It was a scenic summer day
in mountainous Estes Park, Colorado. Cheery puns and intermittent aging jokes added a jovial air to the deep-standing bond that defined the mood of the room. We gathered around long tables; there was work to be done.
More than 30 years ago, some of those same dedicated planners who gathered recently in Estes Park began an annual conference, known then and still today as “Retreat.” FPA Retreat has changed shape, but through the years it has championed a purpose to share knowledge and wisdom; to refine the “art” of financial planning; and to be together as a community, for the profession and for ourselves.
This most recent gathering reunited the founders of Retreat who have known each other for decades and have each had a long and successful career as a CFP® practitioner. The 32 attendees included six P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award winners and 13 past presidents of FPA, NAPFA, CFP Board, or FPA’s predecessor organizations, the ICFP and IAFP. The purpose of this reunion: to focus what has been accomplished and learned over the years and among the “Elders at Estes,” and assemble it in a powerful and useful way for the next generation of financial planners.
This is where I came in. As a member of the FPA NexGen community, my role at this Retreat reunion was to collect and deliver the takeaways from one generation to the next.
The first, and perhaps most important, takeaway is a communal love for the profession combined with earnest intentions to support each other’s success—both with clients, and on our personal journeys. I mention this first because I believe it is the undercurrent of the craftsmanship in financial planning. Graciously, I see it matched by our NexGen community.
Over two days we attended four sessions, focusing on the art of financial planning, succession planning, finishing well, and legacy. Here are my takeaways:
The Art of Financial Planning
- Financial planning is both a science and an art. The science is important, but formulaic. The art is, according to Alexandra Armstrong, in “guiding families through life experiences,” for better and for worse, with grace. This is the heart of financial planning.
- Living well is important but secondary to the impact of our work on clients’ lives.
- Retiring is an opportunity to do something interesting besides financial planning.
- NexGen planners need to take advantage of the work of the past generation, including teaching and learning opportunities inside firms, and multiple generations participating in NexGen events.
- Coming to the end of a planning career is a deeply important topic, both for planners themselves and the general public.
- This is a raw topic. As leaders, it’s important to have our hearts in the right place.
- Being that there is no accepted paradigm defining “success” in retirement, one needs to be created.
- Masses of people are heading into retirement, and financial planners have a responsibility to interface with the public on this topic to support overall public health.
- Legacy goes beyond money; it includes knowledge and wisdom.
- We work so future generations can build upon, develop, and refine what we’ve done.
- Maya Angelou perhaps said it best: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
With the Retreat reunion complete, it is now NexGen’s turn to accept the legacies of this founding generation, to accept the wisdom and knowledge, and to continue to develop and refine the financial planning profession.
This work is about people and about lives. In the words of our elders, we have a profound responsibility to support people in using money to navigate life’s experiences, for better or worse, with grace.
—Natalie P. Wagner, CFRC