August 27

Natalie’s tribute to Dick Wagner (dad)


Whichever way I try to angle it, writing this tribute to my deceased dad is difficult.  I am extremely lucky to have known the profound man who was my father intimately and across many spectrums of his life.  Since his passing, I’ve been grappling with how I package this into a single written piece and send it off to all of you, many of whom love him too.  To make the dynamics more intense, I’m 1-2 weeks away from bringing twin boys into this world to join our 5-year-old son.  We found out we are having two children, rather than one, only a week before Dad spoke his last words.
Dad was always passionate about family.  As a little girl, I knew that although his work was deeply important to him and took up much of his time, he would always be there for me and everyone in our family.  And he was.  Family dinner was a mainstay in our house and a key way that we connected.  At the dinner table we talked, laughed, and shared our days.  This is the cornerstone of how I knew my dad.  And to me, he was the best dad in the world.

As I grew up and my life became more worldly, Dad stayed right with me.  We had honest and constructive conversations throughout my teen and adult years.  He encouraged me to reach for my best self and to let go of what ultimately wouldn’t matter.  He supported me wholeheartedly as I traveled the world and earned my highly impractical degree in Socio-Philosophy.  He taught me to adhere to my intentions and actions to a higher purpose and to develop myself so I would be able to do great work.

Back at the dinner table our conversations grew philosophical and tended to explore humanity.  Fittingly, Dad forever had an amazing knack for turning the conversation to money.  Though I often didn’t understand him around investment mechanics or international markets, we connected strongly around what different money dynamics mean to people on a personal level.  My brother also joined the conversation, and Dad loved being able to talk money with family.  It was not uncommon for these conversations to leave the dinner table and stay with us late into the night.  These times prepped my brother and me for our professional paths.  My beautiful mother, a brilliant architect only moderately interested in financial planning, patiently watched while we explored philosophy, money and people together.

It’s been one of the great honors of my life to expand this connection with my dad from the dinner table to the Nazrudin circle. (The Nazrudin Project is a think tank for groundbreaking financial professionals to explore how we can truly help people navigate modern life amid “money and the fearsome forces it generates” [A frequent Dick Wagnerism].  Dad was a founder as well as a devoted and venerated member).  I always knew my dad was great, and I was aware that he was a leader in the Financial Planning profession, but I had no sense of the reach and depth of his influence.  At each of the four Nazrudins I’ve attended, I was awestruck witnessing people thank him for his work and describe the impact it had on them.

Moreover, I got to see why my dad had such an impact.  Dad held a certain something in the room, and it was not simply presumed status.  Though he was known for nodding off in the middle of conference talks, he would open his eyes, raise a finger, and espouse an offhanded insight that blew the room away.  He was always thinking of and sharing new ways to up-level our questions and thoughts to bring them closer to being profoundly great.  I found it wonderful to explore with him the existential force that is money and the desire to make the world a better place.  His acumens around money, what it means in our lives, and what we need to do about it are fascinating and inspiring.

But money wasn’t all Dad was about.  If you don’t already, you need to know about “The Test.”  Dad loved rock and roll music.  Ever since I can remember when we heard a rock song he would say, “Quick?” That meant, “What song is this and who’s playing it?”  We were long forewarned that we needed to pass “The Test” before we would be permitted to get a driver’s license. From the day we got our permits to the day we took the driving test these pop quizzes were considered test questions.  There was then a final section that I took the day I got my driver’s license.  The winning question:  What was Lou Reed’s first band?  Answer: The Velvet Underground.  (Note: My husband also had to pass “The Test” before we received Dad’s full blessing.)

I consider myself particularly lucky because I think like my dad, though very much with a Natalie twist.  With a knack for thinking abstractly and connecting distant dots, plus getting to the heart of the matter, all while considering the greatest possibilities and indulging a quirky sense of humor, Dad and I were birds of a feather.  This and my work as a Finologist (the term Dad coined as the study of our internal relationship with money) are part of his legacy.  However, besides being fundamentally different people, I come from a humanitarian and philosophical background, while Dad’s background was religion and law.  It follows that my work as a Money Wellness Coach is in the vein of Dad’s vision and thinking, though with a very different focus.  My brother, Jake Wagner, has chosen to take Dad’s torch as well and is supporting Financial Planning as a specialized Digital Marketer.  In each of our ways, Jake and my lives are a tribute to Dad and his life’s work.

As I sit here with two children in my belly who will never meet their grandfather, I am deeply saddened to have lost my father.  But when I consider the work that he did, its readiness to be carried forward by those he touched, the fact that he had a beautiful45 year marriage, plus two adult children and a growing grandson (who also happens to think like him), I believe my father finished well.  He will always hold my love and admiration.  He will always be an integral part of who I am.  In carrying forward our mutual mission as finologists and financial guides to make the world a better place, I send tribute and I give allegiance to his vision.  As his daughter and a mother carrying forward his line, I honor him and give life to his life.

To my father, Richard B. Wagner, JD, CFP®, Finologist

Natalie Wagner, CFRCSM, Finologist

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About the Author

I was raised to believe that money can and should be used for great good. As a social-philosopher and the daughter of Dick Wagner (the father of Finology), I've been studying people and money most of my life - and after deep thought, I agree. Money can and should be used for great good.

When I'm not absorbed in pondering people and money, I'm raising my 3 beautiful boys and supporting my husband and his delicious food truck. I hold self-care, creativity, and play as daily values, and I'm passionate about saving the world. Thank you for being here and please tell everyone! We need to get into people's heads and hearts to change the way we let the money forces run in this world. If we let them, and we should, they will do great good.

Natalie Wagner-Willis

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