The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is an internationally recognized professional accreditation mark for certified financial planners issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards on behalf of the Professional Association of Financial Advisors, Incorporated (PAFA), by a panel of independent, objective external assessors. The CFP designation requires participants in the CFP qualification to have a high level of education and professional experience in financial planning. In addition, the CFP requires a minimum of five years of relevant work experience.
Some states do not require a licensed financial planner to be CFP, although most do. An independent financial advisor is an individual who practices without the oversight or participation of a license organization. Many wealth advisors fee-only are self-employed, or work for firms that do not employ their own wealth managers. Typically, these fee-only financial advisors work for solo professionals or large firms on a contract basis.
There are two types of advisors certified by the CFP: the Certified Financial Planning Professional (CFP) and the Registered Financial Planning (RFP). Both share some of the same accreditations; however, they differ in the areas of specialty. The Certified Financial Planner typically focuses on insurance, securities, retirement, investments, and other aspects of wealth management. Registered financial planning advisers tend to focus on estate planning, tax strategies, and investing in properties. They do not deal with insurance, securities, or other areas as a part of their financial planning services. These registered planners are typically employed by larger firms, and the majority of registered investment advisors are also CPAs.
Most wealth advisory agencies are state-regulated, as well as insured, and participate in a long-term program to guarantee quality of service. New York State has the Long Island Association of Financial Advisors (LIFFA), which regulates the professional qualifications of certified financial planners in the state. According to the association, LIFFA members must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, pass state examinations, and be registered with the state as a Certified Financial Planner. Other requirements are that LIFFA members must receive state licensing at the highest level (i.e., the state board of examiners must endorsement) and pass a comprehensive examination.
Individuals considering obtaining a CFP or RFP should take some time to consider how they would benefit from working with an independent Certified Financial Planner. Many individuals think that they can get the same advice that they would get from a regular registered investment firm, but an independent CFP or RFP is able to offer clients additional benefits. In addition to having their name attached to an prestigious firm, an individual will have their name known within the financial planning community. For this reason, individuals may find that a certified financial planner who works independently has a better understanding of current trends that occur outside of his or her firm. Additionally, an individual will be able to give more personalized advice to clients, as opposed to relying on what a firm may recommend for a particular client.
With the recent downturn in the stock market, many financial advisors have decided to set up an independent fee structure for their clients. Some firms charge a flat fee and rely on a commission structure, which makes a profit on investments made by their employees. However, there are also independent fee structures that come with a greater sense of investment risk and a more personalized approach to providing advice. These fees may be based on the investment strategy used by the advisor, the risk that the client poses to the advisor, or a combination of these factors. While the latter is the preferred method of operation, most independent fee structures work well with both types of arrangements.
Becoming an independent certified financial planner requires that you have several qualities. For starters, you should have vast knowledge of the current financial planning markets and understand how to analyze the data available to you. You should also be very sociable and outgoing, as it's one of the first things people notice about you. Lastly, you need to have a strong desire to continuously learn and improve yourself as an investment manager, as it's one thing to know your area of expertise, but it's another to truly enjoy it.
If you're ready to start seeking out an independent certified financial planner to handle all of your wealth management needs, there are several qualified firms providing such services across the country. Contact one of these firms today for a consultation. Whether you're looking to improve your financial planning education and experience, or just wish to make a few extra bucks helping others manage their investments, becoming an independent Certified Financial Planner can provide you with years of rewarding and profitable service.