2020 has been a volatile year for investments and a busy year for investment professionals, but in the midst of the pandemic, I sat for and passed the exam to become the most recent team member here to join the ranks of CFP® professionals. The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, held only by about 25% of advisors, is the highest standard of excellence for the personal financial planning industry. Here on our team at APCM Wealth Management for Individuals, we currently have 5 CFP® certificants and 3 more in the process of preparing to take the exam.
The path to obtaining the credentials is designed to be challenging and rigorous so clients can trust the meaning behind the designation, and includes the following steps:
Education: In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, you must complete CFP® Board approved coursework covering all major financial planning areas: professional conduct and regulation, general principles of financial planning, education planning, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings and income planning, estate planning, financial plan development.
Exam: The CFP® exam is offered three times per year and consists of 170 questions administered over 7 hours. The comprehensive exam is designed to test mastery of all financial planning concepts and the ability to apply them to a wide range of client situations. The board recommends studying for at least 250 hours, but many like myself will find themselves studying for much longer to ensure adequate preparation.
Experience: There are a few different paths to fulfilling the experience requirement, but the most common avenue (and the route I took) requires completion of 3 years (roughly 6,000 hours) of professional experience in the financial planning industry.
Ethics: The final, and arguably most important, step in the certification process involves committing to uphold the ethical standards. This includes submitting to a background check. CFP® professionals are sworn to act as a fiduciary to their clients, meaning they must always act in the sole interest of the client – providing the best recommendation, not just a suitable one.
Our firm’s dedication to the fiduciary standard is two-fold: as a Registered Investment Advisor, we have a legal and ethical obligation to be a fiduciary to our client. Our CFP® credentials further cement that commitment. Throughout my life thus far, my career interests have ranged from nurse to therapist to development economist to financial planner. The theme among all of these fields is a desire to help people as a trusted expert, so it is no coincidence that I landed in a profession and at a firm that grants me the privilege to do exactly that.
As demonstrated by the uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize it is more important than ever that you have a team you can trust. The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation represents a commitment to instilling trust and confidence. I am thrilled to be our team’s newest CFP® professional.
Meghan Carson, CPA, CFP®