Why Write Your Legacy?

Why Write Your Legacy?

Written by: Meg Oldman

We capture meaningful moments with our phones, shared celebrations, and committing events to memory. Few of us actually sit down and write about what we know about these moments.

Marion Roach Smith has made it her business, literally and figuratively, to lead people through the process of documenting – specifically writing a memoir of what they know about their lives beyond dates and chronological facts.

Marion was hired for her first job out of college by The New York Times. She was just 21, with no journalism experience outside of the classroom. Journalism graduates in the early 1970s had a wide variety of entry-level job possibilities at the many working journalism houses throughout the country. The internet was not part of mainstream usage; newspapers, magazines, and televised news were still the main source of news and daily living.

Three years later, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 49 years old. Marion had never heard of Alzheimer’s. Neither had most others. There was no yellow page listing in the New York City phone directory for it, nor had Congress allotted any funds for study and research into the disease. Her mother’s doctor told Marion that four and a half million people suffered from Alzheimer’s. Marion was shocked by this information and, consequently, brought it to the attention of the NYT Magazine editor. He was as mystified as she by the sheer numbers of people stricken with the disease, and even the medical editor for the magazine was surprised by the information. The editor then assigned Marion the task of writing about Alzheimer’s; thus, the disease was introduced to the wider world. She found from the thousands of letters and faxes she received in response that people felt alone; many were unable to get their patients diagnosed, and there were no support systems in place to which to go to for help.

The New York Times did not have much of a place for personal stories in the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine now that the language of news did not fully embrace the personal. At that time, one hardly used the pronoun I. Marion’s story of her mother’s diagnosis was a rare read in the NYT. Marion concludes, “Ever since, I have believed in the power of the personal narrative.”

Marion wrote her first book, published by Houghton Mifflin, that expanded her story; three other mass market books followed. Twenty-two years later, she created a class to teach the art of writing memoir. She sat on the board of the local arts center in her home town of Troy, New York. As a journalist, she felt that the writing classes they were offering were less than engaging. She pleaded for better writing courses many times over. Finally the executive director “got sick” of her bringing it up, and he invited her to begin teaching a course about writing memoir. The class was very popular. “Helping other people learn how to get their hands on their stories — I get teared up when I say this — is just as wondrous as it sounds!”

Related: How to Preserve the Little Moments that Add up to the Novel of Your Life

She has worked with Vietnam veterans, survivors of domestic abuse, people in recovery, and people who are happy gardening. Marion notes, “Showing people the tools to tell their tale is giving them access to what they really know about themselves … it’s a joy to do.”

One of her favorite students wrote about her own 50 years of marriage; she published one book and gave it to her husband on their 50th wedding anniversary. Marion felt like a midwife attending the birth of that book; sadly, it turned out to be six months before he died. “It was one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve been privy to,” Marion reflects.

In another encounter, an English graduate student wrote her memoir and made copies for her four children; it was about the twelve relatives they had never met, with all the expressions each used in their manners of speech. Marion estimates that close to 80% of her students want to be published. Her job is to help each them identify how they want to do so, whether it be in a blog, a podcast, or other platforms such as writing journals or magazines.

Her main goal is to communicate the idea of writing with intent: “You identify the form in which you want to publish, master it, and use it.” She, herself, didn’t know how to write a piece for the NYT Magazine. Marion learned on the job; she studied everything from NPR essays, “All Things Considered,” to op-eds. Marion summarizes about what she learned, “Writing with intent has to do with writing for a goal that is very specific to the form in which you want to publish … not wasting your time practicing, but actually writing with intent for a form.”

Furthermore, her students are discovering their own legacies; “Memoir is not what you did, but what you did with it … writing about your life informs your life and vice versa.” When asked about the age range of her students, she said, “They are all over the place. Every age has a different size of memoir.” It’s a rich process her writers encounter; she’s interested in their stories and what they have to say about their lives. She believes they actually come through the process of writing their memoirs with an appreciation for their own lives. What they come away with is a legacy to pass down to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; that way those family members who may never meet them can be inspired by the stories of the people who came before them.

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Laura A. Roser
Life Transitions
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Laura A. Roser is the #1 expert in meaning legacy planning. She is the Founder and CEO of Paragon Road, a company that assists individuals in passing on their non-financial as ... Click for full bio

Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily

Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily

What a week it was.

First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.

The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.

I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.

CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.

Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies

Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.

Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.

Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!

It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.

For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.

To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.

Understanding blockchain in two minutes

Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.

Have gold and bitcoin peaked for 2017

But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.

Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.

Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.

I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.

Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.

Related: Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears

Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News

The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.

The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.

Have gold and bitcoin peaked for 2017

There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.

These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.

One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.

It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.

Frank Holmes
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Frank Holmes is the CEO and Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Global Investors. Mr. Holmes purchased a controlling interest in U.S. Global Investors in 1989 and became the firm ... Click for full bio