Earlier this month, I attended the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Conference. Yup. CPAs dealing in the financial planning area. Guess where they held the conference? Right. Las Vegas. Where else, a monastery in Idaho?
Now, it seemed a bit strange to attend a seminar on structuring a financial plan for a client when not too many yards away, slots, crap tables, roulette wheels, and blackjack tables were humming along at a fever pitch. This was all in a huge complex known as Mandalay Bay where it took me literally 15 minutes to walk from my room to the conference site…all indoors. Hey, you want to know where the Weapons of Mass Destruction are? Look here.
What was interesting is to see some 600+ CPAs listening to various topics about financial planning. One CPA with whom I had lunch, told me most emphatically that in his opinion, the majority of the attendees were there simply to fulfill CPE credits and nothing more. So, I looked around the huge room. Oh sure, there were a few reading the newspaper and there were some staring off into space, and in fact, there were a couple sound asleep, but the majority of those in attendance were paying attention to the speaker, writing notes, and when appropriate, asking questions. Hey, maybe these people are for real and are serious about doing well in the financial planning arena. I began to think so.
Of course, there were a few questionables here. I'm not sure that a case study at one seminar was really on point. After all, it talked about a client who had an eight-figure income. $23 million. Really, how many financial planners in that audience had clients in that category? Of course, as one prominent CPA reminded me, there are more millionaires today than ever before in history and more people are playing and winning big numbers in various lotteries around the country.
So, the question backs up on itself. Financial planners clearly are needed and conferences like this show what there is to be learned about the area. Say what you will, I disagree with that CPA who felt only CPE credits were the target. These 600+ people were for real, from all parts of the country and abroad, and they were gobbling up the information as though their life depended on it…and maybe it did.
My friend Stuart Kessler was in the forefront of personal financial planning since its coming of age in the mid 70s. It's now almost 30 years later and financial planning is indeed in the forefront of a CPA's activity because preparing tax returns is only the stepping stone. Who better knows a client than this or her CPA?
The AICPA is directing more resources to its Personal Financial Planning Division and the Personal Financial Specialist credential, among other things. And they have a number of PFP-related initiatives underway.
It's all looking good for the CPA who wants to venture into the financial planning area.
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