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Spending Time and Money as an Essentialist

Guest Piece by Matt Gray, Rocky Mountain Innovation Lab

By Matt Gray - March 15, 2018

“Time and money are energy sisters.” ~ Stacey Bennett


Spending Time and Money as an Essentialist

by Matt Gray
Executive Director, Coach and Strategist
The Rocky Mountain Innovation Lab

The feeling of being overwhelmed has pervaded my work recently. Personally, I’ve felt overwhelmed when looking at my finances, or thinking about how to spend more quality time with my daughter, or trying to understand the new political paradigm in which we live and how to respond to it effectively. I have also seen other leaders face off with being overwhelmed, trying to decide which route might be the best choice. And I've seen organizations drastically overwhelmed by wanting to head several directions when they really only have the capacity to head one.

My work focuses on coaching individuals, leaders and organizations to realize their most inspirational visions by implementing a strategy that is truly essential, without being fraught with things that become overwhelming. I want leaders to feel like they are not always restlessly being pulled in a hundred directions, but that they instead have clarity of purpose and vision. Now, that’s easy to say or sprawl across my website. The question is how we really make it happen.

Essentialism, a philosophy and way of life conceived by Greg McKeown, has become a seminal approach to my work. It is not just a book and theory. It is a process to be applied, assessed, adapted and re-applied. Essentialism demands that we look at our life critically, and make careful decisions about where we put our energy.

In the same way Natalie sees money as an expression of ourselves in the world, how we choose to spend our time is also an expression of ourselves in the world. Applying the principles of Essentialism to our work with both of these powerful resources can bring clarity, focus and direction as we move toward the visions we have for our lives, our organizations and the world.


February Finances

The month of February is short. Are you?

By Natalie Wagner, February 1, 2018

Thank goodness the month of February is short! The weather is gray and drab. We’re sick of the cold and ready for the freshness of springtime. But have you ever wondered if you should manage your money any differently, given February’s shorter time frame? 

I’m a believer that in order for your money to support your deep goals and values, it should always be adjusting and flowing with changes in your life, no matter what form those changes take.

February is roughly 10% shorter than other months. I feel an impact, and I notice one in the world around me. One one hand, it's nice because it gets us into the spring of March more quickly. Still, the difference can confuse our regular rhythm, and we should consider how to adjust our money to match. 

In February there are up to 3 fewer days to spend. Three fewer days to feed the family, buy coffee, or drive to work.  This means you may actually use less money than the average month, and it may feel like there is some left to spend.

On the other hand, you pay your rent/mortgage in full for 3 fewer days of housing. Utilities and food are cost we accrue by the day. So what are the real differences?

Let’s consider where you may be gaining a little financial leverage, and where you may be getting the short end of the stick.

First, let's note that pay is generally attached to time worked or value provided, not according to the calendar month.  This means that the calendar difference in February will not impact the money you bring in.

Next, any monthly bills are going to be more expensive per day in February than any other month. For example, a mortgage of $2,000/month will be $71.43/day this February, but only $64.52/day in March. A $100 yoga membership is $3.57 per day this February and $3.23 by the day in March.  These costs are roughly 10% higher!

And last, let's look at areas of ongoing spending, like food, social activities or transportation.  We pay for these primarily according to usage - not according to the calendar year. This means that a short month doesn't make a difference in what the cost means to you, even if there are 10% fewer days of these costs.

The point: Don't let February fool you! The 10% increase in monthly costs and the 10% decrease in days in which to spend essentially balance each other out.  Any sense of deep pockets is an illusion!

Now that we know how February is different, we can adjust accordingly. However, in this case, it means, don't do things differently!  This knowledge empowers us to use our money this month in ways that bolster your deep goals and values.  

Power to you!

A tribute to my father, Richard B. Wagner, JD, CFP®

From the Dinner Table to the Nazrudin Circle, Passing ‘The Test’ Along the Way

By Natalie Wagner - August 28, 2017

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 for 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 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 own 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 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 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 philosophy 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

But I'm Healthy! So Why Money Wellness?

5 Key Ways VitalFinancials will take you to a place of financial peace.

By Natalie Wagner - July 18, 2017

Are you a healthy person? If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the idea of wellness. It's about more than mental or physical health: it's also about creating a life that makes you feel nourished, peaceful, and whole. We all know that nutrition, exercise, and sleep are important parts of wellness. Studies are beginning to show that meditating and spending time in nature are also important ways to support wellness. 

What does all this have to do with money? "Money" and "wellness" might not seem like words that go together. After all, money is about interest rates and salaries, and wellness is about kale and yoga. But think back to what wellness truly means: feeling nourished, peaceful, and whole in your life. Now consider: how you feel about money?

You might feel guilty about how much money you have... or don't have. You might feel anxious about whether you spend money on the "right" things. You might feel just plain overwhelmed by bills popping up, and how to navigate compound interest and savings rates! You might have mixed feelings how you bring money into your life. Whatever your situation, chances are that your feelings about money could be better. They could be healthier. Even if you're well in mind and body, your money wellness might need a tune up! 

That is exactly why I created VitalFinancials. 

You were not born feeling the way you do about money. You learned about money as you grew up, and you may have learned beliefs about money that aren't serving your wellness today. I want you to feel nourished when you spend money or save money with true intention and mindfulness. I want you to feel peaceful even if the numbers in your bank account change. I want you to feel whole in your relationship with money because you understand the unique value that money represents for you.

All of this is possible. At VitalFinancials, we work to enhance your money wellness in 5 key ways: 
  1. We work where you have power! Unlike investments or credit ratings where you have little control, we focus on how you create and use money in your day-to-day life.
  2. We lead with VALUE coming and going around in your life, rather than centering around spreadsheets and numbers that often feel confusing and removed.  
  3. We put money into the context of energy flow and intuition – using a wellness approach, you will connect your money and your true Self!
  4. We create structure with your money to simplify and empower an everyday flow that honors your true Self!
  5. The results are a living sense of financial peace and the deep strength of being able to trust yourself.
When creating VitalFinancials, I drew on a life-long experience with money that has been unconventional – to say the least. Raised by well-known and respected financial planner, Richard Wagner, JD, CFP®, I grew up immersed in my father’s respect for money and its role in our modern world.  Impressed upon me are money’s potential for great good and the magnitude of our responsibility to use it so. To this background, I brought my own strong intuition, a talent for identifying patterns, and passion for working with people. You may not know this, but I'm also dyslexic! Dyslexics are often deeply empathetic and good with patterns - two qualities that give me unusual insight into finding financial peace.

I have custom-designed VitalFinancials to offer a revolutionary approach to our everyday relationship with money. Through money wellness, we can use money to navigate life with power and grace.

Do you sense that you and your money life can be more? Can you taste that your life would be stronger, richer and more peaceful for stepping into that potential? This month I'm offering Mindful Money: How to Find Financial Peace, an online workshop to jumpstart your journey toward money wellness. Today is the LAST DAY of early bird pricing. Sign up now to save! 

~  Natalie

P.S. I'd love if you can spread the word about these workshops on social. Click here to share on Facebook, and here to share on Twitter. Thank you!

Yoga for Your Budget

February 1, 2017

Our traditional understanding of a “budget” is flawed. It lacks the flexibility life demands and tends to knock people down when things don’t go as planned. We need a new approach. We need to connect our cash flow with the flow of our lives.

To do this, we must first get away from the numbers and shift our focus to value. Numbers are simply representations of value. If we want to truly look at money in our lives, we must get to the underlying forces at play. As my yoga teacher says, “Let’s get out of our heads” and get into what it feels like to create and to use money.

What do you feel when you tune into the sensations of creating and using your money? When there is alignment between your valuable Self and the value you create for the world, you become both more of yourself and more powerfully connected with the world beyond. When the money you create is in balance with your efforts, what you produce, and your life, there is ease in the sweet spot. When your money use is effective, balanced across the breadth of your life, and aligned to bring value back in that honors your true self, money can be a powerful way of meeting your needs while satisfying and expanding your life. Within this new paradigm, connecting with your money is a process of self-actualization.

When there are misalignments and imbalances anywhere along this flow, it deflates your power and creates inauthentic and potentially harmful efforts to compensate in other areas. You might feel undervalued at work, for example, and finds yourself spending more indulgently to recoup a sense of internal value.  Invariably, these actions will have further repercussions and cause further misalignment.

In yoga we use our breath to connect with ourselves and with the present moment. We feel balance and alignment within, while engaging our flexibility to move with the flow of our breath in the moment. The process teaches us to bring our selves in balance and alignment, while empowering our connection with ourselves and the world.

When you tune into the rhythm of your money, you'll notice that cashflow is like the flow of breath in and out of your body. Opening to your senses, you can feel if there is balance in the value of your money creation, and in the value that comes back to you when using it. Noticing the quality of the connection from yourself to your money and back again, you can feel your financial alignment. This practice between yourself and the world is where you will discover self-actualization and empowerment.

Let’s recreate our definition of “budget”, and think about our money as a flow. Breath. Balance. Alignment. Empowerment. Yoga for your Budget.

Money Stuff is Hard for Me Too!

February 2, 2017

Today’s Money Wellness Thought starts with a confession. It’s bad, considering I coach people to use their money powerfully. Here's the confession: we accidentally set up two Netflix accounts in my house! They’re connected through two different email addresses and two different bank accounts. Both are auto-billed. Though it’s less than $9/month, we’re paying double what we should be. Why? Because despite the fact that I "know better," I am dreading calling to cancel so much that I haven’t done it. Here's what I'm trying to say: money stuff is hard for me, too!

I have no reason to think it will be a terrible phone call. I imagine they’ll close one account, possibly refund a couple months, and thank me for being a customer. Still, I haven’t done it. The thought of doing it creates a tightness across the front of my shoulders and makes me turn to any other life distraction. And every time I see the charge in my bank accounts I smack my forehead, saying, “I should.”  Yet, I haven’t.

My clients always come to me for help with financial clutter, such as this. I find that people get paralyzed for different reasons and in different ways. I get you.  Money stuff is hard for me too!

What do we do to make a change? First, be compassionate with ourselves and let go of the fact that it hasn’t been done. The past is spoken for, and cannot be changed. If we focus on what we didn’t do yesterday we are living where we have no power, and we are absent from where we do have power, in the now.

Second, gently tune inwards to understand why are you personally being stopped. It’s not in your head, because you  know better, just like I do. Tuning into your body can be extremely informative regarding inaction. Recognize that it’s OK to have your feelings. They’re just feelings, and they’re yours.

Third, tune into that part of you that knows better – but not in a rational way. Tune into your feelings around why it would be better to clean up your financial clutter.  Perhaps you feel a drive to respect and be responsible with the money you work hard to create. With gentleness, let these contrasting feelings push against each other – one will rise to the top.

Last, action. When you decide what is more important to you, gather anything you might need (pen and paper, account numbers), and take action. If you need support, get it! It could be an accountability partner in the form of your spouse or friend, or a professional such as a money coach. You’re likely to feel immediate relief.

As for me and my Netflix muddle, though I didn’t fix it yesterday, I can do it today. I will do it here and now with you. Tuning inwards, what’s stopping me? I have anxiety around wading through logistics. My dyslexia hits logistics hard, and I find that world intimidating and frustrating to navigate. But, I do feel out of alignment in terms of being respectful and responsible with my money. This latter drive clearly runs deeper. “OK, deep breath, anxiety or not, focus – I got this.”
Done! I feel both relieved and empowered. Three months of our subscription has been refunded. Success!

If money stuff is hard for you, know that it is for most people. You are in good company. That being said, you can move through your money stuff. If you need support, reach out for it – and empower your own success!

Financial Sanity for the Season, Week #5 | Holiday Money Mindfulness Series


December 24, 2016

We are entering the thick of season – parties, seasonal food, songs about holiday magic in the air.  This can be a wonderful time of year!  But if you’re feeling your sanity slipping away, let’s give space to our intentions.  Let’s let go of tension and tiredness. Let’s breathe We are entering the thick of season – parties, seasonal food, songs about holiday magic in the air.  This can be a wonderful time of year!  But if you’re feeling your sanity slipping away, let’s give space to our intentions.  Let’s let go of tension and tiredness. Let’s breathe.   But if you’re feeling your sanity slipping away, let’s give space to our intentions.  Let’s let go of tension and tiredness. Let’s breathe.


Financial Sanity for the Season, Week #4 | Holiday Money Mindfulness Series

More Presents, or Be More Present?

December 19, 2016

It is the week before Christmas, and if you’re anything like me, the pressure to pull it all together is swelling and threatening your sanity!  
It is easy to define ourselves based upon the present driven mass messages.  But focusing on what is truly important to you is the key to being present this holiday season. 

Fortunately, you have your holiday vision.  At this time, it is vital to revisit your vision, to reassess your holiday spending plan, and to focus.  Where are you in relation to your original intentions?   How have things shifted, and where might it make sense to adjust?  How will you be present this next week and create your intentions in your reality?

Financial Sanity for the Season, Week #3 | Holiday Money Mindfulness Series

Let's Breathe

December 10, 2016

We are entering the thick of season – parties, seasonal food, songs about holiday magic in the air.  This can be a wonderful time of year!

 But if you’re feeling your sanity slipping away, let’s give space to our intentions.  Let’s let go of tension and tiredness.

Let’s breathe.

We are entering the thick of season – parties, seasonal food, songs about holiday magic in the air.  This can be a wonderful time of year!

 But if you’re feeling your sanity slipping away, let’s give space to our intentions.  Let’s let go of tension and tiredness.

Let’s breathe.


Financial Sanity for the Holiday, Week #2 | Money Mindfulness Series

Shuff off the 'Shoulds'

December 3, 2016

1. Last week we focused on Shuffing off the ‘shoulds’

            – People often feel a great deal of pressure during the holidays.  In my observation, the source of this pressure is usually our ‘shoulds’.

                           * “I ‘should’ serve 10 holiday side dishes, like my mother did.”

                           * “I ‘should’ buy my children elaborate gifts, like their friends’ parents do.”

                           * “I ‘should’ buy a brand new holiday outfit each year, because that’s the way it’s always been.”

These kinds of ‘shoulds’ exist in everybody’s mind; but ‘shoulds’ are disconnected from our genuine values and an authentic vision.  Discovering your ‘shoulds’ and getting out from under them is complicated.  Repeating the process through this meditation will take you a layer deeper, will empower your connection to your true self, and will relieve that holiday pressure.

   2. Reconnect with your values.

           – The busyness of everyday life and the internal and external stories we carry with us muddle our connection with our values.  It is essential to reconnect with what is important to you in order to keep you intentions and behaviors aligned with your values.  

   3. Further develop your holiday vision.
            – We created a vision last week, and this week we are taking it deeper.  The meditation will guide you to intimately connect with and live out a satisfying holiday vision.

   4. Revisit and realign your holiday money with your holiday vision.

            –  You’re now a week further into the holiday season, and your financial picture may have shifted.  Check in on your original holiday spending plan, where you are at this point, and assess if you need to adjust anything to keep you on the path to holiday satisfaction.

   5. Assess your time 
            – Getting into a time crunch puts undo stress on both our intentions and our finances.  Be careful to avoid this unnecessary pressure by intentionally managing your time along with your money.

   6. Relax and continue to enjoy!
            – If you consider the holidays to be a special time of year, settling into the pleasure of it is part of what gives you gratification.  Take solace in the fact that your creating and living your intentions.  Use the meditation to relax and create some space for connecting with the here and now.  Breathe, and enjoy!



Financial Sanity for the Holidays, Week #1 |Holiday Money Mindfulness Series

Holiday Financial Fundamentals

November 25, 2016


Six Steps to a Strong Foundation, and Your Weekly Money Mindfulness Meditation

1. Shuff off the ‘shoulds’.

        – We are told what the holidays ‘should’ be like by mass marketing, by traditions, even the people around us, and all these ‘shoulds’ become stories in our heads.  Releasing stories that take us away from the moment and from our true values is the first step in gaining mastery over your holiday money.

2. Connect with your values.

        – Understanding what is genuinely important to you is essential for good money management.  Your holiday money sits inside of your greater financial picture.  Getting clear about your values and how the holidays fit within them is your next step in gaining clarity on your holiday money.

3. Pick a number.

        – Whether you’ve been wisely saving throughout the year or you plan to find your holiday money in the moment, discover the amount of money that feels balanced within your big financial picture while honoring your situation and your values as your apt amount of holiday money.
                       * Note: Remember the incidentals (happy hours, wrapping paper, underestimating a price point), remember to add roughly 8% for sales tax (it adds up!), and plan for some whimsical miscellaneous spending – ’tis the season.

4. Connect with your holiday vision.

        – Understanding what is important to you this holiday season empowers you to use you money to live your values.  This combined with “Shuffing off the ‘shoulds'” also empowers you to explore how you may create your vision in ways that involve less, or even no money.

5. Align your holiday money with your holiday vision.

        – I find using a money meditation to be particularly powerful here.  It allows you to feel the balance of the many things pulling on your pocket book, and therein feel a balance of how to use your financial resources to effectively honor these.  With my clients, I guide us to identifying percentages and work backwards to specific numbers.

6. Enjoy!

        – With these steps, you’re connected with your values,your vision and your money.  You’re off to a great start!  Connect with the moment, and enjoy!



Holiday Money Mindfulness Series

November 22, 2016

Beginning this Friday, 11/25/2016

Holiday Money Mindfulness Series

Weekly Money Meditations:

Financial Sanity for the Holidays

It is that time of year when smiles across the rosy faces of children are particularly wide. When we’re filled with memories of holidays past and visions for the perfect holiday season.  When we simply crave connection with the people we love, but so often find ourselves busy and preoccupied.


This year, find solace in Holiday Money Mindfulness.

I’ll be sending out a meditation a week for five weeks, each paired with handy tips and inspiring wisdom.  This mindfulness series will support your financial sanity and your overall enjoyment this holiday season.