We all have our own viewpoints and beliefs about the world, which inform and influence our views. The list below reflects some of my own views and “biases” when it comes to the world of financial planning. These statements represent my beliefs, and represent the base from which I write and express myself on this blog.
Nonetheless, these statements are also subject to change, as my own thinking and understanding evolves over time; as the saying goes, famously (albeit with uncertainty) attributed to John Maynard Keynes, “when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
Ultimately, financial planning is about helping people change their behavior for the better. But you can’t help people choose which opportunities to take advantage of along the way unless you have a sound base of technical knowledge to apply the best skills, tools, and techniques to achieve their goals in the first place.
Most of the harms inflicted on consumers by “financial advisors” occur not due to malice or greed but ignorance; as a result, better consumer protections require not only a fiduciary standard for advice, but a higher standard for competency.
The CFP should be the minimum standard for financial planning, but there is room for post-CFP studies/designations, especially those that support niches and specialization.
Being a (financial planning) professional entails lifelong learning.
No one should be allowed to hold themselves out as an advisor, consultant, or planner unless they are held to a fiduciary standard, period.
Corollary – there’s nothing wrong with a suitability standard, but those in sales should be required to hold themselves out as a salesperson, not an advisor. The real distinction is between advisors and salespeople.
The fiduciary standard can accommodate both fee and commission compensation mechanisms; HOWEVER, there must be clear standards and a process to which advisors can be held accountable to affirm that a recommendation met the fiduciary obligation despite the compensation involved. Ultimately, being a fiduciary is about process, not compensation.
A financial planning business should be run as a business; profit margins matter, even when operating a client-centric business, as it represents better sustainability for clients, better room for success of the planner, and is healthier for profession at large.
You don’t have to impoverish yourself as an advisor to run an effective, client-centric business. The fiduciary standard and personal financial success are not mutually exclusive.