When researching our options for a major purchase or a professional to provide a service, most of us look for the best and highest-rated item, individual, or company. This is especially true when it comes to finding someone to manage our finances and wealth. However, when looking to work with a financial advisor, the search isn’t always that simple.
There are 135 different certifications for financial advisors, and most of them begin with the letter “C”: CFP®s, ChFC®s, CPAs, CLU®s, CFS®s, and the list goes on. With an alphabet soup of certifications, how do you find a financial professional who’s right for you?
According to the CFP Board: (1)
- 86% of consumers prefer an advisor who has passed a certification exam and education program
- 81% of consumers prefer an advisor who takes a holistic approach to managing their finances
- 90% of consumers see the value in an advisor’s certifications
Those are some high expectations, but they’re not unreasonable. Finding an advisor who meets these qualifications is not as difficult as you may think. In fact, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals check all these boxes and more. Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about these industry experts.
What Is a CFP® Professional?
A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, or CFP®, professional is a financial advisor who has undergone extensive training and earned a certificate of expertise in many areas, including financial, estate and retirement planning, tax management, insurance, and more.
The CFP® designation is known as the gold standard of certifications in the financial planning industry; those who hold this qualification demonstrate an unwavering commitment to their clients, continuing education, and professionalism.
How Does an Advisor Become a CFP® Practitioner?
The certification process to become a CFP® practitioner is rigorous and time-consuming. To earn their certification, an advisor must meet requirements in the following four areas: (2)
- Formal education: This area consists of two parts. First, the advisor must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Second, the advisor must complete a list of financial planning courses laid out by the CFP Board*.
- CFP® examination: The CFP® exam is a 170-question multiple-choice exam that covers over 100 financial planning topics, including risk management, tax planning, professional conduct, and more. Only 65% of participants end up passing the exam. (3)
- Relevant work experience: Advisors must have at least three years of full-time financial planning experience or two years of apprenticeship to qualify.
- Professional ethics: All candidates are subject to extensive background checks and must disclose any criminal activity, bankruptcies, customer complaints, and so on to the CFP Board.
Combined, these four areas equip each and every CFP® practitioner with the highest financial planning expertise and professionalism in the industry.
How Do CFP® Practitioners Retain Their Certification?
Once an advisor becomes a CFP® practitioner, they must renew and maintain their certification every two years, including completing 30 hours of continuing education in their area of expertise. This means they must stay up to date on the latest trends and changes in the financial planning industry because they’re always learning.
Why Is it Important As an Investor to Work With a CFP® Practitioner?
There are five major reasons why every investor should work with a CFP®practitioner:
- We have met rigorous qualifications. If an advisor has a CFP® designation after their name, it’s because they’ve earned it. The certification process is long and arduous, and only those who are fully dedicated to financial planning end up meeting the requirements. It’s known as the highest standard of financial planning for a reason.
- We are fiduciaries. This means we are legally and ethically bound to act in your best interest at all times. Working with a CFP® practitioner means you may have confidence knowing we have your best interest at heart. No strings attached.
- We are fee-transparent. We give unbiased financial advice aimed at helping you reach your goals. There are no hidden agendas or conflicts of interest. Our sole mission is to see you succeed in reaching your financial goals.
- We are versatile. Because our education spans many different areas of financial planning, CFP® practitioners are equipped to help you with a range of financial issues, including estate planning, budgeting, tax advice, investments, and more.
- We offer holistic financial planning. Unlike other professionals who can only help you with one piece of your financial puzzle, CFP® practitioners consider your entire financial picture.
Who We Are
At Horizon Planning Group, we’re a team of dedicated CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals and candidates committed to helping you reach your financial goals. Whether you need help managing your investments, creating an estate plan, updating your insurance coverage, saving for your kids’ education, or securing your retirement, we’re here to assist you every step of the way. To learn more, schedule an introductory meeting online or reach out to me at (770) 627-4157 or Garrett@MyHorizonPG.com.
Garrett L. Holcombe is president at Horizon Planning Group, a full-service fiduciary financial planning firm committed to always doing what’s right for their clients. With over a decade of experience, Garrett specializes in serving small business owners, giving them a step-by-step process to help them overcome the challenges they face every day and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. His vast knowledge and dedication to his clients allows him to tailor a plan to his clients’ needs and goals, whether that’s creating a start-up plan, financing and tax strategies, employee benefits, and more—all so that his business owner clients can experience confidence in their financial future. Garrett is known for his passion for education. He takes on the role of a teacher so he can help his clients feel empowered about their decisions and understand their financial situation thoroughly. He wants his clients to know that he’s always there for them, no matter what their questions or concerns are, and is always working behind the scenes to keep your plan moving forward.
Garrett graduated from Kennesaw State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. When he’s not serving his clients, Garrett loves spending time with his wife, Amber, and their two children, Samantha and Matthew. Garrett and Amber were one of the first foster homes with Goshen Homes, a foster care agency of Goshen Valley that specializes in keeping siblings together. They adopted their children through the foster care program. Garrett is heavily involved in his community, serving as an adult leader and the safety and training officer for Sea Scout Ship Southwinds 100, and is president of the Cherokee High School Band of Warriors Booster Club. He is part of the Woodstock Business Cub and an active member of his church. In his downtime, he loves cheering for the Braves and Georgia Bulldogs and is an avid Liverpool Football Club and Atlanta United fan. To learn more about Garrett, connect with him on LinkedIn.
*Disclosure: CFP Board implemented the bachelor’s degree or higher requirement in 2007 and the financial planning development capstone course requirement in March 2012. Therefore, a CFP® professional who first became certified before those dates may not have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree or completed a financial planning development capstone course. Learn More