The Little Boy in the Three Piece Suit

In a small suburban community of Colorado, a six-year-old boy climbed on a table to give a speech. The subject was inflation. He was wearing a three-piece suit as he faced an audience of friends and family, unaware that six-year-old boys are not supposed to give speeches on economic theory. There were no notes, only a carefully memorized list of ideas and quotes learned from months of standing next to his father and listening to him give the very same speech.

I was that boy, and I still remember every word.

My first business trip with my father was at the age of three. By the time I was six years old, I had listened to my father give that same speech over and over to hundreds of people and dozens of groups. I knew his points line by line. He was my hero. His words, like his business, were gold to me.

It was a golden season of my life in which I traveled beside my father to mysterious and exotic locations of the world from South Africa to Israel, from England to the Bahamas.

My father was a man of business, strategy, and faith with a growing worldwide business of asset protection and wealth management. He started with a brokerage firm in Houston during the 1960s and later worked for a New York mutual funds manager before starting his own business with my mother in 1972.

What began as the International Collectors Associates sprouted the McAlvany Financial Group, which included an influential international newsletter and McAlvany Wealth Management. It is fair to say Dad ensured that I cut my teeth in the world of wealth management, learning about financial risk, its appraisal and mitigation, and value recognition. I stood next to him for hours on end as he sat with clients reviewing their goals and priorities, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to allocating assets and spending money.

One day, three decades and a lifetime later, I flew across the world to meet my father at a hotel in Shanghai, China. He was living in the Philippines, and my base was Durango, Colorado. Shanghai was a midway point between our two worlds. We told each other that we were getting together to discuss business, but that was just an excuse. The truth was, we wanted time together—time shared between two very busy lives separated by ocean and thousands of miles. Time to talk about hopes, dreams, love, and legacy. Once there, we ditched work and never left our hotel. That conversation, and others like it, have served as one element of the impetus for my theories on legacy.

Today, after running multiple businesses and raising four children, my father and mother serve as missionaries located near Manila. Dad is the director of the Asian Pacific Children’s Fund, dedicating his life to serving others. He teaches families how to grow crops and disciple their children. He helps them find redemption in the midst of brokenness and exploitation. It is a good season in the life of a man who does not believe in retirement. Still energetic. Still savvy. Physically stronger than in his younger days due to a rigorous weight-lifting regimen, he is adding a new role to his repertoire—that of elder statesman and sage. He passed the baton of leadership over his company to me just under a decade ago. Like the meeting in Shanghai, that transition is one part of the story behind this book. I am now in the business of helping families secure their legacy, even as I hope to be faithfully building a legacy on my father’s foundations.

But it almost never happened.

Six years after I put on that first three-piece suit, I found myself separated and estranged from my father. I was lost, hurting, and angry. By the age of thirteen, I was living apart from friends and family, under miserable daily conditions and up to my waist in pig slop—literally.

My life had become a metaphor for prodigality.  It was not just that I was experiencing a crisis of implosion, but the generational legacy of my father was also at stake, including his ability to pass on the benefits of a lifetime of work and sacrifice. Just when things appeared as if they were about to hit rock bottom, I was given a gift—one of the most precious gifts an individual could ever hope to receive. My father forgave me, and I forgave him. It was an encounter with grace. We reconciled, and from that moment on, everything changed. My problems were far from solved, but I had new hope and a fresh start.

That event –which I share in my book The Intentional Legacy –launched a lifetime journey through inquiry, success, failure, redemption, further inquiry, self-examination, loss, gain, more redemption, more failure, and even more redemption. It was the beginning of my search for the meaning of legacy—what it means spiritually, philosophically, economically, and practically. Its has become the passion of my life, and I look forward to sharing those stories, as well as my own observations on the subject of intentionality, here in this blog.