Financial planners have often dreamed of a future in which they could truly influence American government policy. But what if the pendulum were to swing too far in the other direction? In this column, satirist Hesh Reinfeld imagines what a cranky op-ed writer might pen in the February 2037 issue of Wealth Manager. The views expressed are Reinfeld's alone--not those of this magazine or, for that matter, of any reasonable people.
The recent decision by the President to require all Americans over 18 to have a comprehensive financial plan exemplifies the current undue influence of the financial planning profession.
I was in favor of the legislation that offered a tax credit to all Americans who completed a financial plan. I even accepted, reluctantly, the decision to require all retirees to obtain continuing education credits. However, this time the President has gone too far.
The White House is occupied by a man who is a trained financial planner, a first for our great nation. And I thought he would have the knowledge and skills to lead us. Like most Americans, I was thankful that in the 2012 presidential election, financial planners pressured all candidates to release their financial plans. It was a breath of fresh air after years of being able to view only their doctored 1040s. I realized that if a presidential candidate could not plan for his future retirement, how could the nation expect him to plan for our country's future?
Also, it was slightly embarrassing (and funny) when then-President Hillary Clinton broke the news that her husband was on a strict budget, and his assets were controlled by their daughter Chelsea.
But today our current President has crossed the line. By making the head of the department of financial planning a cabinet position and requiring all Americans over 18 to have a financial plan, he is abrogating our rights as free men under our constitution. Remember only a generation ago when a different group of professionals--physicians--tried to create a universal health plan. In the end, all we had was a government bureaucracy and a group of wealthy physicians. As for our hardworking citizens, they are no healthier.
Does our President really believe that requiring every high school graduate to pass a basic financial literacy exam will result in a more economically healthy nation? Does he think having every kid complete a financial plan will stop the epidemic of Americans unable to retire because they are penniless?
We have already seen the boondoggle created by the financial planning/industrial complex. As John Q. Citizen works overtime to afford his exorbitant "universal" healthcare premium, the government will now add a new burden: Everyone will be required to attain 20 additional hours of financial planning continuing education credits each year. And no, you can't watch Suze Ormond for credit.
Who would have thought that the decision all those years ago to privatize Social Security would become the thin end of the wedge?
Remember when every retired congressman opened a lobbying firm? Now, each one plans to open a continuing-education storefront in his or her hometown. Historians are comparing this debacle to President Johnson's effort to create the Great Society and eradicate poverty. Sorry, it cannot be done. And it especially cannot be done by government.
I ask Americans to stop blindly following their financial planners. Email your objections to the President.
I can remember back only a decade or so ago when we welcomed financial planners as advocates for rational planning for our country's retirees. However, they have gone from being a group with a mission to improve society to being a power-grabbing special interest group.
Let's be sure planners retain some humility. If they assume that their power will never wane, they need only look back in history. At one time the labor union movement controlled the Democratic party and chose presidential candidates behind closed doors. Today union workers make up only 4 percent of the work force--and that number is shrinking every year.
Yes, the same can happen to our power-grabbing financial planners. They may look back on today's vote as their Rubicon.
What can you do as a voter? Call your planners and tell them that unless they back down on support of the current legislation, you will take your financial planning business elsewhere (assuming we can find an "elsewhere").
Let's not forget that just a few decades ago, most Americans did not even have a financial plan. And those that did, often received their advice from a salesperson whose service was essentially free, because he worked on commission. America can return to those pristine days. So act now! Don't let your planner rule your life or this country.
Hesh Reinfeld (www.heshreinfeld.com) is a Pittsburgh-based writer who finds humor in business.