When they asked if I would blog about the future of financial planning, all I really heard was “THE FUTURE.” I can only imagine how my eyes just lit up as a confused thought assortment tumbled through my brain. At first, little epiphanies combined in a sort of nonsensical circularity. “The future of financial planning… is… the future.” Whoa. Profound.
Then, that thought settled into making sense. It occurred to me that, in fact, financial planning is mostly about the future. The phrase was an appropriate connection between current work and visioning and the anticipated fruits of a job well done. It was not mere circularity.
The “Future.” Yes, that future. The one where we are all going to live, together with our babies and theirs; the future that stretches endlessly through time and competes directly with the second law of thermodynamics for systemic relevance.
In that future, money is a big doggone deal and takes the financial planning profession along with it. That future does not function without money. Indeed, it doesn’t even function very well if people don’t have sufficient understanding of money that they can make intelligent, healthy decisions for themselves and others. It is a future to which we, as financial planners, are particularly accountable.
Now, if you are going to get anything out of this posting, you must realize one thing. When it comes to the financial planning profession, I am hopelessly aspirational. I believe financial planning is an authentic profession. It is very special. For one thing, authentic professions don’t come along every day. IMHO, financial planning is the first genuinely new one to emerge in literally hundreds of years. It may not be fully matured but it has all the elements of the professions generally accepted as authentic plus the compelling immediacy of desperately needed skills and perspectives. As humanity experiences rapid, volatile change, it needs the services of noble fiduciary advisors who understand money and the money forces and grasp optimal manners for functioning within them.
What is more, I believe financial planning or its offspring will be the single most important authentic profession of the 21st century. This profession ought to be a vital and active participant in humanity’s continued transition from resources based societies and economies to social orders based more on brains than brawn together with increased interdependencies among peoples of diverse histories and ethnicity.
I see the future demanding that financial planners step up to claim their rightful place as trustworthy advisors in the domain of personal finance. I see financial planning as serving all families and individuals who deal with money. This means developing the profession’s capacities for helping individuals understand money and come to terms with its demands for themselves, their families and their communities. Perhaps most importantly, I see the financial planning profession helping people prepare for the interfaces between life’s possibilities, good and bad, money and current decision making.
Remember, you were warned that I was hopelessly aspirational. I realize that many do not see this profession in either transcendent or populist terms. That may just be me.
Then there is the part where we need to make a living. There are those who ask how profitable businesses could serve the less than wealthy? But I see some practice models coming along that are making runs at it. Personally, I trust technology, competition, creativity and the world wide web to work the magic required to make it so. As a firm believer that solid businesses are based on finding needs and filling them, I suspect the future requires that we ought to be both creative and aggressive in looking for ways to fill them.
The future demands that we understand money. Human evolution requires that we understand money. As the species has moved from hunters and gatherers through agrarian and resources based cultures to more complex urbanized economies to the communications age to whatever is emerging currently, our species has become increasingly money centric. Indeed, human evolution is a money based phenomena as much as anything. This involves skills that do not come naturally to human beings. To engage our futures, human beings need the help that financial planners ought to provide.
Money is humanity’s most profound creation. It is our very best attempt as a species to engage with each other productively and, mostly, peacefully. Our relationships with money are our most sublime relationships of reciprocity and exchange. Though we have discovered its downsides, money is humanity’s most elegantly created tool for addressing our relationships with each other.
The future requires that we understand money, both its good parts and its not so good parts. People need help grasping money’s demands and responding healthfully and appropriately. This means financial planners and financially literate personal advisors.
And it is our privilege to work with individuals as they develop their own relationships with money. As for where this all takes us in terms of our gardens of knowledge, our roles in society, the natures of our practices, and so forth who knows? But these will be the future of financial planning. As goes the song, “The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades.”
Richard B. Wagner, JD, CFP®