plus basic forms for irrevocable or living trusts (rating = A). If you use online document services, however, keep in mind that these documents will have the same legal force as ones drafted by a lawyer, so you need to be sure that you dont need or want any provisions that are not contained there. Other services (such as those listed in Other Resources, below) that charge for documents usually also provide free information regarding rules and procedures on a state-by-state basis.
- Life insurance is needed by most working people who have dependents, but it can also be a way of assuring that financial legacies get paid to family members or charities. Just the Facts on Life Insurance, from BankRate.com, is an objective introduction to the subject (Rating = A-). Life Insurance: An Estate Planning Tool, from the University of Montana Extension, extends these basics into the area of estate planning (rating = A-). Innovative Strategies for Using Life Insurance in Charitable Giving, on the Planned Giving Design Center website, outlines the main ways that insurance can be used to support your charitable giving intentions (rating = A-).
- What Is a Charitable Trust?, from HowStuffWorks.com, outlines the essentials of how trusts can be used to reduce your taxes, benefit causes you believe in, and, depending on your needs and how the trust is drawn up, also provide for your or your familys use of property until that need has passed (rating = A-). Charitable foundations can also serve some of these purposes. Additional information on trusts and foundations can be found in the Charitable Giving section of this page, above.
- Other resources:
- Funding Your Dreams Generation to Generation : Intergenerational Financial Planning to Ensure Your Family's Health, Wealth, and Personal Values, by Carol Akright, addresses the personal and relationship issues, as well as the financial and legal ones, in deciding what you want your financial legacy to be within your family (rating = A+).
- Plan Your Estate, by Denis Clifford, can help you understand the essentials of estate planning, so you can identify possible strategies for yourself, and either handle it all yourself or what is a better idea for most people talk over your options with an attorney with a little knowledge already in your head (rating = A). If your situation is uncomplicated and you want to try the do-it-yourself approach, you might also be interested in Nolos Simple Will Book, also by Clifford, which enables you to write a simple will valid in any U.S. state except Louisiana (rating = A).
- Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples, by Joan M. Burda, addresses the specific estate planning issues that arise for same-sex relationships. Note that many of the same problems exist for other unmarried people, including unmarried heterosexual couples, and sibling pairs or best friends who are living together in old age and want to make sure that each is provided for if the other dies first (rating = A+).
- Charitable Giving Law Made Easy, by Bruce R. Hopkins, addresses the ins and outs of charitable trusts (and other forms of charitable giving) in a way that clarifies the issues and potential traps you need to know about before you venture into this territory (rating = A).
- FindLaw can help you locate estate planning attorneys in your area to help you set up wills and trusts, and to make other arrangements to achieve your goals (rating = A).
- LegalZoom, USLegal, LegacyWriter, or Quicken WillMaker Plus can help you to create your own simple wills, trusts, and other documents without the aid of an attorney. This is OK if you dont need anything out of the ordinary, but the documents you create will have the same legal force as ones drafted by a lawyer, so you need to be sure of what you want. Prices vary depending on which service you use and what options you want, but pricing is not always conspicuously listed so look around the website, before you begin (ratings = A-).
- Plan Your Legacy LLC offers software to capture key information as well as personal thoughts, and explicitly coordinates with financial plans and legal documents; they can help hook you up with planners in your area who are familiar with this process (rating = A-).
- See also:
- Your story: What can you do to shape how you and others see your life, both while you are still here, and after you are gone?
Two perspectives on life: First, we will all be gone some day, and eventually long gone so will we be remembered, and if so, how? Second, as we live our lives, we gain experience and wisdom at what can often be a great cost to ourselves so how do we share that with others we care about, especially the younger folks in the family, so they dont have to pay the same price again?
Naturally, we achieve some of this by our ordinary interactions with those we love. But in most cases, only part of what we have to say ever gets spoken, and much of what we say is not heard by everyone who might benefit from it. Most of us eventually die with knowledge and ideas, and sometimes with important messages to others, that somehow never got expressed.
Your life story is perhaps the most important part of your legacy. And there is more than one way you can express it and preserve it, along with other important messages you might want to leave behind.
- Free resources:
- The Legacy Project covers all the bases, and then some: general information, community activities, guides, books, etc. (rating = A).
- A recorded oral history is the easiest way to tell your story. Someone often an interested relative or friend, or sometimes an experienced interviewer and recorder asks you a series of questions, and you respond. The results can be transcribed or recorded, using either audio or video equipment.
- Writing your life story / personal history / memoir is the most complete and permanent way to convey to younger generations a sense of who you really are, what your life was about, and what you learned from it. Ten Reasons Anyone Should Write a Memoir tells you why you should consider doing it (rating = A-); this is just one essay from Jerry Waxler's' Memory Writers Network which, as far as we can tell, may be the best free resource on this subject on the internet (rating = A). But there are many excellent books on the writing of memoirs and personal histories, some of which are listed below under Other Resources.
- An Ethical Will is a shorter document in which you convey important personal values and beliefs, spiritual values, hopes and blessings for future generations, life lessons, love, forgiveness, and a request for others to forgive you:
- The Celebrations of Life site explains the concept in more detail (rating = A-).
- Ethical Wills, by Rachael Freed at Life Legacies offers practical tips for composing such a document (rating = A-).
- Other resources:
- Recording Your Family History, by William P. Fletcher, is a good source for questions and topics to ask about when doing an oral history, and includes ideas for different ethnicities, though technologically it is well out of date (rating = A-). The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and Friends, by Cynthia Hart and Lisa Samson, offers 43 categories (and 73 pages!) of questions you can ask (rating = A).
- Legacy : A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History, by Linda Spence, offers sample essays and quotations, but most of all poses memory-provoking questions that you can use to gather the content of your personal memoir (rating = A). Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, by Judith Barrington, Your Life as Story, by Tristine Rainer, Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir, by Sue William Silverman, and Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays and Life into Literature by Bill Roorbach, will all help you make your life story interesting and stylish enough so people will actually enjoy reading it all the way through (ratings = A). Most of us are not as good writers as we think we are, and even the best have something to learn, so we encourage you to try at least one of these books, or another like them.
- Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper, by Barry K. Baines, explains more about what an ethical will is, why you might want one and how to do it, and provides examples you can ponder and, if you like, imitate (rating = A). Also worth a read are The Wealth of Your Life: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Ethical Will, by Susan B. Turnbull (rating = A), and, if it applies to you, Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations by Rachael Freed (rating = A+).
- Bite-Size Pieces of My Past: Writing Your Life Story in Digestible Chunks, by Andrea Bargsley Vincent, provides a simple format for you to capture your most important memories without committing to a Major Writing Project (rating = A-). Or try Memory Journal that poses 250 questions and gives you space to write the answers, for $19.95 (not rated)
- Another option: the Association of Personal Historians can help you find an experienced writer to work with (they also have free info about composing memoirs or ethical wills; rating = A). You can also try GhostWords, which offers standardized writing and editing fees (rating = A-). Or consider using software to help you construct (and print) your personal history Personal Historian is such a product you can purchase for only $29.95 (rating = A-).
- Self-Publishing, on Wikipedia, offers an objective look at the many ways in which non-commercial books (such as, mostly likely, your life story) can be published, or at least printed, or made available on the internet. This overview article then connects to others that offer more details on the major options you would have (rating = A-).
- StoryTrust will produce either hard-bound books or audio recordings for you, at various pricing levels (rating = A-). For high-end book production, look at Living Celebrations, who will both write and bind your book for anywhere from $1,500 to (not a typo!) $90,000 (not rated).
- See also:
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