As we are nearly one-sixth of our way through the 21st century, I have aspirations. Specifically, I would like to feel as though financial planners and our ilk have earned and gained places of proper respect in the larger worlds of finance, public policies and healthy relationships with money.

I would also like to believe that financial planners and our ilk are perceived as something more than 21st century sales serfs and tenant farmers or as simply naïve children trying to act like we belong in the rough, tough real world. In other words, I would like us to be taken seriously and warmly welcomed to sit at the proverbial Big Kids’ Table.

Sad to say, in many respects financial planners are a bit like middle schoolers. Even though we’re past childhood, we think of that Big Kids’ Table as somehow down the road. As a profession, we are still relatively young and immature. We may have a charming exuberance that nicely complements a sense of unlimited potential, but various diversions have kept us from seeking the essences of our work. This seems especially true as baby boomers edge inexorably toward retirement and the emergent Age of Money becomes ever more starkly real.

That being said, most of us are acutely aware that few folks with any sort of prestige or authority could even imagine letting our kind participate in decisions they perceived to be of policy-level consequence—at least for anything more than show. CFP Board’s K Street address notwithstanding, in no respect have financial planners and our ilk made it to the Big Kids’ Table.

That doesn’t really work for those of us with aspirations for Big Kids’ seats. We look at the world around us and we see issue after issue and concern after concern that could/would improve with the perspectives and insights of folks with fiduciary loyalties who work daily and directly with individuals.

Let’s understand the current realities. In our world, the financial services industry (Industry), government and academia have essentially (though informally) combined to form and occupy a three-sided table where they hobnob with one another purporting to address important issues. Depending on their perspectives du jour, they look at these issues with blinders circumscribed by their commercial markets, their political bases or their academic silos. Ostensibly, this enables them to understand “average” folks, otherwise known as “hard-working middle-class Americans” for purposes of speeches and press releases.

It is not like they really know or learn much of anything, especially without the participation of financial planners and our ilk. They may give appearances of good and proper efforts to understand the satisfactions, fears and worries of genuine humans, but this are chimeras. Together, these three groupings will conduct countless surveys and polls together with miscellaneous (and mysterious) numerical aggregations, purporting to help us understand individual financial concerns. They will then feed these to the media, ceaselessly and, generally, ineffectually.

But this is where we get all those stats. You know, the ones that come at us machine-gun style addressing issues of employment, gross domestic product, educational achievement, lifetime earnings, various trends and on and on and on, relentlessly attacking our sensibilities and our abilities to draw meaningful connections between point A and point ΣΣ. And the conclusions … oh my goodness! Let’s face it, from the perspectives of financial planners and our ilk, they are only mildly significant at best.

Yet they abound. Between the financial services industry, government and academia, the affairs of individuals, communities and money fold neatly into little packages with cherries on top.

The issues are compelling. So many of them touch on the primary financial issues facing human beings with respect to money. Go down the rather lengthy lists. From race, class, religion, national origin and the other extensive distinctions between human beings, both real and artificial, we see money, money issues and the money forces serving in combatant capacities. From education, vested interests and student loans, to health care, to national defense, immigration, tariffs, issues of the environment and water, demographic changes, the nature of government, infrastructure, social interactions, science, natural resources and the international financial systems themselves, there are profound interrelationships within our financial systems both foreign and domestic. Many of these must be seen through the eyes of individuals to be seen fully.

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