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Certified Financial Planner

Checked for updates, April 2022.

Financial planners help people deal with personal financial issues through proper setting of goals, targets, and strategies. Financial planners provide services focused on business and investment, education, retirement, insurance, tax, estate, debt management, and other financial issues.

The financial planning process works by setting client goals, gathering relevant information, analyzing the information, constructing a plan, implementing the plan, and monitoring outcomes (6-step financial planning process by the ISO).

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) has gained valuable recognition along with today's increasing popularity of general and personal finance strategies. It is the most recognized financial planning credential in the world.

A CFP's career is filled with opportunities. Clients trust professionals who have proven themselves through education and experience. Moreover, passing the CFP examination will confirm your knowledge and proficiency in applying financial planning principles.

To become a CFP, you need to meet a set of rigorous requirements:

Education Requirements

The education requirement for attaining CFP certification includes two main parts:

1. Complete college or university-level coursework through a program registered with CFP Board in the major personal financial planning areas. This requirement includes completion of a financial plan development (capstone) course registered with CFP Board.

2. Hold a regionally accredited college or university bachelor’s degree or higher (accreditation must be recognized by U.S. Department of Education at the time the degree is awarded).

The coursework (1) must be completed before you can apply for the CFP examination. The bachelor's degree (2) may be completed within 5 years after passing the exam.

The CFP Examination

You can apply for the CFP Certification Examination when you have successfully fulfilled the education requirement. The CFP Exam is geared towards measuring your ability to apply financial planning concepts to real-life situations rather than merely remembering them.

The exam consists of two 3-hour sessions separated by a scheduled 40-minute break. The exam is held three times a year during March, July and November.

Questions are provided in multiple choice format. The CFP Examination is a pass-fail exam having no candidate ranking. Results of the examination will be available online and through mail.

Experience Requirements

To be granted the CFP certification, exam passers should have at least three years (or 6,000 hours) of full-time relevant personal financial planning experience.

Such experience must fall within the six primary elements of financial planning, i.e. 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, and Monitoring the Financial Planning Recommendations.

The experience requirement may also be satisfied by completing two years full-time (or 4,000 hours) of "Apprenticeship Experience" focused exclusively on personal delivery of all the personal financial planning process to a client, with direct supervision by a CFP.

Other Requirements

After completing the requirements above, the CFP Board will determine if you are fit for certification and give the final verdict. The CFP Board will also require you to agree to adhere to the CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Conduct, and Financial Planning Practice Standards.

Certified Financial Planners must meet 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years to maintain certification.

To know more about the CFP, visit the CFP Board Website.

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