Perhaps something that is confusion to the Boomers today are all the official, professional designations that “Financial Advisors” display after their name. There are too many to discuss here but we are happy to answer if you have a specific question.
The main ones that real comprehensive advisors should have are CFP and ChFC.
CFP is Certified Financial Planner and requires a rigorous testing and three years internship of experience. Many will accept that the ChFC which is the Chartered Financial Consultant is comparable in requirements of classroom training and experience. In my opinion the main difference is the CFP is more academic and investment oriented, while the ChFC is more hands on and insurance related. Many students in college will pursue the former and the later is pursued by insurance professionals who seek to be a professional advisor rather than simply a professional salesman.
We all know about the CPA. This is a professional trained in taxes and tax filing and accounting. Most CPA’s are trained to be defensive in their tax planning and unless they also have the PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) then they are focused for tax preparation primarily.
CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. The ASCPA got on the financial advice band wagon in a very academic way with the PFS designation. This is as close to the industry standards mentioned above, however, few are dedicated to Financial planning other than as a sideline. Their view-point is again often more of an accounting approach and not a holistic planning that includes family dynamics and the human side of planning.
Most other designations have less requirements than these three, and are often industry specialties that are intended to help lend credibility to a salesman specializing in a particular product line. CASL®,RICP, CLF®, CAP® is the study of Philanthropy .These courses are shorter though no less academic in nature than the three top tier, but more specific to an area of planning. CASL (Chartered Advisor for Senior Living) focuses on the issues confronting seniors. RICP (Retirement Income Certified Planner) is focused on retirement income planning. CLF is Chartered Leadership Fellow, LUTCF is Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow and focuses on the practical application of life insurance. Many of these designations are sponsored by the American College in Bryn Mar, PA and are truly college level course work, but usually done with a full-time career in the insurance industry. You can check out the vast field of study that many advisors undertake in a personal effort to be an advisor not just a salesman. https://www.theamericancollege.edu/
Finally, if you don’t ask you won’t know- Don’t be afraid to ask- A professional is happy to share her accomplishments with you. The more educated the planner the greater the chance for your success.