My musings: 50 years of CFP Board and my journey

Nandita Das Financial Planning

Wow!  50 years of prestige!

We are celebrating 50 years of prestige under the certified financial planning CFP board. Yes, we have come a long way but at the same time there’s a long way to go for this profession. As I look back, I realize role that each one of us have played in the evolution of the financial planning profession. Personally, I remember 16 years back when I had epiphany and realized that I needed to get some help to get my financial house in order. US has been my third country and for some unknown or should I say obvious reasons, I had high expectations of the professional that I was searching to help me with my finances. As I went searching for searching for CFP professionals or professionals in general, I realized that my expectations from the industry was way ahead of the curve. I did not get the service that I was expecting or had hoped for.  My choice then was limited to either succumb to the circumstances or change the circumstances.

At that point of my life I had finished my PhD in finance with a dissertation in hedge funds and had simultaneously studied to get my Chartered Financial Analyst designation. The thing about going through the process of earning your PhD is, it makes you humble. It makes you realize how much you don’t know. I knew my dissertation in hedge funds and my CFA designation would come to my help for managing my investments, if I had any investments, but certainly not for a holistic view of my financial life. The few professionals that I met with a hope that they would help me chart my financial life map were interested in how much investment assets I had. I am not sure if that was their intention or was it that the brain was tuned to ask the so-called required questions to qualify a client. It probably was a barometer or a triage that we go through when we go to a doctor’s office. The triage has a fixed outcome and so did the question of how much assets you have also had a fixed outcome; which for me was ‘You do not qualify as a client’. I was flabbergasted.

I knew I needed help but didn’t know where to look for. I was an immigrant professional raising a child with dual-income family and still didn’t have the resources to meet or qualify as a client because of the AUM requirements. I wondered how many of us immigrants are knocking at the wrong door and getting frustrated. I needed to do something for myself and for the immigrants in general.  I took charge of my life and decided to study for the CFP exam and get myself qualified to do financial planning not just of my family but also for all the other immigrants and other people who do not meet the AUM requirements that was so prevalent in those days.

Yes, I did get my CFP though it took two tries to pass the exam. I wondered why so? I had done my PhD in one go; I had done my CFA in one go and here I was struggling to pass my CFP exam. To some extent I would say I had a chip on my shoulder.  I literally thought this was one more designation that I could just zip through and did not realize the holistic knowledge base that was required for you to successfully pass the CFP exam. Once I got my CFP, I realized that financial planning is for everyone; not just for people that have a required base of assets that the financial professional could manage.  I decided to do my part in serving the industry two ways.

This was the year 2010.  I had joined as a faculty at Delaware State University- a historically black University. Professionally as an academician, I felt I had found my home.  I was very comfortable with what the University had to offer me and what I could offer to the first generation of University-goers. My appetite for learning and taking up new challenges has always been to some extent insurmountable and so I decided to start a CFP Board registered financial planning program at Delaware State University. Yes, the battle had to be won and after a few years I was successful in establishing the financial planning minor in the AACSB accredited College of business of Delaware State University.

Simultaneously, I decided to start my own registered investment advisory firm to help immigrant professionals understand the financial lingo of their adopted country and to help them realize their financial goals. After trying couple of different options with my RIA, I eventually stumbled on to a discussion with one of the industry professionals who had recently started his own RIA firm- Envision Wealth Planning. It was almost as if I was connecting the dots.  I met this professional at the African American Association of financial advisors known as Quad A where I had been taking my students to represent Delaware State university at the conference for the last 4 years. Here I am today trying to navigate my path with Envision Wealth Planning as a financial planner, while also trying to help the profession build their pipeline by educating the next generation of financial advisors.

In conclusion, I wonder what would have been my career and how would my life look like, if I did not know the existence of CFP Board. As I look back in my rear-view mirror, I realize how far the profession has come in last 20 years.  I didn’t know its existence prior to the 20 years so I cannot speak to that. As I look forward, I have a dream- a dream about the profession that all of us together can make happen. Accessibility for financial planning for everyone or rather holistic financial planning for everyone- people with the required AUM; people with negative net worth; people of color; etc.  I realize that money has a huge cultural underpinning and our financial goals are so much based on hour upbringing, our culture, our value system.

I realize the need for diversity and inclusion in the profession, but my dream is much beyond that. I’m looking forward to a day when we are all trained and understand cultural sensitivity to the point where D&I takes a backseat. Till that happens, we are here taking the D&I one step at a time while trying to incorporate the need for cultural sensitivity training across the board. The profession needs diversity in a holistic sense in terms of race, gender, age. For us to keep that diverse set of clients and diverse set of professionals what we need is cultural sensitivity training. Thus, to move forward let’s do our share in making this profession where it should be a- “One of the top profession, well respected and meeting the needs of not just the high net-worth individuals but of the rank and file of the country.”  I’m lucky to be part of this journey and would love to see this mature to the point when the people realize that the financial planning is needed just like we need food and shelter. In fact, financial planning is intertwined with our basic needs of food and shelter and providing for our family and the society. So, let’s make this happen.