April 27, 2010

Dead Horse Blues: The Financial Planning Coalition and Its Priorities

Modern technology is pretty amazing stuff, but what really blows me away is how it's changing our lives. Case in point, I just read two of Jamie Green's postings from the FPA Retreat in San Antonio, which was held this weekend. Now it's Monday, and thanks to Jamie's diligent reporting, I can post this blog about what was said without having to have been there.

I know, for years television has connected the world in real time, but the Retreat ain't exactly the floor of the U.S. Senate, if you know what I mean. You have to admit, being able to follow something as relatively insignificant as FPA board members' remarks in even close to real time is pretty darn cool.

You might rightly point out there isn't much happening at FPA Retreats that even most financial planners would be interested in at any time, let alone real time. But this time, you'd be wrong. Last Friday, leaders of the Coalition for Financial Planning presented the current status of the Financial Planners Act of 2010. Even though the "Act" never made it into Senator Dodd's financial reregulation bill, it seems the Coalition continues to hold out hope for it, explaining that Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) will once again "offer his amendment when it's appropriate" during the Senate's debate of Dodd's bill (which after today's cloture vote, won't be happening for a couple of days, at least).

This announcement was, of course, made with much fanfare and flag waving about "establishing financial planning as a profession." Without mentioning that the CFP Board already has had 20 years to do this, or that no one in Washington currently is having a conversation about financial planning, except apparently Senator Kohl by himself, the important takeaway here is that the Coalition/CFP Board is, like a dog worrying a bone, continuing to divert its attention away from the real issue at hand.

While the industry's leaders are trying vainly to get Washington to focus on the process of financial planning, the opportunity to get a genuine fiduciary standard for all advisors who offer investment advice is quickly slipping away. The fiduciary duty has been dropped from Dodd's bill, and this week's debate of that bill in the Senate's will be anyone's last chance to put it back in.

What we need right now is a unified hue and cry to reinstate the fiduciary duty in the Senate bill, which would greatly increase its chances of surviving reconciliation with the House bill, instead of continuing to flog a dead horse that even its owners didn't want to ride when it was alive.

Maybe the Coalition would get the message if we started twittering our blogs.

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