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  • Bruce Howell

The Three Biggest Changes I've Witnessed in Financial Planning Over the Past 20 Years.

Updated: Mar 16

Working in finance during most of my adult life has taught me some things: everyone needs a financial plan, things can change quickly, and you are smarter than you think you are. I started in this business in the ’90s and, I know I don’t have to tell most of you this...but things have changed a lot since the ’90s. Back then, investing and financial planning came down to selling a limited group of people a handful of products. Today, financial planning isn’t just buying a product; financial planning goes far beyond money and investments. Today, we help uncover the real, emotional factors that help answer the question ‘what makes you happy?’ And then, we build a financial strategy to support it. Here are three of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the financial industry over the past couple of decades.


1. Companies Don’t Take Care of You Anymore. It used to be that once someone got a job, they would stay there for their entire career. And part of the deal of committing your life to an organization was they’d take care of you back; pensions, robust healthcare plans, life insurance. But in today’s age, where people are jumping from job to job every 3, 6, 10 years, that philosophy has sort of gone to the wayside. Sure, there are still 401k matches, ancillary life insurance policies, and the occasional defined-benefit pension plans, but as a whole, taking care of your financial future is really up to you now. Finding and trusting a financial planner can help focus your efforts towards a goal that will help keep you and your family protected as your assets grow.


2. The Internet. With the growth of the internet people have so much more visibility into the markets; and investment opportunities have grown beyond the traditional ETFs that became available in the ’90s. As the industry began to expand online, so did the opportunity to engage with more and more people. The internet really helped to democratize who could interact with the market and how financial planning could be applied to the masses. Prices started dropping and products got competitive — overall, this ended up being really good for the consumer. But of course, the internet opened up doors for amateurs to be able to dance with the market, which, if you’re not paying attention, could turn out not to be so lucrative after all.


3. Financial Planning has Gone Mainstream. With the fees and the perception tied to financial planning 20 years ago, the clientele was often seen as simply wealthy people. Now, with the insight and accessibility into investing, investment products, and the market in general, the entire industry has opened up. Over the past few decades, this industry has moved from serving mostly only high-net-worth individuals to working with anyone who has goals in life. The creation and adoption of the flat-fee approach has helped so many people enter into financial planning so they can plan and prepare for inflation, emergencies, long-term goals, and retirement.

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