I completed the CFP® exam a long time ago, the late 1980's. A few years later I obtained a Master's in Financial Planning.
Over the years, I have seen a number of designations that financial advisors can add to their resume. However, in my estimation, many have minimal if any value to consumers.
If you have not done so, check out the CFP® "Let's make a plan" website.
In the meantime, it is important remind consumers Certified Financial Planners (CFP®) stand out from a rather crowded field of financial professionals for a variety of reasons.
- One of the most important reasons is that Certified Financial Planners are mandated to act as a fiduciary, meaning that they are required to put their client’s interests and needs ahead of his or her own.
- Another reason why CFPs® stand out are the requirements necessary to become a CFP®, including a Bachelor’s degree and work-related experience. The exam for CFPs® is quite stringent and usually takes around 10 hours to complete. The CFP Board also imposes ethical standards on all licensees, and all those certified are required to complete continuing education courses in order to maintain their certification.
CFP® behavior is monitored by the CFP Board, which was established as a nonprofit organization and acts in the public interest by establishing professional standards that all licensed certified financial planners must follow through its Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. The CFP Board is in charge of determining who can become a CFP®, and its board of directors maintains the right to remove the CFP® designation from any professional who violates the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics is updated by the CFP Board periodically, with a new Code of Standards set to take effect on October 1, 2019. The New Code and Standards includes numerous changes, including the expansion of the scope of a fiduciary standard that CFP professionals need to abide by. Currently, the CFP Board enforces the Code of Ethics, Rules of Conduct, and Practice Standards, along with the Disciplinary Rules along with enforcement of those rules. Here is a little bit more about each:
- Code of Ethics - The CFP Board adopted the Code of Ethics for all current and future CFPs. The Code of Ethics contains a series of principals and standards that CFPs are expected to abide by in all of their professional activities, highlighting their responsibility to the public, clients, colleagues, and employers.
- Rules of Conduct - The Rules of Conduct helps to establish the standards that are expected of all Certified Financial Planners and provides details on the level of professionalism that is required of all those certified. The Rules of Conduct are binding on all CFPs regardless of title, position, or type of employment. Any Certified Financial Planner found violating the Rules of Conduct are subject to discipline.
- Practice Standards - The Practice Standards include best practices for financial planning professionals that relate to the six elements that are involved in the financial planning process. Each standard includes a statement that relates to a particular element, which is followed by an explanation of that Standard and how it relates to the Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct.
- Disciplinary Rules & Enforcement - The Disciplinary Rules include the procedures followed by the CFP Board to enforce the Rules of Conduct. Anyone seeking certification is subject to a background check prior to becoming certified. After certification, any violation of established ethics and standards may be subject to subsequent disciplinary action including revocation of their current certification.
I would strongly suggest consumers looking for a financial advisor, should start with an individual who is an independent fee-only CFP®.