BRASELTON, Ga. — Adviser Dick Wagner, who died in March, was the industry’s “deepest thinker,” its “oracle of Denver” and even its “philosopher-king,” mourners recalled on Tuesday during a tearful memorial at the annual FPA Retreat. But it was his resemblance to Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi that particularly stood out to one longtime friend.
“There’s one thing we know about Jedi Knights, right?” Marty Kurtz of the Planning Center in Moline, Illinois, asked the audience of more than 100. “When they die, they become more powerful.”
Wagner, 68, was the co-founder of the life planning movement and well-known for his influential essays and books. He died on March 28 after suffering blunt force trauma to his head from a violent fall, according to his son, Jake Wagner.
The organization paid tribute at one of the late legend’s favorite events, held this year outside Atlanta, with speeches by almost 20 advisers, a video memorial and remarks by his son.
“I just want to make sure that, as we go into the next stage of everything, that we hold this sacred flame that he’s trying to communicate to us,” said Wagner, whose company Digital Marketing 4FP provides marketing services to fee-only CFPs and RIAs.
“We all know that the brilliance of his work is that money is not the most important thing, it’s just the common denominator.”
The elder Wagner wrote the 1990 essay “To Think … Like a CFP” in The Journal of Financial Planning, which advisers recalled reading in school or carrying in their pocket with them.
A former president of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, Wagner “set the tone for the next 30 years of the profession” in the essay arguing for a framework for the field, said Dave Yeske of Yeske Buie in San Francisco.
Wagner later created that model, which he called “integral finance,” and coined the terms “finology,” which refers to all aspects of mankind’s relationship with money. Alongside George Kinder, he started the life planning movement, focusing on the human side of advice, and the Nazrudin Project, which trains advisers in the principles.
In 2003, Wagner won the FPA’s highest honor, the P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award. The organization last week announced a scholarship called the Richard B. Wagner Retreat Scholarship Award and Fund, which will provide free trips to the annual event for FPA NexGen members.
The FPA also provided free copies at the retreat of his 2016 book, “Financial Planning 3.0,” a manual of his writings through the years.
“Money is weird stuff,” Wagner writes in the introduction. “However much we might want it to be otherwise, we simply cannot avoid it.”
Advisers described Wagner, a principal for 10 years at Sharkey, Howes, Wagner & Javer and founder of a consulting firm called Worth Living, as a loving mentor who had disciples all over the industry.
“If you’re a real financial planner, whether you know it or not, you’re a disciple of Dick Wagner’s, too,” said former FPA President Dan Moisand of Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Melbourne, Florida.
To Elissa Buie, also of Yeske Buie, Wagner “had the ability to make every one of us feel like we were his most cherished friend.”
Other planners, such as Rianka Dorsainvil of Your Greatest Contribution in Lanham, Maryland, recalled Wagner’s mentoring. He once asked Dorsainvil, who is black and Hispanic, what the two of them could do to change the fact that she was the only African-American in attendance at one NexGen gathering, she said.
“He was like, ‘Well, what are we going to do about that?” she said, crediting him for her participation in NexGen. “It is a responsibility of mine to not be behind the scenes or behind the curtain. I have to step up and be a role model for other women and other people of color.”
In keeping with the theme, Yeske points out that Wagner’s book includes a 15-week syllabus for spreading his teachings.
“Dick left us all with some homework,” Yeske told the audience. “And the best way to honor him is to do your work.”
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