Takeaways From The XY Planning Network Conference

JGR XY Planning Network

I spent last week in Charlotte for the inaugural XY Planning Network conference (XYPN15). XYPN15 was the first ever financial planning conference geared towards advisors working with Gen X and Gen Y clients. For those not familiar, most people consider anyone born from the early 1960s to early 1980s as Generation X and early 1980s to early 2000s as Generation Y (aka Millennials).

The clients I serve are at various stages of their lives, so why might I choose to attend a conference with such a focus? Here are some takeaways from XYPN15 to help you understand why I’m excited to be part of the XY Planning Network.

1. Throughout my career, I’ve made it a priority to pursue learning opportunities. I desire to expand my knowledge, but I also want to better understand the needs of my clients. Many conferences I’ve attended have included sessions addressing topics such as investments, taxes, estate planning, insurance, etc…very technical content! What I’ve realized, however, is that sometimes the best way to learn is to simply surround yourself with people that share your passion(s).

And that is exactly how I would best describe XYPN15! Don’t get me wrong, XYPN15 offered great sessions centered around technical content. I was glad I sat in on “Tax Tips for Small Business Owners” and two sessions about “Student Loans.” However, what really stood out were the experiences other network members brought to the table.

I can honestly say I’ve never been surrounded by such a transparent group in the financial planning profession. One attendee has thousands of followers that read his blog. Another owns a firm that’s struggling to get off the ground. One may think egos would have prevented these two from connecting, but that could not have been further from the truth. They both shared a passion for financial planning and, most importantly, genuinely desired to help their clients. That commonality brought them together and I’m convinced they each learn something from one another!

2. I’ve see many advisors offer their services to the children and grandchildren of clients, knowing they will be the ones to inherit assets. Rather than waiting for the client to pass away to “pitch” the heirs, they see it as an opportunity to get their foot in the door. In my experience, these types of relationships rarely provide value and end up falling apart.

XYPN15 was full of planners that understand the needs of Gen X and Gen Y. Planners that don’t choose to serve these groups simply because one day they will be the beneficiaries of an IRA. Nor do these planners feel like they have to provide advice because of the relationship to an existing client.

They’ve identified the real issues and opportunities Gen X and Gen Y face, sometimes because they’re going through them personally! They desire to not only provide financial advice, but to help each person identify what’s really important in their lives. I’ve always said financial planning is much more than numbers on a page and it was crystal clear my peers at XYPN15 agreed.

3. Financial planning consists of much more than discussions centered around investments and the economy. In fact, there wasn’t one investment or economic outlook presented at XYPN15. Why is this notable?

The day XYPN15 concluded was also the day the Federal Reserve announced their decision to leave interest rates alone. On that day, I couldn’t help but wonder how many financial advisors were glued to their TV or Twitter feed, anxiously awaiting the announcement as if it would somehow alter their client’s long-term investment plan.

In my opinion, economic outlooks and short-term market movements should not be the primary driver of investment management decisions. I realize hardly anyone would admit to having a short-term outlook, but why else would an advisor care whether the Federal Reserve raises interest rates this month or next? Does their timing alter their client’s long-term plan? I certainly hope not!

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s prudent to periodically assess the state of the economy. However, planners like those at XYPN15 focus on the bigger picture related to personal financial planning. Understanding someone’s values and goals, and creating an investment plan that aligns with those values and goals should be the real objective of financial planning.

Admittedly, I had low expectations heading into XYPN15. Not because of anyone or anything, but because it was the first conference of its kind. I left XYPN15 re-energized and excited about the future of financial planning. It was refreshing to be part of a group that understands this profession is not about us. Rather, it’s all about the clients we serve.