The majority of the consulting I do involves working with pioneer planners who are twice my age. My job is to help them understand the different needs of their next generation staff. As a result, I often get told, and enjoy listening to, their tall tales of days gone by. The stories generally go something like this: Long before many next generation financial planners were born, a small group of pioneer planners came together to share ideas. These “gatherings” were a little different from the conferences you attend today. They weren’t held at the Four Seasons overlooking the Pacific Coast. Nor were the sessions funded by sponsors who wanted your business and were willing to pay big bucks for expert speakers to educate you on the latest industry research.
No, these gatherings were held in dorm rooms where the costs may have been minimal and the facilities primitive, but the ideas were powerful.
While the face of the profession has changed quite significantly, two things remain untouched. First is the enthusiasm the next generation has for building a profession, just as the pioneers did “back when they were our age.” Second is the desire to have a community of their own to brainstorm ideas to improve the quality of life for those who work in the profession and those who seek financial advice. As a result, just as the pioneer generation did before them, the next generation has managed to organize a conference of their own with the FPA’s support: the NexGen 2006 gathering to be held August 18 to 20 in Estes Park, Colorado.
For years, several small groups of next gen financial planners had been conversing in private online discussion boards, blogs, and at industry conferences about the problems they face in their employment experiences and their careers. The unfortunate misunderstanding is that these communities are avenues for next generation planners to “complain” about the profession, what they do and don’t have, and what they think they deserve from their employers.
However, the majority of the discussions taking place are deeply thought-out debates relating to issues such as technical planning concepts, developing client relationships, furthering financial planning education, and even how a young planner can be more productive and contribute to the bottom line of the business that employs them. With the exception of career tracks, the ideas discussed are very similar to the debates that used to happen regularly among the older generation.
The Birth of NexGen
It wasn’t until 2004 that an official group called NexGen was formed to bring young planners together in one organization. Ironically, NexGen was launched for new and young planners who were seeking mentorship from older planners; in particular, “The Rat Pack”–a community of older planners led by pioneer Ben Coombs. NexGen was simply established to match interested people with the old “rats” who’d been there before and could help them work through the challenges they faced.
I suspect that the co-founders of NexGen, Aaron Coates and Michael Kitces, didn’t realize what an impact their creation would have on the profession–nor did the FPA. In the new organization, dozens of small study groups of young planners with discussion boards and blogs came together in one big group, eager to have a “place to belong.” What was their number one request? Interestingly enough, a “gathering” just like their predecessors where the costs were minimal, but the ideas powerful.
Not just anyone can be a member of NexGen, though. For many reasons, there are limitations to who can join the group. The biggest restriction is age. Unless you can check the 36 years old or younger box, you’re not invited to join or attend the conference without a special invitation. How 36 became the magic cut-off number, I don’t know. But the age limit has caused some headaches in the past, with outcasts claiming that “this is just another way for young people in the profession to further isolate themselves and create more generational gaps.”
I don’t see the age restriction as something to worry about–if you take a look around, organizations all over the country have done the same thing. Conducting a quick Google search, you can find hundreds of organizations, nationally and locally, who’ve created “40 and under” spin off groups (see sidebar, right, listing such groups).