The road includes finding ways to serve people in the profession.
As I relaxed in my office late one Sunday evening
during the early summer of 2001, I came across an e-mail from the
Financial Planning Association urging me to nominate a colleague for a
spot on the National Board. I remember thinking to myself as I brought
an adult beverage to my lips, "Who do I know who is National Board
material?" The thought then struck me like a foul ball off a catchers
mask-why me, that's who! I then set out to pen a glowing
recommendation of myself for anyone foolish enough to read it.
I had followed the creation and formation of the organization that had yet to celebrate its one-year anniversary with great delight. The combined efforts of the leaders of the IAFP and the ICFP had come to the conclusion that it was better to not eat their own young in an effort to unify the profession. I remember reading e-mails about the ongoing design contest for the creation of the logo for the not-yet-formed organization. Frankly, I didn't care what the logo looked like; I wanted to know if these people were serious about all the talk regarding "inclusiveness" and "dialogue." What better way to test their words than to submit an application to the Board from an absolute unknown in the profession?
Wait And See
Once the application was in the mail I did what my dad had been teaching me for years; I turned it over and let it go. Whatever happened, I reminded myself, was supposed to happen. I would occasionally go to the mailbox half expecting to see the form letter thanking me for my nomination but telling me that my services where not needed at this time. The polite kiss-off, you might say. It was a day or two after I had submitted the nomination that I casually mentioned it to my wife and kids. We were having an after-school snack together when I said, "Guess what dad did the other day?" (I have since learned not to hit my family with these pop quizzes.)
"I nominated myself to be on the Board of Directors for the national Financial Planning Association," I said.
"You didn't," my wife gasped.
As only a seven-year-old can do, my daughter stared at me and said, "What does that mean, daddy?"
"It means that I'm trying to get to financial planning heaven," I said.
I didn't make the cut. But, if you must know, I made it through the second round of interviews before Roy Diliberto called me from San Diego to break the news. Roy was the FPA's first president, and he and the rest of the Board was watching with horror as the events of 9/11 unfolded 3,000 miles away. They were in San Diego in preparation for the second annual Success Forum. To this day, I cannot imagine the personal hell these people were going through as they worried about friends, family and colleagues while simultaneously trying to decide the fate of the upcoming conference. It's still hard for me to believe that Roy took the time to personally call with the nominating committee's decision, and that although it was close, I wasn't chosen for a spot. He expressed his sincere appreciation for my efforts and implored me to stay active in the association, "Because we are going to need more people like you," he said. When I hung up from that call I knew I owed it to Roy, the profession and myself to get involved and stay involved. It was then that I made up my mind that I'd go for a spot on my local Board. But that's a story for another day!
Get Involved. Stay Involved
No matter what stage of your career in financial planning you're in, we need you. During the discussion of why I volunteered for the National Board, I told my kids that it's not everyday that you get a chance to help shape a profession. When you stop to think about how young this profession is, you may realize what an incredible opportunity you have to make a difference. How many industries do you know where you can have a cup of coffee with someone who works across town from you in the same business and share what works and what doesn't? Can you imagine executives from the auto industry sharing their trade secrets with each other? Just open any industry publication and read the articles written by experienced pros telling you how to be successful.
There is so much talk today about transitioning the profession from one generation to the next. I have no way of knowing what generation you're in, but I do know that if you take your profession seriously then you are obligated to get involved. An example of involvement would be mentoring. I know that most of the owners of the established firms had to figure things out the hard way. There were no signposts along the way guiding them to the right decisions. It was basically try it and if it didn't work try something else. Things have changed dramatically since then. For one thing, technology has transformed this business in ways that most of us couldn't have imagined ten or 15 years ago. Take the time to work with the younger generation, who will be the same people who may be taking care of the clients you have nurtured all these years.
If you are relatively new to the profession and happen to have graduated with a degree in financial planning, then you need to get involved. My advice is to learn about the history of the profession so you can see how it has evolved to its current state. As mentioned earlier, it won't take long to research because we haven't been around that long. You should put yourself in the shoes of the ones who have created the position you now hold. Just as I encourage my team to think things through from the clients' viewpoint, I encourage you to see things from the established planners' viewpoint. Your input is critical to the success of our profession. The best place to start is to have a conversation with an established planner in your local FPA chapter. Attend a NAPFA study group and get to know the people involved. Don't forget; "We are going to need more people like you."
Begin Your Own Journey
There is no monetary compensation in donating your time and treasure to any good cause. But if you can influence just one person who needs your help, you've made a huge difference. Notice I didn't specify whether that person had to be a professional planner or a consumer of financial advice. That's up to you. You will find dozens of opportunities to be of service to people who truly need the help. And, in doing so, you can start your long and successful journey to financial planning heaven.
David J. Moran, CFP, is a senior vice president with Evensky & Katz in Coral Gables, Fla.