Interview with Author and Entrepreneur Laura Roser
by Team Sammy
ABOUT LAURA ROSER
Laura A. Roser is the Founder and CEO of Paragon Road and considered the #1 expert in Meaning Legacy planning or non-financial estate planning (i.e. passing on your wisdom, values, and beliefs). She’s also the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Your Meaning Legacy: How to Cultivate & Pass On Non-Financial Assets.
Her company, Paragon Road, assists families, business leaders and philanthropists with passing on their non-financial assets (i.e. values, wisdom, beliefs, stories, charitable vision, etc.). The company has been featured by Kiplinger, Reader's Digest, Advisors in Philanthropy, Georgetown University, and Purposeful Planning Institute - just to name a few. Paragon Road also publishes Legacy Arts Magazine, the leading publication for non-financial legacy planning.
Ever since marrying her yacht captain husband, Laura refers to herself as geographically challenged and can typically be found on a boat in San Diego, British Columbia, Alaska, Central America, Florida or the Bahamas. When she’s not working, she enjoys writing dystopian fiction, painting, and being in nature.
Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Laura, her thinking and book!
LAURA IN HER OWN WORDS
Sam X Renick: Laura, please help Sammy Rabbit fans get to know you. Briefly tell us about yourself; where you were raised; and a few stages of your life that has led you to becoming an author, business owner and champion of memorializing one's legacy for their family.
Laura Roser: Thanks for the opportunity, Sammy! I’m honored to be your guest.
I’m the oldest of four kids born to an engineer father and an interior designer mother in Salt Lake City, Utah. Which means I’m perfectly split down the middle: half creative and half logical. This balance has served me well throughout my career.
With everything I do, there always has to be a creative component, whether that’s painting bizarre portraits, building businesses, or writing. And there’s always the practical side. I have to make sure my work connects with others, makes logical and financial sense, and is doing some good in the world.
I became an author because I couldn’t stop myself. I’ve experienced the power of words, from ads that sell hundreds of millions of dollars in investment real estate to books that inspire action to articles that make my mom cry.
My pursuit of legacy planning is something that’s relatively new, although I think my whole life was preparation for it. There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing stories about why people give back, the value of their family, the life lessons they’ve learned and what makes them passionate. We all have an important legacy to leave behind—whether that’s as big as pledging to eradicate world hunger or as inspiring as creating a close family.
A LIFE TRANSFORMING SEED
Renick: Your web story indicates a meeting with a financial advisor planted a seed in your head and heart that put you on the road to founding Paragon Road. Please share a little about that moment and how it inspired you to eventually author Your Meaning Legacy; seek more fulfillment in your life; and help others do the same?
Roser: I first started thinking about my legacy several years ago after a meeting with a financial advisor who initially hooked me with the sentence, “We have a process to help you pass on wisdom and principles to your kids.”
He then placed a sheet of paper in front of me that instructed me to list my values.
“Is there more?” I asked, holding up the paper. “I thought you said you had a process to pass on wisdom.”
This definitely was not what I was looking for, but it planted a seed. I started thinking, “If I was going to pass on my wisdom and values, how would I do that?” And that is how I got into the legacy planning business. That is why I wrote my book.
What I discovered in all my research is that most estate plans never mention the non-financial side of someone’s legacy. But it is often the most important thing you can pass on to your family.
YOUR LEGACY MATTERS
Renick: Is Your Meaning Legacy just for parents and grandparents? Who can benefit from the book and what are one or two of the most significant take aways readers might expect to realize?
Roser: Everyone can benefit from thinking about their legacy. As long as you have people you love and those who love you, your legacy matters. You are constantly impacting those around you. Everyone has a significant role, whether that’s raising responsible kids, mentoring your employees, or helping out your neighbors.
My book helps you understand your impact and proactively plan your legacy. When you begin with the end in mind, you live in a more meaningful way and connect with your loved ones on a deeper level.
I LOVE STORIES OF PERSEVERANCE AND GRIT
Renick: Your book, mission and journey to help people find more significance and pass it on to future generations has put you in contact with some fascinating people. Please share one or two of the people you met that stand out and why?
Roser: I’ve interviewed all kinds of people—from celebrities to business magnates to loving grandmas. I learn so much every time I speak with someone. Some of the names that stand out are Leigh Steinberg (super sports agent, real-life inspiration for the movie Jerry Maguire, and an absolutely incredible philanthropist), Gail McGovern (CEO of the American Red Cross with an amazing story about how her doctor father introduced her to philanthropy), Larry Mendelson (owner of multi-billion-dollar aerospace company and proud father), and Jennifer Lanzetti (successful entrepreneur, Survivor finalist, and recovering drug addict and felon who turned her life around).
But I equally enjoy conversations with lesser-known people who are just incredible human beings. One story that comes to mind is about a woman who grew up in a strict Mennonite household. As a young woman, she wanted to be a nurse, but her father wouldn’t allow it. So, she toed the family line and married a faithful man and had a bunch of children. Then finally went to school in her fifties and became a nurse. She was a geriatric nurse for over fifteen years.
I just love inspiring stories of perseverance and grit.
Renick: Some people say writing can be a cathartic experience. In a few sentences, how would you complete this thought: Writing can be ...
MAKING SENSE OF THE PAST
Roser: Writing can be not only cathartic, but also help you make sense of your past and give perspective to the future. I have a friend who says, “I don’t even know how I’m feeling until I write it down.” Often events just happen and it isn’t until later (when we’ve thought about them and pondered their significance) that their meaning becomes clear. Writing helps you to uncover the meaning in your life. And that’s a very valuable thing.
Renick: Here are a few related questions based on a question I've read you ask, I think is a good one. What's important to you? Is that what you are prioritizing now in your life? How would others evaluate that indeed it is important to you? For example, I believe a person's budget, actual spending, and use of their time most accurately depict what they value?
VALUES BASED DECISIONS
Roser: Your legacy is as unique as you are. In my book, I have a process to help you create your own personal legacy statement. This process helps you evaluate your values and what aligns with them so that you can make decisions based on your principles and that take you toward the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.
In the ideal world, a person’s financial resources and use of time would accurately depict what they value, but that’s not always the case. In fact, often it’s not the case at all. How many times have you heard an old person say, “I wish I had worked less… I wish I had spent more time with my family.”? Or how many times have you said that your family/project/business/whatever is incredibly important to you, yet you spent your time binging on Netflix’s series rather than contributing time to the thing that is “so important” to you? (I’m definitely guilty of this one.)
The point is, it’s often not easy to prioritize what’s really important in the moment and if we don’t have a greater perspective, we could easily end up wasting our lives on things that simply don’t matter.
DAD'S A SAVER. MOM'S A SPENDER
Renick: Sammy Rabbit's two primary focuses are developing resources and strategies to make it easy for anyone to teach kids about great money habits and to raise awareness on the importance of early age financial literacy. One of the strategies we use to raise awareness is share people’s early childhood money memories. Do you have one money memory from early childhood that stands out in your mind?
Roser: My dad’s a saver; my mom’s a spender. As a kid, my mom was always the one who made things fun. We’d go out to dinners or shopping and so on. My dad was focused on saving everything. To the point, it got rather severe. (One week my mom went out of town and the only thing my dad would buy was Wonder Bread and hotdogs because it was cheap.)
I’m a lot like my father and also am a saver, but I am very grateful to my mother for introducing the concept of fun in the here and now. If you spend your whole life saving for the future, you might just die never having lived. I try to remember that as I’m going through life.
So many people sit in their cubicles and dream of “one day” starting a company or traveling. And often, “one day” never comes. As a child, I saw my father make very safe decisions—pay off the house, keep the stable job, etc.—and I’m grateful for the stability he created while raising his young family. But I knew that I didn’t want that to be my path. That’s why I started my first company when I was twenty-one and have always taken big risks.
Sometimes my decisions have paid off; other times they have led to complete disaster. But I have learned how to adapt and have created a life that doesn’t have a lot of “one days.” If I want to do something—like write a book, get my art in galleries, start a company, speak at events around the world—I jump in and do it. It can get scary and I’ve wondered more than once if my dad’s path would have been a better option, but, at this point, I think I’ve ruined myself for employment. I’ve taken the entrepreneurial route for far too long.
GREAT PLANING BEGINS WITH THE END IN MIND
Renick: A question I like to ask everyone I interview is, if you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?
Roser: Begin with the end in mind. Determine your ideal life—I don’t mean being a millionaire or owning a yacht. I mean really decide what matters to you and how much money you need to obtain it, then work backwards from there. For me, for example, having enough free time to write and pursue business projects is more important than owning fancy cars or a large home. I’d like those things, but I have my priorities. So, I’ve arranged my life and finances in a way that supports my ideal vision. There have been many times I have sacrificed short-term comforts for this ideal. (i.e. driving a ten-year-old Beetle rather than leasing a Beemer to free up time and capital for my business, etc.) For everyone it’s different. But you need to figure out what matters to you and make the sacrifices to get it.
Renick: What are one or two of your favorite books on personal finance, life planning or personal growth you would recommend to readers and why?
Roser: If you’re just starting out, I think the concepts in “Think and Grow Rich,” “The Richest Man in Babylon,” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” are excellent to foster a personal belief in yourself and form independence and financial resiliency. Tony Robbins wrote a couple of books recently about the mechanics of money (“Unshakable” and “Money Master”) that are also quite good.
I think as you progress along your path, the meaning behind money and the purpose of your life becomes much more important. To address these existential questions, I recommend studying philosophy (I love Seneca and the stoics) and great literature (“East of Eden” by Steinbeck, “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy, “The Idiot” by Dostoyevsky, “The Stand”… Yes, Stephen King can be insightful!). Ray Dalio’s book “Principles” is also a great one. As is the biography about Warren Buffett, “The Snow Ball.”
Your money is an extension of you and what you discover as you age is that your personal journey, family history, and values play a significant role in your sense of fulfillment. I spend a fair amount of time studying books about anthropology, spirituality and human development, they have helped me at different times in my life. (i.e. “Sapiens” by Yuval Harrari, “Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore, “The Relationship Cure” by John Gottman.) As you can tell, I’m a voracious reader of everything.
IT'S ABOUT CONTRIBUTION
Renick: Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your book or mission?
Roser: I believe everyone has an important contribution to make to the world. Often the best legacies are quiet and focused on helping others. One of the greatest tragedies I’ve found in my work is that so many people think their lives are insignificant, but usually that is because they don’t have the tools to share their stories in a meaningful way. Your life matters to your loved ones.
Your influence is felt. Every day, you have the opportunity to give encouragement when someone is sad or help out when someone’s struggling or celebrate friends’ successes. These daily actions make up your legacy. When you know what you represent, it becomes your compass to ensure these daily actions are leading you in the right direction.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT LAURA
To learn more about Laura Roser, her book and quest to help people live more purpose-filled lives, visit her website ParagonRoad.com
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