Financial Literacy - Financial tuneup
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Finding a financial planner

Certified Public Accountant-Personal Financial Specialist (CPA-PFS): An individual with a CPA title will have a more extensive background in tax issues. However, a PFS designation is awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in New York City to CPAs who have taken additional training or already hold a CFP or ChFC designation.

Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): A professional with a ChFC designation should have a broad knowledge of all aspects of financial planning. Subject areas studied include securities, estate planning, insurance and taxes. The designation means the person has passed rigorous examinations and met certain requirements. The ChFC designation is earned through The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and designees tend to work in the insurance industry.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP): The CFP is a financial planning credential awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, or CFP Board, to individuals who meet the CFP Board's education, examination, experience and ethics requirements. A professional with a CFP designation should have a broad knowledge of all aspects of financial planning. Subject areas studied include investments, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance and taxes. The designation means the person has passed rigorous examinations and met certain requirements.

Certified Fund Specialist (CFS): A Certified Fund Specialist, or CFS, must have 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. The coursework is not nearly as rigorous as that for a Certified Financial Planner, who must cover several subjects in-depth, pass a national exam on these topics and meet work experience requirements. CFS training is received through the Institute of Business & Finance. Formerly known as the Institute of Certified Fund Specialists, this organization is located in La Jolla, Calif.

Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA): An investment consultant must already have three years of professional experience before being eligible to obtain this certification. The Investment Management Consultants Association, in Greenwood Village, Colo., teaches the CIMA courses.

Certified Life Underwriter (CLU): An adviser with a CLU designation has undergone expanded study in insurance planning. Those studies are also offered by The American College, so many of the planners with a ChFC will also hold a CLU.

Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC): To receive the CIC designation, an individual must already be a CFA. The program focuses on portfolio management and is offered through the Investment Adviser Association in Washington, D.C.

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Registered Investment Adviser: All financial planners/investment advisers are required to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC does not use the acronym "RIA" to avoid the implication that mere registration equals financial expertise.

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