Certified Financial Planner

Certified Financial Planner

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is a professional certification mark for financial planners conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board)[1] in the United States, Financial Planning Standards Council in Canada[2] and 22 other organizations affiliated with Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB)[3], the international owner of the CFP mark outside of the United States.

To receive authorization to use the designation, the candidate must meet education, examination, experience and ethics requirements, and pay an ongoing certification fee.[4]. The information relates specifically to CFP certification in the United States.[5] In the UK, the CFP licence is available to financial planners through membership of the Institute of Financial Planning[6].


Education requirements

To earn the CFP designation, candidates must meet several requirements—the first of which is the educational requirement, which requires candidates to have a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited U.S. college or university. [1] As a first step to the present CFP certification criteria, students must master[7] a list of nearly 100 topics on integrated financial planning.[8] The topics cover major planning areas such as:

  • General Principles of Finance and Financial Planning
  • Insurance Planning
  • Employee Benefits Planning
  • Investment and Securities Planning
  • State and Federal Income Tax Planning
  • Estate Tax, Gift Tax, and Transfer Tax Planning
  • Asset Protection Planning
  • Retirement Planning
  • Estate Planning

To fulfill the education requirement, students are required to complete course training in the above listed topic areas in order to meet the first requirement to sit for the 10 hour CFP Board Certification Examination.[7] A bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent in any discipline, from an accredited college or university is required to attain CFP certification. The bachelor's degree requirement is a condition of initial certification; it is not a requirement to be eligible to take the CFP Certification Examination [2].

Individuals holding professional designations pre-approved by the CFP Board (such as PhDs in business and economics, attorneys, Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Accountants (CA), Chartered Wealth Managers (AAFM), Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU), and Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA)) are entitled to register for and take the exam without having to complete the education requirements by using the CFP-board's "challenge" status. In Canada,this involves passing lengthy gruelling exams.

International degrees may be substituted for a U.S. degree if they receive equivalency from a third-party organization. The CFP Board began requiring a college education in 2008. In the early years for the first 25,000 CFP members, you could take the 5 courses and achieve certification with out a comprehensive exam. Later, a comprehensive exam became required in the early 1990s. [3]


The CFP Certification Examination is a 10-hour multiple choice exam, divided into one four-hour session (Friday afternoon) and two three-hour sessions (Saturday). The exam includes three major case problems and is designed to assess the student's ability to apply his or her knowledge of the aforementioned areas to financial planning situations. The exam was set as a requirement in 1993 and at that time CFPs were grandfathered without having to pass this exam. Prior to 1993 the certification exam(s) consisted of six 4 month study topics with a four-hour exam following each topic for a total of two years of study and 24 hours of exams which included both multiple choice and written analysis of case studies.

Work experience

After passing the examination, the candidate must demonstrate to have exempt and extensive experience in the financial planning field. The CFP Board defines work experience as "the supervision, direct support, teaching or personal delivery of all or part of the personal financial planning process to a client"[9] and such experience must fall within one or more of the following six primary elements of financial planning:

  • Establishing and Defining the Client Relationship
  • Gathering Client Data and Goals
  • Analyzing and Evaluating the Client's Financial Status
  • Developing and Presenting Financial Planning Recommendations and Alternatives
  • Implementing the Financial Planning Recommendations
  • Monitoring the Financial Planning Recommendations

Even after the student passes the exam and meets one or more of the six primary elements of financial planning, he or she must also have completed the following:

  • Three years full-time or equivalent (2,000 hours per year) part-time experience in the financial planning field
  • Be approved by the CFP Board during initial certification, which also involves an extensive background check—including an ethics, character and criminal check.

Ethics and continuing education

The final components are the ethics and continuing education requirements.[10] Students and certificants are required to adhere to the CFP Board Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and to the Financial Planning Practice Standards. Registered investment advisors have a fiducial duty to care for investments.[11] The CFP Board has the right to enforce them through its Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.

To maintain certification, license holders are also required to complete certain continuing education requirements on an on-going basis in addition to paying a licensing fee every two years.[12]

Other notable references and consumer protection links

The CFP education requirements, exam standards, and public complaint system are dislosed on the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) education website where the CFP certificate program is shown on the FINRA guide to designations. [13]

The CFP Board of Standards program is also defined on the Investopedia list of designations as a financial qualification. [14]

The CFP standards requirements are also documented on the Wall Street Journal's list of financial designations which also disclosed FINRA monitored designations. [15]

CFP also has a list of accredited education partners who provide exams and courses [16]

Related designations

See also


External links

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