It's Memorial Day, and I'm thinking about those who came before us.
I have a book that one of my cousins compiled from letters that my grandmother wrote to my grandfather before their marriage in 1895.
My grandmother, Georgia, was in her early 20s and lived with her parents and her sister on a farm in West Virginia. My grandfather, whom she met at a Grange dance shortly before he left to go to Kansas to work on a cattle ranch, clearly responded regularly to her near-daily letters. But we don't have those missives.
Their courtship takes place in this two-year series of correspondence. In the beginning, she refers to him as "My Dear Mr. Johnson," but by the end of the book, he's just "J.R."
After what must have been a marriage proposal to which she said, "yes," my grandfather apparently suggested they start their life together living with his parents. My grandmother was outraged. She listed the reasons why that wasn't a good idea and why she wouldn't do it. Every time I read those letters, I have to laugh. Strong mindedness is a gene she passed along.
This little book of letters has no monetary value. The letters aren't great literature, but the book has enormous value to me. Expanding my knowledge of this part of my history will be an important retirement project. A study by financial services company Allianz Life shows that the value I place on family memories isn't unusual. The survey examined people's attitudes toward family legacies and found that 86 percent of those surveyed rank family stories as highest on the list of gifts that people can leave behind. Some 75 percent said, "It is extremely important to me that future generations remember my parents and what mattered to them."
Money also ranked high as an important gift, but fewer than 5 percent of people older than 45 believe their own parents owed or owe them an inheritance.
Think about that when you're doing estate and retirement planning. Leaving behind a legacy of memories is important no matter how much money you have or don't have.