Whether we like it or not, we tend to judge one another by what we do and those with whom we associate. "Tell me thy company, and I'll tell thee what thou art," wrote 17th century author Miguel de Cervantes. Membership in any of the various financial trade associations featured in our annual directory beginning on page 88 puts planners in good company indeed. It speaks of the members' degree of professionalism and commitment to remaining on the leading edge through ongoing education and peer interaction. Participation in these groups can also be fun. And if you're a sole practitioner, it might prevent you from talking too much to yourself.
Association membership rosters don't expand each year without reason: membership is valuable to the degree that the association is valuable. For example, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors' consumer referral network receives more than 30,000 requests each year, according to association CEO Ellen Turf. That's a lot for the relatively small fee-only NAPFA, which over the past five years has grown cautiously from 630 members to 816. The Investment Management Consultants Association, whose members serve the investment consulting needs of high-net-worth individuals and institutions, and handle trusts, endowments, and employee benefit plans, has 4,000 members, up from 2,920 just a year ago and 1,500 five years ago.
We realize there are organizations of special interest to financial planners of which we are simply unaware. When we discover such an organization, or one is brought to our attention, we include it in our directory. This year we have added two with a philanthropic bent--the National Association of Family Wealth Counselors (NAFWC), based in Morgantown, Indiana; and the National Association of Philanthropic Planners (NAPP), out of Noblesville, Indiana. Also joining our list are Society for Certified Senior Advisors, Divorce Financial Network, and Women in Insurance & Financial Services.
NAFWC is the offshoot of a planner training program that evolved into a full-scale member-run network in 1999. There are currently 87 members. "We want to grow," explains Executive Director Debbie Tinkler, "but we're more interested in the integrity of the process and meeting member needs than we are in numbers." The membership requirements are being formulated now (up until last year completion of a training program was mandatory). Members come from diverse backgrounds and include planners, with or without CFP designations, money managers, attorneys, and others. Tinkler notes that while most members "are going fee-based," some are compensated through commissions or a combination of fees and commissions.
NAFWC's primary raisons d'?tre are member education and "keeping members on the cutting edge," says Tinkler. This is achieved through monthly education teleconferences and annual national conferences. NAFWC's goal is simple: to change the world. "One of our mission statements is we can change the world one family at a time," Tinkler maintains. NAFWC does this by encouraging its members to impress upon their wealthy clients the virtues of giving their money away. "We try to teach them that everybody's got to help--be socially responsible--and that they can either choose where their money goes or let the government choose for them."
The National Association of Philanthropic Planners (NAPP) is the new name of the National Association of Renaissance Advisors, which was formed in the late 1980s. There are 150 NAPP members nationwide, though Executive Director Amanda Simmons hopes to double that figure by next year. About 80% of NAPP's members are financial planners; the remainder are lawyers, accountants, and other financial professionals. As the name implies, there's a focus on giving and advancing donor advocacy. At NAPP's annual conferences, members "walk their talk" by donating their own time and energies to a charitable outreach in the community in which the conference is held.
Women in Insurance & Financial Services is a Dallas-based group whose membership has remained at 500 over the past five years. Members can join local chapters and participate in study groups in various U.S. locations; available also are "at-large" memberships in countries such as Japan, Canada, and the Philippines. Membership consists primarily of women "and a few brave men," notes WIFS president Diane White. Attracting a more diverse membership--including financial planners, therapists, real estate brokers, mediators, and attorneys--is the newly-formed Divorce Financial Network in Jericho, New York. Membership benefits include networking with other divorce professionals at DFPN's meetings, and the opportunity to participate in networking "team seminars."
While the associations offer much, they certainly don't charge much. Fees run the gamut from $100 for an individual WIF membership to $275 per year for general membership at the FPA to $5,000 per year for membership as an industry partner in the National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association. Most memberships are under $300. How can you lose?
Senior Editor Cort Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.