A CFP®, or Certified Financial Planner™ identifies those individuals who have met rigorous professional standards and have agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients. In order to receive this designation, an individual must meet the education, examination, experience, and ethics standards established by the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards (CFP® Board). Therefore, a financial planner who has earned the CFP® marks should be distinguished from a financial planner who has not. There is nothing preventing a person from declaring him or herself a “Financial Planner”, and it is therefore incumbent upon the consumer to differentiate between a planner who has earned the marks and one who hasn’t.
If a financial planner has earned the right to use the CFP® marks, this means that he or she has met the following requirements:
Education: There are three ways to meet the CFP® certification education requirement:
- Completing an education program at a college or university whose curriculum is registered with the CFP® Board; or
- Submitting a transcript of previous financial planning-related course work to the CFP® Board for review and credit; or
- Showing the attainment of certain professional designations or academic degrees.
Candidates must also have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
Examination: Candidates for the CFP® certification must pass a rigorous two-day, 10-hour CFP® Certification Examination administered by the CFP® Board that covers the financial planning process and includes such topics as tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance.
Experience: Candidates for CFP® certification must prove they have at least three years of experience in the financial planning process before being authorized to use the CFP® marks.
Ethics: Candidates for CFP® certification have their backgrounds checked by the CFP® Board, and must also disclose any investigations or legal proceedings related to their professional or business conduct. The CFP® Board reviews all such disclosures and investigates those statements that indicate areas of concern.
Once certified, a Certified Financial Planner™ must adhere to the CFP® Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Financial Planning Practice Standards. Additionally, CFP® certificants must fulfill a biennial continuing education requirement to stay up-to-date on planning strategies and financial trends affecting their clients.