Because the phrase "my money" is an oxymoron.

    Serious financial planners aspire to the stature of an authentic profession. To achieve this, thousands of us have labored long and sacrificed much over the past four decades.
    No reason for modesty; we have done some great work. Our collective efforts have generated gardens of knowledge, practice standards, consequential ethics, meaningful (albeit imperfect) governmental and self-regulation, the establishment of esteemed professional organizations, gratifying public recognition and strong general senses of call, altruism and fiduciary responsibility. We have built thousands of sustainable businesses. We are justifiably proud of what we have accomplished. Yet something is missing.
    Mostly we stack up nicely with the professions most acknowledge as authentic. Sadly, we know, this is almost, but not quite. The differences are not conspicuous but ... what have they got that we have not? What is hauntingly absent?
    I suggest we have yet to step up to accept our public purpose. Staying mired in product sales and arguments over product sales, failing to push our academics and theorists, we are not seeing money's extraordinary implications for our world.
    Existing authentic professions acknowledge and serve dominant intangibles publicly and culturally as well as individually. They work within huge powerful forces, intimately intertwined with humans and our struggles. Health, spirit, law, education, military, structure-these professions help folks understand them ... and live within their demands and possibilities, good and bad. Though they work directly with individuals, they also work idealistically and diligently to understand the natures of these huge intangible forces within the body social. As professions, they search for their truths as they affect society and culture.
    Unfortunately, financial planning and financial planners have yet to take this step.
    Our forces have emerged. They swirl throughout the globe affecting all manner of social units, impacting most individuals. They are the money forces. We simply need to look up from our daily business and take note of the world around us to see how powerful they have become, to note how lost human beings have become within their demands and to appreciate our species' needs for an authentic money  profession to emerge.
    The money forces drive our work in manners easily comparable to the forces of established authentic professions. Not only are they are intrinsic to modern humanity, they intertwine with virtually every psychological and social issue of significance. They constitute humanity's most effective self-organizing principles. Although these are "every day" realities, we are universally weird about them, and fearful.
    The "money forces" are the most powerful and pervasive secular forces on the planet. They baffle and confuse. These forces are comparatively new, yet they affect everybody and everything to do with the human presence on planet earth. As with health, law, religion and the like, the money forces scream for us to manifest.
    Authentic professions serve humanity. Authentic professions serve the common wealth and collective good.
    Unfortunately, financial planning has yet to identify money or its ripples as our driving forces. Neither have we acknowledged or accepted our implicit responsibilities. This palpable void blocks our profession's aspirations. The vacuum desperately needs filling for humanity's sake.
    This is where we belong.
    Authentic professions organize around intangible but essential functions. They serve individuals one at a time. They help them manage within dominating, difficult, necessary, complex forces in critical matters where experience, judgment and expertise are vital. Their duties to individual patients/clients/parishioners/etc. require that they must put these other's interests above their own.  
    However, authentic professionals do more. They assist social units as wholes, bringing wisdom, perspective, knowledge and active exploration to support these units in their relationships with these dominating forces. As part of their authenticity, their call is to contain and embody a profound altruism and service to humanity.
    "Essential" means "required" for human function. "Essential" means huge, necessary work along such lines as health, social structure and order and spirit. It means there is something substantial, significant and timeless serving as the authentic profession's guides and fundamental reasons for being. This "something" is the prime focus of its gardens of knowledge, standards of practice, governing traditions and fundamental perspectives.
    Authentic professions address these big issues conceptually and effectively. After all, these are the sorts of issues that appropriately and properly combine brains, hard work, craft, art, ethics, exploring minds and healthy spirits. Authentic professions take on these big issues in service of civilization, not just the individuals within it.
    Moreover, duties are high. The public feels a right for this work to be generally excellent. Moreover, the public wants to trust authentic professionals. Anything short is controversial and unacceptable-we reserve particular scorn for those individual professionals who fall short of meeting their professed standards for honesty and trustworthiness, calling them everything from "fallen" to "traitor."
    Take the classic professions of medicine, law and theology. The medical profession and its individual practitioners work with both public and individual physical conditions in service to the human body and "health." They serve their patients, of course, but they also accept responsibilities for learning about the human body and sharing that knowledge. They anticipate public health issues and prepare to address them-witness worldwide efforts re "bird flu" and AIDS.
    Lawyers serve individuals and institutions but they do so first in service and fealty to "the Law," as "officers of the court" with very particular sets of responsibilities to their legal systems. Although their primary functions engage peaceful resolutions of disputes and grievances and addressing the miscellaneous contexts of fundamental social order, their duties to the public generally override their obligations to individual clients.
    "Theologians" relate individuals to the Divine and serve as intermediaries of the sacred for individuals and cultural institutions. They maintain strong creative tensions in their duties to individuals, their ecclesiastical bodies and ineffable spirit. 
    Similarly, others claiming the stature of authentic professions do so in mindful service to their governing forces. Accountants, architects, educators, engineers, journalists, soldiers, psychologists and scientists serve counting, design, psychology, structure, journalism, the military and science, respectively. These authentic professionals can easily name their compelling forces as they generally attempt to do their very best to understand them and work within them. 
    Uniformity of approach is not required for an authentic profession. Neither is governmental regulation. It is function that counts. Accordingly, professionals can disagree. Acupuncturists and surgeons both serve "health" notwithstanding their different emphases and theories. For previously existing authentic professions, it is fair to observe that these understandings have emerged over time, differing between cultures and, even, schools of practice. Specifically, naming their governing forces required experience with them. Approaches and practices could then emerge.  
    So, too, must come to be the case with financial planning. Young as it is, financial planning has yet to identify its governing forces in comparable manners. Much less have we embarked upon the daunting journey of understanding them or coming to grips with the full ranges of their implications.
    Financial planning works with money and the money forces. As with the ubiquities of health, divine spirit and law, the money forces have come to affect everybody and everything. As with them, the money forces interlace modern life.
    Money is an agreement between human beings. Then, it requires belief in that agreement. It serves to honor our beliefs in the basic justice of reciprocity and exchange-that the voluntary cooperation and mutual assistance facilitated by money is preferable to the vagaries of force and compulsion and the inefficiencies and inadequacies of self-support. As such, money can take on an array of forms and identities to energize and organize human functions.
    Currently, the dominant form of money comes as "international trading currencies." Though there are literally infinite possibilities for money's designs, international trading currencies require scarcity and competition in order to function. These have necessary repercussions.
    These money forces are a quintessential blending of individual and social. Yet, for now, they remain the subjects of powerful taboos, misunderstanding, mystique and outright ignorance. Popular media apparently devotes considerable attention to money, but rarely examines it. Many claim expertise, including most financial planners. Yet, for all this, almost nobody understands money's salient qualities. Much less do we grasp our relationships with it.
    In a world where we constantly encounter money and its ramifications, our knowledge actually remains quite limited. Though money skills are critical to modern function for both individuals and social entities of all sorts, we don't grasp what it is, how it works and what we might do to harness its considerable powers to better both humanity and planet.
    This is understandable. As a species, money kind of snuck up on us. It has transitioned comparatively quickly from a pure trading mechanism to a symbolic store of value to the extraordinary complexities of modern-era banking systems, governments, speculation and arbitrage, world markets, rapidly changing demographics and inestimable political implications. Today, first-world people typically live their lives in financial reflex. Yet only recently has money had such potent self-organizing power.
    Money's story just seems long. Modern money is less than 300 or 400 years old, depending upon some suspect definitions. Indeed, we could argue that the most ubiquitous and demanding aspects of modern money have been around for less than 60 years. They are primarily a post-World War II, post-agrarian/extraction phenomenon.
    Yet, for all this newness and lack of understanding, the money forces pervade 21st century life unlike anything other than the natural, elemental forces of air, water, fire and earth. Still, as with the bleak realities of death itself, money requires each of us to engage with it in manners ranging from the most intimate aspects of our being to the most far-reaching public and international issues.
    In fact, money has become the common and necessary component of virtually all of humanity's 21st century aspects. Money is the force at the heart of financial planning. Every financial plan addresses it. It is also part of virtually every social relationship as well as each business and public institution in this country and throughout most of the world. If money seems omnipresent, it is. If everything seems to come down to "the almighty dollar"-it is mostly true. The trick is what to do with that information and how we ought to respond as a profession.
    Most financial planners know this about money. More importantly, we know how to talk about it.
Financial planners have been about the business of dealing with money more thoughtfully than anybody else. We know how to hold the delicate conversations.
    Financial planners know that the money forces touch individuals in unique manners. We have seen the fear, the anger and the sadness. We also have seen the joy and delight of financial planning done right.
    We have seen families ripped asunder, marriages wrecked, businesses trashed and lives ruined. We have seen people do abysmally stupid, impressively self-destructive things. Unfortunately, the body social mirrors such behavior. We need only look about to see the money divides in public issues. They need us.
    We often go 40 to 60 years into the future for our clients' sake. We dig into the past. We know that nothing in our clients' financial lives is more problematic than money itself. We also know that untold misery flows from our unexamined relationships with it and our misunderstandings of its promises and limitations.
    Our profession's unique challenge is to understand money, and help others comprehend it and engage. This means knowing it thoroughly, recognizing its history and its cultural contexts. It means understanding the nature of international trading currencies, including their limitations and possibilities.
    Money is core to financial planning's distinct reasons for being. It is key to its claims to the stature of authentic profession. As the product of a 5,000-year developmental process, money is arguably humankind's most sophisticated creation. Now, among much else, money has the power to generate the foundations for this young authentic profession along with new ways for humanity to do business within itself.
    Simply, our work is here. 

Richard B. Wagner, JD, CFP, is the principal of WorthLiving LLC, based in Denver. He is the 2003 recipient of the Financial Planning Association's P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award, which recognizes a member who has made outstanding contributions to the profession.