Advisor News premieres a new feature today bringing you financial planning as seen and lived by millennial advisors. Our NexGen feature is being brought to you in partnership with the Financial Planning Association. We plan to publish NexGen bimonthly on Wednesdays. Our kickoff column is written by Ian Harvey of Bridgewater Advisors in New York City.
By Ian Harvey
As the New Year gets under way and we look forward at the next 50 years of financial planning, I think it is important to simply say, “thank you.”
Thank you to those of you who have laid the foundation for a financial planning profession to be possible and to those who have worked in the trenches and have built and sustained firms. And thank you to anyone who has offered an opinion and participated in the heated debates in which we as financial planning professionals engage.
Because of you, we are 50 years into a profession that matters. Take that in for a moment – Financial Planning matters. Not just to those who have dedicated their lives to the profession; but to the public, to the government, to the world.
Our role in the pantheon of essential professions is becoming clearer as we continue to pair the art and science of financial planning with the people that financial planning impacts.
I am fiercely optimistic about our future, and you should be too. I recently re-read Dick Wagner’s “To Think…Like a CFP.” In 1990, Dick wrote:
”Compared to the established professions, we literally are creating ourselves as we go about “doing what we do”—day by day, client by client, stubbing our toes, finally experiencing the awaited and deserved successes. Our potential is out in front of us and the road is relatively clear.”
Shaping The Future
From the new professional to the experienced sage, everyone who is a part of this profession is designing, molding, and shaping our future. What more could an energetic new planner ask for than the opportunity to deliver real, tangible impact to an entire profession?
Take aim: Over the past 50 years, the founders of our profession―and the firms in which we now operate―have been honing their craft. They entered a world full of doubt and uncertainty, providing a beacon of light to which new planners all may strive.
It is because of these brave practitioners that the next generation is joining the profession with a fire for all that is possible in the profession. Exactly how success is defined may still feel opaque, but I would again refer to Dick’s writing - Dream without hindrance:
“We may not be able to replicate centuries of tradition in two decades, but we can dream without hindrance. Even better, we have the opportunity to actuate our dreams and take aim at our future and our legacy-to-be. The tablet upon which this profession will be written is relatively blank.”
To those who have been here for the last 50 years, the next generation needs your wisdom. We need to hear your passion and, as quickly as possible, we need to understand the history you have etched into the tablet.
Collectively, we will take aim at a future where financial services are accessible to all people no matter their background or socioeconomic status. A future where fiduciary means “Clients come first” and is not followed by long explanations, fine print, and a litany of disclosures.
Clients come first means … clients come first. If we are successful, financial planning will be the profession that serves all people.
Access: "Individuals in this country, and now the world at this historical juncture, cannot ignore the call to tend to their personal finances.” For the sake of the individuals relying on us to build an all-inclusive profession, we must be willing to evolve and change. Dick wrote “individuals” but did not delineate which individuals.
Through the work done by passionate leaders who are compelled to continue the battle for access to our profession, we are learning that traditional financial planning models may not be applicable to all individuals. That is to say, we are far from done building the framework that allows our profession to embody the vision.
We must elevate professionals of all demographics, hold the space for inspired debate, and encourage innovation with reckless abandon. This means peeling back the curtain of established norms and allowing new perspectives, experiences, and understandings to enter and take their seat at the proverbial table.
We must do so with intention and when debate begins to give way to our normal, comfortable and, sometimes exclusive responses, we must stand tall and brace for impact. Good enough is not good enough, and progress is better than perfection.
All of this brings me back to a space where advisors, planners, coaches, counselors, and advocates can work together, debate and create avenues for the profession to innovate and elevate.
This is why professional organizations like the Financial Planning Association (FPA) matter. This is why I have chosen to spend as much time as possible with FPA NexGen and other initiatives in the profession.
I believe in Dick’s vision. My peers and mentors within FPA embody the vision. Our job is to simply show up and when we are there, offer our perspective, life experience and opinion. Fill volunteer openings. Fight for those who need fighting for, and work with your peers to create the profession that serves all people, in all places.
This is not the time to sit back and rest on the laurels of the first 50 years of financial planning. It is time to elevate new perspectives, pair these new perspectives with your experience, and solve the challenges facing our profession and the consumers of financial services.
Together, we can lead and participate in massive impact. As Dick wrote: “This all suggests that the ‘might’ paradigm is due for replacement by the ‘money’ paradigm. And guess what? Money is what we do.”
About the author:
Originally from the Jersey Shore, Ian lives in Manhattan. A graduate of the Financial Planning program at Virginia Tech, he earned his CFP® in 2014 and has always operated as a fiduciary advisor for clients. He co-founded the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA) Student Chapter at Virginia Tech, which grew to be the largest student organization in the country in its first year.
FPA NexGen, a community of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), aims to provide support and collaboration for those professionals new to the financial planning profession. With more than 2,500 like-minded young professionals, members of FPA NexGen are ready to share their experiences and further the future of the financial planning profession. Learn more about our engaged community and join the conversation on Twitter.