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What is the Certified Financial Planner Designation?

CFP®  Certification Requirements

Working with a  CFP® professional is an important step toward reaching your financial goals. These advisors meet rigorous education and experience requirements, and they are held to the highest ethical and professional standards. 



CFP® professionals must master 72 Principal Knowledge Topics under the categories below, as well as a comprehensive financial planning capstone course. 

Principal Knowledge Topics

Investment Planning 

Tax Planning 

Retirement Planning

Estate Planning

Insurance Planning

Financial Management

Education Planning 

In addition to completing a comprehensive financial planning curriculum approved by the CFP Board, candidates for  CFP® certification must have a bachelor's degree (or higher) in any discipline to become certified. Once certified,  CFP® professionals are required to complete continuing education coursework, including a CFP Board approved ethics course, to ensure their competence in financial planning. 



Candidates for the  CFP® certification must pass a comprehensive 6-hour  CFP® Certification Examination that test their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format. 

The  CFP®  exam measures the candidate's critical thinking and problem-solving ability, with less emphasis on factual recall or recognition. The exam does not test textbook theories; rather, it assesses the candidate's ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated approach to real-life financial planning situations. To develop exams that reflect the current practice of financial planning, CFP Board conducts regular Job Task Analysis studies to identify the important tasks preformed by planners and assess the knowledge and skills needed to perform these tasks.  



CFP® professionals must complete thousands of hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the certification marks. As a result, CFP® practitioners possess practical experience in addition to financial planning knowledge. 



As a final step to certification,  CFP® practitioners must satisfy CFP Board's Fitness Standards and agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct, that sets forth their ethical responsibility to the public, client and employees. CFP Board also performs a background check during this process, and each individual must disclose any criminal history, personal financial history and any regulatory or civil proceedings. 

What to expect when working with a CFP® Professional 

It is important to understand how CFP® professionals deliver their services and how they are compensated. Planners are compensated for the services they provide in different ways. Some are paid through commissions and others through fees or a combination of both. While all CFP® practitioners are trained to provide you with comprehensive financial planning services, some specialize in one or more areas, or work with specific type of clients. Be sure to ask the planner how he or she is paid. 

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. 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 planner who will put you and your needs at the center of every financial planning engagement.

Check to see if your planner is a CFP® Professional. 

To verify that your planner is authorized by CFP Board to use the CFP® certification marks and to learn more about financial planning, visit the link below or call toll-free 800-487-1497

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