Will The Real Financial Planner Please Stand?
The TV series “Whats My Line” featured a real professional or practitioner and two imposters, and the audience was challenged to select the real one after a series of questions was posed to all three. Sometimes the audience got it right, but often the imposters were so good the audience failed to spot the real McCoy. There appears to be a growing feeling today that the public, like the audience of “Whats My Line,” now is being challenged to distinguish between real financial planners and imposters.
Given the wide range of disciplines that are merging into this amorphous business we call “financial services,” the concern is understandable. Many, if not most, insurance people feature some reference to financial services on their business cards. My CPA is a financial planner and regularly sends me offers of assistance in this area. My stockbroker does financial planning. Many lawyers offer financial planning and most who do sound more like stockbrokers. At last count there are at least 70 designations in use and the number is growing.
Most of these people are no doubt talented and able–but I do not believe any bring to the table the full range of knowledge the term financial planner implies, with the inevitable result being a bias toward their primary discipline. I do not say this in a disparaging sense, however, for in a way this is what competition is all about, and the public may be well served by the system.
Actually, the only real problem I have is with the “fee only planners” who do not disclose that they have ties to the companies that sell the products they recommend, and in my view they are the real imposters.
But back to the problem of who is the “real” financial planner and how he or she can be recognized. In November 1984 I wrote an article that was published called “Whats in a Name,” and it dealt with the problem the term financial planning was causing at the time. The central thrust of the article was to point out that financial planning was an evolutionary process.
Insofar as the insurance business is concerned it probably started in the 1930s with simple “programming” of a persons insurance and other assets. In the post-war era this expanded into pension and estate planning, executive compensation and, more recently, capital needs analysis and financial needs analysis. But the nomenclature of the practitioners also evolved and their business cards revealed a whole variety of purported specialties. And then the term financial planning arrived on the scene and thus, struck a harmonious chord with most if not all disciplines.