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Michael Kitces’ #FASuccess Podcast: A Brief History of Financial Planning with Ben Coombs

Ben Coombs, a member of the first class of CFP certificants in 1973, talks with Michael Kitces about the history and evolution of financial planning.


Welcome, everyone. Welcome to the 82nd episode of the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast. My guest on today’s podcast is Ben Coombs. Ben is the former owner of Petra Financial Advisors, an independent advisory firm he built and ultimately sold to a successor when he was ready to retire, and is now retired after nearly 40 years of experience as a financial advisor. But what’s really unique about Ben is the fact that he was a member of the very first class of CFP certificants in 1973, and was subsequently involved in the formation of the Institute for Certified Financial Planners, also known as the ICFP, later that year, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the CFP Board in its early days. In other words, Ben has actually lived and been a part of the entire history of the movement of financial planning from the very beginning.

And in this episode, we talk in-depth about the history and evolution of financial planning itself, from what it was like to be part of the first class of CFP certificants, the challenges that set back the early financial planning movement when it was still largely about using financial plans to sell products, why the professional association for CFP certificants split from the broad association for financial advisors and took nearly 25 years to be rejoined as the FPA, the lawsuit that actually caused the CFP Board to be created as a spinoff from the CFP in Denver, and how almost all of the common industry debates that we have today, from the sometimes problematic relationship that CFP stakeholders have with the CFP Board to the battles over various forms of advisor compensation are not at all new but have actually been repeating every decade since the inception of financial planning itself.

We also talk about Ben’s accumulated wisdom having been a financial planning practitioner and a part of the financial planning movement over his entire professional career, from how the financial planning approach fundamentally changes the nature of the questions we ask of and for our clients, to why it’s so necessary to sometimes give things up in order to move forward, whether it’s in our own career or for the financial planning profession as a whole, how different compensation models can sometimes unwittingly cause us to collect bad information about the solutions we make available to our clients, and why in the end it’s absolutely crucial to be the one that delivers important news to your clients, including the bad news.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Ben shares his wisdom about what every financial advisor should be doing to advance their own careers and the quality of the services they provide to their clients.

So whether you are interested in hearing more about the beginning of the financial planning industry, how many of the challenges we face as a community have cropped up decade after decade, or insights into what advisors can actively do to keep pushing their careers forward, I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast!

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