What will your legacy be?

Posted by TEBI on June 17, 2024

What will your legacy be?



“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy.  Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.”
Maya Angelou



One of the greatest sadnesses in life is learning of people whose lives, for whatever reason, have been cut short. It’s a common occurrence at my age. Hardly a week goes by without hearing of someone, perhaps a friend or colleague, or someone you’ve admired, being struck down by illness or suffering an accident.

In recent days, two pieces of news in particular have had a big impact on me. Both concerned fellow journalists. First came the disappearance on holiday in Greece of Michael Mosley, the health journalist and broadcaster, and the discovery of his body four days later. Then came the announcement by Jonathan Clements, the former Wall Street Journal columnist and founder of the HumbleDollar blog, that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Jonathan has much in common with Michael Mosley. He’s highly intelligent, knows his subject inside out and is a first-rate journalist. Both could have earned themselves a fortune; it’s a little-known fact that Mosley worked briefly as an investment banker before deciding to retrain as a doctor. But both men decided to take the path less travelled and to use their talents to help and educate people.

Mosley’s passion was health, and, in particular, what the latest science tells us about living healthier lives. While others wrote about fad diets or miracle cures, Mosley presented the facts. He saw it as his duty to explain to people, in a clear and engaging way, how to improve their quality of life and general sense of wellbeing by taking specific, actionable, evidence-based advice.


A genuine trailblazer

Jonathan’s mission is very similar, although his own focus is on financial health and wellbeing. He was a genuine trailblazer in the 1990s. In those days, investment journalists were constantly tempted compromise their principles — not least to appease the advertisers — but Jonathan refused to give into it. He candidly wrote about the benefits of simple, low-cost, buy-and-hold index investing when it was very unfashionable to do so.

Eventually, Jonathan left mainstream journalism to found his HumbleDollar blog, which encourages people to save diligently, invest wisely, spend thoughtfully, plan for retirement and work out what they really want.

I love the consistency of massaging that HumbleDollar provides. It advocates a relentless focus on the things you can control — putting enough money away, reducing costs and taxes, avoiding unnecessary risk and so on — while also recognising our human frailties and our tendency to make irrational choices.

Through his work, Jonathan has helped to improve countless people’s lives, just as Michael Mosley did. That he only has a short time to live is a tragedy for him and his family, and one that will be keenly felt by his loyal readers.

But, typical of Jonathan, he has no intention of succumbing to self-pity. The work of HumbleDollar goes on. “Even at this late stage,” Jonathan writes,” I believe it’s important to have a sense of purpose, both professionally and personally. I can’t do much about the fewer years, and I have no anger about their loss. But I do want the time ahead to be happy, productive and meaningful.”


A quote from Jonathan Clements, founder of HumbleDollar, on the importance of having a purpose


An inspiration to all of us

I’m immensely sad to hear of Jonathan’s diagnosis. But I’m also extremely thankful for everything I’ve learned from him. Jonathan has been a huge inspiration to me. Without him, and a few others like him, The Evidence-Based Investor might never have existed.

Please hold Jonathan and his loved ones in your thoughts and prayers in the weeks and months ahead. If you haven’t yet discovered HumbleDollar, subscribe to it and share it with others.

But, most of all, think about your legacy. What are you going to leave behind? And remember, you may have much less time to build that legacy than you think.

The purpose of life is not to make money or to earn professional status. It’s not to be happy, to enjoy yourself, travel the world or have amazing experiences. It’s to be useful to people, to be kind and compassionate. It’s to have it make some difference that you have lived.

Michael Mosley made a difference. Jonathan Clements continues to do so. They are a huge inspiration to all of us.


Jonathan Clements was recently interviewed by my co-author Jonathan Hollow for The TEBI Podcast on the lessons he has learned about life and money: I commend it to you.

He has always written occasional articles for this blog. Here are some you might like to read:

The logic for indexing is irrefutable

What I learned form five market crashes

Things to consider when markets are at all-time highs



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