Staying On Top Of Our Game

Many professions require that practitioners complete ongoing education on a regular basis. The financial planning profession is no exception.

The major financial planning organization that BWFA belongs to, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), requires that its members complete a minimum of 60 hours of continuing education every two years. These hours must be earned in a combination of seven core subjects (ethics, investments, insurance & risk management, income taxes, retirement planning, estate planning, and counseling/communications) and electives.

This is a significant requirement. Compare it with the one for Maryland school teachers, who must complete 50 hours of continuing education over five years, or for Maryland physicians, who must complete 50 hours every two years. Maryland attorneys have no continuing ed requirement, incidentally.

In early June, nine members of our firm attended NAPFA’s four-day National Conference at the new Gaylord complex near Washington, D.C. About 775 advisors and financial professionals were there, but no NAPFA firm sent more staff members than BWFA (9).

NAPFA’s conference was an important opportunity for each of us to earn continuing credits. It also was a time to listen to experts talk about the hoped-for economic recovery, new investment ideas, the fast-changing regulatory environment, and much more.

Here’s a sampling of the topics that caught the attention of our staff and me:

  • The likely outcome of certain proposed tax law changes for 2009 and beyond, and the associated planning opportunities that will arise.
  • How trusts can be used to reduce the income tax on distributions of income to minor beneficiaries.
  • Recent developments in the municipal bond market that will help us to refine the way we invest in these securities.
  • New studies that validate our longstanding belief that the range for sustainable retirement portfolio withdrawal rates is 4 to 5 percent annually.


Yet the session that our employees liked most was one about the effects of sleep deprivation by James Maas, Ph.D., a Cornell University professor who is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on sleep. Dr. Maas gave a convincing and compelling presentation about what happens to our performance and our long- and short-term memory when we get less than eight hours of sleep each night. The entire BWFA staff now reports that they always get eight hours of sleep—and that most of it is at home at night, not in the office.