Remember Why You’re Doing This

Leaving a legacy is a powerful motivation to be smart with money.

Caps and gowns. Children and grandchildren. Pomp and circumstance.

Do you know anyone who’s graduating this spring? It’s an event that gets us all thinking in terms of the future. Whether the grads in your life are marrying, starting careers, or heading for college or vocational training, all of them will share at least one immediate need: money.

Wherever you are in your own financial journey, think about how your efforts today could impact the generations coming behind you—your children, their children or perhaps a charitable cause you care about. Thinking over what kind of legacy you want to leave is often just the thing you need to stay inspired.

Sometimes the Baby Steps Are Hard, But They’re Always Worth the Effort

How many promising young people or families do you know who you’d love to shower with money? How often have you heard about a charity or organization and wished you could write them a check without giving it a thought? The point of working the Baby Steps is to get yourself in such a strong financial position that you can be outrageously generous with your money.

When you’re on a specific Baby Step, it’s easy to get so intensely focused on it that you lose sight of the bigger picture. This can happen at almost any stage. And the harder the goal, the easier it is to feel stuck.

Maybe you’re working to pay off all your debts. The initial thrill of paying off a few small ones was great, but you’re still looking at a big student loan that feels intimidating. Or maybe you’ve been steadily growing your emergency fund so it could sustain you for three to six months, but emergencies keep setting you back before you hit the mark. Or you really want to save a big down payment on your dream home but you’re getting tired of renting and just want the feeling of ownership.

In all of those situations, it’s tempting to do the easy thing and quit. But instead of borrowing more money, neglecting the emergency fund, or signing up for a mortgage payment that’s over half your paycheck, stop right where you are and remember why you’re doing all of this.

Each Step Is Only for a Season, But Your Legacy Is for Generations

If you’re losing steam in one of the Baby Steps, consider a few numbers. Most people are able to save up a $1,000 emergency fund in a few months, while most can pay off their debts (everything but the house) in 18 to 24 months. Getting together a full, three- to six-month emergency fund typically takes the same amount of time or less. And people who are aiming to pay off their house early usually do so in five to seven years.

Beyond that, think about the long-term results. When you have no payments to make and what used to be three-alarm emergencies are now mere inconveniences, you can begin to do some amazing things with your money.

This is where you can start moving your dreams off of paper and into real life! Know any new graduates who could use money for college, a wedding or a house? Or a grandchild who will be thinking about those things 10 years from now? As you grow your wealth, you might even be able to give a young family you know a down payment on their first home, if not a house that’s bought and paid for right out of the gate. Now that’s some powerful motivation!

Don’t let the daily grind of budgeting, paying down debt, and saving prevent you from finishing each Baby Step well. Focus instead on the potential you have to build a legacy. It can take years to accomplish but it’s well worth it. Once you’ve covered the basics for yourself and your spouse, your money can become an engine for generosity. And the legacy you leave for your family and friends tomorrow is tied in with the steps you’re taking today.

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