Around the family dinner table the other night, we were discussing the merits of the United States Constitution (don’t you have those conversations nightly over your meals?). Annie, age 16, who was studying the Constitution in her sophomore U.S. history class, thought it was a model of efficiency and flexibility, keeping true to the original intentions but lending itself to adaptation as current needs dictate. Fresh from study and classroom discussions over the formation of the original document, the Bill of Rights, and its subsequent amendments, she is a true believer in the document that forms the backbone of our society. Kevin, a 14-year-old eighth grader and ever the skeptic, disputed the notion that amending the Constitution was helpful and even necessary as the discussion turned to the 22nd amendment–you know, the one that limits a President to two terms. Taking a libertarian tack, Kevin thought we could rely on our leaders to follow tradition, as every President had until FDR, or on the people themselves to force the presidents to keep the tradition. Annie argued that society needed laws to restrict the ability of even well-intentioned men and women to amass power–throwing them out every couple of terms kept that from happening. As my wife and I mostly listened to the sibling discussion, I marveled at the passion of youth.
How many of us in our 40s or 50s or 60s or 70s could bother ourselves to argue so passionately about a 200-year-old document that is, after all, a given in our society, something we take for granted? We had those discussions and came to our unwavering conclusions decades ago. Yet young people express that passion all the time. Unable and unwilling to be so sure of themselves, they are the ones who are continually encountering ideas and experiences that are brand-new to them, even if they’ve been around since the country was founded or since the first humans emerged from the ocean. This month, we turned over our cover story space to a 25-year-old woman who is passionate about your profession, which is also hers. Angela Herbers argues that newcomers to the planning biz are frustrated by its structure. Well educated in the basics and arcana of investing practices and principles, these mostly young planners are also well trained in everything from investor psychology to Web-based planning applications. However, she says, they are prevented from performing meaningful planning work with clients by the very advisors who founded the profession and now own their practices. Tough, you who are not so young or new to the business might say in response. You’ve had to struggle for years to get to the point where you can not only hire newly minted BAs in financial planning, but also attract enough clients who understand and appreciate what your years of experience offer in terms of advice. Who does Ms. Herbers and her peers think they are to criticize their elders? Let them pay their dues, as you have, and then they can talk.
However, the issue runs deeper than the traditional generation gap issues, Herbers argues. The flawed structure is costing you money and efficiency now–the lack of a defined career track as exists in medicine and law leads to high employee turnover and low productivity. It will cost you then, too: A career structure incorporating junior partners would make advisors’ exit strategies simpler and easier. Finally, the flood of these new planners could slow to a trickle if the issues aren’t addressed.
The key, I think, is to admit that the issues deserve your consideration, and then commit to provide a forum around the profession’s dinner table for the experienced pros (many of whom haven’t lost their own passion for the profession) to listen to the newly discovered passion of the young. Together, you can work out the solutions to meet both generations’ needs, and, not coincidentally, your clients’. Next month, Ms. Herbers will suggest ways to do just that. Good luck. The profession you save may be your own.