The CFP® certification is gaining more public recognition, yet surprisingly, many are unaware of what it takes to be able to use the CFP® mark. This past week I sat for the CFP® Exam, a major milestone towards the professional certification, so I can share what the pursuit of the certification has looked like for me.
My path started while I was working at my dad’s Registered Investment Advisory firm for what was supposed to be an “in-between” job. I decided to take a sharp right turn from my field of international public policy to financial planning. Without the educational background in personal finance, that meant hitting the books once again. The education requirement for the CFP® certification includes successful completion of 6 university-level courses focused on the major personal financial planning areas: General Principles & Insurance, Investments, Tax Planning, Retirement Planning, Estate Planning, and the Capstone course. I started the courses in September 2014 and completed them in February 2016.
After completing the education requirement in February, I turned my attention to the next big hurdle: the CFP® Exam. The exam is offered 3 times a year – March, July and November. I had my sight set on the July exam. In March, I began a review course that condensed the material I had spent the previous 18 months studying into 3 months. My teaching background helped me plan out my study schedule down to the day to ensure that I was on track for the exam (if you think I’m kidding, see the picture!). Each day after work, I studied 1 to 3 hours a night. On the weekends, while everyone else was out enjoying this amazing Alaskan summer, I spent 4 to 6 hours studying. The last week of June, I even flew down to Charlotte, NC to attend a 4-day intensive Live Review course. Thankfully, my husband took on the role of resident housekeeper, chef, and dog-walker as I spent my waking hours outside of work going through practice tests and 900 handwritten flashcards.
The CFP® Exam is a 7-hour computer-based test. The exam questions are conceptual in nature, testing not only your knowledge of the material, but also application and ethics. My preliminary results indicate that I passed the exam, but I wait another 3 weeks for the final confirmation. However, that’s still not the end – after passing the exam, I have another 7 months before I can use the CFP® mark because the CFP Board requires 3 full years of industry-related experience. Once an individual has met the standards required by the CFP Board for certification, there is a continuing education requirement that must be maintained. So the next time you are handed a business card with the CFP® mark, take note of the knowledge, time, and dedication that went into earning it. Here at AWMI, we are very excited for our team of CFP® professionals to grow from 3 to 4!
Associate Financial Planner