The Best 3 Financial Planning Conferences Of 2012

Posted by Michael Kitces on Tuesday, January 31st, 5:32 am, 2012 in Conferences

Continuing education is a fundamental principle of being a professional. In fact, Competence is one of the 7 core principles in the CFP Code of Ethics and Professional responsibility, which includes both attaining and maintaining an adequate level of knowledge to serve clients. Unfortunately, though, it’s often the case that continuing education is not much more than checking off the box to receive credit for sitting through a session, regardless of whether the professional really learned anything. Well, in the spirit seeking out continuing education that actually teaches you something, here are my recommendations for the top 3 financial planning conferences in 2012 that are worth the investment and might actually teach you something new.

The inspiration for today’s blog post was an email I received from another financial planner, asking for my recommendation as someone who attends a lot of conferences every year about “the best” conferences for quality educational information in financial planning. Accordingly, I decided to put together my list of the top 3 events to watch for the rest of 2012 if you’re looking to advance your financial planning technical knowledge.


FPA Retreat – The FPA Retreat has long been one of my favorite conferences. It is on my must-attend list every year, and 2012 will be my 9th consecutive year at the event. Formerly the FPA’s “Advanced Planner’s Conference”, Retreat is now billed as “the cutting edge of the art and science of financial planning” and still retains its character as a rather “high end” conference for financial planners. Retreat content often pushes the envelope, and the particular focus of the content will vary greatly from year to year depending on the conference chair and committee; this kind of edgy content does produce some very hit or miss sessions from year to year, but I’ve never failed to walk away with some interesting nuggets. For many, though, the best thing about FPA Retreat is not the conference itself, but the conversations that happen in the hallways, as Retreat has a long legacy of drawing some of the best financial planners in the country; often the greatest value of the conference is simply the people that you meet and talk to all afternoon or well into the night.

Dates: Afternoon of Saturday, May 5th until Noon on Tuesday, May 8th

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Pricing: $1,149 for FPA members ($1,349 for non-members; $1,249 for Join {as FPA member} & Go); early bird discount is $100 off, through March 23rd

Schedule: Click Here


FPA NorCal – The FPA NorCal conference is a regional event hosted by a group of northern California FPA chapters, with a long history – this year is the 40-year anniversary of the conference! Although NorCal is a “regional” conference, it’s easily on par with the quality of any conference national, drawing a national caliber of speakers, and headline keynote sessions that have included Federal Reserve president Janet Yellen, financial author Michael Lewis, psychology researchers Tal Ben-Shahar and Dan Ariely, and more. The added benefit of the FPA NorCal conference is that it runs on the Tuesday and Wednesday immediately following Memorial Day weekend, making it an ideal extended-Memorial-Day-weekend destination event for spouse and/or family travel. It’s the most packed 2-day conference around, and the most common complaint from attendees is that each time slot has so many good sessions at once.

Dates: Tuesday, May 29th until Wednesday, May 30th

Location: San Francisco, CA

Pricing: $729 for FPA members ($929 for non-FPA members); early bird discount is $100 off, through March 5th 

Schedule: Click Here


NAPFA National – The national conference for NAPFA consistently features a strong lineup of technical content. Although you may not see a lot of big name headliners at NAPFA’s conferences, they draw effectively from the high caliber of NAPFA’s core members to deliver quality presenters, and they set the bar high for objective, educational content. The conference is not restricted to NAPFA members, though; anyone interested in the content is welcome to attend. Unfortunately, conference schedule and pricing details are not up yet, though, so those who wish to review the schedule and make a final decision now may learn towards one of the preceding conferences instead.

Dates: Tuesday, May 8th until Friday, May 11th

Location: Chicago, IL

Pricing: Not yet available; registration will be open within the next few weeks

Schedule: Not yet available


Notably, all the conferences are lined up within a month of each other this spring (in fact, FPA Retreat and NAPFA National overlap each other on May 8th). Which unfortunately means even for the especially content-hungry, you’re not likely to do more than one of the events. But expect that they’ll all offer a compelling lineup of content. The FPA NorCal conference probably represents the best value-deal, with the lowest cost and the most compact schedule (an action-packed two days), while FPA Retreat will afford you the opportunity to stretch out and relax for a few days (facilitated by its spa-like venue at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale); although NAPFA National’s pricing isn’t released yet, expect it to be more expensive than FPA NorCal (it does run longer), but less expensive than Retreat.

It’s also worth, though, noting that perhaps the best technical financial planning conference of the year has already passed: the AICPA’s PFP National conference was held earlier in January in Las Vegas. If you missed the event, stay tuned next year for the 2013 event, which will be back in Las Vegas and runs from January 21st to 23rd, 2013.
For those who do not have the budget to travel at all this year, but are still looking for some technical content, keep an eye out on NAPFA’s “iConference” hosted this summer jointly with Forbes. The two-day entirely virtual conference will feature a range of technical content on the “core elements” of financial planning. Running on August 1st and 2nd, registration will not be open until the spring, but stay tuned for more details about the event as it draws nearer.
So what conferences do you plan to attend this year? Have you had any particularly good or bad experiences at the conferences listed here? Any hidden gems that aren’t included on the list but should be?

  • Dave Grant


    I just wanted to comment on your part if people cannot afford to go to a conference. NAPFA Genesis (for students and Fee-Only planners under age 33) has addressed this by offering monthly webinars presented by some of the industry’s top names. These are free to all Genesis members (small fee for others), with recordings available post-event.

    It’s important for up-coming and young planners to know that even though they cannot afford a conference, they can still get access to great content. Thank you for allowing me to plug this!

    Dave Grant, CFP(R)

    • Alfie

      Quality content is the key to be a focus for the visitors to pay a quick visit the web site, that

Michael E. Kitces

I write about financial planning strategies and practice management ideas, and have created several businesses to help people implement them.

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