Personal financial planning has grown and evolved considerably over the past several decades. Education, objectives, a professional code of ethics and associations provide financial planning with the framework to become a robust profession.

The education of future planning professionals involves a broad range of content areas. However, the preparation of a successful planner goes beyond basic theoretical content and practical actions. It also requires the development of important communication skills. Successful planning professionals must be able to develop a plan for clients - but also, perhaps just as important, communicate the plan effectively.

Successful planners must effectively present, articulate, listen and, in many cases, show care and empathy for their clients. The relationship between practitioner and client - based upon trust and honest dialogue - is integral to success. Development of the vital skills necessary for this relationship must be present in all planner preparation programs.

Many professions have a code of ethics, requiring that individuals maintain higher standards than those required by law. These codes outline how professionals should pursue a common cause with minimal cost to themselves or to the general population. A code protects members from certain pressures, such as cutting corners, cheating or other forms of misconduct. Professionals must adhere to the code or be subject to discipline.

The CFP professional must adhere to a variety of rules of conduct to serve the public in a competent, ethical manner. The CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct outlines the ethical standards for CFPs, and the CFP Board's Code of Ethics expresses the professional's recognition of his or her "responsibilities to the public, to clients, to colleagues and to employers."

Yet there is considerable work to be done. Education of current and future practitioners requires additional qualified faculty providing contextual learning experiences based on practice and empirical research. Leaders in education and the profession must be equally skilled in professional practice as well as in conducting lines of inquiry that will challenge and refine all areas of practice.

Practitioners must continue to wholeheartedly embrace the notion of service and the responsibilities that come from serving an important function to the public. And professional standards and ethical codes within planning must continue to be followed and enforced by leaders in the profession such as the CFP Board and the Financial Planning Standards Board.


Charles R. Chaffin, Ed.D., is the director of academic programs and initiatives at the CFP Board and editor of the newly published Financial Planning Competency Handbook, from which this was adapted.


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