Journal of Financial Planning: August 2017
Rachel F. Moran, CFP®, is a financial planner with RTD Financial. She currently serves as president of the FPA NexGen community.
I first attended FPA’s NexGen Gathering, a grassroots conference geared specifically toward planners under age 36, in 2014. I was elated to find young planners—and a bunch of them—in the same room. It felt like an epiphany; I’d found my people.
Over the course of that weekend in 2014, we used open space technology to brainstorm topics of discussion for slotted breakout sessions. One idea proposed was study groups. Former FPA NexGen president Jude Boudreaux, CFP®, offered to facilitate the session. He shared his experience as a member of a study group and helped the attendees of that fateful session break off into like-minded groups.
While the six members of my group consisted solely of non-entrepreneurs (we were all working within a firm), we had diverse experiences, processes, goals, and career paths. On the surface, it didn’t appear as though we were a perfect match, but our differences have provided clarity.
Three years later, our study group, aFresh, is going strong. I think our success has been largely dependent on individual commitment and annual in-person meetings. Each member values the hour and a half we spend together each month, and defends its spot within our calendars.
We begin each call with a check-in, and aim to have a focused topic of discussion each month. We also save time to help talk through issues anyone is dealing with.
Each December, we share our goals for the upcoming year—both professional and personal— and check in mid-year to see where we stand. We’ve read books together, and have openly discussed salary (which can be quite taboo), benefits, and career goals. We have also shared the backbones of our processes and deliverables.
When we gather for our annual in-person meetings we incorporate a social component, building comradery and trust through a common experience.
My participation in aFresh has been transformational. I’m confident that my study group has been the single-most influential experience on my career to date. The members of aFresh have served as my sounding board, career advocates, accountability partners, and most importantly, friends.
It’s so interesting to take a peek inside someone else’s firm and learn answers to questions like: What technology does your firm use? How long is your financial plan; do you provide a hard copy document? How do you meet with clients virtually? How do you onboard new employees? How do you approach your boss for a raise?
My study group allows me to ask “dumb” questions or get new ideas to implement within my firm. I’m able to approach neutral third parties who understand my firm and my role for objective opinions and feedback.
We dig deep, and allow ourselves to become vulnerable. Through more than 50 hours of conversation, we’ve gotten to know each other’s hopes, dreams, fears, and big hairy audacious goals. When a member shares a problem or issue, we check in regularly to see how things are progressing and offer support. When a goal is shared, we help develop tangible milestones. We’re comfortable “nudging” or encouraging reevaluation when progress isn’t being made or a goal continues to roll over. We serve as accountability partners, holding each other to our commitments.
Support and Encouragement
My study group members are the ultimate cheerleaders. We support and encourage each other, and celebrate one another’s victories. In 2015, I decided to run for FPA NexGen president-elect. I had been the director of my local NexGen community and felt called to the position. I had never run for anything previously, and was terrified of failing—what if no one voted for me? In the back of my mind, I felt assured knowing I would have at least five votes.
After consulting with my study group, they provided enthusiastic encouragement, pointing out leadership traits within myself that I hadn’t recognized. My study group’s support has meant the world to me; it has given me the courage to take on projects or positions I may have otherwise passed over.
During our time together, there have been engagements, marriages, births, and promotions. It has been my joy to celebrate alongside my friends. I care deeply about the members of my study group, and I know the feeling is mutual. It’s a relationship like no other I’ve had before, and I’m forever grateful for their friendship and support.
Given my experience, I strongly encourage you to join a study group. If you weren’t able to participate in the study group breakout sessions at NexGen Gathering, seek out interested members on your own. You don’t have to have similar business models, processes, or firm size; you simply need a commitment to sharing and learning.
Post on FPA Connect, tap your network, or consult your local FPA chapter. Participating in a study group can provide you with the confidence, accountability, and sounding board you need to propel your career forward.