What Your Grandchildren Really Want to Know

Do you think money is all you have to pass on to your loved ones? Not so. Your grandchildren want to know about your life. Learn what, specifically, Americans want to know about their grandparents.

My grandmother used to teach us crazy songs. I have this memory of sitting in the back of her Subaru with my brother when I was just 7 or 8 years old belting out, “Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Guess I'll go eat worms!”

Of course, crazy songs aren't the only thing my grandparents taught me. They taught me a lot about family, the importance of hard work, and all kinds of key life skills. Now that I'm an adult, I'm especially grateful for the influence they had on my life. And I'm not alone.

A full 84% of Americans say it's important to know about their history.

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Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University writes, “Research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors. Grandparents transmit to their grandchildren the values and norms of social order.”

What exactly do grandchildren want to know about their grandparents? I'm glad you asked. Here's what a survey conducted by Ancestry.com revealed:

Top 5 Things Americans Want to Know About Their Grandparents:

  1. Stories of when they were young (72%)
  2. Childhood memories (62%)
  3. Where your family came from (62%)
  4. Their heritage (62%)
  5. Life advice (51%)

Is Your Legacy Missing This Key Ingredient?

So often when an estate plan is drafted, you sit down with your attorney or financial adviser and focus on the tangibles — your investments, cash, jewelry or other items you plan to pass on. It’s easy to forget just how important the intangibles are.

What makes for a great legacy? A life well-lived, whatever that means to you. When you share your stories and memories with your loved ones, it helps them to navigate their own lives and discover values, principles and traits that enable them to develop deeper meaning. You can do this as a part of your estate plan—such as create a book, video or letter to be passed on to your loved ones when you die — or you can do it now and make it an active part of your life. (For more on that, read A Unique Estate-Planning Idea: How to Write Your Memoir.)

I’m always in favor of sharing as much as you can now because a close, loving family who talks with each other and knows one another’s stories is a family who has created a supportive culture for growth and introspection.

So, the next time you're sitting around the dinner table with your family, share a story about a meaningful experience, some family history or tell about that time when Aunt Lisa told a joke so funny that it cracked up the cop who had just pulled her over and helped her avoid a speeding ticket.

You never know what great conversations will bloom.

And ... if you're really proactive, grab a recorder or hit the video record button on your phone. These memories are treasures your family will love more and more as the years go by.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Laura A. Roser
Founder and CEO, Paragon Road

Laura A. Roser is the founder and CEO of Paragon Road, the leading authority in meaning legacy planning (passing on non-financial assets, such as values, wisdom and beliefs). For more information about legacy planning, visit www.paragonroad.com.