Write Your Own Obituary to Live Your Ideal Life

Write Your Own Obituary
Elliott Appel, CFP®, CLU®, RLP®

Elliott Appel, CFP®, CLU®, RLP®

Welcome! I'm Elliott, the founder of Kindness Financial Planning, LLC, a fee-only, fiduciary advisor located in Madison, WI working virtually with widows and caregivers across the United States. When I'm not helping people live their ideal life, I'm often cooking for my wife, playing tennis, or hiking.

When my uncle died while I was in high school, I remember family and friends dividing tasks for my aunt. One of the tasks, writing an obituary, became a team effort.

While someone took the lead, multiple eyes read it before it was finished — each person adding or subtracting a few words. 

There are good reasons to write your own obituary. I was reminded of that when I read Writing Your Own Obituary Can Teach You How to Live

Not only can it be a gift for family and friends, it can help you live your ideal life. 

What better way to figure out how to live your ideal life than work backwards?

Figure out what you want your obituary to say. Then, work backwards. What do you need to do to make it a reality? 

Let’s discuss the inspiration behind writing your own obituary, why writing it can help live your ideal life, look at examples of obituaries, and then the real exercise — how to write your own obituary. I’ll even share one I wrote.

Inspiration Behind Writing Your Own Obituary 

When was the last time you made a radical change in your life?

I’d guess the answer is a long time ago. 

As we get older, it becomes more challenging to make changes. I see this in my own life and the lives of people with whom I work. We get into a routine, and we like the familiarity. 

The problem with this approach is that we’ve made many tiny decisions over the years or decades that have transformed our lives little by little. Where you are today may not be where you want to be now or in the future. 

Sometimes it takes a wake up call to change it. 

I see it happen when people move, create a new habit, change jobs, retire, have kids or grandkids, or there is a death in their lives

It usually takes a big life change, often imposed by outside forces rather than a decision. Kindness Financial Planning exists because I met my wife, and we moved across the country for her career. Had I not met her and agreed to move across the country, I’m 99% confident this business would have never existed. 

What if it didn’t have to be that way? 

What if you could write your own obituary today and that led to making changes? 

That’s the inspiration behind writing your own obituary. 

Instead of waiting for life to happen, you get the opportunity to dream about how you want your life to look, reflect on how it would feel if your obituary came true, and create it. 

Why Writing Your Obituary Can Help Live Your Ideal Life

If you can visualize what your obituary will say, it may be easier to live your ideal life. 

It’s like putting a puzzle together. Most of us walk around without knowing what we want the puzzle to look like, so we are fitting pieces together as they come. It will create a picture, but we have no idea what the picture will be. 

What if you knew the picture and started creating your own puzzle pieces to fit together? 

Think for a moment about your schedule every day. What’s in it that you don’t like doing? What’s missing from it? 

Below are a few examples to get you thinking:

  • Exercise (walking, swimming, pickleball, lifting weights)
  • Long work hours
  • Not enough time with family
  • Screen time (phone, computer, television)
  • Reading
  • Healthy eating
  • Cooking together
  • Time outside or in nature
  • Playing music
  • Time to explore/unstructured time

Take a moment and write down one thing in your life that you don’t want in it and one thing you do want in it. 

Seriously, write it down. 

Studies have shown writing things down can make people more committed to completing them. 

Those are the first two puzzle pieces to living your ideal life. 

Examples of Obituaries

You don’t need to have a long obituary that is over 6,000 words. That would probably require you to be a president, Pope, or publisher

You can write it in first person, or in third person. I’m partial to the first person. It’s different. How often do you see an obituary written in first person? 

Depending on who you are as a person or who you want to become, you have a few routes to take with writing your own obituary.

You could make your obituary funny throughout. You could make it heartwarming. You could make it primarily heartwarming with touches of humor. You could stick to the facts with sprinkles of stories. 

The best obituaries tell stories. They paint a picture of a human being who is no longer with us. They bring the person to life. 

Who better to bring yourself to life after you died than you? 

Funny Obituaries

I find that most years I come across a funny obituary. It’s usually a family member that unleashes the true nature of their loved one. They knew their loved one was a character and wanted the world to know it too. 

Below are a few examples of funny obituaries for inspiration:

Not all of us can be the characters these people were. I’m providing them to show you that an obituary doesn’t have to be boring or dull. 

Heartwarming Obituaries

I have a dry sense of humor, which means I love funny obituaries, but if a funny obituary isn’t your thing, a heartwarming obituary may be better. 

Below are a few examples of heartwarming obituaries:

Most of these are lengthy, but you can also write a heartwarming obituary in a few sentences. 

That’s the wonderful thing about writing your own obituary — you can make it what you want it. 

How to Write the Obituary

When I read a good obituary, I think, “I would have loved to meet them.” Have you ever had that experience? 

That’s the sign of a well done obituary. You may not have imagined being best friends with them, but it makes you want to have crossed paths with them, even if only for a short conversation. 

It is hard to go wrong if you keep that in mind as you write your own obituary. 

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are the key details of my life? 
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • How did I live? 
  • Who were the important people in my life and what made them special?
  • Who do I want to thank and for what? 
  • What are my favorite memories? 
  • What did I enjoy doing? 

Use these questions to start writing, but remember, it’s your obituary. You get to tell your life and death how you see fit. 

Even if you are unsure where to start or need more structure, there are plenty of free obituary templates online. 

Although this article is about writing your own obituary, there are also professional obituary writers if you’d rather pay someone to do it for you. Although it won’t be as impactful as creating it yourself, it would make for a nice gift for family to have it partially done. 

And, if you aren’t up for writing your own obituary, maybe you want to write a “last letter.” There is a letter for if you are sick or healthy

Writing My Own Obituary

Although I don’t have a terminal illness and still expect a full, long life, I’m going to write my own obituary.

If something does happen to me, it’s one less thing for my family to do. Plus, I get to reflect on how I’ve lived so far and how close it is to my ideal life.  

It’s strange to read an obituary from the first person, right? It’s like I’m still here, but I’m not. At least not physically. I, Elliott Appel, died on Month, Day, Year. 

I grew up an only child in Olympia, WA. It wasn’t until my 30s, a month before my dad died, that I discovered I was not an only child and had a half sister. That gave new meaning and laughter to the question, “Do you have any siblings?” 

I was fortunate enough to live a fulfilling life. I traveled to 15 different countries and a good portion of the United States, but there is nothing like the Pacific Northwest. My heart was always there. 

I was lucky enough to find my “calling” in work. After numerous applications, a branch manager at Charles Schwab took a chance on me for a summer internship in finance. Thanks to the operations manager and luck, I met my future colleague on the second to last day of the internship. 

I had a wonderful run for over a decade at that company. I got to be a portfolio manager, associate advisor, financial planner, and a director of associate advisors before my wife graduated medical school, we moved across the country to Madison, WI, and I started my own financial planning firm. 

I never was a big risk taker. I always had about five different back up plans for my primary back up plan. But, life doesn’t prepare you for crashing a friend’s boyfriend’s colleague’s birthday party, spilling a drink on a woman, and eventually marrying her. It doesn’t prepare you for moving across the country for your wife’s career, away from friends and family, and the only life you ever knew. 

It is hard. Life is hard. 

But, I’m thankful we moved. Without that move, I don’t think I would have had the courage to start my own firm. In a way, it was forced upon me, and that was good. I likely would have never taken the risk. 

If you are reading this, take those measured risks. Sometimes life forces you, but how much happier could we be if we created them ourselves? And what if it happened sooner than you ever imagined? It can be magical. 

I got to be my wife’s “goober” and “rascal.” “Chief rascal” was probably one of the most important positions in my life. It produced eyerolls, laughs, and memories. I tended to be serious in most parts of my life, but I was playful with Molly. 

I got to be a son to the most amazing mom who provided me every opportunity to grow into the person I wanted to become. 

I got to be a son to a dad who loved me greatly, even if he didn’t always know how to show it. 

I got to be a friend to the most incredible people. Friends who would join me for “no plans Saturday” (aka eating and drinking our way through 3-6 different restaurants during an afternoon and evening), bring a dish over for themed dinner nights, go for hikes across Washington, and more. 

I got to be a nephew, grandson, cousin, and more with a small, but supportive family. 

Thanks to the incredible people in my life who inspired and challenged me. I, like many others, never said thank you enough. So, thank you. Thanks for the impact and love you shared in life.

I got to publish a book Money Lessons for Change: What They Should Have Taught You in School and be a part of a collaborative project with More Than Money: Real Life Stories of Financial Planning. 

I regret not playing tennis for most of my 20s as I worked too many hours, but I am thankful I started again in my 30s and the amazing Madison tennis community that welcomed me. 

I hope you’ll celebrate my life (and your own) in a way that fills your cup. 

If you feel up for it, go for a walk or hike in nature, host a night of cooking with friends, or enjoy a meal together at a restaurant. It’s hard to go wrong with your phones in your pocket (silenced) enjoying the company of those around you. 

Final Thoughts – My Question for You

Living your ideal life is not easy. 

It’s easy to put life on autopilot and never question what you are doing, who you are spending time with, and how you are living. 

Writing your own obituary can force you to confront how your life is going and whether it matches your ideal life. 

Whether it is a funny, heartwarming, or a stick-to-the-facts obituary, writing your own obituary can help make your life come alive and is a nice gift for those you leave behind. 

I’ll leave you with one question to act on. 

When will you write your obituary and what will it say? 

Disclaimer: This article is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. It is not a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security or investment advisory services. Please consult your own legal, financial, and other professionals to determine what may be appropriate for you. Opinions expressed are as of the date of publication, and such opinions are subject to change. Click for full disclaimer.

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