Dave Yeske: Volunteering is kind of addicting, you know? Once you get wrapped up in FPA and any other ways in which you’re engaging with your profession as a whole, it’s not that easy to give up. Passion has a way of building momentum. And so then you just have to figure out how to do both: build your business and manage and maintain all the volunteer activities.
Hannah Moore: You’re listening to You’re a Financial Planner, Now What? The Podcast to help you fast track your career, by bringing you meaningful conversations on topics that influence new financial planners, their careers, and the lives of their clients. I’m your host, Hannah Moore, a certified financial planner, firm owner, and practicing financial planner.
Today I’m excited to have Dr. Dave Yeske, the 2017 P. Kemp Fain, Jr., Award winner on the show. The P. Kemp Fain, Jr., Award is a pinnacle of recognition in the financial planning profession. It’s essentially a lifetime achievement award given by the FPA. It was started in 1993 and, needless to say, the recipients are some of the best of the best. As a bonus, we’ve Roy Diliberto on the show. He received the award in 2015 and is part of this year’s selection committee.
Thanks for joining us, Roy. Can you tell us why Dr. Dave Yeske was selected for the 2017 P. Kemp Fain, Jr., Award?
Roy Diliberto: He was one of the first presidents of the PA back in 2003. So, he served very well as president but after his presidency he went on to many, many other things. He’s a mentor for other financial planners in the residency program. As a matter of fact this year he will be the dean of that program. Very, very involved in academia, he’s a distinguished adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Business. And he’s the director of Golden Gate University’s Financial Planning program. They’ve just started a graduate program for financial planners, and they’re now taking candidates for that. He teaches Capstone Cases in the financial planning course at Golden Gate. He’s written many, many articles. And one of the things that I’ve noticed about David is that David is a frequent speaker at the National Conferences, and every time I hear David he has something new to offer. It’s usually very, very thought provoking. He has just given himself so much over the years that he, in my opinion, exemplifies what P. Kemp Fain is about.
And by the way, one of the people who nominated David Yeske this time was Paul Fain. And, as a matter of fact, let me see if I can find this, he said something I thought was really interesting. Ah, here it is. He said, in my 29 years in the financial planning profession, I have never met anyone, other than my father, who has impacted the profession in more ways, affecting more people, with more passion for financial planning than Dave Yeske.
That pretty much summarizes it, doesn’t it? So, I think it was an easy choice this year, for the committee.
Hannah Moore: Thank you for joining us again today, Dave.
Dave Yeske: My pleasure, always happy to be here.
Hannah Moore: First of all congratulations on the P. Kemp Fain, Jr., Award. That is such a huge accomplishment.
Dave Yeske: Well thank you so much. It’s all so humbling. You know, I went back and looked at the list of people who have received this and thought wow, I can’t believe I get to join that club.
Hannah Moore: So, what was it like when you received that phone call?
Dave Yeske: You know, it was just hard to know what to think about it. It’s certain I have so many reasons I have to talk to various people in the profession including Shannon Pike, and so when I saw that he was calling, I didn’t really know what to expect. So it caught me quite by surprise, I’ll just say it felt wonderful. It’s one of those things that gives you the … just the sense that maybe the stuff I’ve been doing, maybe the stuff I’ve been passionate about really is worthwhile. It’s just nice to get that acknowledgement. And I think back, I had the opportunity to present the P. Kemp Fain, Jr., Award to Dick Wagner in 2003. He’s the one, for me he’s sort of been the epitome … I mean everyone who’s ever received it is worthy and impressive and has done great work to advance the profession, but Dick, for me, was a great personal thing. In a sense it makes me feel even closer to Dick, that I’ve been chosen for this incredible honor.
Hannah Moore: Coming off of that, what does this award mean to you?
Dave Yeske: I’m about to use the word validation, but I’m not really sure that’s the right word. For me, I think it means that a lot of stuff I’ve been working on over the years, that really mattered to me, that I thought was important so I put energy into it. You don’t think about it, when you get swept up in something, whether it’s teaching or mentoring or the work I’ve done in the area of evidence based financial planning. Again, you don’t think about it, you just get swept up in it, and to all of a sudden have this award show up in my life. It’s like, wow, I guess the stuff that mattered so much to me maybe it’s real, maybe it matters to other people as well.
Hannah Moore: So, I think it’s fair to say that the work that you’ve done, even just in receiving this honor, is just recognition that you’re very important to this profession. But, and I know that this may seem like an odd question, but how important is this profession to you? Like what has this profession meant to you?
Dave Yeske: Wow. Well this profession’s been everything to me. You know I was one of those people who went through a couple of careers before I found my way to financial planning and this is the one that is just so meaningful. I think I was always called to meaningful work, but I just didn’t know what that was going to be. And then I found financial planning and realized, oh I can do something that it certainly would allow me to make a living, support myself and my family, but it’s gonna be meaningful. It’s going to be something where I feel like I’m making a difference in the world. I call myself a financial planning evangelist, and it’s because I feel that way about it. I feel so deeply that financial planning has the power to transform lives for the better, and that we have a responsibility to use that power to make the world a better place. We’re dealing with incredible forces, when we’re dealing with financial planning.
I’ve been working with Elizabeth Jetton on this new introduction to financial life planning class, and it’s just a constant reminder that, as Dick liked to say, money is the single most powerful secular force on the planet. It is the material force through which we interact with the world and with each other. And so it becomes very fraught, it’s a huge source of stress for people. It’s a huge source of anxiety. It could be a huge negative for people’s health. But flipped around, if people can come to terms with their relationship with money, with the help of a financial planner, all of a sudden now they can feel at ease. They can feel in control, they can know that they can care for aging parents, and educate their kids, and provide for a comfortable retirement. And not have this sort of ill-defined vague fear in the back of their mind all the time, that they don’t know the path they’re on. They don’t know how to control the money forces in their lives.
We as financial planners we’re, again I’m quoting Dick Wagner, we’re kind of the secular priests in this world of money. And we have to take that responsibility seriously. But it’s also tremendously satisfying. You know a month doesn’t go by, that a client on the phone or sitting across the conference table from me, doesn’t say something along the lines of, my life is better because you’re in it. And I know I’m not the only who has that experience. And I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. So, I guess I could go on and on, but that’s what it means to me to have found my way to financial planning and have the privilege to practice this art with my clients.
Hannah Moore: I love that. So, have you always had this passion for this profession?
Dave Yeske: Well, you know, it’s funny. I’m gonna out myself. When I first started to make a move into financial planning, I had a sense of what it could be. I had been working for a company, the Paul Revere Insurance group, which long ago got absorbed into Provident Life and Accident, which got absorbed into Unum. I was a brokerage rep, which means I was calling on insurance brokers, stock brokers, financial planners, anyone with a life and disability license. I was representing my company’s portfolio products. And I fell myself more and more gravitating toward the financial planners, so the certified financial planner pros. And realizing that they seem to have my dream job.
I enrolled in a CFP education program, and I’m making all the preparations to start my own office and really at the time, becoming a CFP was kind of a checklist. It’s like, okay, gotta rent some office space, gotta buy some computers check, gotta have professional designation okay, gonna go for the CFP check, and somehow over the course of the, whatever it was, 18 months that it took me to complete my studies. I just had this utter transformation. Something about the process transformed the way I thought about what I was going to do. And all of a sudden it no longer felt like I was starting a business, it felt like I was entering a profession. And one that was meaningful, one that was where I was gonna make a difference in the world.
So, I guess by the time I opened my doors, yes I was feeling that way. I was feeling passionate about it, I was feeling like I going to be doing something meaningful, or was going to require me to find a few clients, and that took a while. Everybody goes through that if you start from scratch.
Hannah Moore: So, what were some other of the key or defining moments that you had as a young planner that really helped shape the Dave Yeske that we know now?
Dave Yeske: Some of them were really getting involved as a volunteer. I remember I was at an ICFP retreat at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Back in those days the retreats were always held on college campuses. I think partly because college campuses were represented inexpensive housing in the summer. Anyway, I was in a break out section, and Terry Simon, who I think was the president-elect at the time, was leading this break out section. I can be kind of mouthy, and I spoke up and said, hey, if there’s a San Francisco society of the ICFP it’s not on my radar screen. And Terry took two big steps across the circle and stuck his finger in my chest and said, you’re right, it’s a problem, and I think you need to fix it.
And the next thing I knew, he was hooking me up with some staffers. And then the next year of my life was devoted to organizing this San Francisco society. Pulling in friends and colleagues who were financial planners in the San Francisco Bay area. That was really transformative for me. It could be very lonely being a financial planner if you’re just sitting in an office by yourself, which I was. Sort of bouncing off the four walls. And all of a sudden I had a reason, I had a purposeful activity, around which I could gather some friends and some colleagues, and all of a sudden I had a community. And when you have a community it just deepens and activates your focus even more. And so we were now suddenly there were six of us and eight of us, then there were 100 of us that were all focused on moving this whole thing forward in a meaningful way.
I think that was a big part of it for me, was having Terry Simon stick his finger at my chest and say, you need to do something about this. And having an excuse to conjure a gathering of like-minded colleagues and then just building on that energy and building that community. In the San Francisco FPA chapter, is to this day a wonderful community that I’m proud to be a part of. We’re gonna have a chapter meeting this afternoon, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Hannah Moore: So as you continued with your practice and you started finding clients, and building up your practice, was there ebbs and flows with that? Or how did you really find balance between your practice, your clients, and this passion that you have for the profession?
Dave Yeske: That is such a great question, and I’ll say that my commitment to the profession, my commitment to FPA, actually just kept growing, even as my practice was growing. And they seemed to go together. I think back to 2003, the year that I had the privilege of serving as president of FPA, and my practice actually grew at that time even though it was a time of maniac activity. I mean, I think the first five months of the year I figured out I’d been out of the office something like 60% of the time. On the road, doing various board meetings, and meeting with chapters, and meeting with people in DC and New York. And yet my practice was growing. When I thought about it, I realized it was for two reasons.
First of all, I’m a terrible procrastinator, and I heard someone, some time management expert at one point, say that, if you’re not getting your work done in a given day you should crunch the container. Actually artificially restrict the amount of time you’re working in the office. And that sometimes people get much more efficient. And I found that, for me, all the FP and volunteer work was crunching my container. I could put things off one day at a time forever, but all of a sudden if I’m gonna be out of town for a week, I’m not putting it off one day, I’m putting it off for a week. And so I would tend to get much more efficient.
But the most important thing, and I believe this has been true my entire career as a financial planner, is that these activities were so charging my batteries, that when I was back in the office, when I was talking to clients, and most especially when I was talking to prospective clients, I would get wound up. I’d get excited. I mean, their hair would be blowing back. People would say, my God, you’re really excited about this, aren’t you? And I’d say, yes, this is important. This matters. And what I discovered is that people like to work with people who are excited about what they are doing. And so anything that was charging my batteries, to the degree that this volunteer work was charging my batteries, it was actually making people want to work with me. I found, for me, it wasn’t really a trade-off, it wasn’t an either/or, they sort of went hand in hand.
Hannah Moore: It’s a really good perspective and one I don’t know that I’ve heard before, of how volunteering and really channeling that passion can help you in your business.
Dave Yeske: It certainly worked for me. I will say I’ve had a lot of people over the years come up to me and say, well Dave, you seem to have done a lot of volunteer work, and it seems like you’re successful as financial planner, maybe I should volunteer, too, what do you recommend? And my advice has always been the same, and that is if you volunteer because you think there’s gonna be like a one to one relationship between your volunteer work and some subsequent success, it’s just not gonna work. In my experience, it’s the people who volunteer because they’re not capable of doing otherwise, because they are drawn to it. Those are the people who probably are gonna have some success in their profession as well, but it’s not because of the volunteer work. It’s the whole correlation does not equal causation. I think it’s not that the volunteer work causes the success, I think the people who are called to volunteer are also likely to be successful, just because they care, they are passionate, they have energy for it.
Anyway, I think I lost your question somewhere along the way there.
Hannah Moore: I love what you just said. You used the word called, and I don’t feel like that’s a term … I feel like I hear people using that kind of on the side, and kind of in quiet whispers. But that there is almost a sense of calling when you really start looking at people who have done very well in this profession.
Dave Yeske: And it’s a calling that arrives, I think when you look around and you say, first of all, I didn’t create this thing, I have the privilege of practicing financial planning, but I didn’t create it. It was created by others. And it came out of a community of practice, and if we’re gonna be successful, if we’re gonna the impact on the world that we can, that I know we can, we’re gonna do it as a community. We’re gonna do it together. At some point you can’t, for me anyway, you can’t not feel like you owe it to the community to give back. I mean, I’ve been the beneficiary of countless efforts of so many colleagues over the last 45 years, and in whatever way I can I feel like I need to give back. I need to sort of pull my share of the burden. Although, it doesn’t feel like a burden. Everything I do in the profession just feels like fun. So I do think it’s a calling, and so many of my colleagues I’ve gotten to know over the years doing volunteer work, they clearly also feel it’s a calling.
And I love that. I love being around that maniac energy of people who just donate because they can’t not do it, because it’s important, because they feel like they are changing the world and they are. So, yeah, calling. I would definitely embrace that word.
Hannah Moore: Even just the, you’re a financial planning evangelist, I mean those words are very, very powerful. And I think, I hope, a lot of the young planners who are listening to this can really relate to that on a very deep level.
Dave Yeske: I do, too. And I will say that I meet lots of planners of sort of all ages and all stages of career. Some of it through my work with residency, and some of it with my work with students, and I will say I see just as much passion, just as much sense of altruistic mission among new planners as among anyone else. And, in fact, I find that when I’m talking to fellow instructors or when I’m talking to mentors in the residency program, I will often counsel that one must be very cautious or, I’m not sure cautious is the right word, but you just have to be kind of gentle and caring when you talk about the profession around newer planners, or planner wannabes. Because they tend to have a vision of the profession as something really special, and you need to treat it that way.
I knew of a situation in a residency where a mentor made a joke that really upset some of the residents because their view of the profession was so pure and this joke was not so pure, I think it’s something to be cultivated. I think people show up with this vision of the profession as something truly special and something, and as a sacred trust. And so I think that that needs to be respected and cultivated to make sure it really takes root. There’s nothing worse than being cynical about what you do as a living, or what you do for a living. And there’s nothing better than feeling like it’s a calling as we’ve been discussing.
Hannah Moore: Shifting gears a bit, you’ve been in this profession for a while. So, what are the greatest advances that you’ve seen us make as a financial planning community and profession?
Dave Yeske: I’m gonna say we’ve made huge advances on two fronts. I believe that there needs to be balance between the interior and the exterior if we’re gonna be effective financial planners. And, back in the 90s we saw a couple of big shifts. On the exterior side you might say the quantitative side … the work that Lin Hopewell did, to introduce the cast of modeling into our body of knowledge. And I talked to young planners today and they sort of can’t believe that it wasn’t always there, but the reality is that, as a profession, we went along for decades without that in our toolkit. And that turns out to be really important.
The other thing that really came together in the 90s was the emergence of financial life planning. And the recognition that you can’t do good financial planning unless you’re capable through both knowledge and skills of getting deep into the interior realm with your clients. The operating instructions for the plan, they live inside your client’s heads. And so if you can’t get in there with them, you’re not gonna know what the plan should look like.
I once heard a financial planner say, I know what my client’s need even before they walk in my office. I think there were a lot of financial planner at one time who operated that way. And the reality is we don’t know what our clients need before they walk in our office. We don’t know what our clients need in order to live satisfying, the kind of satisfying lives that they deserve, until we’ve done deep discovery. And probably return to it again and again and again, in building our relationship and building our understanding of the interior landscape of the client. Because financial planning is not about maximizing along some financial dimension. If that were the case we’d tell our clients never to retire. That’s not optimal. Now, from a purely financial standpoint, it’s about helping people take whatever financial resources they have and using them to the fullest in order to realize their vision for their life for themselves and their family. And you just can’t do that without deep discovery.
And the other piece that I’ll say is that at one level the quantitative part of what we do is easy. It’s change that’s hard. Individuals struggle with change. Whether it’s environmental change that’s imposed upon them, or there is a death in the family, or loss of a job, or gaining a new job, or an inheritance, it doesn’t have to be bad things. People comes to us to help them cope with that change. And it’s volitional change. People want to figure out how they can retire, how they can educate their kids, how they can achieve other goals. In every case, they have to adapt, they have to change their behavior in some way. And we’re called upon to be those sort of thought partners, those coaches, to help them change their behaviors in a way that allows them to realize their goals. To implement the strategies we come up with.
And that takes a special skill set. You have to be a little bit counselor, a little bit coach, a little bit strategist, and it’s the growing understanding of our role as not just number cruncher, but as strategist and coach and facilitator, that I think has been one of the most powerful shifts I’ve seen in the profession.
Hannah Moore: You had said that there were two different changes, or was that the interior/exterior?
Dave Yeske: That was more the internal/external. If you look at the work that’s being done by MIchael Kitces and Wade Pfau, and Michael Finke, I mean there are a lot of people out there that are doing good quantitative work. They’re talking the work that Lin Hopewell did when he really shifted our understanding of what it means to understand the quantitative or exterior realm, and they keep taking it deeper and deeper. And that’s important. In my own doctoral research, I found interestingly I had built a model, and we’ve talked about this in a prior webcast, but I built a model that described the different aspects of a financial planner’s relationship with clients And it included the data driven realm, the sort of quantitative realm, and also the relationship driven realm. The life planning, financial life planning realm that involves deep interior work. And what I found was that when you’re measuring those modes of engagement against client trust or relationship commitment, that the data driven realm actually scored higher than the relationship driven realm.
When we’ve actually talked to clients one on one about it, they’ll say things like, well yeah, I want to have a good relationship with my planner, but I need to know they have a big brain first. And we need to remember that as financial planners, we need to be able to go into that interior realm, but we are financial planners and clients still rely on us to have the skill set to understand the numbers and to understand the numbers and the economy, and the markets, and how to analyze them in a really nuanced way. I’ve done some subsequent research in this area, where I’ve tried to measure the degree to which financial planners were balanced across the different realms, you had a balance between the data and the relationship driven modes, and the policy driven mode, which is sort of in the middle. And what I have found again and again is that as a profession we’re balanced. If you mush everyone’s results together, you see really nice balance across these different modes of engagement. But when you look at planners individually, we all tend to have these sort of strategic comfort zones.
And you’ll see that some planners are really skewed very heavily towards the financial life planning side, and they’re spending a lot of their time and resources and developing all of their skills in that area, where others are focusing entirely on the exterior quantitative realm. And everything my research is suggesting is that we need to have a balance. You can’t slip into your comfort zone.
Hannah Moore: Well I think it really speaks to this idea that we have to continue to hone our craft.
Dave Yeske: Yes.
Hannah Moore: And always be looking for ways to make ourselves better and if you’re too much on the interior side, our clients are expecting the competency of the exterior.
Dave Yeske: Right, and you have responsibility to bring both. We owe that to our clients. It’s this whole notion of also being evidence based. There’s a lot of talk about … we always hear about the art and science of financial planning, and historically that referred to … the way it was used often referred to the science being our understanding of economics and financial markets and portfolio theory, and tax codes, and all of that. And then the art was this sort of mushy relationship related stuff. And I always thought that was a mistake. That the interior realm stuff is also science. We have a lot of science related to communication theory, neuroscience, psychology, there’s a lot of science on the interior realm. When I think of the art, it’s more like the artful application of the best available science in both the interior and the exterior. There’s room for creativity, but let’s not suggest the human stuff doesn’t have as much science behind it as the rest.
And so we need to be evidence based, we owe it to our clients, and if we make a recommendation, or we use a technique to try and help them affect change, that that’s founded on some reasonable evidence. They have a reason to ask, is this really the best way to do it, and why do you think so? And we better have an answer. So, the life-long learning, it’s critical, we need to accept it, we need to own it, we need to embrace it. And the life-long learning needs to be balanced. I’ve worked on developing some kind of a scoring system, and I need to probably go back to that, where planners can actually get a score that suggests how balanced they are across these different modes. And if they have slipped into a strategic comfort zone that’s skewed one way or the other, then that could be a wakeup call to go out there and start building up the other skill sets. So that there is that balance.
Hannah Moore: When you get that done, let us know, and we’ll be sure to send that out. Because it seems like such a valuable tool of just self-assessment. Of saying, where do I need to grow? Do I need to grow in the technical space, or do I need grow in that communication space?
Dave Yeske: If you’re paying attention, it’s getting easier in that if you read the journal of financial planning, the research based contributions tend to be balanced over time, over the course of a year, they tend to be balanced across both the interior and the exterior realms. And if you go to a conference, whether a retreat or annual conference, both realms are well represented. I guess it’s just a question of making sure you dip into both realms and not concentrate on just one track.
Hannah Moore: So we talked about kind of where you’ve seen the profession and your career, kind of the advancements that we’ve made. Looking forward, where do you see the profession continuing over the next 30 or 50 years?
Dave Yeske: I think that one of the things that’s going to become a bigger role for financial planners, is represented by what Dick Wagner called finology. And that was recognizing that people have a bigger relationship to money than just saving in their 401k and then trying to put their money into a 529 to send their kids to college. That our relationship with money goes deeper than that. And it’s quite ancient. Money is the second most frequent topic in the bible, and the bible goes back before money existed in the form we know it today. I think there’s a bigger role for financial planners to be the mediators of people’s relationship with money. Not just on specific topics, but in general.
And that means understanding money, in every manifestation. Understanding money more deeply, in terms of the literature of money. Money in art, the history of money, money as sociology. I think there are ways in which we can go deeper and deeper in our understanding of money, and therefore there are ways we can go deeper, not just with our clients, but with the world.
I don’t think financial planners have even come close to showing up in the wide world to the degree we could and should. The government just doesn’t come to financial planners and ask us to opine about public policy that involves money and finances and people’s relationship with it. And yet we are the ones who have a better understanding based on our relationship with clients and based on our special knowledge, of the impact and whether you’re proposing a change to the tax law, or just about any kind of legislation, affects people in a material way.
And we are the ones who are interacting with people, we’re the ones who are advising people on the material aspect of their lives, and so we understand what the impact is going to look like. And how it’s going to impact individuals, and how they’re gonna have to navigate that. And so the fact that we’re not consulted more often by government, by academic leaders, by non-profits, NGOs, it’s unfortunate, it’s a waste. And I think some of it is because we don’t feel grown up enough. I don’t think we have the confidence that we deserve. I think, as individual practitioners and especially as a profession, we need to step into that space. We need to grow up and be confidant, that our opinion matters. And people should be seeking it. And we should be offering it.
And so I think there’s a maturation that we have not yet achieved in believing in ourselves. That I think is going to be an important part of our future development.
Hannah Moore: From your perspective, again looking forward, what is it gonna look like for us to actually mature in this way?
Dave Yeske: I think it’s going to involve financial planners showing up with confidence. And inserting ourselves into public dialogue more frequently. Inserting ourselves into public dialogue and saying, hey, you need to be listening to us because we’re on the front lines with individual human beings and families, and we know how these things are impacting them. And so we need to get noisier in our state houses, we need to get noisier in Washington, we need to get noisier with the academic community.
Economists get a lot of respect, not so much financial planners. And yet economists, their theories of how human beings interact with each other in a sort of material way, in the sense of material exchange, is so incomplete because it’s not grounded in experience. Financial planners, they know what the critical questions of the day are. They know what their clients are struggling with. They know the ways in which they’re struggling. If we think deeply about it from public policy standpoint, we can also ways in which our clients lives can be made better, could be aided by a better public policy.
And so I think we have to get a little noisier. And some of that is already happening. FPA, both nationally and through its chapters, has always had an important advocacy function. And advocacy means reaching out to both government as well as to the media and other channels to speak directly to the public. But I think we need to redouble our efforts. I really think this is where … First of all, we’re never gonna have them monitor resources to change the world. If you look at the money that gets spent in Washington, DC, by any single industry and, for that matter, by just about any publicly traded company, we can never compete with them monetarily. But if, instead, we say, hey, there are 25, 30,000 people who all sort of share this mission, share this purpose. If we can mobilize that, if we can mobilize the human energy, we can start to make things happen. And this is where young planners and old, really need to think in terms of not just how am I going to serve my clients, but how am I gonna serve society.
This is one of those things where it’s very easy to look at government, whether it’s in the state house, whether it’s in Washington, DC, and maybe especially in Washington, DC. And it just seems unseemly. It doesn’t seem like anything we want to be associated with. And it could lead to cynicism about the whole process and a desire to disengage. And I think that’s where we go wrong.
I think we need to lean in, we need to engage individually and as a community. And I think that’s one of the things I’m talking about when I’m saying, we kind of need to grow up, we need to step into our responsibilities as a profession. And not say, politics is unseemly, and nothing I see or read in the newspaper makes me feel any other way. We need to get past that, because we are the ones who understand how families struggle. And we’re the ones who know how we can help them through changes in public policy. And therefore, we need to have a bigger voice, not just directly with government, but through think tanks, and non-governmental organizations, and the media.
I think we need to have some financial planning think tanks. We need to have the equivalent of the think tanks that have been around for decades and centuries, devoted to public policy through the lens of financial planning. Because it’s a unique lens, and it’s a unique perspective. And it’s an important perspective. So, anyway, I could go on and on there. But I think those are some of the ways in which we could step into a new maturity and show up bigger in society, and show up in a way that we are doing more good in society.
Hannah Moore: I love this. I keep going back to this idea, what does it mean for us to be a profession? And, I think what you’re saying is really that. Is how do we take the next steps? And one of the things that you have said, that we’re the front lines where all these individuals and families, and financial planning still needs to figure out how to serve people who are making $40,000 a year, not just million plus in assets.
Dave Yeske: I could not agree more. Now, I will say that not every human being is going to seek out financial planning help. We need to recognize that not everyone is gonna be amenable to that, whatever their income level. But I do think that we need to have different models, especially for the middle range. I mean those who have wealth, they’re always gonna find financial planning advice if they seek it. And then we have pro bono financial planning for those who are particularly in need. And the work of the foundation for financial planning to help facilitate the delivery of pro bono financial planning advice to those in need. And the work by so many FPA members and chapters to come up with programs and to marshal the volunteer energy to serve those in need. I mean that’s just been a wonder to see, and we need a lot more of it. But there’s clearly energy there, there are models for how pro bono financial planning advice can be delivered.
But to your point, if you’re talking about individuals or families, that are living on 30 or 40 or 50 thousand dollars a year, a lot of financial planners are not gearing their services to that group. And we do need to find a way to do that. And I think that people are, you mentioned XY planning network. I’ve not been unaware of the business models that have been emerging out of that group and similar groups. And those, frankly, look to me like some very viable models for serving those of somewhat more modest means.
Hannah Moore: I keep going back to this idea of we’re a community. It’s not just one person has to figure this out, it’s our community, our body of knowledge. We, as a whole, have to figure this out. Everybody has their role to play in this.
Dave Yeske: I agree. We do have to figure it out as a community. The other thing is that we have to figure everything out as a community. It’s been my experience that we all just get better when we come together, and we share ideas, we share our own expertise, but we benefit from the expertise of others. Frankly, I find that when teaching a class or Elisa and I co-teach the capstone class at Golden Gate University, and we also both are deans and mentors in the residency program, and I find that every time I’m teaching a class, every time I’m deaning or mentoring at a residency, I end up coming up away a little bit more transformed myself. I come away as a better financial planner as a consequence of that engagement.
So it’s never a one way street. There’s always an exchange. And every act of mentorship somehow makes me better as a financial planner, every teaching act makes me better as a financial planner. And so that’s the other thing I would invite people to do is step into that role also as a volunteer. Be a guest lecturer at a class, or teach a class. Be a mentor in the residency program, be a mentor through your local chapter. Most every chapter has mentorship programs where more experienced planners can be paired up with newer planners. And I invite anyone with experience to volunteer to be a mentor, because it is an exchange. You will come away transformed. You will come away better for that act of mentorship than you arrived.
Hannah Moore: And I think it’s important to say, on these mentorships, I mean we’re not saying you have to have 30 years of experience before you can mentor. I mean you can have just a couple years of experience and have the experience and advice to really enhance somebody else.
Dave Yeske: I completely agree. One of the things we do … here at Yeske Buie we have an in residence program where we hire new financial planning grads to come in and work for three years and then they graduate. We’re kind of like a teaching hospital. And one of these things as we do as they enter that third year, is we try and find them an external mentor. And very often the external mentors we’re pairing them up with are people who have only been in the profession for a few years.
But they may have a particular kind of experience that’s gonna be relevant to what this resident wants to do when they graduate. You make an excellent point. And the word should go out. You might only have two years of experience, you might have three years of experience, but it might be a really relevant experience for someone who’s just starting out.
Hannah Moore: It’s such an easy way to give back, and to really help change the profession in very tangible way.
Dave Yeske: It really is.
Hannah Moore: So, Dave, I want to … you talked about Yeske Buie. Your firm’s tag line is live big. So, I was wondering if you could just explain to us what live big means, or rather, how would you explain live big to your clients? If somebody was to come in and say, what’s up with this tag line?
Dave Yeske: So the thing about live big is there’s also a further tag line that we use that says, it goes, it’s about the size of your life, not the size of your wallet. And the notion of live big has always been … It doesn’t mean live large, it doesn’t mean be gross about money. What it means is to make the most of whatever financial resources you have, to live an expansive life. And this is the thing that we focus with with clients, is helping them dream their way into the most expansive life that’s consistent with their available resources.
When we started out, when Elise and I merged our firms to form Yeske Buie, it was January 1 of 2008, and we didn’t quite realize at the time that the world was about to come to an end. With the great recession and all of the fear and anxiety that went along with that. And so, we’re rolling out this new firm, this new identity, we’re talking about live big, and the world is coming to an end. People are terrified, and there was a real risk that that was gonna be misconstrued. Especially in a time like that.
And it turned out that we were able to leverage that into an identity that people really understood. So it was early 2009 and the worst of the recession and the worst of the market meltdown, although no one knew that. And people were still feeling traumatized. And Elise had this great idea of a post that was called, what does it mean to live big in these trying times? And what that led to was the Live Big List. We essentially invited people to think about things they could do that took little or no money, but would represent sort of an expansive way of thinking about the world and their lives. I mean it could be something like, write a letter to a soldier, take a dog for a walk around the block, borrow a dog if you don’t have one, invite some friends over and watch all those silly Netflix movies that you haven’t ever gotten around to. The list went on and on. We actually had a family gathering and we asked everyone to add something to the list, then we floated it out to our clients and they added something to the list.
And it grew and grew. It just became this real focal point, where all of a sudden people were always, oh, live big, that’s not about money, that’s just about having an expansive notion of how to be in the world. And yeah, sometimes it involves making the most of your financial resources, but it really starts with vision. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Hannah Moore: Well it’s just this essence of what is financial planning? And I think that’s such a beautiful way of just relating that to your clients and helping them realize money’s just the means.
Dave Yeske: Thank you for putting it that way. I do feel that way. It is the essence of financial planning. It’s having an expansive vision. You know the problem is, and everyone who has practiced financial planning for five minutes has experienced this, people show up in our office and they have no idea how to think about money in their lives. They don’t know what path they’re on, they have no clue what path they’re on, and they’re walking around editing themselves constantly, often assuming the worst. And so what we find is that when we actually do bring the magic of financial planning to bear on someone’s situation, and we do it in service of their vision, their expansive vision of their lives … There’s a bigger vision available for the given resources than they ever believed.
And so we have a responsibility to help bring their dreams into full flowering, and then to help analyze their resources in light of those dreams, and then help them arrive at the biggest version of those dreams that’s possible with their resources. And, as I said, it’s almost invariably a bigger version of those dreams than they even thought was possible. This is the beauty and the magic of financial planning.
Hannah Moore: And what’s so great is once people taste it, whether that’s clients, whether that’s professionals, and they really see this pure financial planning. It’s like you could never go back. You’re hooked.
Dave Yeske: Right, it’s true.
Hannah Moore: So, your bio is very long and you’re getting the lifetime achievement award of financial planners, and there’s still more to come. At the end of the day, what is kind of the core of what you want to be known for as it relates to your career? What’s been most important to you?
Dave Yeske: I think I’d like to be known for sort of the evidenced based financial planning work. This idea of bringing more science to bear on the practice of financial planning. And building deeper and more integrated relationships between the community of practice and the academic community. I’ve done a little, I hope to do more. You can only focus your energies on so many things, and for me that’s a huge one, and that’s the one where I hope to leave a mark. Is, I guess, bringing an acceptance into our community of practice that, you know what, I need that better understanding of the notion of science, and how it can apply to how I practice. I don’t have to be a scientist, I don’t have to be a researcher. I should probably be a good consumer of research done by others, and I should probably understand that I need to have a better relationship with the academic community.
Because the financial planners are on the front line. They understand the critical questions of the day, but they don’t necessarily know how to get those questions answered. The academics have the formal tools of research, that’s their profession. But they’re not on the front line the way the planners are. They don’t know what those critical questions are. And so, we need to have a better partnership, and as practitioners, we still need to have a little bit of a foot in the academic side. So I’ve done a little bit of work in that area, I hope to do more. But I think maybe that’s what I’d most like to be remembered for.
Hannah Moore: Thanks for joining us in this episode of You’re a Financial Planner, Now What? And congratulations again to Dr. Dave Yeske for winning this well-deserved award. As a reminder, if you haven’t joined the FPA Activate Facebook community, please do so. You can find the link on our website at FinancialPlannerPodcast.com or you can go to Facebook and search for the FPA Activate. We’ll talk again next week.