Awe & Disgust, Creativity & Planning: Event tackles if we can really LIVE and PAY for the life we want

Written by Talana Morris on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Debra Brennan Tagg and Courtney Ferrell by Money + Mindset welcome sign

Debra Brennan Tagg & Courtney Ferrell pose by Money + Mindset welcome sign.

We were honored to have the opportunity to participate in planning and promoting an event hosted by our client, Brennan Financial Services, at the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) office yesterday. The luncheon, Money + Mindset: Creating a happier future by aligning your values and finances, featured Debra Brennan Tagg and Courtney Ferrell.

Our MPD team assembled two tables of fabulous women friends, clients, and colleagues to join us for the two-hour event. It was a treat to sneak away for lunch, catch up with amazing women, and build a common bond as we plan our futures. For those who couldn’t join us, I’ve penned a quick recap—certainly not as powerful as being in this fun room but hopefully a glimpse for you all remotely.

First up…Courtney and Debra are POLAR OPPOSITES. Courtney, a creativity/innovation consultant, describes her life philosophy as “hail Mary creativity,” whereas Debra is all about structure and process, which should come as no surprise given she is a financial planner. Their differences in philosophy made them the perfect duo to discuss how we can balance these areas of money and mindset in our own lives, whether in our day-to-day activities or long-term financial goals. The counterpoints provided much humor as well, as the duo lives in concurrent “awe and disgust” of each other’s approach.

Everyone in the room could relate to one of them. Personally, I relate more to Debra. Although I don’t plan my meals and grocery shopping two weeks in advance like she does, I do like to plan and am not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. But, I admire and envy people like Courtney who can go with the flow and hit life’s curveballs out of the park.

The Creativity Mindset: Add LIFE to your Life

“I mess stuff up to feel fully alive, if only for a moment.” Courtney kicked things off by sharing tips to “add more life in your life” and peppered her wisdom with hilarious examples and anecdotes:

  1. Make the moments in life the moments they are supposed to be.
    If there are things in life you can’t avoid (but absolutely hate), look for creative ways to make those activities bearable or even fun.
  2. Don’t strive for perfection.
    Sometimes mistakes and misunderstandings can lead to great things.
  3. Awaken your awareness to what’s around you.
    Be moved to emotion. Love and fear evoke our emotions and awaken our souls.
  4. Aspire for more, not less.
    Creativity and growth happen in a mess.

She cited Lin-Manual Miranda, creator of Hamilton: “The hardest part of living a creative life is finding collaborators on the same page.”

To help us on this mission, Courtney had us jot down on a narrow strip of paper one thing we wish for more of in our lives (what we need) and on the other side, our essence—that if removed, you would no longer be you (what we bring) as well as our name and phone or email. We then had to work as an audience to make a paper chain with our slips of paper. The surprise: at the end one lucky lady, Carol Goglia, received the entire paper chain “necklace” with 100+ women sharing what they have to offer and what they need, all at her disposal to build and grow a community of collaborators.

Side note: Sounds easy, but when you’re trying to collaborate with 100 people, it takes a bit of creativity and a planner to connect your table’s chain with neighboring tables before you tape the last link in your chain.

The Planning Mindset: Pay for Your LIFE and Life

Courtney passed the baton to Debra to discuss how planning is needed to “add more life to our life” (yes, really). How do we ensure we have the money to be confident to be creative? It starts with goal setting—what do I want in my life, and how do I get it?

Debra stressed that the “I” here is the individual as well as, if applicable, the spouse, children, extended family, etc. It’s the individual and any larger familial unit. As women, we must be at the table today as money has no gender.

Even today many women aren’t involved in major financial decisions being made for their household, and we still have a huge gender wage gap reality. While statistics show that women make most of the financial decisions, if we dive into the detail, it’s more about the daily “gas pump and grocery store” decisions versus the dynamic, long-term decisions about money. Too often women appear at Debra’s office newly widowed or divorced and tasked with looking at money for the first time: What do I do with it? Do I have enough of it? Were the past decisions correct?

It’s time for women to lead and take charge of their finances so they can think about their money, their future, and what they want to achieve. This stands true for all women: single, divorced, married, or widowed. Money is Power. Power is Choice. Choice is Opportunity. We must be involved in the decisions along the way or live with the decisions someone else made for the rest of our lives.

Debra shared two concepts that they use with clients to help assess where are we and where to go from here. Shockingly (I know), our motivations, priorities, and behaviors may well not align. We say we want one thing and then in our behavior we do another. (Granted this applies well outside finances as well.) In finance speak, let’s say: Our motivation is to retire early at age 60. Our priority is to pay for our kid in college. Our behavior is to buy a lake house. Yep, that’s probably not going to work out well for us in this example.

To help their clients, Debra and her team use her DBT360 Financial Plan that walks folks through a purpose, potential, pitfalls, plan, proof cycle. They add your stats into a fancy-pants algorithm that shows in quick visuals how decisions impact your reality 10, 20, 30 years down the road. They arm you with a real game plan on how our choices today may impact our future or mean we forgo a later choice. And, it removes any emotion. I can determine if I can fund myself until age 70 or age 90, and what choices will impact that.

The Connection: Know (and Live) Your Values

And, herein lies our conundrum: Do we even stop long enough to think about what we want in the future (that creative side), and if so, do we have any idea how we will get there (that planning side)?

Well it just so happens that our facilities host, Communities Foundation of Texas, has these nifty Identifying Values cards to help us tie it all together. They use the exercise with donors to “prioritize these cards to identify the values that motivate you” and thus help you in determining your philanthropic goals or priorities. Each card has a simple one-word value printed on it. Of the probably 30+ cards, words appear such as: Relationships, Responsibility, Loyalty, Integrity, Faith, Effectiveness, Creativity, etc. Believe me, this is a tough exercise to narrow down to core values…I could resonate and support each one.

In our case, Debra used the value cards to help us determine if our values personally and our values for money were in alignment. We each selected six values that best represent us. Then, we were instructed to denote of those six which appeared in our personal lives and which in our financial lives. The exercise helped us assess if our perceived values and money behaviors align. Ideally, the overlap is strong—with an almost one-for-one check. If not, maybe it’s time for a bit more reflection time or planning efforts.

It’s clear that discussing our future and how to pay for it requires us to get out of our comfort zones. While we always adore helping clients promote and produce their events, we are especially grateful when those events add immense personal value to our team and friends. We’re all one community. Thanks to Debra and Courtney for allowing us to join in this effort.

If you want to be part of this conversation, I encourage you to visit Debra’s website ( to set up a meeting or to get on their invitation list for the next Money + Mindset event. Based on the feedback, she and Courtney will be planning a few repeat performances.

About Talana Morris

Talana brings over 20 years of experience in managing complex projects, teams and budgets. In addition to a project management role, Talana also leads digital and event marketing for clients. Her skills span from project management to technical to provide clients with a resource knowledgeable in the process of delivery and the functional requirements.