If you read our email over the weekend, you know that I published a book, that was ranked as the #1 New Release in Wealth Management on Amazon! That said, the book is not targeted at our clients, nor is it an investing or personal finance book. So why did I write the book? First and foremost, the reason is not because I want you to buy a copy. If you want one, please do, but that’s not the reason. I wrote a book on financial planning careers because the financial planning profession is both important and in trouble in its current state. So today, I’m taking a few minutes to lay out why I wrote the book, why I’m hoping people read it, and how its existence affects you.
How I Got Into Financial Planning
Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with this alphabet soup behind my name, nor did it come to me easily. In 2013 when I started my MBA, I was doing it moreso to offset what I felt was a lackluster set of undergraduate credentials. Though I’d graduated with a triple major in history, political science, and military science, I’d studied those fields with the intention of a lifelong career in the military. It was only after graduation and subsequent injury in the military that I found that such a career path wasn’t going to be possible for me; faced then with the choices of becoming a teacher or working as an anonymous government bureaucrat, I chose to go back to school and get said MBA. When I reached my graduation year in 2015, I found that despite the strong credential, the financial services industry was largely opaque from the outside and that even as I got into the application, interview, and job selection process, I was largely taking it on faith that I was making the right decision. Knowing what I know now, there were many other opportunities at various firms I could have taken that likely would have seen me bankrupt and out of the profession by the end of the year. That same application, confusion, and leap of faith is what I want to help those who are coming after me to avoid.
The Trouble Financial Planning is In
Financial planning is, by the macro numbers, in danger. Not necessarily profession-ending danger, but a danger nonetheless. You see, the average age of a financial planner is well into the fifties. Many who came into the profession decades ago are still practicing but are quickly reaching retirement age; while some seem intent on working until they die (god bless them), many are selling their practices and client lists to aggregator firms. These firms have been paying enormous multiples of revenue with the intention of pulling in client assets under management, ultimately focusing largely on the acquisition of the client’s asset management business than the client relationships themselves. Couple this with the mergers and acquisition business’ obsession with squeezing quick returns out of newly acquired businesses, and this puts the clients of such acquired firms in danger of being taken advantage of during the shuffle. Compound this with the sudden exchange of a trusted lifelong advisor and financial planner for an anonymous call center model, and many clients are abandoning the use of financial planners altogether.
To compound this difficulty, because of the existing shortage of financial planners (if we all took on 100 clients, we could only serve less than 1/33rd of the US population), there is a constant and consistent push by financial technology firms to disintermediate financial planning. That’s not to say they’re doing a bad thing, but this leads to general confusion in the public. “Why pay to work with a fully qualified and experienced financial planner when I can use this app on my phone that tracks my budget. It’s the same thing, right?” Well, wrong, but that’s not immediately known to the public. The old adage of Hearn’s law applies: “You’ll pay for what you get and if you’re lucky, you’ll get what you pay for.” The modern extension of this being: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” In short, the lack of new financial planners is causing the public to fall into various marketing traps and accepting far sub-par technology or service offerings as a proxy for financial planning, which often leads them to great personal harm over the long term.
So How Does This All Affect Me?
Well, see above. If you’re already working with a financial planner, this doesn’t affect you as much. But over time, if the profession cannot grow effectively and expand its services to a larger part of the population, it runs the risk of becoming a luxury service, affordable only by the ultra-wealthy and ultra-affluent. Like any good or service, supply and demand play a role. If financial planners cannot grow the profession, the public will be left with technology solutions that treat them as the product (i.e., targets for advertising, cross-selling, or being misled into expensive proprietary financial products) or with call center models that simply don’t have the time to provide them with the attention that their situation demands. At MY Wealth Planners, we spend an average of over 30 hours per year per client on their financial planning needs, portfolios, and helping them with the ad hoc issues of daily life. The average client of a Robo-advisor gets 0.0 minutes of human attention to their individual needs, and even in low-cost models offered by mega-firms, the economics often work out to less than three hours per year of time. Shouldn’t your financial wellbeing warrant more attention than the time you spend figuring out what to watch on Netflix every year, and certainly if you’re paying a professional to do it?
So That’s Why I Wrote The Book
The goal of the book isn’t to become a bestseller (though it already has been rated the #1 new release on Amazon for wealth management), but to help correct some of these issues. If the financial planning profession can focus its time and energy on growing a safe and welcoming place for new financial planners to enter the profession and grow, then the public will be well served by the profession in the long term. If it continues to shrink and redevelop itself time and time again into being only for the highest earners and wealthiest Americans, then it will inevitably doom itself.
If you’re interested in helping the financial planning profession, there are a few things you can do.
- Share the book with high school and college students; many go into adulthood unsure of what they want to do. Financial planning is an incredible career and as I’ve laid out, the career opportunities are endless.
- Be aware of the enormous difference between comprehensive financial planning firms and financial technology firms. At the former you’re the client, at the latter you’re the product.
- If you’ve read the book, share your thoughts in a review on Amazon or share the book with your social media network. You never know who might be influenced to make their own difference in financial planning by your words.