Professional Designations

What is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

By  Brian Thorp

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Are you looking to hire a qualified financial professional who can work with you to create a robust plan for managing your money and achieving your short and long-term goals?

A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) has the knowledge, experience, and ethics necessary to offer sound financial advice to clients from all walks of life. With a CFP’s support, you’ll build a financial plan personalized to your individual needs with ongoing oversight designed to help you enjoy life more with less money stress.

Let’s take a closer look at what the CFP designation is, what it takes to earn it, and how you may benefit from working with a CFP.

We’ll also introduce you to Certified Financial Planners featured on Wealthtender who can work with you to develop a personalized plan to achieve your financial goals.

What is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

A CFP is a well-qualified financial professional who uses various strategies to help clients. CFPs often analyze a client’s current situation and prepares a number of financial reports that show essential figures like net worth. CFPs may also assist with investment planning, insurance planning, estate planning, income tax planning, and retirement planning. 

While many other professional designations concentrate on investment management, the CFP focuses on holistic financial planning. In addition, CFPs stand out because they must abide by a strict standard of fiduciary duty, meaning they are required to put clients’ best interests ahead of their own. They can’t buy financial products for clients for the sole purpose of earning high commissions. 

To earn a CFP, financial professionals must complete certain education and experience requirements as well as pass a rigorous exam that is distributed by the CFP Board. The goal of this exam is to evaluate their ability to apply financial knowledge to all types of situations.

Should You Hire a Certified Financial Planner?

A CFP can benefit various individuals and families, regardless of their economic status. With a CFP’s guidance, you can:

  • Create a Comprehensive Financial Plan: CFPs can deliver detailed plans that help you meet your financial goals. They can help you design a budget, save for a house or your children’s college, and/or navigate an inheritance you never expected to receive. You can also trust them to make sure you stay focused and follow through with your goals. 
  • Make the Best of Complex Financial Situations: There are a number of complicated situations that may warrant the need for a CFP. If you own a business or have real estate holdings, for example, a CFP can educate you on tax implications and other nuances you may not be aware of on your own. 
  • Navigate a Life Event: Several life events may prompt you to work with a CFP and figure out how to deal with the financial changes brought about by them. If you’ve had a change in marital status, family size, or employment status, they are certainly worth considering. 
  • Get a Different Perspective on Your Finances: Even if you’re confident in your finances, a CFP can provide a second opinion or a fresh set of eyes. They may point out a mistake or opportunity that you never thought about before and help you change your financial situation for the better.

What Do Certified Financial Planners Have To Say About Hiring a CFP?

We asked Certified Financial Planners in the Wealthtender community to answer questions we commonly hear from people thinking about hiring a financial advisor who has earned their CFP designation. Here’s what they said:

Michael R. Acosta, CFP®, ChFC®, CSLP® Helping H.E.N.R.Ys Accumulate Wealth & Business Owners Maximize Their Exit

One main benefit to hiring a CFP is that we’re held to the highest level of standard as a fiduciary. We’re called to always do what’s in the best interest of the client. If we don’t, we could be held liable or lose the right to use the CFP marks. To go along with this CFPs go through extensive training and education on the financial planning process which offers a greater knowledge base to be shared with clients.

And it isn’t always more expensive to hire a CFP as opposed to financial advisor who doesn’t have their marks. Often CFPs will charge a fee for their advice which might make it seem more expensive. This allows us to remain objective and not apply pressure to clients to implement suitable recommendations directly through the CFP.

Other financial advisors that are not CFPs might not charge fees for their advice but are compensated through asset under management fees or commissionable products which could ultimately end up being more costly to the client long-term.

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Michael R. Acosta, CFP®, ChFC®, CSLP® | The Dumas Team, Consolidated Planning, Inc.

Jeremy Keil, CFP®, CFA, CIMA® Find your ideal retirement strategy with our 5 step retirement income process.

“The CFP® is a designation that is only available to the top echelon of financial advisors who have proven they know what they are doing when financial planning.

A CFP® certificant is someone who has passed a rigorous exam in 72 different financial planning topics. It’s usually a good sign that someone views your situation in a more comprehensive manner than an average financial advisor.

It’s great to have someone who is knowledgeable, but even better, is that effective October 2019, the CFP Board requires all CFP® professionals to act as fiduciaries at all times.”

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Jeremy Keil, CFP®, CFA, CIMA® | Keil Financial Partners

Douglas Boring, CFP®, CKA® Managing Partner, Senior Wealth Advisor

1] What’s the difference in a fiduciary approach of a Certified Financial Planner®?

While there are many competent and talented advisors who do not hold the CFP® designation, from a consumer’s perspective it is extremely difficult to judge the knowledge base of your financial advisor. Ideally, your advisor should operate as a fiduciary and put your interests above his/her own interests.

They should not be product or insurance driven but should come to each client engagement with “clean sheet of paper” with the single goal of determining the correct combination of strategies, tools, or tactics are best for your financial circumstances.

Through a Financial Planning Process the Client defines their personal ideas about Financial Freedom and the Advisor designs a path to help them get there.

2] Should I expect to pay more to hire a Certified Financial Planner®?

Perhaps a question is in order: What is the value of wisdom, knowledge, and experience?

When choosing laser eye surgery would you choose the cheapest option? Probably not. Why would you only go for the cheapest advice, especially when the financial consequences of bad advice are so high?

In practice, most CFP®s are competitively priced as they either run their own businesses or are working for another CFP® who is a business owner. Price is only an issue in the absence of Value. As a consumer you should consider Value over Price because you will live with the Value of decisions you made for a long time.

3] Should I hire a designation other than CFP®?

As stated previously, there are many talented and competent advisors with and without designations. The CFP® board of standards set the highest bar for knowledge and ethics in the industry along with a track record of enforcement. The CFP® Code Of Ethics as well as the rigorous curriculum which CFP® certificants need to master should give most consumers a high degree of confidence as they do their financial planning.

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Douglas Boring, CFP®, CKA® | Aspire Financial Planning

Danielle Miura, CFP® Financial Planning for the Family Caregivers

Should I expect to pay more to hire a financial advisor who has earned their CFP vs. an advisor who hasn’t?

No, not necessarily. Fees vary based on skill, niche, experience, and education.

What is a primary benefit to consumers of choosing to hire a CFP?

CFP® professionals are the most educated financial planners in the financial industry. CFP® professionals are fiduciaries, meaning they must act in their client’s best interest.

When should someone hire an advisor with a designation other than the CFP?

Ideally, working with a CFP® professional is advised. However, professional designations are not the only factor in picking a financial advisor. When searching for a financial advisor, it is essential to determine compatibility and trustworthiness.

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Danielle Miura, CFP® | Spark Financials

What Does it Take to Earn and Maintain the CFP?

Those who hope to earn a CFP designation must fulfill certain requirements set forth by the CFP Board. Here’s a brief overview of what’s required to become a CFP.

CFP Education Requirements

The CFP Board requires that all candidates complete a course on financial planning or a related field, such as insurance planning, risk management, employee benefits planning, or retirement planning. 

In addition, they must hold a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree from an accredited college or university. Those who wish to get certified yet have not graduated from college have up to five years after passing the CFP exam to earn their degree. 

CFP Experience Requirements

To sit for the CFP exam, candidates must have either 6,000 hours of qualifying experience in the financial planning field or 4,000 hours of experience as an apprentice. The goal is to ensure they’ve taken their knowledge and applied it to everyday situations. 

CFP Exam

Once they fulfill their education requirements, candidates must pass the CFP Certification Exam. It’s made up of 170 multiple-choice questions as well as questions with short scenarios and lengthy case histories. There are five testing windows each year, and the exam is administered via computer-based testing (CBT) format over two days in 10 hours.

CFP Ethics

CFP holders are held to the highest of standards outlined by the CFB Board. These standards are based on important principles like objectivity, competence, fairness, professionalism, and confidentiality.

Also, the Board’s Rules of Conduct require CFP professionals to put clients’ interests above their own and act as fiduciaries rather than solely focusing on commissions or their own professional success. 

The CFP Board conducts a background check to ensure that each individual reveals any investigations or legal proceedings related to their professional or business conduct.

CFP Continuing Education

Once a financial professional becomes a CFP, they’ll need to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years. They’re also required to submit a certification application. 

How To Find The Best Certified Financial Planner For You

With over 80,000 CFPs in the US, you’ll find a wide range of financial professionals to consider working with, including financial advisors and financial coaches. In addition to working with clients who live in their community, many CFPs work with clients across the country as well.

You’ll find a growing number of CFPs featured on Wealthtender, and you can also search the directory of CFPs on the Let’s Make a Plan website sponsored by the CFP issuing organization.

Find a Certified Financial Planner on Wealthtender

📍 Click on a pin in the map view below for a preview of Certified Financial Planners who can help you reach your money goals with a personalized plan. Or choose the grid view to search our directory of CFPs with additional filtering options.


How can I confirm the financial professional I’m working with holds the Certified Financial Planner designation?
What if I have a complaint about the Certified Financial Planner I’m working with?

Click here to file a complaint on the CFP Board’s website and for instructions on filing a complaint by mail if preferred.

Where can I learn more about other professional designations held by financial advisors and coaches?

Refer to this list of popular financial certifications prepared by Wealthtender to help you learn more about each designation. You’ll find a brief description of each certification, plus links to in-depth articles if you want to learn more about a particular designation.

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About the Author
A headshot of Brian Thorp, the founder and CEO of Wealthtender

About the Author

Brian Thorp

Brian is CEO and founder of Wealthtender. He and his wife live in Texas, enjoying the diversity of Houston and the vibrancy of Austin.

With over 25 years in the financial services industry, Brian is applying his experience and passion at Wealthtender to help more people enjoy life with less money stress.

Connect with Brian on LinkedIn

To make Wealthtender free for readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Learn more. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
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