Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
-Marianne Williamson

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses an exaggerated or extravagant statement to create a strong emotional response. As a figure of speech, it is not intended to be taken literally.

In a recent edition of Media Reviews, Bob Veres said that I was "surely engaging in hyperbole" when I wrote that "the current financial crisis is quite possibly humanity's most serious challenge ever." With his usual charm, Bob implied that such a contention was over the top and proceeded to name four other contenders for this honor. He missed the point.

The current financial crisis is both a challenge and opportunity for the financial planning profession. This is about "playing big," both as individuals and professionals. It is an engraved invitation to step up and help people successfully emerge from this money mess.

Of course my statement was "hyperbole." Duh. Hyperbole is a wonderful, useful and viable writing device. Because even though my assertion about the enormity of the challenge wasn't self-evident, the matter is at least up for debate. And these money challenges belong to financial planners, those manning the wheelhouses and steering the ship when folks ask us to deal with their financial futures.

These are times when fear abounds. Our descendents might look back at them and see a major inflection point in history. Our world may be changing and, most likely, will never again be what we have thought it was. Notwithstanding Jeremy Siegel's charts, we may not revert to a mean.

When we mess with money as we have been, the effects ripple infinitely and eternally throughout lives and cultures. Since we have built our lives and our social units on these very same messy financial structures, could the importance of these issues really be exaggerated?

Indeed, Brother Bob points out other more serious challenges that have beset mankind throughout history to put the crisis in perspective, things such as the Black Death, two world wars and nuclear brinksmanship. We know how three out of four turned out. They weren't pretty. There were lots of bodies and the world's orders were turned inside out. Nuclear bombs are still around, of course, and if one blows up, the result could likely be the same. Epidemics, wars and self-destruction are some mighty nasty cohorts. They suggest the seriousness of our times and our work. But that was the point.

Accordingly, the times call for all of us to take responsibility about money. Financial advisors will have to help other folks navigate. When President Obama talks about the need for everyone to take on individual responsibility, what do you think he's talking about? He's talking about exactly the kind of work that real financial planners do. He is talking about citizens making their best possible financial decisions, and he knows they need help. He is talking about this country using its financial resources more responsibly and effectively. This will require understanding, craft and wisdom. This will require CFP practitioners.

For now, we don't know how this money mess will resolve itself. It could get mighty ugly. But financial advisors must be part of the solution by stepping up.

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