Financial Planning Association: An Educational Benefit

What is the Financial Planning Association (FPA)
The Financial Planning Association is the largest membership organization dedicated to supporting personal financial planning experts in the nation. While it is generally thought of as the group for CFP® practitioners, you do not have to be a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to belong. People who support the financial planning process are able to join as well. There are about 95 chapters nationwide and tens of thousands of members. There are about 15,000 members who are a CFP® practitioner. Other types of professionals that are members are attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, investment company representatives, and others.

Stay up to date on financial planning topics

The St. Louis, MO chapter has a monthly meeting. Each month there is a different guest speaker, usually someone local, sometimes someone from out of town. This is a good way to stay up to date on various subjects. Past topics have included; a tax update with a focus on estate planning, a health insurance reform update, economic update, and Medicare information. Future topics this year include; the banking crisis, alternative investment strategies, long-term care protection planning, tax traps in annuity planning, and Modern Portfolio Theory 2.0. I earn continuing education credit hours for attending these educational meetings, which is fortunate because I need many hours as a requirement for my designations and memberships in some organizations.

Financial education resources

This is an industry that is full of constant change so reading is a must. As a member I receive a subscription to the Journal of Financial Planning, access to research and whitepapers, and a daily retirement planning newsletter e-mail. I also receive subscriptions to Kiplinger’s, Bloomberg Businessweek, Money, and Smart Money, so that I can stay on top of what my clients are reading.

There are different reasons that I am a member of each of the professional organization to which I belong; the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the Garrett Planning Network, and the Financial Planning Association (FPA). The primary reason I belong to the Financial Planning Association is for the educational benefit to me which of course benefits my clients in the long run.

Michele Clark in the news: Washington Family and Calgary’s Child

As a financial advisor and the mother of two boys, making sure that kids understand real life money concepts is important to me.  Habits around saving, investing, and philanthropy can be established when children are young.  So I was pleased to share some ideas which were highlighted in two magazines recently. I was quoted in the January 2012 issue of Washington Family magazine in the article “Starting a Piggy Bank Teach Savings Early” and in the January/February 2012 issue of Calgary’s Child magazine in the article “Help Your Kids Be Money-Savvy.”

Michele Clark in the news: Money Magazine

Money Magazine recently offered money makeovers to five families across the nation in an article titled “Five Families, Five Fixes”.  An O’Fallon, Missouri semi-retired couple had asked to participate and Money Magazine selected me to prepare a financial plan for this couple.  They are a terrific couple and I helped them with questions that many new retirees face. Each family has a story written about them.  The story about the couple that I helped is “Laid off and making the retirement savings last.”   See the Money Magazine article here.

What is a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor?

When I first became a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor I heard, more than a few times, “Congratulations… what is that?”  It wasn’t surprising, because NAPFA is a small, but important group.

What is NAPFA?

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is a group of professional financial advisors who give advice on a Fee-Only basis, meaning no commissions or incentives.  This way the client pays for the advice (rather than the mutual fund company or the insurance company, for example) and the client feels more comfortable that they are getting objective advice.  NAPFA was started in 1983 and only has about 2,400 members.  Considering the number of financial advisors there are in the country only a very small percentage of them offer advice on a Fee-Only basis.

How do you become a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor?

Becoming a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor is a multi-step process. From the website:

*You must agree to follow the NAPFA Fiduciary Oath

* Advise across Disciplines “NAPFA –Registered Financial Advisors are broadly trained to bring together and apply the separate disciplines comprising personal finance – income tax, financial position and cash flow, retirement preparation, estate planning, investments, and risk management.”

* Have a Bachelor’s degree

* Hold the CFP® or CPA/PFS designation

* Submit a comprehensive financial plan for peer review

* 60 hours of Continuing Education every two years

What does it mean to be a NAPFA member?

I recently participated in a volunteer effort called JumpStart Retire, which was a joint effort between Kiplinger Magazine and NAPFA to offer consumers the opportunity to have their retirement questions answered for free by NAPFA professionals. I answered phones for four hours and answered a lot of questions; I really enjoyed myself and got to help people as well.  What I call a “Do Good/Feel Good”.  I plan to do more of that with future NAPFA pro bono opportunities.  Also, NAPFA has free webinars from time to time for consumers as well.  To quote from, NAPFA members live by three important values:

* To be the beacon for independent, objective advice for individuals and families.

*To be the champion of financial services delivered in the public interest.

* To be the standard bearer for the emerging profession of financial planning.