Advisors, brokers, and planners pursue a wide range of credentials and degrees. Licenses are required to practice. Designations are optional. Designations (and degrees) increase competency in a particular area and demonstrate credibility. In either case, the list of possibilities is extensive. Here is a listing of FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.) licenses
. And a FINRA listing of common designations
Advice: Review the disclosure documents for a listing of services and corresponding credentials.
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
- The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, or CFP® certification, has become the premier certification for financial planners. If you are searching for a financial planner, this mark may be an important component of your search. It is not, however, a requirement to provide financial planning
. The certification has been around since the 1980s. All certificants must meet four major requirements - Education, Ethics, Experience, and Examination.
The Education portion encompasses two areas. A Bachelor's degree is required, as is completion of coursework from an approved financial planning program prior to taking the exam (there are CFP® approved programs throughout the country).
The Experience portion requires 3 years of experience in a position related to financial planning.
All certificants must adhere to a code of Ethics and pass a background check. The mark can be revoked if a designee fails to adhere to this code.
The Examination is a 6-hour ordeal. The testing covers in excess of 100 topics from the following categories: Financial Planning, Insurance, Investments, Taxes, Retirement Planning, and Estate Planning. It is demanding.
This CFP® mark demonstrates dedication and ensures a substantial foundation of financial planning
Financial Planning Association (FPA)
- The FPA is an organization that brings together like-minded professionals for networking, educational opportunities, and to further the profession. The FPA and its regional chapters provide high quality continuing education for financial planners. The National FPA organization, in many ways, also acts as a voice for the financial planning
profession. Although not a license or designation, membership in the FPA does show a commitment to ongoing education and advancement of the profession.
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) -
NAPFA is an association of Fee-Only financial advisors. Beginning in 1983, NAPFA has has developed high standards in the field and each member advisor must sign and renew a Fiduciary Oath yearly and subscribe to their Code of Ethics. The association provides support and education for over 3,000 practitioners all over the country and is governed by the NAPFA Board of Directors and supported by four Region Boards.