There have never been more CFP license holders in the U.S. and abroad. Never has there been more research into all aspects of financial planning nor more registered programs and financial planning degree programs in colleges and universities educating new practitioners. Never more countries affiliated with the Financial Planning Standards Board. Never more pricing models and never more clients being served.

The financial planning profession has never been needed more. Seasoned financial advisors may question whether the Financial Independence-Retire Early (or FIRE) movement is realistic, but the fact that a subset of millennials has bought into the notion of financial independence at such a young age speaks volumes to the concept’s power.

Personal finance just gets more complex, and people feel more money responsibility fall on their shoulders. As more and more consumers understand what professional financial planning is all about, the demand is soaring and causing the financial planning profession to innovate with new service and pricing models, changing the financial service industry as it attempts to shift to a planning orientation.

One hallmark of a true profession is that it addresses a society-wide need. Prompted by financial advisor advocates, financial literacy programs have been mandated in more school systems, in more states, than ever. This reflects the societal importance of people’s ability to make financial decisions. More planners are engaged in pro bono efforts, another sign of the industry’s professionalization.

But there has also never been more responsibility on the shoulders of planners. Those of us seeking to professionalize planning have long advocated that a true fiduciary standard is the only one that makes sense for it. And we believe those practitioners whose regulatory status doesn’t require them to work under a formal fiduciary standard should conduct their business as though they do anyway.

The CFP Board’s new standards certainly suggest that. Most practitioners I know don’t have a problem with a fiduciary standard—it’s their employers that do. Sadly, the Securities and Exchange Commission seems to be focused on helping sales organizations fight the movement toward fiduciary advice.

The SEC has tried to clear up some of the confusion with its “Regulation Best Interest” (what some of us call “Reg BS.”) Its very name and the new Form CRS (the client relationship summary disclosure) will confuse consumers even more. The agency’s new videos for clients do a decent job covering the differences between brokers and advisors, yet also suggest both are held to the same standard of care. What’s worse is the agency’s interpretation of what is “solely incidental” when a broker-dealer is giving advice that ought to be regulated under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The language defies logic, common sense and the intent of Congress when the ’40 Act was passed.

What’s next?

Future: A Profession In Peril

We have come a long way, but this is a scary time for the profession. The public needs our help more than ever, but there are forces making it more difficult for people to get the advice they need. The profession has needs too.