On this week’s episode of You’re a Financial Planner, Now What?, I sat down with Evelyn Zohlen, CFP®​ (our current FPA President) and Martin Seay, Ph.D., CFP® (our FPA President-elect who’ll be taking over in 2020). Who better to discuss the future of financial planning than two experienced and well-rounded leaders?

In this episode, we talk about how financial planning has changed over time, what the FPA is doing for advocacy, what financial planning will look like years from now, and more.

How education and public outreach will impact the future

Financial planning is the name, but what’s the name — a profession or an industry? Often, you’ll see industry and profession used interchangeably, even though there’s a difference between the two. A profession often includes having education, specialized training, and experience requirements. In contrast, an industry is broader. It’s a collective group of companies who share the same business goals or types of service. 

If we’re going by these definitions, it might seem that financial planning as a whole is currently as the “industry” level… but we’re moving towards it being a profession. Both Evelyn and Martin agree with this. As a financial behavior researcher and Program Director and Associate Professor of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University, Martin had great insight into how we can move financial planning in the profession direction. As he put it during our chat, we need the right training, education, and programs to put aspiring students on the right path.

Evelyn agreed, and added that public outreach and pro bono activity can point financial planning in the right direction, too. Evelyn is the founder of Inspired Financial, LLC, a fee-only wealth management practice that specializes in serving women in transition. She’s also served in several community leadership roles in the past, so she well understands the value of raising awareness in the larger community. As Evelyn pointed out, the public’s perception ultimately decides if financial planning is a profession or not. Such a great point!

Financial planning has come a long way in 50 years

The CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, CFP marks, new undergraduate degree programs: these milestones have taken financial planning far from where we started 50 years ago. So, where are we headed now?

In my interview with Martin and Evelyn, we discussed fiduciary standard of care early in the episode, which has been a popular topic of conversation lately. In Evelyn’s utopian world, she said, a consumer would know that, whenever they're working with a financial planner, that financial planner is always serving them as a fiduciary. Regulations can be murky, and consumers don’t always know for sure what level of care they can expect. Fiduciary standard of care can clarify that for consumers. As Martin points out, fiduciary also requires high levels of competency. You have to know your stuff, and striving for that goal professionally can level up your game.

But I really wanted to know their opinion on one question: What does financial planning look like now, and what do we want it to look like in the future? Martin had some excellent current statistics on equality and diversity; for example, roughly 23% of CFPs are female and around 2% to 6% are diverse. It’s not reflective of the people we get to serve, and we can do better. 

One way to improve equality and diversity is to improve the number and quality of educational programs available. Martin said that students in current degree programs are bringing their unique talents and diversity to the profession, but Evelyn pointed out that we need more of those programs to build a better foundation for the profession.

Speaking of improving the profession for actual professionals…

What the FPA is doing with advocacy

In this chat, we also talked about the FPA as a community, as well as an active advocate for financial planning regulations and legislation. Martin shared that efficacy is a major focus for the FPA: making sure that the future of the profession and members’ interests are being represented when necessary, whether that’s at the state or federal level. Misconceptions of financial planning still exist, so it’s important to educate state representatives on the scope of the profession (so it’s no longer seen as just an industry).

Even if it seems like there’s smooth sailing on the legislation front, that doesn’t mean the FPA’s advocacy work is done, Evelyn said. Advocacy is an ever-present, constant challenge to stay in the loop. For example, Evelyn explained that when the SEC first released its draft regulations regarding Reg BI, the FPA and its coalition partners prepared a lengthy letter to the SEC to tell them it was a good step, but it needed more. Communicating with groups and state governments is necessary to building relationships, which in turn can have an impact on legislation.

Finding support in the financial planning community

Martin and Evelyn had a lot of wisdom to share with me on this episode, and one thing was very clear for me: we’re lucky to have these two as leaders in FPA! If you’re not yet involved with FPA, I hope their insight can convince you to check out your local NexGen chapter and connect with other members. At the end of the day, that’s what FPA is about: the community. As Martin ended the episode: “Find folks that will walk alongside you, because that's exactly why other folks are here, too.”



What You’ll Learn:

  • How financial planning is moving towards “profession” status
  • Why fiduciary standard of care can help both clients and financial planners
  • How the FPA advocates for the profession on the state level
  • The reality of working with Capitol Hill
  • What important milestones we’ve reached in 50 years
  • Current statistics on financial planners
  • How financial planning can be bigger and better in the future
  • How social justice has impacted financial planning
  • What you’ll get out of joining the FPA community


Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, I talked to Evelyn Zohlen, CFP®​, and Martin Seay, Ph.D., CFP® about:

Want to follow Evelyn and Martin? You can follow Evelyn on Twitter at @emzohlen and Martin on LinkedIn