"A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless and visionless ... someone's got to make a wake-up call."
How about those alarm clocks? Are we ready to step into the bracing dawns of the days our profession comes of age? Can we take on Financial Planning 3.0?
It has been a while since I first proclaimed out loud that financial planning would be the most important authentic profession of the 21st century. It started with my stump speeches as president of the late, great Institute of Certified Financial Planners. When touring local chapters, I made that claim in a spirit combining aspiration, hope, challenge and, obviously, hyperbole. Frankly, it was meant to get people wondering and jump-starting their imaginations. Does Wagner have a point? Or is he just messing with us? Indeed, how would we know?
Confessedly, I was messing with them just a bit. Yet I mostly believed those sentiments, though I was shy of details. Still, it seemed intuitively true given money's social velocity at the time. As it turned out, I was right. This period of the early '90s enthusiastically witnessed dramatic, meaningful changes. With it came the inception of Financial Planning 2.0. With more than 20 years centered in Financial Planning 2.0, we have cause for both pride and worry.
Although much remains undone, there has been amazing progress as our profession ranges from explorations of our personal and cultural interiors, the generation of potent Codes of Ethics and our universal commitments to significant fiduciary standards and productive expansions of our gardens of knowledge.
At the same time, the world calls insistently for talented fiduciaries to bring this young, authentic profession into being. This is not hyperbole. As the importance of money becomes increasingly apparent, individual human beings clearly need their own fiduciary to help them meet its demands. They need Financial Planning 3.0.
Now, as that becomes reality, I am convinced we are engaging in work of the utmost importance to individuals, communities and the world. It is work worthy of the certainty that we are, indeed, practicing in the most important profession of the 21st century. That said, I also know we must claim it and proclaim it. There is simply too much at stake for too many motivated defenders of the status quo for us to believe such stature will be handed over freely.
That means we must know who we are together as well as fully grasping the inherent nature of our work. It means appreciating the implications of our work and claiming it as our own. It means thinking both historically and futuristically. How did we get here? Where are we going?
Why financial planning? Because financial planners are the only fiduciaries with comprehensive skills working with individuals and families one at a time with respect to the most powerful and pervasive secular forces on the planet. Take note, we are the only fiduciaries with comprehensive skills and sufficient personal and functional understandings of people's personal relationships with money to look at issues both skillfully and holistically.
Moreover, we are the only fiduciaries with comprehensive skills who can do this without overtly destructive political biases-no small thing in the era of the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street and nasty political combat grounded in class warfare and the continuous replay of the capitalist/communist dialectic (as if this is either thoughtful or relevant).
Let's understand how we got here. Visionaries birthed Financial Planning 1.0 over 42 years ago. Loren Dunton et al saw a need to bring multiple skill sets to money-based client engagements. At a time when some states banned the same individual from selling both securities and insurance, these prophets saw that the same fact-finders and personal relationships could simultaneously serve various product purveyors from insurance to securities to taxes to estate planning and retirement planning. Seeing the need, they filled it by creating the College for Financial Planning and its curriculum. With this, they generated the "CFP" designation while planting seeds for the future growth of an authentic profession.
For raw material, they had inherited a 25-year postwar period where money itself was turned inside out. From Bretton Woods and a world where most folks were, at most, one generation removed from the land and its bounties, the world of 1969 was one of increased urbanization, shifting demographics and the mutual interdependencies and political tensions of a money-based culture. In fact, our national relationship with money was changing. We needed folks to help make sense of it. This was Financial Planning 1.0.
Financial Planning 1.0 was just in time for the '70s, when the world went off the gold standard and adopted fiat money as its norm. Inflation raged, housing prices and interest rates soared, a scourging bear market shook the faithful and baby boomers took center stage in a storm. It was increasingly clear that personal financial security was vital to lives well lived. This meant insurance, investments, a good job with benefits, a good home and other attributes of financial safety and security. Industry responded. Financial Planning 1.0 was all about the financial product it generated-and, of course, sales. Some of this product was good to great. Other products-not so much. (See tax shelters, penny stocks, limited partnerships, savings and loan companies and unsustainable life insurance projections.)
Nonetheless, "financial planning" was hailed by industry as "the greatest product delivery system ever." Rewards were for "producers." ("Producers" were the ones with great sales numbers. Plus, they got the compliments on Monday mornings and the trips to Hawaii.)
Later in Financial Planning 1.0, personal computers came to our individual desks. They turned out information instantly and thoroughly. We could crank out customized proposals and detailed analyses with impunity, "selling it by the pound." We were in the middle of one of the greatest bull markets of all time, and we could do no wrong.