How Can You Tell If Your Financial Professional Is Qualified?

Financial Professionals are not all created equal—so it is important to understand the financial advice industry’s most common credentialing standards. The Guidefi Advisor Network is made of vetted credentialed financial professionals which includes financial planners, financial counselors and financial coaches. Several of the financial professionals within the Guidefi Advisor Network have the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, one of the most rigorous credentials for the financial planning profession. Our financial coaches and counselors have the AFC, Accredited Financial Counselor or FFC, Financial Fitness Coach certification, which are the gold standards for financial coaching and counseling. The AFC and FFC credentials are issued by the ACFPE, Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education. We have compiled a list of the most relevant financial planning, coaching and counseling credentials below:

1.Certified Financial Planner (CFP): The issuing organization is the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. All CFP holders must have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from an accredited college. In addition CFP candidates must have three years or 2,000 hours of practice in a financial planning role. The requirements of the role is that the candidate must complete the CFP Board exam. Any candidate that holds either a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Certified Loan Underwriter (CLU), Attorney’s License, Ph.D. in Business or Economics or DBA, may be exempted from the examination. There is a continuing education requirement of 30 hours every two years. 

2. Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®): The issuing organization is ACFPE, Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education. AFC holders must have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from an accredited college in financial planning, counseling or related field. In addition, candidates must have 1000 hours of practice in a financial counseling role and complete the ACFPE exam. 

3. Financial Fitness Coaches (FFC): The issuing organization is ACFPE, Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education. FFC holders must complete the FFC financial coaching certification. 

4. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): This credential is issued by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which is a global association of investment professionals. As such, most CFAs focus on investment management and opt for wealth management and some retirement planning roles. CFA candidates must be in their final year of their Bachelor’s program at minimum, and have four years of professional experience or a combination of university education and work experience that totals four years. The CFA’s education requirement is based on a 250 hours self-study program in readiness for a very difficult three-level exam, which must be passed. In addition, CFA candidates must have at least 4 years of experience in finance in a decision making role. The CFA does not have a continuing education assessment. 

5. Registered Investment Advisor (RIA): Contrary to popular belief, the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) credential is not a professional designation but it is a very important credential for an investment firm. In order to legally operate an organization that provides investment advice, the investment organization must be registered with the Securities Exchange Commission or the financial securities board in their state of practice. Most wealth managers and investment managers are RIAs. Practice as an RIA also requires the passing of the Series 65 examination or the maintaining a Series 7 and Series 66 with a broker-dealer firm. The Series 65 is can be waived in some states if the individual holds CFA, ChFC, PFS or CFP. 

6. Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): The Chartered Financial Consultant designation is issued by the American College. The main prerequisites are three years of full-time experience within five years of applying for the designation. In addition ChFC candidates are required to take seven core and two elective courses, an equivalent of 27 credit units. There is also a final closed book examination, with 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years.

If you are evaluating a financial professional, it is important to ask about their credentials. Sign up for our newsletter to get more tips on choosing the right financial professional for your journey to build wealth

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