Your Guide to Socially Responsible Investing
What Is a Certified Financial Planner™?
By Judith L. Seid, CFP ®
President, Blue Summit Financial Group
July, 2009 (La Mesa)--The public is sometimes confused by the alphabet soup of credentials out there in the financial planning and investment industry. A Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) has the most highly regarded credentials and is a financial professional who meets the requirements established by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Creating comprehensive planning solutions when given varied and often complex personal situations requires knowledge and experience in all of the following topic areas:
1) Investment Planning
2) Insurance Planning & Risk Management
3) General Principles of Financial Planning
4) Employee Benefit Planning
5) Income Tax Planning
6) Retirement Planning
7) Estate Planning
While others may call themselves financial planners, only those who demonstrate the requisite experience, education, and ethical standards are awarded the CFP® mark.
What are the requirements?
In order to obtain the CFP® mark, an applicant must:
• Hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
• Complete a CFP® Board-registered education program
• Pass the 10-hour CFP® certification exam
• Have at least three years of qualifying full-time work experience in financial planning
• Pass a professional fitness standards and background check
• Once appointed, a CFP® must meet continuing education requirements every other year in order to maintain the certification.
What does a CFP® do?
A CFP® is trained to develop and implement comprehensive financial plans for individuals, businesses, and organizations. A CFP® has the knowledge and skills to objectively assess your current financial status, identify potential problem areas, and recommend appropriate options. And with a CFP®, you're working with someone who's demonstrated expertise in multiple areas of financial planning, including income and estate tax, investment planning, risk management, and retirement planning.
How is a CFP® compensated?
In addition, a CFP® agrees to adhere to a strict code of professional conduct described in the CFP Board Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility.
Typically, financial planners earn their living either from commissions or by charging hourly or flat rates for their services. A CFP® may use a combination fee-and-commission structure: you pay a fee for development of a financial plan or for other services provided by the CFP®, who also receives a commission from selling you products. A commission is a fee paid whenever someone buys or sells a stock or other investment. It also is paid when someone buys insurance (such as health, life, or long-term care insurance) or annuities.
How can a CFP® help you?
A CFP® can help you create a personal budget, control expenses, and develop and implement plans for retirement, education, and/or wealth protection. A CFP® can offer expertise in risk management, including strategies involving life and long-term care insurance, health insurance, and liability coverage. A CFP® often can help with your tax planning or manage your asset portfolio based on your goals. A CFP® may be able to recommend and implement an investment portfolio designed for your individual situation and needs.
Specifically, a CFP® can help you:
• Establish financial and personal goals and create a plan to achieve them
• Evaluate your financial well-being with a thorough analysis of your assets, liabilities, income, taxes, investments, and insurance
• Identify areas of concern and help you address them by developing and implementing a financial plan that emphasizes your financial strengths while reducing your financial weaknesses
• Implement an investment and risk management plan and provide ongoing monitoring of your portfolio.
• Review your plan periodically to accommodate your changing personal circumstances and financial goals
How to choose a CFP®
Selecting a CFP® is like choosing a doctor for your financial health. Working with a CFP® involves sharing very personal information and you will want to feel comfortable with the professional you've chosen. Not only will you want the CFP® to be competent, but he or she should also have integrity and a commitment to the highest ethical standards in the industry. Also, a CFP® may offer services to a particular clientele, such as small business owners, corporate executives, or retirees, so be sure the planner you select works with people whose interests and goals are similar to yours.
Questions to ask
Here are some questions you may want to ask a CFP® to help you find the right planner for you:
• What is your education? What schools did you attend and what degrees have you earned?
• What licenses do you hold? Are you registered with the SEC, FINRA, or the state?
• Are you affiliated with any professional groups or organizations? Do you execute securities trades through a broker-dealer? Who is it?
• Does your practice concentrate in a particular area? What types of clients do you work with?
• What type of products and services do you offer? Are you limited as to the products and services you can offer me?
• How are you compensated for your services? Do you receive a commission for products you may sell to me?
• Have you ever been disciplined by any government board or regulatory agency?
Is a CFP® right for you?
The financial world has become a very complex place. Even if you're used to handling your own financial affairs, the time may be right to consult a CFP® who can review your financial health and offer suggestions that may help you reach your financial goals.
For example, are you familiar with all the different investment opportunities that might be available to you? Are you on track to meet your financial goals such as saving for your child's college education, securing enough income for a comfortable retirement, or protecting your assets against risks and lawsuits? A CFP® can offer the analysis you need to answer these and other important financial questions.
Note: Certified Financial Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements. You can find more information at www.cfp.net
Judith L. Seid, President and founder of Blue Summit Financial Group, Inc, is a Certified Financial Planner who has actively used Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) for her clients since 1992. She firmly believes that “We can influence corporations to change their policies by avoiding investments in irresponsible companies and by seeking investments in companies with positive practices and products.” Socially responsible investing (SRI) exists for investors looking to use the power of financial investment to create sustainable social change.
For more information on Sustainable Investing, contact Judith at Blue Summit Financial Group in La Mesa, (619) 698-4330; www.BLUESUMMITINVEST.com Securities offered through Pacific West Securities, Inc. (Pacific West) Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services provided through Pacific West Financial Consultants, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Blue Summit Financial Group, Inc. and Pacific West are not affiliated.