Many financial professionals might call themselves “financial planners” but it is another thing to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
About this time last year, I was spending what seemed like every waking hour preparing for the CFP® Board certification exam. I really mean ALL my time; breakfast to bedtime on the weekends and every evening after work. It was an intensely challenging time, and equally rewarding.
I always knew this is where I wanted to go with my career. I entered the profession as a young Advisor in 2005 and the CFP® certification immediately stood out among achievements in the industry - the pinnacle of the profession. I spent a decade as an advisor accumulating technical expertise, working with clients and studying the behaviors that motivates us as investors. The CFP® certification process built upon this experience and helped me hone a holistic perspective to managing wealth and guiding clients towards reaching financial contentment.
The Four E’s
To become certified, individuals are required to meet the following requirements:
Education, Examination, Experience, Ethics.
The college level program of study in personal financial planning was a fascinating deep dive into topics that helped me improve how I serve my clients every day. Certificants are also required to have a bachelor’s degree to become certified. The CFP® certification exam is a timed 6-hour exam given nationally three times per year and tests 72 Principal knowledge topics organized into 8 categories:
- Professional conduct and regulation
- General Financial Planning Principles
- Education Planning
- Risk Management and Insurance Planning
- Investment Planning
- Tax Planning
- Retirement Savings and Income Planning
- Estate Planning
The overall pass rate in 2016 was 64%. The only way to successfully pass the exam is with dedication. You must know your material inside out, backwards and forwards. Also, lots and lots of practice. The exam process really helps formulate the ability to integrate and apply financial planning knowledge to real life planning situations- far and above just memorizing information to pass a test.
A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner must have 6,000 hours of professional experience related to financial planning and make an ethics declaration. Individuals are also subjected to a background check and agree to be bound by the CFP® Boards Standards of Professional Conduct. CFP® practitioners must also maintain their certification each year by meeting several ongoing requirements, including earning continuing education credits.
Perhaps most importantly though, The CFP® certification carries with it a fiduciary standard.
A fiduciary relationship is the highest legal duty of one party to another, and it requires that a financial adviser act solely in the client’s best interest when offering personalized financial advice. Trust is such an important component in developing a long-term relationship with your advisor.
Individuals who have committed to earning and maintaining the CFP® certification are looking to set themselves apart and be the best they can be, which is why I’m grateful to call myself a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.