Choosing a financial planner may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your loved ones. Financial planners can provide you and your family with guidance over your lifetime or work with you to address specific concerns as needed. A planner can play a central role in helping you meet your life goals and achieve financial well-being. Consequently, take the time to select a financial planner who is competent and trustworthy and whom you can rely on for professional advice and services. Your future depends on the choices you make.
CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ are certification marks owned in the U.S. by the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ Board of Standards Inc. (CFP® Board), which can help you identify financial planners who are committed to competent and ethical behavior when providing financial planning. Individuals certified by CFP® Board have taken the extra step to demonstrate their professionalism by voluntarily submitting to the rigorous CFP® certification process that includes demanding education, examination, experience, and ethical requirements. These standards are called “the four E’s,” and they are four important reasons why the financial planning professional you select should display the CFP® certification marks.


CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical financial planning knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP® Board. Other options for satisfying the education component include submitting a transcript review or previous financial planning-related coursework to CFP® Board for review and credit or showing the attainment of certain professional designations or academic degrees.


CFP® professionals must pass a comprehensive one-day, six-hour CFP® Certification Examination that tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format. Based on regular research of what planners do, the exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management, and insurance.


CFP® professionals must have three years of experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks. Alternatively, an individual working to attain CFP® certification may meet the experience requirement by fulfilling a more rigorous two-year apprenticeship under the direct supervision of a CFP® professional.


CFP® Board’s Code of Ethics outlines CFP® professionals’ obligations to uphold principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism, and diligence. The Rules of Conduct also require CFP® professionals to put your interests above their own and to provide their financial planning services as “fiduciaries” – acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients.

Ongoing Certification Requirements

Once certified, CFP® professionals are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations. Every two years, they must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients. Two of these hours are spent studying or discussing the CFP® Board’s Code of Ethics or Practice Standards.

In addition to the biennial continuing education requirement, all CFP® professionals voluntarily disclose any public, civil, criminal, or disciplinary actions that may have been taken against them during the previous two years as part of the renewal process.

What to Expect When Working With a CFP® Professional

When you work with a CFP® professional, you are the focus of the financial planning relationship, and your needs drive the financial planner’s recommendations. CFP® professionals follow certain standards – called Financial Planning Practice Standards – when providing financial planning.

These standards are based on the six-step financial planning process described below. This broad-based approach to financial advice distinguishes financial planning professionals from other professional advisers who typically focus on only one area of a person’s financial life.

What Else Should I Remember When Selecting a Planner?

As more people call themselves “financial planners,” finding the right professional to address your financial planning needs isn’t always easy. It’s important to take your time when choosing a financial planner, and before making a decision, become familiar with the planner’s business style and understand the level of services he or she provides.

Look for a measure of the planner’s commitment to ethical behavior and adherence to high professional standards. Look for a financial planner who will put you and your needs at the center of every financial planning engagement. Most importantly, look for the CFP® or CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ marks.

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