Women and Legacy: It’s More Than You Might Think


It was 2003. I was 39 years old and newly separated with three young children. I was having that “what’s next?” question popping into my head.

Approaching 50 years old, I now look back at that year and smile. Smile because of where I’ve gone since then. Smile because my children are happy and successful young adults. Smile because I’ve embarked on a career that I’m extremely passionate about. Smile because I know why I’m here on this planet!

I graduated with a marketing degree from college and landed in the insurance world. Ick. Yes, ick. I was out of the industry for a number of years, but after being divorced I went back to what I knew. After five years back in the traditional property and casualty arena, a financial planning firm wanted me to work for them. An even bigger ICK. However, after getting a sense of “how” this firm did things differently, I was drawn in.

Years later, I find myself helping clients on a daily basis. I adore what I do. I have an extra passion for helping women understand financials and organize that area of their world. Most women just don’t know what questions to ask or who to ask. It’s completely unnecessary for our world to operate in this way. Women should have every resource available to them that men do! AND they should take advantage of it. Women are the ones that are often hurt when something bad happens – a divorce, a death, or disability. We live longer. We very likely could face long-term care issues. Will we have the funds to provide for our care? Or instead, are we stuck having to rely on our children? That is IF we have children.

So, my passion is helping people learn and organize themselves for the future. After a few years, I approached my colleague and said, “All of this is wonderful BUT there really seems like there’s more at the end of the rainbow. We help people navigate their financial lives to end up with a giant pot of money. For what? Really, what is it for?”

This question set Chris and myself off on hours and hours of “what is legacy?” conversations. We beta tested and interviewed mainly women to get our answers. I believe women are the ones who focus on the word legacy in a family fashion. They want their grandchildren educated with some assistance if possible. They want the family cottage to continue for generations. They want their children to live close as adults. Men? Well, they of course want things as well. They want a building dedicated to their town with a gold plaque on it. They want a park bench with the family foundation name on it. Of course, I’m poking fun but in general I will maintain that much of this holds true.

We then began to integrate legacy discussions into our financial planning roles with families. The discussions we encountered were incredible. It felt like my purpose. It felt like my direction. When you really take the time and energy to understand “what?” this family is all about, doesn’t it just make sense to be sure the financial situation fits around that?

We’ve spent the last two years creating The Family Legacy Center. This is our business that publishes, researches and shares our stories, legacy and findings. We each have published a book about legacy. This article has the same title as my book. We’ve incorporated a legacy process into our traditional work. We give talks and help clients with charitable strategies, family strategies, and more. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to the client. We may not always have advice to offer but the fact we really listen stands out more than anything else. I find our industry to be one of telling – not teaching. Our industry needs to change and it will change. We’re here to make it change.

I want the bad stories to appear less often. I don’t want to hear about a recently widowed young mother left alone without funds and two children to care for. I don’t want to hear about people losing their homes. I don’t want to hear about a 94 year old woman left destitute because she was living a long and healthy life.

I’m a believer in education. I’m a believer in helping people – if they really want the help. I’m a believer that much can change in this world if someone sets the stage of change. The stage has been set.




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About the Author | Joanne Giardini-Russell

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