One of the most influential financial planning organizations I participate in doesn’t officially exist. The Nazrudin Project is an eclectic, holistic group of financial life planners, therapists, authors, educators, and coaches. It is leaderless, with no official entity, no officers, no staff, no sponsors, no professional affiliation, no dues, and no formal mission statement.

The think tank was founded in 1995 by Dick Wagner and George Kinder, who were interested in the deeper emotional aspects of financial planning and making sound money decisions. They convened a “one-off” gathering to explore the topic.

The informal organization ceases to be after each gathering, continuing only if someone decides to host a meeting at some time in the future. This year’s meeting—the 27th consecutive “one-off” gathering—was held virtually for the second year in a row.

The project was named Nazrudin after a mythical “wise fool” of Middle Eastern folklore. Stories about him include a treasure trove of jokes and anecdotes. The name suggests the group views itself lightly. But don’t confuse the lightheartedness with a lack of sincerity and passion for the holistic view of financial planning that binds them together.

The group welcomes new participants, with no requirements to join other than a passion for holistic financial planning. There is no directory of members, no website, and very few think to list their association with the project in their bios.

Nazrudin is best known for spawning thought leaders influential in furthering holistic financial planning. Many authors of articles, white papers, and books had their start here. Future leaders of organized financial planning organizations, educators, and founders of movements like Life Planning and Financial Therapy have also risen from the ranks of its members.

One of the project’s trademarks is its “open architecture” meeting planning which reduces planning for a two-day event to two hours, versus 12 months for most national conferences. The speakers and topics are unknown to anyone until the evening before the conference, when attendees gather and those who wish to host a breakout discussion on a particular topic are given one minute to pitch their session(s). The attendees vote on the topics that most interest them, and the most popular topics and their hosts are given time slots in tracks of two or three over the next two days. This format and the guiding principle that, “Whoever comes are the right people to be here,” assures all the sessions are of interest to the attendees.

The discussions rarely cover “exterior focused” financial topics like the tax code, estate planning, investments, or cash flow. Instead, the sessions cover a broad range of “interior focused” topics (what a person thinks, feels, and believes about money) that govern the way we make financial decisions. This year’s topics, for example, included virtual vs. lateral thinking, transition fatigue, mimetic desire, wisdom and money, financial infidelity, IFS Informed Financial Therapy, and conscious consumption. The group encourages participation from all attendees, including first-timers, with another guiding principle, “There are no passengers.”

I attend a lot of conferences every year. Without question, Nazrudin is the best. Interestingly, no CE credits are given for attending. It is truly the passion of gathering with like-minded individuals and a thirst for continuing self-improvement and holistic financial planning that brings the participants together, year after year.

So why, as a consumer, should you care? Because it may matter to you to know there are financial professionals passionate about the heart and soul of helping people make good financial and life decisions. Who, instead of placing their own wellbeing ahead of that of their clients, are advocates for their clients’ financial and emotional wellbeing. 

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