a financial-planning professional
Is a CFS as qualified to do financial planning as a CFP, ChFc, etc.?
-- Planning Perplexed
There's an alphabet soup of professional designations to consider
when you are interviewing a financial professional about his or
her qualifications -- and whether they may help in developing a
A Certified Fund Specialist, or CFS, has completed
a 60-hour self-study curriculum on mutual funds and topics relating
to investing in mutual funds and passed a national exam on this
curriculum. This compares to a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP,
who has taken a multicourse curriculum covering employee benefits,
taxation, insurance, investments, estate planning, retirement planning
and financial planning; passed a national exam on these topics and
met the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standard's work experience
A Chartered Financial Consultant, or ChFC, has been
through a course curriculum that embodies the CFP curriculum, plus
has taken additional coursework in financial planning topics and
met a work-experience requirement. ChFC designees and CFP certificants
are both required to uphold the code of ethics of their respective
My good friends at the CFA Institute would tell you
that you should expand your list to include CFA Charterholders.
There are some other groups that would also like to submit for your
consideration their professional certifications. The earlier Dr.
Don column, "Picking
a financial adviser," discusses some of these programs
and offers some additional suggestions in choosing a financial adviser.
My best advice is to not rely solely on the professional
designation in choosing a financial planner. Interview the planner,
and ask about his or her experience, education, cost and services.
Try to ensure that he or she is working in your best interest and
not just talking the position.
The adage, "If you only have a hammer, everything
looks like a nail," comes into play more often than it should
in this field, and the client should keep that in mind when working
with a financial planner. If you have misgivings, then get a second
Comprehensive financial planning is a lot more than
managing investments, and if you're looking for a comprehensive
financial plan you need a planner or planning team that can manage
all aspects of that plan.
Editor's note: Dr. Don is a CFA Charterholder and
is an associate professor of finance at The American College, an
academic institution that both offers the ChFC program and is a
CFP Board Registered Program education provider. He is also a candidate
for the CFP Board's certification.