Written by: Josh St. Laurent | Wealth In Yourself
If you’re reading this then chances are you earned the CFP® marks and valued financial planning education enough to commit to passing the exam. The CFP® curriculum is an essential part of what we do as financial advisors, a solid foundation in the 8 principal knowledge domains and topics. You’ve grown a lot of your technical skills by going through the CFP® curriculum but now you want to learn more and continue developing into the advisor you want to be for your clients. The goal of this article is to help give you a framework for what your next steps may be.
There are many different directions you can go and ultimately the decision is going to depend on the type of clients you want to work with, your strengths or gaps as an advisor, and how much time and energy you’re willing to dedicate to additional education. This guide is broken up into a few sections to make it easier for you to find the information that pertains to you. Some of the below degrees and designations will be areas you’re not interested in or aren’t willing to commit to at this time and that’s okay. For the areas that do interest you, I’ve tried to link to the pertinent resources so you can get additional information as necessary. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are simply too many designations, degree programs, and certificates out there to list all of them but it’s meant to be a good resource to get you started and hopefully will pique your interest in a certain area of financial planning.
Taxes - It’s no secret that taxes are one of the main eroding factors of wealth for most Americans. Having a deeper level of knowledge and understanding about strategies to save on taxes can increase your effectiveness as an advisor.
Enrolled Agent (EA®) - This designation is for a federally licensed tax practitioner and allows you to file taxes and represent your clients in front of the IRS.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) - This is a state-regulated designation with a more broad curriculum, typically this takes longer to obtain than the EA® but once completed you can do many of the same things.
Retirement - Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) - If you specialize in helping retirees, especially those with multiple income sources this designation will help you to be more proficient in organizing income streams and ensuring your clients have income for life
High Net Worth - Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA®) - If you tend to work with people in the 10 million and over space the CPWA® curriculum is specific to the issues that those with a high net worth face.
Coaching - Financial Fitness Coach (FFC®) - Are you wanting to learn more about coaching and helping people to use their own strengths to accomplish their goals? Financial fitness coaching helps advisors better understand their clients through thoughtful and reflective questions, real-world coaching practice, and feedback.
Financial Therapy - Certified Financial Therapist (CFT®) - Financial therapy has a focus on money behaviors, especially examining events from the past that now influence how someone interacts with money. If you want to be an advisor who can help clients work through their money beliefs to have a better relationship with their finances the CFT® may be interesting to you.
General Practitioner - Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) Required a CFP® to take one class, Contemporary Applications in Financial Planning (HS 347) to obtain their ChFC® and there is no exam required. Per the American College of Financial Services website, the extra class helps financial planners expand their knowledge in “Small business planning, planning for divorcees and clients with special needs, behavioral finance, planning for non-married families, same-sex families, and blended families.”
Life Planning - Life planning is a rapidly growing field that puts the client or person at the forefront of the planning process, while the quantitative is still essential, the focus in these designations is how to better understand the human being you’re planning for.
Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT®) - If you’ve done financial planning for any amount of time you probably understand how transitions are oftentimes why people seek us out. Marriage, divorce, death, children, and home purchases are all events that make people realize they could use a financial planner. This designation helps you to navigate some of life’s toughest transitions and gives structure to your client meetings.
Registered Life Planner (RLP®) - Started by George Kinder the “father” of life planning this is a deep dive into Life Planning and evoking from your clients their deepest life goals so that you can incorporate them into your life plan.
Investment-Specific - If your focus is on portfolio building, investment analysis, and increasing your knowledge of all things investment-related these designations will be interesting to you.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) - The go-to designation for portfolio managers, typically people seeking out this designation are working (or trying to work) in an analyst role with a focus on trends and markets. There are three levels to the CFA® and the exams are said to be very rigorous.
Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) - Similar to the CFA® the CIMA focuses on investments and analysis of companies, the CIMA curriculum is said to focus more broadly on business analysis as opposed to stock analysis which gives CIMA practitioners a unique skill set to work with business owners.
When it comes to designations, this really is the tip of the iceberg, check out this list from FINRA. Chances are if you want to specialize in a niche area there is a designation for it. Athletes, celebrities, and divorcees all have their own designations, if you want to learn more about a specific financial tool like trusts there’s a designation for that as well. The sky is the limit here and most can be completed in under a year. Additional education and training will differentiate you from your peers and could lead to you becoming a go-to resource at your firm as a subject matter expert.
More and more Universities are offering certificates in financial planning, most often in conjunction with the CFP® curriculum but if you’re looking for a certificate to go above and beyond the CFP® curriculum take a look at the Life Planning Certificate from GGU.
Master of Science in Advanced Financial Planning - Golden Gate University - This degree allows you to choose one of three concentrations, depending on where your interests lie. Your options are financial life planning (the curriculum from the above certificate), estate planning, and taxation. Each concentration has anywhere from 4-6 courses to help you learn more about your chosen focus.
Master of Science Personal Financial Planning - Kansas State - This degree puts you in front of some of the best minds in personal financial planning, the curriculum at Kansas State includes courses in Financial Therapy, Behavioral Finance, and Taxation with the goal of helping you become a better, more well rounded financial planner.
Masters in Taxation (MTax) - If you really want to become an expert on taxation there are a lot of Universities including some of the ones listed above that offer Masters in Taxation degree. If you feel compelled to include tax planning in your business or see yourself going the EA® or CPA route this may be the best option for you.
So there you have it, not an exhaustive list but a resource to get you going on your journey to additional education in financial planning. Our clients are counting on us to be the best we can be as planners and that means not only keeping up on all things CFP® curriculum but also the human side of money, taxes, and the economic landscape. Most of us find ourselves in a lifelong learning process to keep up with the rigorous industry that we chose to work in, I hope you find this information valuable and find passion in what you do as you continue to grow and learn.