Almost all clients begin thinking at some point about how they are going to be remembered when they’re gone. Many think specifically about the legacy they will be leaving.

But legacy is an odd thing. I would argue that the concept is somewhat selfish. We wish to direct it, but we actually have little control over it. Various people in our lives often get to determine how we will be remembered, basing it somewhat on their interactions with us but mostly on their own views of the world.

So instead of focusing on legacy, we have been trying to help our clients focus on their impact.

“Impact” happens daily and we have complete authority over it. It’s how we show up. It’s about what we choose to talk about and what we avoid. It occurs through every interaction we have—big or small. It’s everything from how we treat the person at Starbucks to how we handle the feedback we receive. When we talk about it with our clients, we want them to better understand how their actions relate to their goals and values.

We recently had a potential client meet with us. He had a once-successful consulting and entertainment business that had begun to struggle. He had tried to keep it going in a different format but was unable to. While he had accumulated a good amount of money, it had begun to hemorrhage.

We discussed using his losses for a Roth conversion. He wanted cash, so we talked about renting a building he owned (rather than selling it) and investing the after-tax proceeds. Since he was afraid of the market, we discussed an approach to gradually invest while ensuring that he and his wife had enough cash to comfortably live on until they could restructure their business.

Our meetings with the couple went well. We covered a lot of ground and they felt hopeful. They called us several times to work on adding a Roth option to their company plan so they could do a conversion within their existing 401(k).

We helped them with these things even though they were not yet signed as clients. After each call, this prospect indicated that his wife was going to be dropping off our agreement. But it never came.

In the end, they never retained us (nor anyone else, as far as I could tell). Eventually, I told him that I felt used by him. I did not like that he had taken our advice and help when he didn’t intend to hire us. Needless to say, that conversation was awkward.

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