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Financial planning a rewarding career

Greer Gibson Bacon

Dear Ask a Planner,

How do you become a financial planner and what is the best way to join the field?

Jesse T.

Dear Jesse,

Being a certified financial planner is a very rewarding career. It allows you to exercise your brain and humanity and make a good living in a growing field. You must meet four requirements to become a CFP.

Education . A CFP candidate must have a college degree and complete an educational program that is accredited by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Such programs are offered by many colleges and universities as undergraduate or graduate degree programs or executive study programs. In addition, CFP professionals must meet continuing education requirements.

Examination . A candidate must pass a rigorous, two-day written examination, designed to assess professional competence in the areas of budgeting and credit management, insurance and investment planning, employee benefit and retirement plans, income taxation, estate planning, and more. Nationally, only 50 percent to 55 percent of those who sit for the exam pass it.

Experience . A candidate must obtain three years of experience in personal financial planning. Great settings to get that experience include banks and trust companies, brokerage and insurance firms, and financial planning and investment advisory firms.

Ethics . A CFP candidate must meet fitness standards and agree to follow the CFP code of ethics, which requires that a practitioner place a client’s interest ahead of his or her own and fully disclose conflicts of interest. Those who violate ethical rules are subject to discipline, including revocation of their license.

There are two great Web sites where you can find out more about becoming a certified financial planner: and the Financial Planning Association at

If you decide to enroll in a CFP professional education program, you can join the Financial Planning Association at a reduced rate. Most chapters meet monthly or quarterly and offer a great opportunity to meet working CFPs. In the long term, those contacts can provide dividends in terms of mentoring and job opportunities.

Consumer tip : Professional designations have proliferated in recent years. While some require intense study and examination, others are little more than marketing ploys.

In response, federal and state securities regulators have taken steps to protect investors, especially seniors. For example, the North American Securities Administrators Association created model legislation prohibiting the fraudulent use of professional and senior designations, which Washington and Idaho have adopted.

Also, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority created a Web-based tool investors can use to “check out” professional designations, at

Greer Gibson Bacon is a certified financial planner and member of the local Financial Planning Association chapter. Readers are invited to submit questions on financial planning to be answered in this space each Tuesday. Send questions to askaplanner@
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