Distinguished Qualifications of a CFP®

Most people think that all financial planners are "certified," but this is not true.  Anyone can call himself or herself a "financial planner." Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of the CFP® Board can display the CFP® certification marks. When selecting a financial planner, you need to feel confident that the person you choose to help you plan for your future is competent and ethical. The CFP® certification provides that sense of confidence by allowing only those who meet the following requirements the right to use the CFP® certification marks.

CFP® Certification Requirements

Education: CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical financial planning knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. Other options for satisfying the education component include submitting a transcript review or previous financial planning-related course work to CFP Board for review and credit, or showing the attainment of certain professional designations or academic degrees.

Examination: CFP® practitioners must pass a comprehensive two-day, 10-hour CFP® Certification Examination that tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format. Based on regular research of what planners do, the exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance.

Experience: CFP® professionals must have three years minimum experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks. As a result, CFP® practitioners possess financial counseling skills in addition to financial planning knowledge.

Ethics: As a final step to certification, CFP® practitioners agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, that sets forth their ethical responsibilities to the public, clients and employers. CFP Board also performs a background check during this process, and each individual must disclose any investigations or legal proceedings related to their professional or business conduct.

How does CFP Board’s Code of Ethics Benefit me?

Through the Code of Ethics, CFP® practitioners agree to act fairly and diligently when providing you with financial planning advice and services, putting your interests first. TheCode of Ethics states that CFP® practitioners are to act with integrity, offering you professional services that are based on your needs. They are required to provide you with information about their sources of compensation and conflicts of interest in writing.

Ongoing Certification Requirements

Once certified, CFP® practitioners are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations. Every two years, they must complete a minimum 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients. Two of these hours are spent studying or discussing CFP Board’s Code of Ethics or Practice Standards. In addition to the biennial continuing education requirement, all CFP® practitioners voluntarily disclose any public, civil, criminal or disciplinary actions that may have been taken against them during the previous two years as part of the renewal process.

Distinguished Qualifications of a CPA and PFS

The CPA license demonstrates great commitment to meeting client's needs in an ethical manner. The rigid requirements to obtain and maintain the CPA license ensure the proper education and experience.

The PFS credential is a certification from the AICPA of comprehensive financial planning proficiency resulting from a high level of both financial planning education and experience and is available exclusively to CPAs.

Combine the CPA and PFS in a single professional and you have a planner from a group of highly trained financial specialists - someone that can be trusted with your personal financial planning needs.

College education in accounting; in-depth education in financial planning (estate, investment, income tax, retirement, risk management); and continuing professional education.

Experience in key areas of financial planning and the ability to apply that knowledge to a variety of clients and situations.

Successful completion of the rigorous CPA Exam and the PFP Exam/Experience requirement, which covers comprehensive financial planning.

Compliance with State Board of Accountancy rules and regulations and the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct – plus striving to continuously provide uncompromising objectivity and integrity.

Tax-planning experience can ensure this critical component of financial planning is considered in every decision.

CPA/PFS professionals are part of a select group comprising CPAs in the financial planning field – and thrive on consistently sharing best practices and learning about new developments.

Copyright ©2009 by American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc., New York, NY