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An Abbreviated History of Financial Planning: Where We Go From Here

Steve Levis June 30, 2021

Teaching the history of financial planning
Updated on: June 15, 2022

It feels like the pace of change in financial planning has only been accelerating over the last several years. The industry has traded in transactional advice for human-centric advice, tedious responsibilities for automation, and financial professionals have been challenged to reinvent themselves in the digital world. But, this is just the tip of the digital iceberg—the tech stack will become more complex, and data more abundant, as the industry continues to evolve.

To secure long-term success on an organizational level, firms must first understand the compounding forces, historical pain points, and generational shift that led to the current state of financial planning.

The Past: An Ode to the 1960s

The turmoil of the ’60s was a catalyst for new ideas, new art, and new music. But there’s one part of 1960s history that often goes overlooked—the inception of financial planning.

When former salesman Loren Dunton gathered with 12 others on December 12, 1969, he had one mission in mind—offer the U.S. population an alternative to Social Security through financial literacy and prosperity.1 It was on that auspicious day in Chicago that the profession of financial advising was born, along with the idea of institutionalizing the practice through a standardized curriculum.

After the College of Financial Planning established the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam in 1972, financial planning took shape as an accredited vocation and gave rise to a network of highly-skilled confidants that continues to grow today.2 This group of professionals defined the “financial plan” as a bespoke document that interpreted the client’s financial variables—things like debts, assets, and cash flow—to carve out a path forward.

The next major sea change occurred in the 1990s with the advent of the internet. Suddenly investors gained access to an extensive library of financial literature and capabilities that empowered them to self-educate and self-serve. This is one major factor, among others, that began the escalation of client expectations on the financial professional, and the experiences they provide, that continues to shape the nature of advice today.

The Present: Coexisting with Technology

That brings us to today. Let’s quickly paint a picture of where we’re at.

Today, we’re inundated with digital tools and data streams that challenge us to consider new avenues for delivering value. It’s estimated that robo-advisors now manage over $2.2 trillion in assets without the governance of a financial professional.3 All the while, the number of financial professionals who have taken the CFP certification has grown from 40,000 to over 80,000 since 2000. This year, the CFP Board reported that number is now at a record high of 88,726.4

A new, more agile generation of investors is emerging and seeking holistic advice that humanizes money management by acknowledging the other, softer dimensions of their lives—feelings of belonging, personal values, mental health, and physiological needs—to achieve financial actualization.

Fee compression and the decreasing profitability of investment management has motivated firms to reconsider their approach on an organizational level. To drive revenue, they must simultaneously grow their book of business while forging a deeper connection with each of their clients in an effort to meet the heightened expectations of today’s investor.

Acquisition can be an uphill battle and financial professionals are faced with the difficult task of spending time conducting outreach to generate new business, while at the same time exploring non-traditional areas of financial planning to retain their value. A flurry of marketing automation and intelligent platforms is emerging to help firms navigate the rough waters. These tools will not only streamline the planning lifecycle for financial institutions, but also for the clients they serve.

The Future: Humanistic, Holistic, and High-order

As more technology surfaces, more data surfaces in tandem. The future of financial planning is at a synergistic state, where financial professionals embrace digitalization head on to liberate themselves from repetitive, low-impact tasks. By offloading the minutiae, they will be able to devote the majority of their time to high-order responsibilities that allow them to flex their most valuable muscle: being human.

Holistic planning, or planning that acknowledges and seeks to harmonize all financial and non-financial aspects of one’s life, will venture beyond portfolio growth to help the client achieve general wellbeing, long-term prosperity, and ultimately, fulfillment.

To succeed in the new human-led climate, financial professionals must adopt a three-pronged approach:

1) Work alongside big data

2) Build integrated digital experiences

3) Be open to unconventional and holistic methods of planning

Although there is no shortage of disruption on the horizon for the financial industry, there is one constant we can retreat to—everything we do will continue to support Loren Dunton’s original vision to arm clients with the financial advice, knowledge, and resources they need to live the lives they desire. Holistic planning is simply the modern manifestation of that vision and the natural evolution of an invaluable profession.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.


1 Wagner, Robert. “Can ‘Financial Planning’ Evolve?.” Financial Advisor, 2015.

2 “About CFP Board.” CFP Board,

3 Elzweig, Mark. “The Ever-Evolving Financial Advisor.” ThinkAdvisor, 11 Jan. 2021,

4 CFP Board Achieves Record Growth of CFP Professionals.” CFP Board, 11 Jan. 2021,

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.


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About the Author

Steve Levis, CFP®, SVP, Financial Planning, leads the Practice Management Team within eMoney’s Financial Planning Group. Steve helps new and existing firms succeed with the eMoney platform by leveraging its capabilities to the greatest extent within their practices. During his eMoney career, Steve has led the Customer Service, Financial Planning, Tech Support and Training teams at various times, in addition to countless hours assisting advisors and their teams.

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