Financial planning is a broad field that can help people with many aspects of their money management: from growing it to ensuring its preservation during retirement and even building a legacy. There are plenty of professionals well-suited and even certified to help you with certain aspects of financial management.
But, with so many different job titles and backgrounds, how will you know which ones are the best for your needs? Let's look at some of the most popular credentials to explore who can help you with financial planning and what they can offer.
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional (CFP®)
Generally, a large number of people in the finance industry refer to themselves as financial planners. To help provide some distinction, many will become CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals (often referred to colloquially as "CFPs"). This is a special certification awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
To hold this accreditation, candidates must successfully complete coursework, hold a bachelor's degree, have at least three years' relevant work experience, and pass a six-hour exam. CFP® certificants must also complete thirty hours of continuing education every two years. The exam requires them to demonstrate competency in many areas of personal finance, including:
- Tax Strategies
- Retirement planning
- Estate planning
Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®)
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) credential is issued by the CFA institute. To become a CFA® designee, candidates must have a bachelor's degree, pass three exams over the course of several years, and have at least four years of investment-related professional experience.
The three-part CFA® exam tests knowledge in these areas:
- Wealth Planning
- Portfolio Management
- Investment tools
CFA® charterholders can have expertise in many areas, but, because of the credential's investment focus, they are often good resources for investing advice.
Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®)
The Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) designation is granted by The American College of Financial Services. Chartered Financial Consultants are required to complete a combination of coursework, exams, and work experience. ChFcs must have least three years' full-time relevant work experience and complete eight required courses.
To retain the credential, those who old the ChFC® designation must also complete continuing education after receiving their credentials: a total of thirty CE credits every two years.
ChFC® designees have training in diverse areas and can help with many aspects of personal finance, including retirement, wealth management, and estate planning.
Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
Offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts, Personal Finance Specialist (PFS) is a certification for CPAs looking to demonstrate additional expertise in financial planning.
To earn the PFS designation, CPAs must have a minimum of two years full-time teaching or relevant working experience. They must also pass an exam. To maintain their certification, they must complete sixty hours of continuing education every three years.
You Can Help Yourself
It never hurts to become more financially literate. Thanks to modern technology, there are several ways you can learn about the fundamentals of financial planning. These may include:
- Reading books or blog posts
- Watching YouTube videos
- Listening to podcasts
Taking online courses And the best part is - most of this information is free!
While financial planners can help you put together a roadmap toward your financial goals, it never hurts to know as much as you can. Doing so will not only help you to ask better questions and make informed decisions, but it will also give you more confidence in the financial planning process as a whole.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.
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