September 7, 2012

A Double Standard: Should Practice Management Really Be Eligible for CE? Pt. 2

Why it sets a double standard, and why practice management is its own reward

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In the first part of our post, I discussed the purpose of continuing education, why practice management CE is not necessary and, therefore, why it shouldn't be allowed. In the the second part of our post, I’ll discuss how practice management CE creates a double standard and why practice management is its own reward.

Practice management CE creates a double standard

Because of the emerging dichotomy between financial planners who own practices, and financial planners who work in practices, allowing practice management CE essentially creates a double standard—under the proposed requirements, CFPs working in practices would need to get 40 hours of technical content CE credit, while CFPs who own practices would only be required to get 36 hours of technical content (supplemented by four hours of practice management content).

Yet there is little logical or professional reasoning to support such a differentiation. Why should business owners have a lighter burden for technical content? Yes, it is a greater burden for business owners to keep up on technical content and enroll in practice management courses... but such is the burden of business ownership. With the higher risks and the greater responsibilities come the larger rewards—that's the trade-off.

Practice management should be its own reward

I won't dispute the reality that running a practice takes additional time and effort, that many financial planning practices are not run very well in today's world, and that a lot of business owners could use more practice management continuing education. But is it really so onerous to suggest that a business owner who reaps all the rewards of a successful practice should find a way to take one hour of practice management content every six months (which would be four credits every two years) without double-dipping that hour for CE credit? The reality is that for those who continue to choose to run their own practices, getting practice management content should be its own reward.

At the same time, I do think there is a secondary challenge worth acknowledging—at most conferences, practice management sessions tend to get a lower turnout, with the implication that the poor attendance is attributable to the lack of CE credit.  Having attended many practice management sessions myself, though, I have to admit that the programs are often either too broad, too bland, or not focused enough to be relevant to my own practice.

Given how incredibly diverse financial planning practices are, perhaps that means the simple reality is not that practice management content needs CE to succeed, but that we need to develop better programs and ways to deliver CE that makes it more relevant to audience members that have a diverse range of practices, or alternatively to hone practice management content to be easier for business owners to find the content that is relevant for their practice?

In other words, maybe the real reason that financial planners are struggling in their practices is not that they need practice management content that isn't eligible for CE, but simply that they need better practice management content, tools, and resources in the first place, and that the number of truly quality practice management content providers is simply too few?

After all, if the real problem is poor content, the last thing we need to do is subsidize and incentivize the poor content by offering CE for it (and raising the cost of conferences as events feel compelled to register every practice management session for CE and pay the associated CFP Board fees) instead of demanding that the content simply be better in the first place! Why is it so impossible to imagine content that's good enough to justify its own ROI, such that investing in it would be its own reward for the business owner regardless of CE?

So what do you think? Should practice management be eligible for CFP CE? Does it create a double standard between business owners and non-business owners? Should practice management be its own reward? Is the real problem that practice management content isn't eligible for CE, or just that most content isn't good enough and relevant enough in your practice? Share your own thoughts here—and be certain to send them in to the CFP Board as well, which is accepting comments at CEComments@CFPBoard.org regarding all the proposed changes through the end of the month.

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