Nothing ever becomes real till it’s experienced – Part 3 in an 6 part series

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it . . .”

This quote by John Keats has been a part of my life for the last four decades. And I have been waiting for a venue to apply it. My series of blog postings on the personal financial planning profession has provided just such an opportunity. The quote is from a letter by Keats to his brother and sister, George and Georgiana. The letter is long, but the sum of the matter is that knowledge acquired from books has little merit until actually applied in life.

And in point of fact, his observations have been supported by several studies and decades of research. The “sum and substance” of the studies is that “experts” in their various fields are experts as a result of the time they have put into their profession. This correlation between “time in grade” and superior performance is across all disciplines.  Everyone from a chess grand-master to a physician benefits by time practicing their profession.What is the magic number of hours to become an expert? Not surprisingly, it is 10,000 hours. This amount of time correlates quite nicely with seven years of medieval apprenticeship and the number of years required at a university to become a master at one’s profession: law, medicine, and theology.

Which brings me to today’s topic. In all of my years of practicing personal financial planning, no one has asked me what degrees I possess or what certifications I hold. The question has always been “What is your experience?” How many individuals have you worked with? What was your most challenging case? What was your most rewarding engagement?

This focus on experience by consumers, and the inherent ‘hard wiring’ to acquire skills as an expert only with years of practice, run afoul of the plans of universities and financial services firms. Both of these industries promote the best training, the best education to succeed as a personal financial planner. Industry training runs two years at best, and then you are on your own—no wonder advisers change firms on average every two years!

As regards university models, I have yet to find a program which involves Praxis. Praxis is applying, exercising, or practicing ideas, much like the residency in which a physician must participate. The schools are creating personal financial planners who are entering a profession whose average annual income is $67,000. And the average age of a personal financial planner is mid-fifties. So, the average planner has a great deal of experience, certainly much more than seven years. No wonder, the majority of student graduates go on to other professions in search of income.

In order to practice as a personal financial planner, a practitioner needs more than an academic degree or employer sponsored training. A planner requires ‘time in grade’, working alongside another practitioner, learning from their experiences and acquiring their own experience. Financial planning is truly a profession and the industrial models of producing planners are no longer sufficient.

I hope you will join my 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




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