Welcome to this week’s edition of Wisdom and Wealth! October is family history month and to expand on this topic, I invited Heather Nickerson from Artifcts on to the podcast to discuss how her online platform can help families capture and preserve the stories and memories.
Heather has an incredible background after a successful career in government service and as an entrepreneur, but She started Artifcts after organizing her late mother's home on Cape Cod. After seven months, she was still struggling to understand the stories behind the numerous heirlooms and items the estate held. Yes some things held market value, but what about the sentimental value, “intangible value,” or instructional value of an item? This experience caused her to think through how to create a solution for families to both organize their possessions and their memories and ideas. What if you could capture the family history represented in an old photo or journal entry? Artifcts seeks to accomplish just that.
As a personal example Heather shares how she has captured the stories behind an old pair of boots that she wore in Afghanistan and how she has captured the symbolism and meaning behind those boots via Artifcts! This is literally a central place for a family to capture all their audio and video and photos and share them for their family legacy.
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JOSH KLOOZ, CFP®, MBA
1780 Hughes Landing | Suite 570
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Music by bensound.com
Hello and welcome in again to another episode of Wisdom and Wealth. As always, I'm Josh Clues, the host of the podcast. This month is unique in that this week, as we're recording, is a state planning week, and then the month of October is Family History Month. So I'd love to take credit for this idea, but it wasn't mine, it was Heather Heather Nickerson's idea, who is our guest today from Artifacts. She's going to come on board and we're going to have a conversation today about how you can better capture and preserve your family legacy, your family history, and maybe even some of those hard to identify, rather, portions of your estate. So, heather, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us and I'm going to take a sip of water before I choke. Thank you so much, josh. I really appreciate it.Heather Nickerson:
I appreciate being here and speaking with you and having all your listeners learn a bit more about Family History Month and how to preserve and build their legacy one object at a time Excellent.Josh Klooz:
And Heather, before we dive in, could you introduce yourself briefly to our audience?Heather Nickerson:
Yes, Josh mentioned. My name is Heather Nickerson. I am the co-founder and CEO of Artifacts. I started my career as an IntelliSense Central Intelligence Agency Not something you hear all the time. I spent a decade there and then I was headhunted out to go run and grow a private security company and I spent nearly a decade there focusing on helping ultra high net worth families and Fortune 50 companies protect their privacy and enhance their security.Josh Klooz:
Excellent, so very boring subject matter, to be sure and I'm joking, of course how does one get from that field, that industry, to starting their own business? Is there a light bulb moment? And I'm curious, because I've asked Ellen this as well. So I'm curious for your side of that story, how it's working about. Yeah, that's a great question.Heather Nickerson:
So on my side. It was a very personal moment. My mother passed away nearly seven years ago and she had an estate plan. She also had 6,000 square feet of residence on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and, being the eldest and only girl, my brothers turned to me and said good luck with that. So I spent nearly seven months trying to figure out what everything was, Because, although the estate plan dealt with the properties and the accounts and all those financial details, when it came to the tangible assets it was on page 23,. All other tangible assets are divided equally among the siblings. So there is no you know, she didn't ever feel that her tangible asset memorandum. So I had no roadmap. So I literally had to go through, closet by closet, room by room, trying to figure out what it was, why she had it, and then what were we supposed to do with it? Keep it, sell it, donate it, re-home it? We had no idea, and that was really that was my frustration. After seven months I still didn't have the answers I wish I had and, more importantly, I wish I had the stories, Because my mother, when she passed away, she was very young, completely unexpected, and my daughter was only five at the time and had barely gotten to know her grandmother. So, I wanted to keep the things for my mother that could tell her story and keep her story alive for the next generation to come. But I had no way of knowing what those things were. It was easy to guess oh, the jewelry has value, or the artwork, or the china has value, but I didn't know what the heart value was, I didn't know what the story was, I didn't know again, kind of her why and, most importantly, what she would have wanted us to do. So that was how I came to the idea for Artifacts and I thought I would always do it later on down the road. But then COVID hit and we were at home with all of our stuff and there were a lot of people going through, sadly, the same thing I had to go through we're losing loved one and having to deal with all their stuff. So that was the, I think, the prompt that got us out the door and starting the company. But we're proud to say that we were started during COVID and we're still going strong.Josh Klooz:
That is an incredible story, and so I'm envisioning a time capsule of sorts. But yet you don't necessarily have a roadmap inside the house of how that works or what should be kept and definitely what could be memorable to other members of your family as well. So at the time, did, did you? It sounds like you wanted something, a mechanism for capturing the family history, and in the family stories Was there a light bulb moment at which you know it clicked like, hey, this could be functional and sentimental.Heather Nickerson:
Yes, there was definitely a light bulb moment. It was more of a I mean, I joke a nervous breakdown, but not quite. But I was in my mother's closet and I was holding this Tiffany's crystal days and I knew there was sentimental value and she had kept it on her bedside table but she had never used it and I was dying to know Was it a cherished item that she never used because she was so afraid of breaking it? And, in her mind, would this be a family heirloom that she want me and my daughter to have in generations to come? And what's the story behind that? Or Did you know? Crazy Aunt Mildred gave it to her and she can't stand Aunt Mildred.Josh Klooz:
And if I kept this piece, no offense at Mildred, if you're listening to this.Heather Nickerson:
It sounds so silly but it was so simple of oh my gosh. I know there's financial value, but I have no idea what the heart value is, and If I keep it it's gonna be a nice deal these days and my daughter may one day decide to sell it or keep it herself, but there's no family connection, there's no family history, and that's what really got me. So it was the whole. It was the drive to ensure we're passing down items that do have financial value. You connect the dots, you tell the story, you share the history, you give your family of why this matters and, ideally, why they should keep it. And then, working on Artifacts my business partner Ellen we knew it couldn't just be a sentimental, like it's a nice to have. We had to make sure we were filling a pain point for others and that really came down to the tangible assets. You know you take time, you do your estate plan, you do your will, just like my mother did. But how many of us go home and do that tangible asset memorandum? So we knew that by doing artifacts it's fun to tell the story, it's exciting to share the family history, but at the end of the day, you know, if you have the functionality of clicking a button and exporting it to your estate plan or Exporting it to your homeowners insurance policy, for even taking time within the artifacts platform to fill out in the future. We have an entire field and we made a simple a drop-down menu. What happens next to this item? Do you keep sell? Do you donate? if you're going to bequeath it. Who gets it? It's, it's all right there and that's the functional part. So it is. It's combining the really the fun part of family histories the stories with the functionality of what happens next, and you know how do you ensure that does happen, either from the estate planning or insurance side.Josh Klooz:
And so I want to dive into the details of the system, the process, a little bit later as well. But we here like to talk about a person's intangible balance sheet, and by that we mean that there's life principles, there are beliefs that you want to pass on to the next generation because they've served you well, there's some total of what you've lived your life for. I sometimes think that you know we're financially irrational when it comes to some of those things, for good reason, right, but they come to life through stories and they cement themselves in our brains, I think, through stories, and for many families those are probably, to your point, the cherished gift. It's one thing to get a picture of a family reunion or a picture of a wedding, but it's the peanut gallery story of well, you remember that happened during this time, so you know this didn't go right. Or this happened, eskew, or the other one that I've heard is remember that day it was 105 in the shade. I can't believe that somebody picked a wedding for you know that month or so on and so forth. Those are the things that are missing when you simply see a picture, or you see you know names on the back of a picture that has, you know, some sentimental value to it. Obviously, you probably can't talk about things that are confidential and so on and so forth, but are there any stories that you're willing to share that you've uncovered along the way that have?Heather Nickerson:
a lot of meaning to you personally. Sure, how do you share two stories? One is a personal one and this is, to your very, I think, very precise point intangible asset to value. So one of my most prized possessions are an old pair of hiking boots. They are absolutely hideous to look at. There is no financial value whatsoever in these hiking boots. My entire family knows, my daughter especially. Something happens to me tomorrow. This is the one thing I want her to keep. She can put them in a shoebox in the closet and never look at them. But these boots tell my story and they talk about the ups and the downs how you can conquer anything by taking one step at a time. The grit, the resilience there is so much about these boots that epitomize me and what I've done in my life and in my career. So I mentioned earlier, I was a CIA analyst. I served overseas, in Afghanistan, I served other places around the world and these boots were part of that. So it may sound silly when I say my most prized possession is an old pair of hiking boots. But it's not just the boots, it's the value, it's what I think that they represent and without knowing the story behind that, my daughter can look at those boots and say they're disgusting, they're going in the trash, whereas I hope that she doesn't. But even if she does one day decided to put them in the trash, at least she has the artifact to know the history, the stories, the memories. I've got audio and video and photos all there together so she can always have that piece of my history with her. The other piece that I'll share is one of our members wrote into us and, without giving away too many details, she had spent nearly 30 years traveling and living overseas with her husband and she was in the process of downsizing and she was going through her stuff and she had when she was living in Nepal. She had purchased these beautiful hand-etched brass trays and she'd had them hanging on her living room wall for the past 20 plus years. She has three grown sons and it wasn't until she decided to artifact them and share the story about where she was when she bought them. The story involves a king cobra. It's hysterical, but she artifacted it. She shared the stories with her sons and then within she told us within an hour each son had called her and said hey, mom, I want one of those trays. I never knew you got those in your living in Nepal. I never knew you got them with dad because her husband, their father, had passed away. So what they thought were a pure one, or home goods purchased overnight, took on an entirely new meaning and significance and a piece of their family history. So that's, I think, where the importance of story and memory and history are very much intertwined with building and preserving your legacy.Josh Klooz:
Well, and so this may be a cop out on my end I'm not a terribly good gift giver, but it's the thought that definitely counts. So this at least gives me, you know, 50% or 60% participation grade for any gift given, you know, to the next generation. So I'm definitely intrigued. So, heather, if someone's listening to this and they are curious, like, is it a video that captures the story or is it audio only, can you walk us through some of the ways in which family history can be?Heather Nickerson:
captured via artifacts. So we know that every family has a different preferred means and method of capturing their history. So we wanted to make sure that with artifacts, you could type up a story. You could type up five words. Grandmother gave this to me. End of story. You could have audio, you could have video, you could attach documentations. So there's an entire possibility of which type of media you use when you're creating an artifact. But we'd like to say, if you can send an email or if you can do social media, you can easily artifact. The process is really simple. You simply pick an object. Usually that's the hardest thing. Where do you start? What object are you going to start with? It could be an old photo, it could be a pair of hiking boots, does not matter. And then you tell the story, you attach the media files you want to attach, you click save and you're good to go. You can then share with family, share with friends, keep it entirely private. We would love if you export it to your wealth advisor or your estate planning attorneys. They know these are your assets, both fundage-ally valuable, but also things that define you and what type of legacy you want to leave to the next generation.Josh Klooz:
Heather. So if somebody's listening to this as well and they don't even know where to start, it occurs to me hey, start with what's most meaningful to you and the stories, Most of the stories behind why they're meaningful, Because the stuff obviously isn't meaningful, it's the experience behind it that you want to pass on to the next generation. But if somebody's just overwhelmed at the functionality of it, they see the value of it. They're like I don't even want to take the next step in those hiking boots, to use your analogy. What would be your admonition? to such a person.Heather Nickerson:
Pick something. If you're a female member of the audience, pick a piece of jewelry. All I think is females have jewelry and they have stories and memories and meaning behind it. If you're a male member of the audience, maybe pick your favorite piece of sports memorabilia, something you've held onto. We had one member start with his Cub Scout uniform and wrote in to told us that he forgot he even had it. But he started there it was for him. He took it in chronological order and made a living history of the past 60 plus years. Start small, pick an object and don't worry about it being perfect. Don't worry if the story you can't remember all the details you can always go back and edit, unlike a photo book or any other type of written book where you have to physically print it. With artifacts, you can go back and add and edit to the story over and over again. Don't let perfection stand in your way Again. Just pick a small item and take it from there. It's amazing. We see time and again how when you start, memories beget more memories. If you start telling the story and you start telling the history and to your point of remembering like hey, remember that wedding when it was 105 degrees, you're probably going to have a dozen different artifacts from that weakened experience, but just pick one to start and then it flows from there no-transcript, and so it occurs to me too, like if somebody wants we're thinking to this point, I think, of someone trying to preserve their own legacy, but this goes up a generation as well, right?Josh Klooz:
So if I wanted to preserve the stories from my grandparents or people that were influential in my community maybe even that may be another audience that we haven't really talked to of like hey, mom or dad, or hey, grandma and grandpa, we want to get these stories in your own, in your own words, in your own voice, while we, while we can, and then can you describe to our audience a little bit more about how? I think you can add, it can be a family endeavor, right? As far as how many people have access to what you're capturing, and you can all see that progress unfold. Yeah, it's definitely a community, correct?Heather Nickerson:
We had when we started very early on during COVID. We had a lot of introduction. We had a lot of intergenerational artifacting pairs. We typically had the grandkids who were super duper tech savvy and the grandkids and you couldn't go visit each other during COVID, but you could have a zoom call and start telling stories and after asking for the 10th time, how's the weather going? When you started bringing in artifacts and the stuff, it was amazing. The stories unfolded and my co-founder has a great example of this. Our daughter learned to make the family cinnamon cake from her grandmother during COVID over Zoom. So it was one of those moments where, again, you have this tech savvy generation. You have an older generation who may not be tech savvy, but they've got the stories, the history, the memories. When you put the whole family together working to ask the questions hey, what is this? Or you know, like, what did you do in this year? What did you like? You start kind of asking who, what, when, where, why questions, the stories unfold and the way that we've designed artifacts is that you can have a private family sharing circle. So when you create an account, you can add your family and then create it's simply as a group chat around objects, around artifacts, but you can enable the entire family to collaborate, to add their stories, their objects, their details. Or even, you know, we've again got a lot of folks who set up like, if you're going to have a holiday dinner, everyone's at the Thanksgiving table. It's a great time to go around the table, tell everyone to bring an object they're like most favorite object, favorite story, favorite memory. And again, rather than asking the same questions every year, do something different and make it that family activity. So it really is. It's a great way to get multiple generations involved in capturing the family history and stories.Josh Klooz:
I love that idea and it occurs to me as well that it would be a great opportunity to capture ideas or stories from your own kids as they're growing up as well, because sometimes they can have unique ways of interpreting life events. And, to put it mildly, heather, if someone's listened to this and they just need help knowing where to begin, and they know they need functional help how does Artifacts work with them? In order to facilitate that process, can you walk us through a little bit more of that situation.Heather Nickerson:
Yeah, sure. So we have multiple levels to help you essentially where you're at. So if you are super-duper tech-sabby and gung-ho, you can go to our website it's Artifactscom, A-R-T-I-F-C-T-Scom and you can walk through kind of our different inspiration checklists or how to Artifact section be off and running. If you want a bit more help, we have an entire YouTube channel set up with tutorials. They're typically less than three minutes. They walk you through all the different features and functions that you can do with Artifacts. If you're still like, hey, I want an actual human to help me, we have in-person and virtual concierge services. So our virtual concierge services are typically it's a 90-minute session and we work with you over Zoom, over Teams, whatever kind of your preferred media is. We work with you to start the artifacting process. We help you set up your account and then we go through typically the first two, three, four, five objects. We ask the questions, we help you with the story, we help you adding the different types of media files, we troubleshoot anything that you have trouble with. And then the in-person sessions. We can do a half day, a full day. We have some members who will have us come on site for a couple of days and say I've got to tackle my library, we are downsizing or we have all this stuff and we have all these stories and I just need someone to help us do it because it's not going to get done. And in that case we come on site, we bring photographer and we take all the photos. We can take video, we can record audio, you talk and we type up the story. So you just you literally get to sit back and relax and we do all the work while you tell us the histories, the stories and the memories, and then we help you. If you want to share with friends, with family, however, that sharing process is for you. So we've tried to make it as simple as possible, but recognizing that each person is going to be at a different stage of kind of where they are and what they're comfortable with, so ensuring that there's different options along that spectrum of totally self-started or ready to go, and then you want to figure it out on your own to. Hey, I'd like to have a bit more help with this and I just I need someone to get me going and to really make me focus on it.Josh Klooz:
Thank you so much for your time today, heather. Is there anything else that you think we should cover before signing off today? This has been such a great conversation and again, I can't stress it enough to people it's not the stuff necessarily that will have the meaning. It's the story behind the item that will probably mean the most to those that you love, and so the ability to bring both of those together in a way that solves both a tangible need and an intangible need is such a unique offering. So thank you again for doing this. Any last thoughts?Heather Nickerson:
before we sign off today, I would just say I encourage everyone out there to gift your loved ones a why this is so important You're going to pass down the physical objects, but absent the why, it may or may not have as much value as you think it will, but the why is always a surefire hit. It lets your family know why this matters to you, why it was important to you and why do you want them to have it. It's that, I think, the softer side of legacy, but I can attest firsthand, having lost my mother. I wish I had the why. I have a lot of the stuff but I can't bring back the why. So, if you're listening, take a moment and gift your loved ones a why.Josh Klooz:
Thank you so much, Heather. It's been such a great conversation. I look forward to our paths crossing again soon and wish you and your team all the best.