Patrick Mahoney is the new CEO of the Financial Planning Association, and Skip Schweiss, CFP®, AIF®, is the President of the Board. They chatted with Hannah Moore, CFP®, about the future of financial planning, the importance of professionalizing the profession, and how being active in your local chapter will change your life.

Why does financial planning need a professional association?

Why was FPA created? As Patrick explains it, FPA 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. At the same time, the association works to educate policymakers and the public on the importance of financial planning.

According to Skip, trade associations like FPA can benefit members in a variety of ways, from continuing education, to discounts on products and services, as well as in influencing public policy. The FPA’s advocacy committee acts as an amplifier, bringing a powerful voice to public arenas for the issues that planners care about. 

Together, Patrick and Skip emphasize the importance of unifying the diverse membership through chapter meetings, national meetings, and online discussion forums. Skip says, “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.” 

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

The future of financial planning

What’s on the horizon for FPA and the profession at large? Patrick says, “There’s a generational transfer of wealth in this country that's happening between the boomers and the millennials. Both sides of that table need financial planning.” Planners need to understand both of these generations in order to help them think ahead and articulate what their future needs are going to be. Planners are also going to be needed more than ever.

Skip believes that the financial planning profession probably is serving less than 10% of the population, so the opportunity there for growth is “huge.” There is also more room for younger planners to find more leadership in the profession, he adds. “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. There's going to be a lot of opportunity for new entrants to this field.”

Patrick and Skip also mention that there’s been a pretty 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 super interesting — and motivating for next gen professionals.

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 fourteen years, but it wasn’t until he started travelling to Washington 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 says. “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.” 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 planners care about advocacy?

During the interview, topics shifted to the subject of advocacy and FPA’s role in Washington. The financial services industry is a fairly heavily regulated profession, and there are good reasons for that, according to Skip. One of the biggest issues he points out is that clients often don’t understand the difference between financial planners and advisors who are primarily selling products.

As a profession, we need to be actively engaged in making sure that policymakers understand what financial planners do for their clients, and how we're different from other financial service providers. “I often find in Washington,” Skip said, “when I'm having those conversations on the Hill, that there's not a clear distinction. We're all considered Wall Street, or we're all considered brokers.” 

In addition to educating 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.

Skip says, “I hear frustration from FPA members all the time. They went out and got their CFP®, 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 white papers and reference materials about the issues being addressed.

But first, Skip says, “I encourage people who want to get involved to connect with their local chapter.” Most chapters organize a state Advocacy Day, where members can sign up to work on 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 a day 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.

Why should new financial planners join the FPA?

If you’re a new financial planner, or have been in the profession for some time, is FPA right for you? Skip and Patrick think so – but not just because they help run it. It’s because of what they hear from members. 

Senior members tell Skip the FPA makes them a better planner. They say, “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 national 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 forums about things like renting office space, or developing business, as well as chats about who’s trying what approach to their client’s financial plans and how it’s working out.

Patrick says, “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. It’s remarkable. It’s why people come to the FPA and it’s why they stay.”

Final advice

Patrick’s final advice to planners who are considering becoming an FPA member? “If you're not a member yet, I hope you join. 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.”

Skip adds, “If you already belong to FPA, take advantage of it. You can get an awful 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.”

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why does financial planning need a professional association?
  • Current outlook for the profession
  • How advocacy impacts the world of financial planning
  • Why you should care about advocacy
  • How you can get involved

In this episode of YAFPNW, Hannah Moore, CFP®, speaks with Patrick Mahoney, CEO of the Financial Planning Association, and Skip Schweiss, CFP®, AIF®, and President of the Board. You’ll hear about: 

Interested in following Patrick? Follow him on LinkedIn!

Interested in following Skip? Follow him on LinkedIn!