Last year, I attended the first XY Planning Network conference, #XYPN15. I had recently passed my one-year mark with a fee-only financial planning firm and received my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation.
Last year’s conference helped inspire me to launch a meaningful project, and I’m excited to attend this year’s conference to receive further inspiration and learn even more from both the presenters and the attendees.
Here’s how I was able to get the most out of the conference and what these steps specifically led me to do after it had ended.
Explore Your Curiosity
I went into the conference hoping to absorb as much information as I could. Working for a fee-only firm is my fourth job (in my third field) since graduating from college. I finally felt I had found the right industry but recognized I had several questions and a lot to learn. (I’m still navigating my own niche within the world of personal finance.) I knew I could learn by listening, and I was curious about a lot of things.
To explore my curiosity, I did some research ahead of time to decide which sessions I especially wanted to attend. For me, this included Carl Richard’s keynote, as well as panel discussions on the monthly retainer model and niche marketing.
There were other sessions I thought would be interesting and relevant, but if I found myself engaged in a meaningful conversation, it was well worth the time to explore my curiosity through the conversation and skip the current session. (Fortunately, there was plenty of time built into the schedule to do to both!)
I went to the conference unsure of where I would thrive most within the profession. While I did not think starting my own firm at the time was the right decision for me, I wanted to confirm those thoughts.
I talked with as many people as I could, asking them questions about what they do, why they decided to attend the conference, and what their career path has looked like so far. I learned from the experiences and perspectives of many - whether they had just started a firm, were thinking of doing so, or specifically decided not to.
I talked to attendees who worked for Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) in both client-facing and non-client-facing roles, as well as those who worked within the industry but not inside in a firm - working instead in financial education or technology.
I often need to remind myself I don’t need to know the end goal of my career today. (I can be impatient!) This is, at least in part, because I am sure my “end goal” will change over time.
It seems when we get to the “end,” we’re then ready for the next challenge. While I don’t see a clear path telling me to do A, which will lead to B, and ultimately get me to my final destination, C, I remind myself to explore what I am curious about right now and see where it takes me.
Make a Friend
Through the many conversations I had, I was able to find a few people I easily connected with. It helps when so many peers are in the same place...no offense to the old white guys in suits!
These friendships were valuable during the conference because we could share our reactions to different speakers and bounce our own ideas off each other. These relationships continued after the conference and have been great resources for questions, encouragement, and friendship.
I think it’s important to learn from a lot of people but also have a few trusted friends in the industry you can count on. #XYPN16 is a great place to make these connections.
By the end of the conference, I think it’s important we each walk away with something to do. There will be a lot of great ideas shared, but if you don’t walk away with a specific action item, it’s just stagnant information.
You may come to the conference with a specific question or two you need answered. If that’s the case, attend the sessions applicable to those questions and talk to as many people as you can about them.
Then, make the best decision you can based on the information you have and act on it. Don’t let a desire for the perfect solution keep you from doing anything.
Alternatively, you may, like I did last year, come to the conference without a specific question but a desire to learn from many, helping to narrow down your focus within the industry. Someone else may attend searching for more ways to get involved.
Whatever it is you’re seeking, my advice is to make sure you make a decision and take action as a result of the conference. It may be you decide to implement a new technology, launch your own firm, join the Financial Planning Association (FPA), or form a mastermind group.
You could email the three people from the conference you think you could learn the most from. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them or learning from their presentation, and then follow them wherever they are active on social media so you can continue to learn from them.
Additionally, the clarity you get may be to not do something. Sometimes, the action we need to take is to say no! I find having the clarity on what I do and don't want to do to be very important.
Get specific, and take action!
My #XYPN15 National Conference Experience
In my case, I walked away knowing I should not start my own firm right now (reaffirming the decision I had already made), but I did start a blog called Let Luc Finance.
Personal finance has been a hobby of mine for several years, and I would get questions from friends on occasion. Since making personal finance my profession, the number of questions I received from friends has increased significantly.
Most of these friends do not have the income level or assets yet to need a financial planner but do want to get on the right track, while others desire to do it themselves but need some guidance.
Through some conversations with friends made (see #2 - Make a Friend) and Carl Richards’ presentation on communication and his suggestion to use MailChimp to reach an audience (see #1 - Explore Your Curiosity), I decided I would launch a blog and distribute my posts weekly via email (see #3 - Get Specific).
I spent the flight home writing a note on my phone of all the topics I could write blog posts about. I knew the topics my friends would repeatedly ask questions about, and I knew some of the topics I felt they should know about but didn’t.
I spent the next two weeks learning how to build a basic website, added some friends and family members to my email list who I thought would welcome the weekly emails, and have been posting to my blog every Monday since. I am now able to respond to the questions I receive in a more streamlined way and to people I would not have connected with without the blog and weekly emails.
It feels great to give back and help my friends and family! It’s also a rewarding creative outlet.
I have realized how much I enjoy writing about financial topics in ways my peers can understand and relate to. I learned a little bit about building a website and growing an email list, and practiced my skills in communication, writing, consistency, and self-discipline. I have gained more clarity around my strengths and how I can use them within the field of financial planning.
I look forward to attending #XYPN16 to see what new inspiration and insights come this year, through all of us - as we share and collaborate together. I find this industry to be an extremely giving and welcoming one, even if you aren’t yet sure where your place is within the industry.
I encourage you to come to #XYPN16 and Explore Your Curiosity, Make a Friend (come say hi and let me know how I can help you!), and Get Specific.
About the Author: Lucy Robeson, CFP®, graduated from Virginia Tech with degrees in Math and Statistics. She worked as a retirement actuary for four years before moving to Fiji for a year, where she worked for a non-profit managing teams of volunteers focusing on microfinance, education, and public health projects. She then returned to the US, obtained her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM designation, and has been working for a fee-only financial planning firm for the last two years. Lucy writes a personal finance blog, Let Luc Finance, and loves to travel, read, and go on outdoor adventures.