The psychology behind leaving a legacy

What is leaving a legacy? For some clients, this might be making sure that their loved ones are financially secure after they’re gone. For others, it could be wanting to be remembered a certain way.

So, how can you identify how your clients feel about their legacy? We’ve asked Dr Simon Moore, Behavioural Psychologist from We are IB, to share his thoughts on how our emotions play a big part in our planning process.

The emotions around leaving a legacy

There are many practical reasons that clients might want to leave a legacy. For example, passing down wealth could provide their family with an inheritance. But could there be a more emotive goal that clients want to achieve? Dr Simon Moore explains, “I suppose there is something deeply psychological in the desire to be remembered, to have made a difference or been successful. For some this is about achievements - career, children or fame. But for others it’s about living a life without stress, medical issues or just living long.”

Part of what could be important to clients, is the impact they will have on others after they’re gone. Will they be remembered for making a difference? Or for being successful? This focuses more on the external view that people might have of them. Dr Simon Moore adds, “Some people are also trying to leave a legacy for others to judge them positively on. While others are striving to just feel happy that they did their best and are satisfied with all that they did for themselves.”

Whether your clients desire to be remembered for being successful or want to live a long and healthy life, their emotional goals could decide the course of their financial future. So, how can you identify what your client’s aspirations are?

Understanding how your clients feel about leaving a legacy, could help you steer conversations around long-term planning. Dr Simon Moore says, “Advisers can pick up on clues around how people feel around legacy type behaviour.” While it can be difficult for clients to discuss what it is they really want, the language they use could be the key.

As Dr Simon Moore explained in The family influence expert interview, we know that there are four groupings of people in the world. We all have elements of these four groupings within us, however, one of these will be stronger than the other three. This influences how we think, view the world and communicate our needs.

Dr Simon Moore explains, “A risk-tolerant leader who is driven by status, ego and social standing will definitely be engaged in the legacy process. They’ll want to feel justified when they’re older that all their efforts and decisions were good ones, as it supports their need for the sense of achievement, importance or intelligence. These people tend to refer to ‘me’, ‘my’ or ‘I’ when talking about things.”

He adds, “A risk-averse member on the other hand, might be more concerned about creating a legacy that others will judge positively. It might be the family, friends and peers - but they’ll  want others to think fondly and positively about them. They will use more ‘we’ and ‘us’ in their language.”

The language your client uses could be an indicator of their behavioural drivers and what matters to them most. Dr Simon Moore says, “Advisers can pick clues up in terms of legacy needs. Is it about making financial decisions that will help me feel good about myself when I am older, or is it about making financial decisions that others might judge me by?”

Understanding your client’s behavioural drivers could help you tailor conversations around long-term planning. However, in a rapidly changing world, there are barriers to leaving a legacy. Find out more about the challenges that our solution experts think your clients could be facing.  

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