Practice Management > Compensation and Fees

Attack of the Spin Doctors

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You may have noticed that on Nov. 12, the CFP Board voted to launch a $9 million a year public awareness campaign that it’s been talking about for the past few months, to “raise the awareness of the CFP certification.” To pay for it, starting in July, the fees for CFPs will increase from $180 a year to $325, an increase of 81%. I’ve voiced most of my concerns along with those of the majority of CFPs I’ve talked to about this boondoggle in previous writings, but the Board claims CFPs are overwhelmingly behind the move, writing in a recent release: “Findings from [a CFP Board] study showed that a public awareness campaign is supported by 83% of CFP certificants, even knowing it wouldbe funded, in part, through an increase in fees.”

Funny, that there would be such a disparity between my anecdotal polling and the Board’s study. My skeptical guess is that like most polls, the answers are largely dependent upon the questions asked: for instance, I’ll bet more CFPs are in favor of “an increase in fees” than would be for an “81% increase” in fees. As one advisor I talked to put it: “Why did the Board have to do a study? Why didn’t they just send us all an email spelling out the details of the proposed campaign, and let us vote on the real thing? Then they’d know exactly how we felt about it.” Why indeed.

The other thing that bothered me about the Board’s campaign release is this statement: “CFP Board is contributing $9.3 million over two years to jump-start the campaign.” So, it looks like the Board’s really stepping up, too, with some serious skin in the game. But let’s do the math: The fee increase is $145 a year, for 62,000 CFPs, that’s $8,990,000. Which is just pretty darn close to the $9 million a year the Board says the campaign is going to cost.

Probably just a coincidence, but it does beg the question that if the dues increase covers the cost of the campaign, what’s the Board’s “contribution” for? My skeptical guess is that their “contribution” is more of an “advance” so they can start the campaign now, and recoup their “contribution” out of fees as they start coming in. Plus, of course, there will be additional fees from new CFPs attracted by the Awareness Campaign, as well (pretty neat trick, getting CFPs to pay for increasing their competition, eh?). And, no one’s said anything about dropping the fees back down at the end of the four-year awareness campaign—so, I suspect there will be plenty of cash flow to cover the Board’s “contribution.” Many of us had hoped that under the Kevin Keller regime, the Board would be more up front with CFPs, but this sure feels like business as usual to me.