There's a phrase I use a lot: happy problem. It describes my predicament when I've got two or more (maybe many more) good choices. I've had this problem at pastry shops and I've had this problem when judging which advisors have had the most profound impact on the profession.
This should be the case given the numbers of advisors in the country - there should be an extraordinary handful who are making the work of all planners more valuable, more valued, more efficient, more accurate, more rewarding and more enjoyable. The winners of Financial Planning Pro Bono Awards a few months ago fit that bill, and so do the six winners of this year's Financial Planning Influencer Awards.
This year's awards pull together a unique group: two leaders, Marv Tuttle and Tom Orecchio, who are doing, or have done, important work with the industry's associations and lobbying groups. Their efforts have been directed at trying to ensure that the nation's planners are seen as a group of helpful, thoughtful and responsible financial professionals who can be regulated without stifling oversight.
One winner, Wade Pfau, is an academic who is reexamining basic assumptions planners make about retirement planning. Past often is not prologue - and the long embrace of the concept that most retirees can withdraw 4% of their savings annually without much worry has been smartly challenged by Pfau.
Another winner, Bob Curtis, is the creator of MoneyGuidePro. He's helped lead the charge into the cloud. If information is power, advisors and their clients need to leverage technology to get as much power as they can - the power to fully grasp a client's financial situation, the power to devise the most desireable financial plan, the power to fully translate that plan to a client and the power to do it as efficiently as possible.
We chose Julie Littlechild as a winner for her work enabling planners to get actionable feedback from clients, and Caleb Brown for his efforts as a young planner to pivot and refocus his career on recruiting and helping other young planners find jobs in order to keep them in the profession.
As Financial Planning senior editor Ann Marsh, who wrote about this year's winners, told me, "The truth is that there are dozens - likely hundreds - of planners out there who are making substantial contributions to the profession. But the Influencer Awards give us the chance to recognize a few of them for pushing the envelope for everybody else." Choosing among them was a happy problem.