I am deeply honored that on the occasion of Investment Advisor magazine’s 25th anniversary, the editors would ask me to share a personal reflection about the future of financial planning. I have never felt that I had much chance of making good predictions about what the future holds. About the only thing of which I am certain about the future is that the future is coming whether we are ready for it or not. Despite the lack of confidence in my prognostication skills, I have always felt a responsibility to try to shape the future.
We rest in the shade of trees we did not plant and drink from wells we did not dig. I hope anyone who has enjoyed some part of the success of the financial planning profession over the last few decades realizes how profound this adage is. We must plant new trees and dig new wells if those that follow us in this profession are to be able to sustain themselves. More importantly, if we fail to adequately plant and dig, the public who so badly needs our profession to flourish, will be left with a greatly reduced ability to thrive and prosper themselves.
Today’s financial world is much more complicated than that of the Greatest Generation and it is fitting that with this complexity our profession has emerged and continues to evolve as the complexity expands ever further. I have believed for sometime that financial planning is at a crossroads. While there is a long way to go, more than ever, the public recognizes that financial planning services should benefit them.
Despite the need and the demand, the public is too often confused as many people are selling financial planning but not delivering the genuine article. If you slap a label on a tomato that says “not a tomato,” the tomato does not cease to be a tomato. The “name game” seems to be how some firms are trying to use the exemption the Financial Planning Association (FPA) is fighting in its suit against the Securities Exchange Commission. I’m not here to rehash the merits of the suit. For that, visit www.fpanet.org for information including transcripts of the speeches of the FPA officers at the national conference.
What I hope to convey here is the critical importance of a choice that must be made right now by anyone–every registered rep, agent, investment advisor, manager, and executive–purporting to offer financial planning to the public, regardless of what labels you are using. Are you, or are you not, committed to financial planning as the best process to facilitate the success of your clients? (Note I said process, not product.) If you choose a commitment to planning, I invite you to join our grand profession. All you need to do to be welcome is to actually deliver the goods and make sure you and your firm conduct yourselves in accordance with the ethical and practice standards the profession has adopted.
The best way to predict the future is to create it. We can create a world where people thrive and prosper. Those of us who have made a commitment to financial planning can attest, it is one of the most rewarding choices we’ve ever made. I truly hope you will join us.