In his day, Lynn Hopewell was among the most prominent financial planners in the country, having served on the CFP Board and as editor of the Journal of Financial Planning. He was a recipient of the FPA Lifetime Achievement Award and was named by Money magazine and Worth (by me) as a top advisor. He had also been somewhat of a mentor to me when I started covering the financial planning world back in the early 1980s, sharing his many insights and experiences, and serving as a sounding board as I was figuring out the financial services industry.
Lynn Hopewell is no longer with us. I suppose I should admit that I have no first-hand knowledge of his demise, but back in 2006, I did read a number of reliable announcements of it. Yet there was Lynn, on my computer screen as if I was Skyping with him, which I wasn’t (and as if my computer were set up to Skype, which it isn’t).
But, it had been a long day. It was already dark out, and I still had a blog to crank out. I must confess that while I was moved to see Lynn’s balding pate and scraggly white beard once again, I also felt some irritation with my computer for choosing that moment to malfunction with an image from who knows when and disrupt my increasingly fragile train of thought.
However, when he spoke to me, I realized that I had finally gone ‘round the bend that I had been flirting with for some years, and said so; more to myself than to the image on the screen. In his typically bottom-line manner, Lynn pointed out that my mental state was of little consequence at that moment, and as I was, in any event, having this vision, I might as well listen to what he had to say. He always was hard to argue with.
Having taken his point, I stammered out a litany of questions such as how he was, where he was, how this was possible, etc., which he quickly brushed aside.
“I want to talk to you about the profession of financial planning,” he said in a grim voice. “As you know, it’s been on shaky ground since its creation back in the early 1970s, but I’ve always felt it was moving in the right direction—until recently. I’m hoping that you and some others can nudge planning back on track before it’s too late. But my time grows short: They don’t give us a lot of leeway for this kind of thing up here, you know? You’ll be visited by the ghosts of three clients who will show you what you need to know about where financial planning came from, the challenges it’s facing at present and what its future holds if it continues on its present course. What financial planners do about it will be up to them.”
With that, my computer screen returned to the blog that I’d been trying to write, which suddenly seemed a lot less important—and a lot less likely to get finished that night. Flooded by the nostalgia of the many conversations I’d had with Lynn over the years, juxtaposed with the conviction that I needed to start getting more sleep, I decided to call it a night and headed off to bed.
Surprisingly, sleep came easily that night. How long I slept I can’t say, but slowly I was coaxed awake by the vibrating of the iPhone on the nightstand. As I fumbled for the infernal device, I struggled to comprehend the image before me of a mustachioed, youngish man in what appeared to be a neon blue leisure suit and a bad haircut.
“Hey, baby. What’s happenin’?” he asked. Not waiting for a response, which my still-sleeping brain was having a hard time coming up with, he introduced himself. “I’m Dr. Dorian. Together with a couple of other plastic surgeons, I just launched the most happenin’ private practice in Beverly Hills,” he explained. “Me and my pards are rolling in dough, and I just dropped in to remind you what financial planning was like when you started a financial planning magazine in 1984.”
Still trying to get my brain around the vision on the phone, Dr. Dorian didn’t give me a break: “To handle our windfall, we have the coolest financial planner on the West Coast. He lives in The Jackson Five’s old mansion. Our biggest problem is that we make too much money, and with the top tax bracket at 70%, we don’t want to pay most of it back to Uncle Sam, you dig? So our planner created a ‘diversified’ portfolio for us, equally divided between oil and gas tax shelters, real estate tax shelters and gold coins. What’s our planner’s commission on all that? Heck, I don’t know—somewhere around 10% maybe—but he’s saving us so much money, he’s worth it.”