Michael Kitces, MSFS, CFP®, CLU, ChFC: 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award Recipient
by Karin Price Mueller
Karin Price Mueller is a 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award task force member and a 2010 award recipient.
The financial planning profession is always looking for new blood. And while there are always new professionals making financial planning their home, having a mentor is critical to their continuing education and success.
Michael Kitces saw that need and took on the challenge of engaging new planners. He's one of the co-founders of the hugely successful FPA Nexgen community, and his work caught the eye of Caleb Brown, who is now the 2011 FPA NexGen President.
"Michael's commitment to knowledge and educating others is not just something he speaks about, but acts on as well," said Brown in his letter nominating Kitces for the Heart of Financial Planning Award. "He is a regular speaker educating colleagues at events around the country as well as taking his knowledge and unique teaching style directly to his fellow American citizens to help empower them to make better financial decisions."
We asked Kitces about his work with FPA NexGen, and what the Heart of Financial Planning Award means to him.
FPA: How did FPA NexGen get started?
Kitces: NexGen started at the FPA Retreat conference in 2004, as the brainchild of financial planner Aaron Coates. Aaron pointed out a disturbing reality to us at that conference; that with several hundred financial planners in attendance, at what was intended to be the cutting edge conference for the art and science of financial planning, there were hardly any young planners around! Where was the future of the profession, and why wasn't it present at such a leading conference? It was at that point that Aaron proposed the creation of NexGen, to parallel off of the "Rat Pack" group that had been recently created by Ben Coombs and several other veteran planners of the industry.
The four of us at the Retreat conference that year - Aaron Coates, David Demming, April Johnson (no longer in the industry), and myself - started NexGen to create a community for the young planners who would be the future planners and future leadership of the profession. As much as anything else, the group was also an acknowledgement of the very isolating manner in which so many young planners were beginning to enter financial planning around that time - increasingly, as staff members within an existing financial planning practice, where your only 'community' is the fellow employees in your firm - and so, lacking enough community, we craved more.
NexGen grew in its early years solely by word of mouth; other young planners, similarly isolated in their own individual firms, came out of the woodwork to be a part of a community where they could connect with others in similar situations. The group grew by a few at a time, then by the dozens, and now numbers in the hundreds, all drawn to the simple idea of being a part of a community of others who share similar experiences.
FPA: Can you share the story of one mentoring experience, in particular, that sticks in your mind?
Kitces: Although a lot of mentoring occurs within NexGen - and mentoring experiences with more experienced planners are strongly encouraged within the NexGen membership rules themselves that require five acts of honoring a veteran member of the profession every year - to me the core element of NexGen is still not mentoring, per se, but simply the experience of community. And to me, there's nothing that speaks more loudly about NexGen as community than the first NexGen conference in 2005.
The conference came together from the small group of us that founded NexGen, and a few other young leaders who joined us by the fall of 2004. But the conference itself, in the summer of 2005, spoke more loudly for the need for community than any experience I have had. The conference was hosted in Estes Park, Colorado, and we had nearly 100 young planners make their way there, with a long flight to Denver, followed by a nearly two hour drive into the mountains, just to come and participate in the conference and the community. Yes, we worked hard at that first conference to create a compelling agenda with both technical and career development content, but I think the planners who went to that first conference came simply for the opportunity to share in community with others. We mostly presented to each other; no one had heard of virtually any speaker on the lineup. The point was simply to create an environment where we could all connect. Looking back, I am still in touch with the majority of the participants from that first conference, and count many of my best friends in the profession amongst them.
FPA: What does the award mean to you?
Kitces: I'm incredibly honored to be recognized for my own work in the financial planning world. Given my own focus on giving back to the financial planning profession and community, it is especially flattering to be recognized by that very community for the contributions I have made. And I look forward to continuing down this path for many years and decades to come.
Recognition programs like the Heart of Planning Awards are a crucial part of our financial planning community (or any community, for that matter). It's important to recognize and support those who contribute to the community; it shows appreciation for those who have given back, and encourages all to contribute by showing that we honor such efforts. I hope everyone takes a few moments to consider whether they, too, know someone whose work in the financial planning world should be recognized.
Karin Price Mueller: 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award Recipient
by Linda Homsey, CFP®
Linda Homsey, CFP®, is the chair of the 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award task force.
Financial planners are not the only people/firms that the Financial Planning Association recognizes for their extraordinary work in the field of financial planning. FPA realizes that all disciplines of the financial planning community are critical in getting the message out about the importance of financial planning and financial literacy.
Journalism is one of those critical disciplines and Karin Price Mueller is a standout in that field.
Price Mueller was a recipient of the Heart of Financial Planning Award in 2010 for her work as a journalist serving the financial planning community. She has dedicated her life's work to helping individuals, especially those who have not been traditionally served by the financial planning community. In her words "Educating people - helping people learn to help themselves - is the favorite part of my job."
Well, Price Mueller must really be enjoying her job. She is educating thousands of readers through her newspaper, magazine and web columns, books she's co-authored and her own website. She has touched so many people and made a difference in their lives.
Michael Gibney of Highland Financial Advisors in Riverdale, N.J. was very enthusiastic in his nomination of Price Mueller. He said: "Her stewardship and integrity in continually reaching out to populations underserved by the financial planning community is commendable."
We asked Price Mueller about her work and for her thoughts about the award.
FPA: How did you first get involved in writing about money and financial planning?
Price Mueller: It was all a big accident. As a teen, my dad - who was always a big saver - encouraged me to read the Business section of the New York Times. I wanted no part of it. He was huge fan of Lou Dobbs when he anchored Moneyline and my dad always enticed me to watch. No interest. Not even a little. "Boring," I thought, in my teenaged wisdom.
When I went to New York University for a television journalism degree, I imagined I'd cover the sexy stuff young journalists dream of: The White House, a war, the overthrowing of a despot. When I looked for work, my dad influenced me again. He taught me that I needed benefits, whatever or wherever the job. CNBC was the first to offer health care and a 401(k). I took it.
I knew very little about money management, but my first assignment was to produce a show called "The Money Club." I learned on the job from co-workers, and from paying attention to the fantastic people we interviewed, from Vanguard's Jack Bogle to PIMCO's Bill Gross to one of my favorites -- yes, partly because of the accent -- Jean-Marie Eveillard (at the time) with SoGen Funds.
FPA: Why did the FPA become important to your work?
Price Mueller: Early on from my time at CNBC, I knew CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals were among my favorite "experts." I understood that their in-depth education on a broad range of topics meant I could always count on a CFP practitioner for the expertise I needed. I also needed pros with ethics before I'd present them as reliable experts to my audience.
When FPA formed in 2000, my favorite CFP professonals became members, and FPA became an essential resource. Even now, I often turn to FPA members to do money makeovers for readers of my column in The Star-Ledger, and after all these years it remains the first place I turn to when I'm looking for a reliable source.
FPA: Your nomination letter cited some books you co-wrote with a faith-based group. How did that come about?
Price Mueller: In addition to my newspaper, magazine and website work, I've also ghostwritten, co-written and edited books. I was contacted by Rev. Luis Cortez, president and CEO of Esperanza USA, the largest Hispanic faith-based community-development corporation in the country. He was also named one of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals" in 2005.
Rev. Cortez had such passion about his work and about genuinely helping people -- it was infectious. He asked me to work with him on books that would help an immigrant population understand how certain transactions worked in this country. The first on his list was a book about credit. After seeing so many in his community make credit mistakes -- and therefore doom themselves to big financial challenges in the future -- he wanted to offer a clear, lingo-free guidebook to give this community the tools it needed.
Educating people -- helping people learn to help themselves -- is the favorite part of my job.
FPA: Of all of your accomplishments in the financial planning community, what is most meaningful to you and why?
Price Mueller: I've got two, and I feel very lucky because these are ongoing.
The first is the ability to teach readers about how they can improve their lives. It's not how much money you have, but what you do with it, that can make a real difference. Just about every week, I think my stories open a reader's eyes to a strategy or a process they hadn't considered before. Many of these readers will never hire a financial professional for help.
The second is my newest column, Bamboozled, for The Star-Ledger. It's not personal finance specific, but a consumer affairs column. Readers who feel they've been wronged or bullied by a company or government agency contact me for help when they feel they have nowhere else to turn, and I try to act as something of a mediator. In one case, I was able to help a family of modest means convince a life insurance company to pay out a $100,000 death benefit the company previously refused to pay. I've helped consumers get money back from unethical contractors, encouraged banks to track down payments that were made but magically lost, shown readers how to navigate red tape. I hate bullies.
FPA: What does the Heart of Financial Planning Award mean to you?
Price Mueller: It's such an honor to be recognized by a group that I hold in such high esteem. So many of the FPA's programs are similar in goal to what I try to do every day, and the FPA's core values are ones I live by. When I look at the extraordinary work done by so many in the financial planning community and those who have been honored before me, I'm blown away to be in such company.
FPA: Why is it important that we nominate those within our community?
Price Mueller: It's a way to say thank you. You probably feel good when you see someone doing great work, selfless work, the kind of work that really makes a difference in someone's life. It's something to be proud of. And chances are the person doing the good work is modest and not one to toot his horn. You should toot it for him.
Nominate, Recognize Your Extraordinary Colleagues
Tell us about your nominee and why that person should be considered for the 2011 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. Nominees will be recognized at FPA's Annual Conference, the largest gathering of the financial planning community.
The deadline for nominations is June 3, 2011. 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