Financial Planning: An Orphan Looking for a Home – Part 6 in an 6 part series

Editor’s note: Portions of the following posting by Susan Tillery, CPS/PFS, CFP, appeared in the January 2011 edition of AICPA Wealth Management Insider Newsletter.

Clearly, financial planning has not yet arrived as a profession. Its structure (asset management and/or product placement, or fee for advice) has not been decided. Perhaps another platform is available. I would propose it is a platform that only CPA’s can build. It can be built by CPA’s who will seize this moment in time; who will “adopt” financial planning and  take it to the professional level by offering “true fee-only” independent, objective financial planning.

The CPA is the clients’ trusted advisor and no one is more qualified and suited to offer comprehensive, independent, objective financial planning to your clients than they are. A CPA can attain the AICPA’s PFS designation and help present financial planning as a true profession by taking it to this next level. The CPA/PFS can help keep financial planning from being given over to the regulators. The AICPA has been working very hard to keep this from happening.  They even submitted a comment letter to the SEC strongly opposing the creation of a possible FINRA or other self-regulatory organization oversight for investment advisers. Why? Because this will take financial planning down a level.What does this new platform for financial planning look like? It is a model where it will be very difficult for anyone other than a CPA/PFS to offer true fee-only, independent and comprehensive planning. The CPA/PFS will be more than a trusted advisor. Rather he or she will be the professional advisor who helps their clients in all areas of their finances. The CPA/PFS will manage their client’s other advisors (attorney, investment advisor, insurance person, banker, trust officer, etc) as well as be their advocate. They will educate their clients and bring the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to assist them in making excellent financial decisions. CPA’s are recognized as professionals who have the highest ethics and who hold the greatest respect in the financial community. They can truly say, “We have no skin in the game.

Some CPA’s do not want to offer financial planning because they perceive financial planning as an “orphan” or have had bad experiences with this discipline. This is a fair assessment since financial planning has traditionally been offered, as stated earlier, as a sales tool or asset gatherer. Perhaps these CPA’s have not yet seen how “true fee-only” comprehensive planning is a valuable professional service that can bring true peace of mind, financial order and advocacy to their clients. When they do, they will hopefully want to be a part of this “adopted” profession

So where is Financial Planning at this moment? It’s at the center of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. You may say it was the credit market meltdown, the return of the bear market, or the irrational exuberance of consumers and their blindness to the upward volatility of the market. I propose it was the actions of practitioners caught in their moral dilemmas that brought about this tempest which affects us all.

The dialogue about the future of the profession needs to be had among CPA practitioners—not Congress or the regulators. I hope the CPA profession will not miss this opportunity to reinvent itself. I also hope CPA’s will attain the PFS designation and re-tool their practices so they can be the knowledge and thought leaders in this “new” profession.

We invite you to join Tom Tillery’s webcast Personal Financial Planning: Regulations, Updates, Future of the Profession on Friday, February 28 at 1:30 PM EST. This Webcast will review the history of Financial Planning and the Investment Adviser’s Act of 1940. Additional topics to be discussed are the regulation of Financial Advisers and the three main organizations which provide certification for Personal Financial Planning. The presentation is web based and virtual seating is limited. The course is approved for one hour of CPE and CE. For more information or to register, please email at


Speak Your Mind