The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

It was a gathering of fine minds, successful practitioners and open hearts. Demographically diverse, different in practices, attitudes and philosophies, each was devoted to the emergence of an excellent financial planning profession and individual financial health. It was a great group and not a bit shy. Seated by fours at tables covered in red plaid cloth and butcher paper, they had agreed to participate in probing conversations.

After sharing some conversation rules, the leader wrote the first question on a large white board. It was one of those wicked "elephant-in-the-living-room" queries.

"What has financial planning gotten wrong?"

Several participants were shocked at the negative tone. They complained that the question was harsh and judgmental.
"Shouldn't we be more appreciative?"

The leader noted that nothing is perfect, not even in financial planning. "Wrong," she suggested, "simply asks whether we are missing something vital or core to the issues implicit to the personal finance domain. We can appreciate what we have done right, of course, but it does not hurt us to name our blemishes. We know we have gotten quite a bit right. So, for now, let's look for the dirt in the corners and the dust bunnies under the bed."

We nodded and talked excitedly at our tables. Some of those dust bunnies were not too hard to spot.

We noodled for a couple of rounds on such diverse issues as client relations, compensation systems, AUM (and its dominance in our compensation), academics, certification relevancies, FINRA, RIAs versus wirehouses, employee hiring and transition planning, fiduciary duties, expertise versus "skill sufficiency," the people we under-serve, mission, meaning, purpose and the extent of financial planning's proper domain.

The butcher paper tabletops became resplendent with color and spontaneous art. It was fun-and some great ideas emerged together with mutual respect and understanding.

Now the leader raised the next question for the happy room. On the whiteboard she wrote: "If we are doing aspects of financial planning wrong, how do we know what we don't know that we should know?"

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