Grabbing our English professor hat for a moment, let’s define “legacy”. The familiar definition is: (1) an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. But the more intriguing definition is: (2) the long-lasting impact of particular events, actions, etc. that took place in the past, or of a person’s life.

In planning our family legacy, I stopped to consider my sons—their past (reflected in the earliest expressed interest in money) and the long-lasting impact of that past. I found a clear wealth mindset built right into the DNA of each one.


My husband and I adopted two sons, who are both now in their mid 30’s. The first was 5 years old when we adopted the second, who was already four and a half years old. Our lives have centered around these two, first born males of the same age but not of the same bloodline. Our sons had few things in common aside from race and gender. And their attitudes about money were polar opposites.

Reflecting on how their money stories have developed to date, I am vigorously exploring, comparing and contrasting what I’m seeing in each of them, and understanding how their unique personalities will impact the family wealth legacy. 

My Youngest

My first story is about the youngest. He came to us with a number of physical, emotional and developmental challenges related to his chaotic early life. He was 18 months old when placed in a foster home and had no further contact with his birth parents. From there he came into our family in 1993.  His desire for wealth was unmistakable from the beginning. Although his awkward grammar and speech were difficult to understand, he clearly repeated one phrase frequently. “Me want much!”  he would say. Whether food, or clothing, or money or anything, we knew he wanted “much”.

When he was about 7, I received a call from the bewildered and slightly amused elementary school secretary. “Mrs. White, did you send your child to school with a $100 bill?” He had presented the bill as payment for his lunch in the school cafeteria. My first, stunned response was to question if it was real and wonder, if so, where he got it. It was indeed real and it came from the contents of my husband’s pockets dumped on the nightstand each evening. Our first son would sift through the pile of stuff and help himself to candy or mints which were his delight. My younger son followed him in, sorted through Dad’s stuff and selected what he desired – money. He was still learning the customs of our home, but he reasoned that if taking candy was allowed then why not take money? He had no understanding of the value the bills. They were all just dollars.  But the bill he picked up on this particular day was $100.


We experienced several other strange happenings before he was out of elementary school. He always had money, saved money, loaned money to others. One time he loaned a classmate a one-dollar bill and received a twenty-dollar bill in repayment because neither party in this exchange knew the value of the bills. On another occasion I had lunch with him at school and I heard wild stories. He had convinced classmates that we had maids, a butler and an Olympic sized swimming pool at our home. Dream on, son!

High school academics at his little private school held no interest for him. But in college when he made the connection between education, success and wealth, he got serious. First, he begged us pay for remedial math courses, giving him a second chance to gain a foundation in math. I bit the bullet and granted him this request. Then he found a wonderful little Hispanic girlfriend who was a wiz at math and could help him pass the Spanish courses he needed to graduate. Using all his charm, he convinced her that he was already rich. With her help, he went on to acquire a degree in finance and get his MBA. He and his “girlfriend” are now celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.  

By the year 2008. He had launched a solid career in banking, following the example of his father. I recall the day he pointed a finger in my husband’s face and proclaimed, “Dad, I’m gonna catch you, man! Give me 5 more years and I’ll beat anything you’ve accomplished so far!” My husband just beamed, “Go for it, son. I’m pulling for you!” He went for it, and he did it.


Fast forward to 2024. He now has a son 5 years old. This, my grandson, has a bank—not a piggy bank but an elephant bank! Money excites him beyond any toy in his room. He tells of wanting to visit restaurants, dressed in a tuxedo. And he has a disdain for any hotel that has just a swimming pool but no beach. The wealth desire in his genes exceeds his life experience, teaching or training. Like his father before him, the seeds of his wealth mindset sprouted at an early age with only minimal watering and fertilizing.

Witnessing this leg of the family legacy manifesting before my eyes, I have modified my thoughts about financial literacy and wealth building.  Whereas I was previously focused on what I could acquire and leave to my family, I am now actively searching to find and develop the natural legacy builders scattered throughout our ranks.  I want to unite them and spur them on to build a legacy, together.  Certainly, my second son has emerged as one destined to establish a legacy of wealth.  My first son, although quite different from his brother, will do the same with proper support and coaching.  

Discovering how these two will come together to build the long-lasting impact of our family legacy is fascinating.  I will continue this story, along with a blueprint for others to follow, in a future article. 

Connect with Gail on her website or read more from her on Plaid.