The Role of Your Professional Association in Advocacy

Next Generation Planner: June 2021


Hannah Moore, CFP®
Owner and Principal Financial Planner, Guiding Wealth
Host, You’re a Financial Planner…Now What?

Why was FPA created?

Patrick Mahoney, the Financial Planning Association’s CEO, said it was established to create a community for financial planners where they can network and grow, learn how to improve their own practices and have opportunities to serve for the benefit of the profession.

But the association also works to educate policymakers and the public on the importance of financial planning through its advocacy work.

I recently sat down with Patrick and FPA Board President Skip Schweiss, CFP®, AIF®, on a recent episode of the You’re a Financial Planner…Now What? podcast to chat about the future of financial planning, how trade associations can influence public policy and why new financial planners should care about advocacy.

The FPA’s advocacy committee acts as an amplifier, bringing a powerful voice to public arenas for the issues planners care about.

In the advocacy landscape, associations can “be a more powerful voice in those arenas than an individual planner might be on his or her own,” Skip said.

The Future of Financial Planning

What’s on the horizon for FPA and the profession at large?

“There’s a generational transfer of wealth in this country that’s happening between the boomers and the millennials,” Patrick said. “Both sides of that table need financial planning.”

Planners need to understand both generations in order to help them think ahead and articulate their future needs. Consumers need planners now more than ever.

Skip believes that the financial planning profession probably is serving fewer than 10 percent of the population, so the opportunity there for growth is “huge.” There’s also more room for younger planners to find more leadership in the profession.

“We’ve all seen the studies and surveys that show a pretty healthy chunk of our professionals are planning to retire within the next decade,” Skip said. “There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for new entrants to this field.”

Patrick and Skip also mentioned that there has been a strong movement from product sales to more of a financial planning service provision, which means more people really want ongoing relationships and long-term support. All of these trends are interesting and motivating for next-gen professionals.

But the future of the profession hinges on our ability to advocate for it and for regulations that serve consumers to pass in Congress.

Why Should New Planners Care About Advocacy?

The financial services industry is a fairly heavily regulated profession, and there are good reasons for that, according to Skip. He noted that one of the biggest issues is that clients often don’t understand the difference between financial planners and advisers who are primarily selling products.

As a profession, we need to be actively engaged in ensuring that policymakers understand what financial planners do for their clients and how we’re different from other financial service providers.

“Often, when I’m having those conversations on the Hill, there’s not a clear distinction,” Skip said. “We’re all considered Wall Street, or we’re all considered brokers.”

In addition to educating members of Congress about the impacts of legislation on consumers and planners, FPA Advocacy is also working hard to get financial planning recognized as a registered profession.

“I hear frustration from FPA members all the time,” Skip said. “They went out and got their CFP® [certification], and they’re providing holistic financial planning to their clients, but the person down the street didn’t go through all those steps and they’re calling themselves a financial planner.”

Without a protected professional designation, the consumer doesn’t have a good way to tell the difference.

How Can FPA Members Get Involved with FPA Advocacy?

If you’re interested in getting involved with financial planning advocacy, you can go to the Advocacy page on the FPA website to find whitepapers and reference materials about the issues being addressed.

“I encourage people who want to get involved to connect with their local chapter,” Skip said. 

Most chapters organize a state Advocacy Day, where members can sign up to advocate for issues that matter to them. The chapter helps them set up meetings with their elected representatives and provides a set of talking points to help them educate and promote the association’s perspective.

Adding volunteering to your plate can seem daunting, but Skip explains there are many ways to serve—even if it’s one day a year, as with Advocacy Day. It’s just one day each year, and it allows you to step up on behalf of the profession. You get to make your voice heard and become knowledgeable about the issues.

How Volunteering Impacts the Profession

Pro bono work and volunteerism are a huge focus for FPA—and for Skip. Volunteering with his old firm’s public policy committee was a gateway to his role with the FPA. He’d been a member of FPA for 14 years, but it wasn’t until he started traveling to Washington, D.C., with his chapter and interacting with FPA Advocacy that he got more deeply involved.

The volunteers who run FPA local chapters are the lifeblood of the association, Skip said.

“The people who volunteer to lead—the program directors, membership directors, advocacy directors—they’re doing it because they want to build a stronger profession,” Skip said.

Both he and Patrick acknowledged that without these awesome volunteers and engaged chapter members, FPA would cease to exist. But it would be great if even more next-gen planners got involved.

Why Should New Financial Planners Join FPA?

The association provides an “oasis” of community for financial planners to learn from one another and come together—through chapter meetings, national meetings and online discussion forums.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the financial planning profession because even though, theoretically, members compete against one another for business, they’re incredibly willing to share ideas, guidance and insights in order to benefit each other,” Skip said.

When Patrick speaks with members, he is always struck by how much they benefit from FPA, including the networking and learning opportunities provided.

If you’re a new financial planner or have been in the profession for some time, is FPA right for you? Patrick and Skip say yes—but not just because they’re leaders of the organization.

Senior members tell Skip the FPA makes them a better planner. Skip notes that he’s had longtime members tell him: “I have access to my colleagues on the chat forum, I go to my chapter meetings and I go to Retreat, and I go to the Annual Conference. I can bounce challenging planning problems off of colleagues and peers and get ideas about how to approach it.”

For someone joining their first firm or starting out on their own, connecting with experienced colleagues through FPA can be a game changer. There are real-time conversations on FPA’s All-Member Open Forum about things like renting office space or developing business, as well as chats about different ways to approach clients’ financial plans and how it’s working.

“What’s really cool is that sometimes a question comes up and I don’t know the answer myself. Then watching the thread, we all learn about it,” Patrick said. “It’s remarkable. It’s why people come to the FPA, and it’s why they stay.”

Are you considering becoming a member but haven’t yet?

“If you’re not a member yet, I hope you join,” Patrick said. “The FPA will give you a true opportunity to make a large impact on your fellow citizens in terms of helping them map out their financial life.”

And if you are a member, dive into all your benefits.

“If you already belong to FPA, take advantage of it,” Skip said. “You can get [a] lot of help from colleagues all across the country who have traveled the road and can help you avoid missteps and get to where you want to go.”

Hannah Moore, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Transitions™ expert. She is passionate about helping people understand their money in meaningful ways. In her spare time, Hannah can be found spending time with her husband, Charlie, chasing after her daughter, Alice, quilting, gardening, beekeeping, or cheering on the Baylor Bears.

General Financial Planning Principles
Professional Conduct & Regulation