by Karin Price Mueller
Karin Price Mueller is a 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award task force member.
What is the Heart of Financial Planning? It's members like 2007 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award recipient James Tissot, CFP®.
Tissot, president of Prism Planning, Inc. in New York City, had only been a CFP certificant since 2000, but when his story was brought to the attention of the 2007 FPA task force for the Heart of Financial Planning Award, Tissot's actions spoke loudly.
His nominating letter, Henrietta Nye, CFP®, wrote, "James Tissot is very busy giving back to society. He is a member of the PridePlanners Association in which he provides pro bono financial planning to those with HIV/AIDS. In this practice he has always said, "I don't focus on the money. I focus on what the money is for."
When asked about his involvement in FPA, Tissot said, "It's the chance to make and shape the profession. The power of money is always there. FPA brings heart into the equation."
FPA talked to Tissot about why receiving the Heart of Financial Planning Award is important to him, and why FPA members should recognize deserving colleagues and make a nomination for the 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award.
FPA: What did receiving the 2007 Heart of Financial Planning Award mean to you personally?
Tissot: Quite honestly, I was shocked when I heard. I was kind of blown away because it meant a lot. For me, with financial planning being a career change and with me being relatively new to the profession, it was really one of the few times in my life I've been speechless. It did mean a lot, especially because of why and how I came to be a financial planner.
FPA: Tell us how you became a financial planner and why you were nominated for the Heart of Financial Planning Award?
Tissot: I think it was a double whammy in why I was nominated. It was for two things: education and pro bono work.
James Tissot, CFP®
First, just a little history in how I came to financial planning. I had a friend who was HIV-positive and had AIDS. At one point, his illness had progressed to the point where he had dementia. I had been a corporate event planner and I was getting tired of that. He was from Scotland, his family didn't even know he was gay, let alone that he had had HIV and AIDS, and a group of friends dived in to get his life in order so he could die with respect.
After doing that I started doing it pro bono through the Gay and Lesbian Center in New York City and midway through the '90s, I went back to school. It was satisfying-both the altruistic side of the '60s baby that I am, and also the possibility of making some money.
The other part was for education. I'm pretty neurotic and after being pretty nervous about passing the test, I worked with the New York City chapter on CFP education; not continuing education, but to help our members pass the exam. I offered to help and set up a program for CFP education within our chapter, and from that it progressed and I wound up getting a contract with Keir Educational Resources [which offers study materials for several designations, including the CFP® certification]. So besides my practice, I write, edit, and instruct for Keir.
I started teaching there and realized how much I loved it and it just fell into place. I first moved to New York to become an actor, and I did that for a while, and decided I liked eating so I tried something else. My dad's a minister, so I guess it's in the genes, and it just became natural to be up in front and teaching. It's very exciting. It's one of those rare times that you marvel that you're being paid to do what you're doing.
So I was nominated for both reasons, and I think they are equal. On the one side, it's the Heart of Financial Planning, dealing with HIV/AIDS, seeing friends die and trying to bring some kind of meaning to your own life with all of this happening around you. At the same time, my heart loves acting and the experience of teaching and trying to figure out how to say a very difficult concept and make it very easy to understand.
FPA: Why should FPA members consider nominating someone they think is deserving?
Tissot: it is important for other members to nominate people. Even just in the nomination process, you remember why you did this, got into financial planning, I think especially after October of 2008. I think the nomination process brings to core the things that really matter. You look for that person who has those characteristics that were the original reasons you started. It's not making money. I think for the person who is nominating, it's rewarding in itself. It reminds them of what they do and maybe it inspires them to go to a higher place.
What does it means to an individual to get this award? I think people don't know until it happens. I think at times it may activate some energy within a chapter and it brings some pride into the chapter. It maybe gives incentive to people to work a little harder to go out and do pro bono activities or to do things that really are to the core of why we started to do this.
FPA: Have you ever nominated anyone? Was it hard to do, or easy?
Tissot: We were one of the first chapters to award our own Heart of Financial Planning Award to our chapter members. We modeled our nominating process after the national process, so it would be relatively easy to nominate at the national level.
I think for chapters to do it, it's essential. It energizes the chapter and it incentivizes the chapter's members to maybe go out and try a little bit harder!
Nominate, Recognize Your Extraordinary Colleagues
Do you know someone like James Tissot whose extraordinary work should be recognized? Now's your chance.
Tell us about your nominee and why that person should be considered for the 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award. Let us know about those who have made an impact on the financial planning community and/or the public while upholding and promoting FPA's core values. It could be an FPA member, a financial planning firm, an FPA chapter, a business person, a professor, a journalist, or even yourself. Recipients will be recognized for their service at FPA Denver 2010.
The deadline for nominations is June 4, 2010. Download a nomination form or submit a one- to three-page letter that includes:
- Detailed description of what sets your nominee apart. Give specific examples of the nominee's extraordinary work.
- Show how the nominee's actions contribute to or give back to the financial planning community and/or the public.
- The nominee's excellence in demonstrating FPA's core values.
- Your affiliation with the nominee.
Send nominations to:
Heart of Financial Planning Awards
Financial Planning Association
7535 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, Colo. 80231