Will journalists ever really understand what financial planners do? I recently received a request that was sent to members of an association that is committed to financial planning. It was when the Dow ended the day at over 13,000. She wanted to know what we were recommending to our clients as a result of that arbitrary milestone. Did financial planners actually respond to such a request and maintain the integrity of what they do for clients? I can just imagine having the following conversation with my clients: "I'm sure you are aware of the fact that yesterday the Dow crossed 13,000. I'm calling to let you know that we need to change our strategy as a result of that. We have discussed our portfolio allocation that was designed for you to reach your goals in life. But all that is changed now that the Dow is on its way up. So here are my suggestions as to how we need to change your investment portfolio."

Did this journalist actually believe that financial planners would have such a conversation with their clients? And when the Dow plummeted again, did she expect us to make another phone call? "I know a couple of weeks ago I told you we needed to change our strategy because the Dow was trading at 13,000, but now that it's back to about 12,000, it's time for a change once again."

I certainly understand that journalists are often hard-pressed to come up with unique subjects for articles. And while I usually don't like jumping to conclusions, I would suggest that this request would not have been made had this writer understood what financial planning was and how financial planners deal with their clients' goals and objectives. Moreover, there are other instances that prove the point. How about the journalists who tell their readers that the only way to justify the fees they pay financial planners is to measure the returns they receive over some arbitrary index, while totally ignoring all of the other things that financial planners do for their clients? While there are certainly exceptions among journalists, most of them see financial planners as portfolio managers. And perhaps some of us are part of the problem. So why are they calling financial planners and not calling money managers? Do they know the difference? And if they don't, why don't they? Are we part of the problem?

There are some planners who, in order to find their names in print, play these games with writers who asked for their input. So we might actually find professionals who respond to the bait that is offered and talk about how the Dow at 13,000 caused them to reassess how their clients' portfolios were allocated. Rather than turn the conversation away from investing and toward planning, they allow the journalist to direct the interview. I recall being invited to participate in a TV interview during a period of high volatility. I was prepared to talk about the importance of planning and concentrating on long-term goals. When the interviewer called the day before to discuss what we would talk about, he told me that he wanted to hear how I was changing what I was recommending and my prognosis of what future investment returns would look like. I told him that neither I, nor anyone for that matter, could predict the future and that I was counseling my clients to think long term. When he insisted on his agenda, I respectfully told him that he needed to speak to a money manager and not a financial planner.

Financial planners lament how the general public and journalists do not understand what financial planners do. We want to be recognized as a profession, but I fear that many of us are doing very little to advance a profession called "financial planning." When financial planning professionals label themselves as "wealth managers," "financial consultants," "investment managers," "asset managers," or any of the other myriad titles, but certainly not as "financial planners," what would we expect? And when the majority of people who do planning derive the bulk of their incomes from investment fees, we should not be surprised when we are misunderstood. This is not meant to criticize professionals who are in fact asset managers, wealth managers or investment managers. But we will never create financial planning as a brand if those among us who practice planning call themselves something other than financial planners.

There is one group, however, that recognizes the benefits of comprehensive financial life planning-our clients. My experience tells me that it is a rare planning firm that does not maintain a client retention rate of well over 90%. This is a message that needs to be delivered to journalists and through them to the general public. If writers claim that planning fees are too high unless there is a superior investment return (however that is measured) what message does that send to clients who are happy with their planners and have no objections to the fees they are paying? Survey after survey tells us that people who engage financial planners feel more confident about the future, are less concerned about investment volatility and believe that their interests are being served. So few journalists stress these facts.

If financial planning is to become the profession we desire, it will need to be branded as such. This will not be done by journalists, other professionals or the general public. It can only be done internally by those of us who are proud to label ourselves as such. As long as we insist on calling ourselves something other than financial planners, how can we expect others to recognize this profession? If we insist on being paid for the assets we manage and not the planning we do, we will forever be labeled money managers, regardless of what we tell others we do. Many financial planners are fearful that many clients or potential clients do not perceive enough value in planning to pay for it. So they charge for the assets they manage and do planning "for free." If financial planning is our core competency (and how will we ever be a profession if it isn't?) we need to derive the majority of our income from the planning we do and not the assets we manage.

Until everyone who practices planning is proud enough to label themselves as financial planners and compensate themselves as financial planners, we will be fighting this battle for a very long time indeed.

Roy Diliberto is the chairman and founder of RTD Financial Advisors Inc. in Philadelphia.