The room's mood went somber. Mouths dropped. Nobody moved for several minutes. There was no place to hide. Of course, we could arrogantly fluff the question, claiming finesse. Or we could explore the inconvenient unknown. The only sound in the room was the silence of our minds warping. We had no words.

The leader laughed uneasily. Looking at the room full of her colleagues, she observed "Yes. That is what I thought. It is a problem."

She continued. She observed that financial planning was unique. Other professions had grown into their roles over centuries. This one was created just recently from a mix of diverse financial product providers without common roots or understanding. It came about because advisors needed to understand what individual clients required of their financial products. Unfortunately, the founders had focused purely on the products without grasping financial planning's implications for other aspects of their lives.

Indeed, how could they foresee what would emerge? The dollar was still on the gold standard. Baby boomers had no economic clout. Computers were esoteric, expensive and clumsy. Most important, financial planning's founders were working from scratch.

There were no well-traveled paths to help them as they encountered new situations and circumstances. Worse, there was no vocabulary for important concepts.

Our group leader observed that we literally have no words to focus the inquiry. This means we lack clarity about what it is we do, or could do. Many of us still wonder whether financial planning is simply "an improved sales process" for financial products for the wealthy or, does the idea mean we should be asserting ourselves within all aspects of the domain of personal finance?

"We talk about 'getting it,'" she went on. "We complain when consumers and regulators fail to understand us. I ask what is the 'it' everyone is supposed to get? Do we understand ourselves?

"The truth is that we don't have the words to help us with it," she said. "To get specific, did you know, for example, that there is no English word or words for the relationship between individual humans and money? Even financial planners talk around these relationships almost exclusively from a macro perspective. For all of the talk about issues of man and money, there is not a single word or succinct conceptual descriptor to look at these issues from the individual point of view." With that, she took her place at one of the tables and joined the ensuing conversation.

As Wittgenstein's pithy quote suggests, the linguistic shortcomings of our young profession impose limits upon it. They limit the development and emergence of an authentic profession focused on helping individuals address their personal money issues. Without better words, neither our art nor our craft will mature. Nor will we be able to hold our end of the rope with Big Money, Big Politics or macroeconomists and their various attempts to game the money systems.

The individual's perspective is a special one. It is the locus of decision and action. Thomas Jefferson emphasized that sanctity of the individual when he stressed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. We come into the world one at a time. We live our lives one by one.