I Earned My CFP®, What Comes Next?

Next Generation Planner: September 2021


Susan Bradley, CFP®, CeFT, is founder of the Sudden Money Institute, which developed and offers the Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT) designation. She has served on the FPA National Board of Directors. www.linkedin.com/in/susanbradleycfp/

Editor’s note: This article is a condensed transcript of a 2020 NexGen Gathering session featuring Susan Bradley and Joshua Harris. Visit https://fpalearning.onefpa.org/digital-events to listen to the full discussion, or to listen to all the 2020 Gathering sessions. Replays of sessions from NexGen Gathering 2021 will be available soon.

Consilience is an ancient term. It goes back to ancient Greece, but it was popularized by E.O. [Wilson] in his book, The Unity of Knowledge. He was looking at the different silos of sciences and saying, “Gee, they don’t talk to each other. Maybe if they did, they would all be better as a result.” Now the word has branched to the unification of science and humanities, and that would bring us to our profession. To think about it in terms of financial planning, financial planning includes law and tax, insurance, real estate, even medical [knowledge]. All of this is part of your client’s life, but what connects all of these different disciplines is financial planning. None of them go as far as we do.

That might be the unique and most powerful potential of financial planning: you do something others don’t do. So, do you need to do more than be a CFP® practitioner to do that and to be top of your game?

The PMO Model

Purpose. Think about a time when a client had a strong need and you felt like you didn’t quite get it. That feels terrible. That’s the one nobody wants to talk about. When you can elevate the client experience to the point where they can see and feel the difference in you, you can usually read it right on their face. A client who feels like that has had what Harvard Business School Press calls [a transformational experience]. If you can provide that transformational experience, that’s how you charge a premium, or that’s how you get consistency. They’re saying people don’t buy products and they don’t buy services—they buy experiences. When you think about your training as a CFP® practitioner, you’ve got a lot of factual knowledge. You have a lot of process. You may have great software or maybe you have a paraplanner who helps with all of that. There’s a lot of information that you put together in a way that’s useful and feels right, but if you can elevate beyond that and consistently give your client a transformational experience, you will never worry about where the next client comes from, and you’ll never worry about your clients leaving you.

Method. There are 216 professional designations, and only 11 of them are accredited designations. If you work with a wirehouse or a bank, you really need to think about the accredited designations if you want to put something on your business card. But it’s not just picking a designation; it’s why that designation as well. Is it because of marketing? Is it to improve skills? Do you have to choose one, or do you choose some? The “how” part of what’s next after obtaining your CFP® mark needs to be strategic.

CFP Board doesn’t have the body of knowledge just to sell a designation. There’s a purpose, there’s a need. Each time we fulfill what we see to be a reoccurring need, we want it to be science based. We want it to be practical. We want it to be universal. We want [it to be] something that you can use not with one client, [but] something that you can integrate into your practice and use over and over. That’s how you get to be an expert at it.

Know why you’re going for a credential. Some of them are pretty lightweight. Some of them are weekend courses, and you get something new hanging on your wall. I would steer you in the direction of the deeper, time-tested [designations], something that really works in your head and your heart. If you’re at all experienced with FPA NexGen, you know it’s a tight community. You know how good it feels to be making friends, you know how you can reach out to each other. FPA has been a source for things like that for decades now. When you go into something like [the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation] (CDFA), you want to have the feeling when you go to their education programs that you fit. You don’t want to always be the outlier. You want to be learning from each other; I think that’s the highest degree of learning. So if you’re going to go for more after your CFP® designation, think community, and think [about] the liveliness and continued advancement that you could get with that designation.

Outcome. If I achieved my purpose through the methods that were listed above, what will it look like? [Consider your] career, business, family, well-being, free time, education, affiliations—who would you be if you continued looking for more and improving one [area of] expertise at a time or one expertise that you just get better and better at? What does that make you?

Many of you, I hope, have been exposed to the work out of London Business School called the 100-Year Life. They are predicting that, particularly the majority of NexGen, will live an average of 100 [years]. The average now is in the 80s. That means that you really don’t want to spend time on things you don’t like doing. You’re going to be working a lot longer than the generations before you. You’re probably going to take more sabbaticals, you’re going to organize yourself differently, and to find a fulfilling career—or careers—is part of the success of a 100-year life. 

General Financial Planning Principles
Career stage
Learning / Aspiring