USAA – The Not So Good

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Pretty cool rock formation at USAA headquarters. I’m not related to the kid in the picture.

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
–William Blake

This is part three of a three part series on USAA. You can read the first part here and the second part here.

Disclosure: USAA flew me to San Antonio for a three day conference from November 6-8, 2013, put me up in a hotel room, and fed me all on their dime.

One more disclosure: I’d have written this anyway. I see too many people missing out on eligibility opportunities to not write about the topic. I’m a huge fan of USAA!

In the past two articles, I’ve pretty much done nothing but sing the praises of USAA. They’re a full-service financial company who can help eligible members from soup to nuts with all of the aspects of their lives dealing with money.

If they’re so great, why don’t I just wholeheartedly recommend anyone who’s eligible to turn everything over to them?

I’d love to do that. There’s no point in having someone pay me for information and service that they could get for free somewhere else.

However, there are a few areas where USAA falls short, and that’s what keeps me from telling anyone who’s either a member or eligible to hang up the phone with me and call USAA.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think that if you’re eligible that you shouldn’t use them, not at all. As I previously outlined, there are some great things about them.

But, nobody’s perfect, and neither is USAA.

What are the areas where I think USAA falls short?

It’s Official! I’m a CFP®!


Do 3 letters maketh the man (or woman)?

In March, 2012, I passed the CFP® exam. About 3 years ago, I started this little firm called Hull Financial Planning. 2 moves later and a lot of client experience later, I finally got the notification from the CFP® Board that I can officially start calling myself a CFP®.

By the way, CFP stands for Certified Financial Planner. It’s an industry accreditation, like CPA or CFA.

Does this mean that I’m a lot better today, with that little “, CFP®” after my name than I was yesterday?

No, definitely not.

However, acquisition of knowledge and skills is cumulative. I might be micro-fractionally (do you like that made up word?) better today than I was yesterday.

On the other hand, am I better now than I was 3 years ago?

Most certainly.

Not only have I continued to learn more about both the mathematics of personal finance (with a big hat tip to folks like Wade Pfau and Michael Finke), but I’ve also continued to learn a lot about the behavioral side (with a big hat tip to folks like Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahnemann).

The other day, I heard a person use a term that I’d never heard before, but really liked.

“I’ll take the blind person approach to life.”

What he meant was that if he thought that way, he’d never be able to say that he’s seen it all before.

I certainly have not seen it all. I could live a thousand lifetimes and not see it all.

When I first passed the CFP® exam, I bristled at the experience requirement. I figured that I had been in charge of a profitable company, knew P&Ls, passed the exam, and, therefore, demonstrated the competence necessary to be a planner.

In a way, I was right. I’d still love to see some alternative experience paths introduced, kind of like how you can test out of college courses by demonstrating competence, or how some colleges allow military experience to count for some credits. However, being on the other side of the challenge, now, I get why they do what they do.

After all, there is a vast difference between book smarts and street smarts. Furthermore, since I didn’t have the certification, I was forced to try that much harder to establish my bona fides that I could do financial planning in a way that meaningfully impacted my clients’ lives.

Had I not been forced to work my own way through the challenge, I definitely would not have learned as much as I have. Between articles I’ve written here, writing the Winning With Money course, articles I’ve written for U.S. News and other publications, and the 52 week Financial Game Plan, I’ve written over 600 articles in the past 3 years.

You can learn by doing, and you can learn by teaching. I have done both, as I’ve been forced to learn about subjects that were not on the CFP® curriculum, but are applicable to my clients’ and my readers’ lives.

So, there it is. My big news for the week. I am not raising my rates just because I have a shiny new appellation to append to my name. But, for those of you who might have wondered if I knew what the heck I was talking about, it does add a little bit of credibility.

Thanks for coming along with me on the journey, and for my clients, thank you for trusting in me even before I got that little shiny CFP® to the end of my name.

By the way, Google, in case you didn’t know, I am now a Fort Worth CFP aka a Fort Worth Certified Financial Planner. Just in case you were wondering…

Thanks again!
Hull Financial Planning Winning With Money Course

The Winning With Money course offers 20 lessons, 8 worksheets, and several exercises designed to provide you with the answers you need to have certainty in your financial life. Stop spinning your wheels and take action!

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