Wealth Management Career Articles 

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What Is the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) Designation?

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) is a professional designation designed for newcomers to the financial advice business that is awarded by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP)—a Kaplan company. Earning the designation also enables experienced advisors to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. This article explains what the designation is, why it’s valuable, how it can help you in your career, and how to get it.

What Is AAMS®?

AAMS® is a designation program for financial professionals. The program provides advisors with fundamental financial knowledge of asset management and investments. It was started in 1994 and is offered exclusively online by CFFP. The designation is also listed by FINRA, which is a private, self-regulatory organization that regulates certain aspects of the securities industry.

Why the AAMS® Program Is Valuable

When asked about the value of the program, one AAMS® professional said: “This program gave me more knowledge to help structure my communication with my clients. The AAMS® program should be a requirement for anyone involved in asset allocation and money management."

The courses and tests associated with earning the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations. Those who go through the program learn to identify new investment opportunities and also recognize insurance, tax, retirement, and estate issues.

The program is designed to help financial advisors who are just starting out in their careers. However, more experienced financial advisors can benefit from the credential, too, because it lets clients know they have a specialty in asset management. In addition, financial advisors with the AAMS® designation who plan to earn the CFP® designation can test out of two of the seven courses in the CFFP CFP® certification education program.

How the AAMS® Designation Can Help Your Career

The AAMS® designation is recognized as the industry benchmark for asset management credentials and is endorsed by leading financial firms. It enables you to serve individual, small business, or investment clients better. If you have an entry-level financial advice position or are a trainee, it can help you advance your financial career. In addition, financial advisors with the AAMS® report an average earnings increase of 20 percent, as well as client base growth and greater job satisfaction.

For clients, the AAMS® is a sign that you can identify investment opportunities specific to their needs. For example, it can reassure nervous clients who need to plan for college tuition or purchase a retirement home. Because you’ve been through the program and earned the AAMS® designation, you can guide those clients and others to the right investments for their goals.

How to Earn the AAMS®

To earn the AAMS® designation, follow these steps:

  1. Complete a 10-module education program provided by CFFP. There are no prerequisites for this program, which typically takes 9–11 weeks to complete. The modules cover the asset management process; risk, return, and investment performance; asset allocation and selection; investment strategies; taxation of investments; investing for retirement; deferred compensation and benefit plans; insurance products for investment clients; estate planning for investment clients; and fiduciary, regulatory, and ethical issues for advisors.
  2. Take and pass the AAMS® exam. You must take the test for the first time within six months of enrolling for the program, and you have a year to pass it. There are 80 questions on the exam, and the passing score is 70 percent. Plan on studying for about 80–100 hours.
  3. Agree to abide by a code of ethics.

Think the AAMS® Designation Is Right for You?

If you’re just starting out in your career, the AAMS® offers you a chance to build your credentials. If you’re experienced and want to earn your CFP® mark, the AAMS® program gives you a head start, plus you get a credential in the process. Learn more about the AAMS® program and how to enroll here.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - October 14, 2019
Man with AAMS helping asset management clients

All about CFP Board: The Organization behind the CFP® Exam

CFP Board is the accepted short name for Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation. Along with granting the CFP® mark, the mission of CFP Board is to advance and ensure that the certification is the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. In this article, you’ll learn about the history of CFP Board, its structure and activities, and its role in developing the CFP® exam.

CFP Board History

In 1969, 13 men met in Chicago to formalize personal financial planning as a profession. Before that time, personal financial planning required searching numerous areas of the financial services industry for ways to help individuals plan for their financial futures. At that meeting, they created the International Association for Financial Planners (IAFP) and the College for Financial Planning, which introduced an education program for what would later become CFP® certification.

Sixteen years later, in 1985, the College for Financial Planning agreed to the establishment of an independent, non-profit certifying and standards-setting organization. It transferred ownership of the CFP® mark and responsibility for continuing the CFP® certification program to the new organization, now known as CFP Board. In November 1991, 81 people received the CFP® mark after passing the very first CFP® exam, which tested their ability to integrate and apply the knowledge gained from the financial planning curriculum.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is right for you by downloading our free eBook. 

CFP Board Today

Today, CFP Board is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its CEO is Kevin Keller, CAE. Among its responsibilities is maintaining current, and developing new, financial planning standards as the industry changes. It accepts volunteers for its various councils and research projects, and it counts all CFP® professionals in good standing (those who have earned the certification and keep it active through continuing education) as its members. As of August 31, 2019, there are 85,434 CFP® certificants, and they are located all over the U.S.

CFP Board has a board of directors, which oversees CFP Board and sets policy. The current chair is Susan John, CFP®, of Financial Focus, Inc., Wolfeboro, NH. CFP Board has a number of research initiatives on topics such as racial and ethnic diversity, women in financial planning, and consumer surveys. It has councils for business models, public policy, and education, and a standards commission. It also operates CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, which is dedicated to making sure every American has access to financial planning advice that is competent and ethical through greater diversity and sustainability.

CFP Board Education and Ethics

CFP Board sets the standards for the financial planning education required to earn the CFP® certification. In other words, before you can become a CFP® professional, you must complete a comprehensive course of study at a college or university that offers a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. After CFP Board is notified that you’ve successfully finished that education, you can take the exam. Once you pass the CFP® exam, gain the requisite years of experience, and earn the certification, it’s good for two years. After that, you must renew it every two years by taking continuing education courses approved by CFP Board.

CFP Board is also the keeper of “The Rules of Conduct.” These rules require that CFP® professionals put client interests ahead of their own at all times and that their financial planning services are “fiduciary,” which means they are acting in the best interest of their clients. CFP Board can, if it chooses, sanction CFP® professionals who violate these standards.

CFP Board and the CFP® Exam

CFP Board develops the CFP® Certification Exam, which tests how well candidates can apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. Volunteer CFP® professionals guide all aspects of the exam, which include setting the criteria for scoring and passing. Some of these volunteers are subject matter experts (SMEs) who determine what the content will cover, write the questions, and review them. Others are volunteers on the CFP Board Council of Examinations (COE), which reviews and approves the questions. Testing experts assure the exam is current, reliable, valid, and legal.

Before you take the exam, you must meet the education requirement by completing the CFP® curriculum at a CFP Board-approved educational institution. The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning. It consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, and candidates take it over the course of six hours with a 40-minute break after the first 3 hours. It’s offered in eight-day windows, three times a year. (This CFP® Exam FAQ has more details.)

Ready to be Recognized by CFP Board as a CFP® Professional?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or, if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 24, 2019
Men learning about CFP Board standards

CRPC® Designation: Demonstrate the Retirement Planning Expertise Clients Demand

The CRPC® designation is the end result of a comprehensive program that helps financial advisors master the entire retirement planning process, going far beyond retirement income. With financial decisions that will determine their security and lifestyle for the balance of their lives, people born in the early 1960s are demanding a high level of knowledge from their advisors. This program is designed to help retirement planning counselors to meet these demands. This article provides an overview of the program.

Why the CRPC® Designation?

The youngest of the “baby boomer” generation, people born in 1964, are now solidly into their mid-50s, so retirement is weighing heavily on their minds. In fact, in a recent national survey of financial advisors, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company found that more than three-quarters of their clients are “concerned” or “very concerned” about their retirement savings programs, and well over half worry about actually outliving their assets.

So, it’s not at all surprising that financial advisors are facing an increasingly complex onslaught of retirement planning questions as these baby boomers look for advice on when they’ll be able to retire, as well as guidance in finding investments to meet their lifestyle needs in 10 years, 20 years, or beyond.

Recognizing these challenges, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company has created the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor™ (CRPC®) education and designation program.

What is the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) Designation?

The CRPC® helps financial advisors by guiding them through specialized tax and estate objectives and strategies for a retiree and presents the unique financial and emotional aspects of financial planning that are unique to the retirement process. In short, the program helps advisors define a “road map to retirement,” enabling them to focus on the pre- and post-retirement needs of their clients.

The CRPC® designation is the industry benchmark for retirement planning credentials and is encouraged by the top firms in the industry. Graduates report a 9 percent increase in earnings in addition to increases in their number of clients and even their job satisfaction.

About the CRPC® Designation Course

The CRPC® Professional Education Program is a three-semester credit graduate-level course. The nine modules in the course are:

  • Maximizing the Client Experience During the Retirement Planning Process
  • Principles and Strategies When Investing for Retirement
  • Making the Most of Social Security Retirement Benefits
  • Bridging the Income Gap: Identifying Other Sources of Retirement Income
  • Navigating Health Care Options in Retirement
  • Making the Emotional and Financial Transition to Retirement
  • Designing Optimal Retirement Income Streams
  • Achieving Tax and Estate Planning Objectives in Retirement
  • Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisers

The typical student should expect to spend approximately 90–135 hours on course-related activities to study and prepare adequately for the course examination. The CRPC® course also does double-duty for CFP® professionals who require continuing education (CE) credits to sustain their CFP® designation: graduates may receive up to 28 CFP® CE credits, up to 45 state insurance CE credits, and 45 credits towards the College’s professional designation CE requirements.

In addition, professionals who are considering a master’s degree can apply their CRPC® studies in that pursuit: designees receive direct credit for one course in the College’s MS in Personal Financial Planning program, saving them time and money while enabling them to pursue multiple credentials.

Learn More

Many leading financial advisory firms endorse the CRPC® designation and will reimburse advisors for course-related expenses. For more information, visit the College’s website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 5, 2019
Woman with CRPC Designation helping clients

Become an Expert in Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) Investing

Demand for so-called “responsible” investment options has never been higher. In fact, at the end of 2017, more than one out of every four dollars that were being professionally managed in the United States—$12.0 trillion or more—was invested according to sustainable, responsible, impact (SRI) strategies. Industry experts also confirm that a majority of investors want their investments to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

For financial advisors, this demand presents several challenges. First, how can they acquire the insight and expertise to competently guide their clients towards ESG investments that fit their priorities? Second, how can they provide those clients with tangible evidence that they have genuine SRI expertise? Recognizing these challenges, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company has created the Chartered SRI Counselor™ (CSRIC™) education and designation program. This article provides an overview of the program.

Introducing the CSRIC™

Developed in partnership with US SIF, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, CSRIC is a unique program that blends SRI foundational knowledge and scenario learning. The first and only major financial credential dedicated specifically to SRI, the CSRIC is supported by top financial firms. It is designed for advanced financial advisors who wish to obtain foundational knowledge and best practices for advising clients on SRI, including:

  • Experienced advisors who desire financial planning credentials to advance their career
  • Advisors who wish to specialize in SRI investing for new or existing clients
  • Advisors who wish to pursue a Master of Science degree at a later date

Students enrolled in the program will learn the history, definitions, trends, portfolio construction principles, fiduciary responsibilities, and best practices of SRI investments.

About the CSRIC™ Course

The CSRIC™ Professional Education Program is a three-semester credit graduate-level course. The seven modules in the course are:

  • The Foundations and History of SRI
  • Approaches to SRI Shareholder Advocacy, Community Investing, and Corporate Responsibility
  • Portfolio Construction and Incorporating SRI into Financial Advising
  • ESG Performance, Risk, and Rating Metrics
  • The Fiduciary Standard and Communicating the Value of SRI
  • Current and Future Opportunities

The typical student should expect to spend approximately 90-135 hours in course-related activities to study and prepare adequately for the course examination. The CSRIC course also does “double-duty” for CFP® professionals who require continuing education (CE) credits to sustain their CFP® designation: graduates may receive up to 28 CFP® CE credits, up to 45 state insurance CE credits, and 45 credits towards the College’s professional designation CE requirements.

In addition, professionals who are considering a master’s degree can apply their CSRIC studies in that pursuit: designees receive direct credit for one course in the College’s MS in Personal Financial Planning program, saving them time and money while pursuing multiple credentials.

Learn More

U.S. SIF members receive a 15 percent discount on the CSRIC course and course-related materials. In addition, many leading financial advisory firms endorse the CSRIC™ designation and will reimburse advisors for course-related expenses. For more information, visit the College’s website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 28, 2019
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) Investment Expert

What Jobs Can I Get After Earning the CFP® Mark?

With the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark, you have a credential that can set you apart in the financial services industry. Earning the CFP® designation opens the door to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. So, what kind of CFP® jobs are available to you after you’ve earned the credential and what kind of firms are hiring? Let’s take a look.

Financial Planner

A financial planner helps clients organize their finances and estimates the results of their savings and investments so they can see how well prepared they are to meet long-term financial goals. Financial planners also have certain areas of expertise, such as retirement planning or education funding planning. They assist with budgeting, cash flow planning, and saving for college and retirement. As a financial planner, you’ll likely create a comprehensive plan to help clients after assessing their current financial situations and researching what they can do to improve them.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor helps clients manage their money, so the role is more general and broader than that of a financial planner. Financial advisors often specialize in investment management, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, debt repayment, tax planning, or any other aspect of the finance industry. They can be stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, bankers, and more. Financial planners with the CFP® designation are likely to create short-term and long-term financial goals for their clients and then devise financial plans for achieving them.

Financial Consultant

A financial consultant focuses on the accountability aspects of financial planning by designing action plans and a financial strategy and by helping clients run their financial systems. As part of this accountability, financial consultants collaborate with other financial professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and investment managers to ensure their clients' financial needs are met. They also stay up-to-date on financial news and economic events that might affect the plans they’ve designed for their clients.

Investment Advisor or Investment Adviser Representative

Investment advisors, also known as Investment Adviser Representatives, recommend investments or conduct securities analysis for their clients. Although this position is generally associated with selling securities, investment advisors are often CFP® certificants, especially if their recommendations are for financial planning purposes, such as retirement, college, and estate.

Wealth Manager

Wealth managers provide services to high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, which can include types of financial planning. Examples include investment management, financial planning, tax services and planning, retirement planning, legal planning, philanthropic planning, and estate planning, among others. Wealth managers are usually more hands-on, and their solutions are usually more comprehensive than other financial planning and advising disciplines because of the special needs of their high-net-worth clients.

CFP® Jobs: What Types of Firms Are Hiring?

Finance and insurance companies, including securities and commodity brokers, banks, insurance carriers, and financial investment firms, are the most common employers of finance professionals with the CFP® credential. Other sources of employment are wealth management firms, pension funds, and Registered Investment Advisers.

Interested in Pursuing the CFP® Designation?

Although earning the CFP® designation does not guarantee you a job, it can make a difference when an employer is deciding between two otherwise equally qualified candidates. Passing the CFP® Exam and earning the designation takes hard work and dedication. It demonstrates to potential employers that you have a mastery of the important concepts in financial planning. Therefore, companies are more likely to choose the candidate with the CFP® mark. It’s a career move worth considering. Our CFP® Exam prep study packages can certainly help you on your journey.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 26, 2019
Woman Choosing Careers After Earning CFP

Frequently Asked Questions About the CFP® Exam

The questions most frequently asked about the CFP® exam and certification are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is CFP® certification?

CFP® certification is a professional designation for financial planners. Also known as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or CFP® mark, its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. With financial advising and planning estimated to be one of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, getting your CFP® mark can help set you apart in the industry.

What is the difference between the CFP® certification and the CFA® charter?

The CFP® mark and CFA® charter are both the most prestigious designations in their respective fields, and each is administered by a governing body. To earn CFP® certification, you must sit for and pass one exam; the CFA Program exam has three levels. CFA charterholders commonly help individuals and institutions invest and allocate assets. A CFP® professional is likely to be a financial planner, wealth manager, or financial advisor. Our article about the CFP® mark vs the CFA charter has more details.

What is the difference between the CFP® certification and a master’s in personal financial planning?

Both the CFP® certification and a master’s degree in personal financial planning lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But their requirements, topics of study, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. This article compares the two options in greater detail.

What jobs can I get with the CFP® certification?

CFP® professionals usually become financial planners or advisers, helping clients with investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans. While no two days will ever be the same, much of the work involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, and researching new opportunities.

How do I earn the CFP® certification?

Earning the CFP® certification involves the following steps:

  1. Complete a CFP Board-registered education program and make sure CFP Board is notified.
  2. Sit for the CFP® exam.
  3. Hold or earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college within five years of passing the CFP® exam.
  4. Demonstrate financial planning experience. This can be three years of full-time relevant personal financial planning or two years of apprenticeship.
  5. Pass CFP Board’s Candidate Fitness Standards.

What is the CFP® exam? Why should I take it?

The CFP® exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam. It consists of two 3-hour sessions separated by a 30-minute scheduled break. It is offered three times a year in March, July, and November at almost 50 locations nationwide.

Recruiters and prospective employers recognize CFP® certification as the most desired designation in the growing financial planning and advisor field. If your objective is a career as a financial planner or financial adviser, you should consider earning the CFP® mark, which means taking and passing the exam.

Did you know you can get a sneak peak at the CFP® exam to determine if it's right for you? It's all in our free eBook. Download it today!

What are the requirements to sit for the CFP® exam?

To sit for the CFP® exam, you will need to complete a CFP Board-registered education program first. After you complete it, CFP Board must be notified. Usually, your coursework provider will do that for you. There are no degree requirements to sit for the CFP® exam, but you will have to earn a bachelor’s degree within five years of passing the exam. You don’t need a sponsor to take the exam. Also, candidates often use a CFP® exam study package before they take the exam, but it’s not required.

Should I earn the CFP® mark if I already have a different certification or charter?

It depends. If you have a securities or insurance license, the CFP® certification can be helpful if you would like to add planning to your repertoire. On the other hand, if you are a CFA charterholder, a CFP® mark might not be necessary. Interestingly, however, CFP Board allows CFA charterholders to sit for the exam without having to complete the education requirements. So, if you hold other financial designations, your best option is to consult with your firm about whether you should take the CFP® exam or not.

Is the CFP® exam paper or computer-based?

The CFP® exam is computer-based and administered at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the CFP® exam?

The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning.

How many questions are on the CFP® exam?

The CFP® exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your ability to apply your financial planning knowledge to client situations. The topic weights break down as follows:

Topics% of Exam# of Exam Questions
General financial planning principles17%29
Investment planning17%29
Retirement savings and income planning17%29
Risk management and insurance planning12%20
Tax planning12%20
Estate planning12%20
Professional conduct and regulation7%12
Education planning6%11
Total100%170

How much time does it take to study for the CFP® exam?

Most candidates spend between 250 and 300 hours studying for the CFP® exam, although there are reports that it took some candidates much more than that. The entire CFP® certification program, including CFP Board-required education, takes about a year.

How hard is the CFP® exam?

The CFP® exam is not easy, which is one reason the mark is among the most respected certifications in the financial services industry. It includes two case studies, multiple mini-case problem sets, and standalone questions designed to assess your knowledge of financial planning concepts and how to apply them to specific situations. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. But most of the time, failing the exam is the result of not preparing properly. If you put together a stellar study plan and are willing to invest in your exam preparation, you can increase your odds of passing.

How much does it cost to sit for the CFP® exam?

There are three levels of pricing for the CFP® exam:

  • Early: $625
  • Standard: $725
  • Late: $825

What are the pass rates and passing scores for the CFP® exam?

The most CFP Board says on the passing score for the exam is that it is based on a minimal competency level required to pass the exam, which is determined by CFP® professionals. In 2018, the overall pass rate was 60 percent, and the pass rate for first-time exam takers was approximately 64 percent.

If I fail the CFP® exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the exam on their first try can take it two more times in a 24-month period. You then have to wait a year before retaking it. If you don’t pass the exam after five attempts, you cannot take it again.

Ready to earn your CFP® mark?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the CFP® exam and certification. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - May 15, 2019
CFP-FAQ_Original2_10

CFP® Certification vs. MS in Personal Financial Planning: Everything You Need to Decide

If you are considering a career in financial planning, a special designation can help you set yourself apart from the competition and boost your career. But, which career path makes more sense for you: CFP® certification or an MS in Personal Financial Planning? Both lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But how they cover the topics of personal financial planning, their requirements, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. In this article, we break both options down for you.

CFP® Certification Overview

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark enables finance professionals to help individual clients create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business start-up, a home, and so on. Its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. In 2017, CNN Money reported that CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ jobs are expected to grow 30 percent over the next 10 years, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals. To earn the designation, you need to complete certification coursework, pass an exam, and meet other specific requirements.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is right for you by downloading our free eBook. 

CFP® Exam

Offered three times a year in March, July, and November, the CFP® exam is:

  • A computer-based examination that takes six hours to complete and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The six hours are divided into two 3-hour sessions with a 40-minute break in between.
  • Focused on testing your financial planning knowledge in client situations. The topics covered include professional conduct and regulation, general financial planning principles, education planning, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings and income planning, and estate planning.
  • A significant time commitment. CFP Board recommends you spend at least 250 hours studying for the exam. You’ll need to pace yourself and avoid cramming because the exam asks you to apply knowledge to case studies. So make sure you have the space in your life to dedicate the necessary hours to study. Then, create a strategic study plan that includes a review program.

Requirements for Earning CFP® Certification

The other requirements for earning CFP® certification are:

  • A CFP Board-registered education program: CFP Board must be notified when you’ve completed it. You can’t take the exam without it.
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college: You can hold the degree before you complete the education program and pass the exam or earn it afterwards. (You have up to five years after passing to get your degree.)
  • Financial planning experience: This can be three years of full-time relevant personal financial planning or two years of apprenticeship.
  • Candidate fitness: CFP Board requires you to pass its Candidate Fitness Standards. To do this, you must agree to adhere to their ethical standards, disclose any criminal or employment termination history, and pass a background check.

CFP® Certification Benefits

The benefits of earning the CFP® mark include a rewarding career that involves a relatively low investment (anywhere from $900 to $7,000 plus exam fees) compared to the tuition for a master’s degree program. The most common careers include financial planner, wealth advisor, estate planning specialist, trading and research associate, financial consultant, financial representative, or financial analyst. If you want to become a branch manager at a financial firm, CFP® certification can help you achieve that level in your organization as well.

MS in Personal Financial Planning Overview

Offered by colleges and universities (such as the College for Financial Planning), master’s degree programs go deeper into personal financial planning subject matter. These programs cater to those interested in expanding their knowledge beyond typical financial licensing and credentials. Also, for those interested in becoming financial planning educators, the MS is the next step on that career path.

Compared to CFP® certificants, master’s degree students are exposed to the greater impact that finance has on an organization. Participants often gain a deeper grasp of the processes used by firms to maximize shareholder wealth, analyze financial statements, and hold management or C-level positions in financial institutions.

MS in Personal Financial Planning Requirements

For an MS in Personal Financial Planning, the college or university is the governing board, although many are registered with CFP Board. Like any degree program, and unlike CFP® certification, it does not all hinge on one exam. You will take individual classes and be expected to pass the exams for each. The common curriculum will include some required and some elective courses in international finance, corporate finance, financial institutions, money and markets, risk management, and investment theory. You can also earn the CRPC®, APMA®, and AWMA® professional designations, among others.

You will also be expected to meet all the degree requirements of the college or university. Generally, this includes:

  • Having a bachelor’s degree.
  • Having professional work experience (varies by school).
  • Completing additional program prerequisites (varies by school).

Some colleges and universities also require that you complete the GRE or GMAT with a satisfactory score.

Benefits of an MS in Personal Financial Planning

Although a graduate program is more expensive than CFP® certification, it still costs less than many other graduate programs (as low as $15,000). Other benefits of earning the MS can include:

  • An increase in earnings after completing the program.
  • More exposure to real-world scenarios and case studies.
  • Real-world critical thinking skills that you can immediately apply in your day-to-day occupation.
  • Depending on the institution, the choice of taking your classes online or in a classroom, as well as the option to attend full time or part time. 

Which is Right for You?

Choosing between CFP® certification or a master’s degree program isn’t always easy, especially for financial planning. The roles you are eligible for are similar, as are the types of companies that are likely to hire you: financial services firms, mutual fund companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies, banks, and so on. There are some differences, however.

The CFP® mark is definitely respected as an achievement milestone. If you aspire to a financial planning career right after you earn your degree (or even before), you can use your CFP® certification to gain experience at a large financial firm or insurance company. These firms know that CFP® professionals are preferred by clients. In fact, a recent CFP Board study revealed that 69% of surveyed consumers said they would insist that their financial planner have the CFP® certification. This is a main reason why many companies will offer financial assistance to anyone interested in earning the CFP® mark. In addition, CFP® certification often tips the scales in your favor if you are up against an equally qualified candidate who is not credentialed.

An MS in Personal Financial Planning tends to take you farther in your career. Graduate degrees impress—they demonstrate a desire to specialize in a topic and become an expert in a field. Therefore, companies perceive those with an MS in Personal Financial Planning as having deeper knowledge of financial analysis and theory. They are likely to climb the ladder in a company faster or even start out with a better position because they have completed an in-depth curriculum and, in many cases, may have held a financial planning role as an intern while earning their MS. There are a few companies that forego offering tuition assistance for CFP® certification in favor of an MS because they perceive that it’s a better long-term investment.

As you ponder the benefits of each, ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you’re anxious to start your financial planning career, or you don’t have the time or resources for graduate school, earning CFP® certification is a good option. If you are seeking a position where you can apply investment theory and analytics to planning, or you would like to educate others in the field, the MS might be right for you.

Who Says You Have to Choose?

There is a third option: earning both the CFP® mark and an MS in Personal Financial Planning. A CFP® professional with an MS in Personal Financial Planning will have the competitive edge in any career opportunity. Customers will trust someone with CFP® certification, and financial firms will be more likely to view them as management or executive material. Therefore, colleges and universities who offer an MS in Personal Financial Planning often offer CFP® certification education as part of the degree. In addition, if you are already a CFP® certificant, there are a few select colleges and universities, such as the College for Financial Planning and Kansas State, that will credit that education toward your MS degree.

Ready to Get Started?

Get your financial planning career on the right track. Learn more about our CFP® certification packages here, or visit the College for Financial Planning website to explore MS degree opportunities.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
Two professionals trying to determine whether to earch a CFP certificate or an MS in Personal Finance

Why the DOL Decision Reversal Doesn’t Matter

In early July, the Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Court’s decision to vacate the Department of Labor’s long anticipated “fiduciary responsibility” rule. This decision effectively turned back the clock 2 1/2 years and unwound years of work by the DOL to regulate, restrict, and direct financial advisors to act in clients’ best interest when managing qualified retirement accounts. While many firms are now breathing a sigh of relief, the reversal of this decision will have no material impact on the direction of the industry. Acting in clients’ best interest, whether it’s qualified or unqualified accounts, is well underway.

Underperformance

For years now, DALBAR has tracked and reported consistent investor underperformance based on fixed and equity market indexes. In its more recent “Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior” published in April, equity investors underperformed the S&P Index by 191 basis points over the last 20 years. While that gap is significant, it pales in comparison to the 416-basis point gap that fixed investors underperformed the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index over the same time period. For 24 years in a row now, both equity and fixed income investors have consistently lagged behind their respective market index by significant margins. The only explanation is bad investor behavior: buying and selling their investments at the wrong time.

Investors haven’t achieved this consistent level of underperformance all on their own. For decades, financial advisors and financial services firms have sold consumers what is emotionally easiest for them to buy. How can I make that claim? When is it easiest to sell an equity? When the market is rising. When is it easiest to sell a fixed asset? When the market is tanking. It’s not the asset class that creates the problem. It’s the use of the asset class that creates the issue of underperformance. Consumers are waking up to the fact that while their financial advisor may be winning, they’re losing. 

Managing Emotions: The Triple Win

I entered the industry as a new financial advisor in 1985. Back then, financial planning was the new cutting-edge tool in the industry. Planning helped clients be better investors because they now had longer term goals with defined timeframes. There was incentive for them to save more money if they weren’t on track for their goals. The net result was that clients saved and invested more, and as a result, advisors made more commissions, and their firm had more assets to manage. This was the “triple win.” 

Since then we’ve realized that many of the fundamental tools of financial planning, while necessary, are no longer sufficient. Why? Because investors aren’t rational. They act on emotion too often and when they do, it contributes mightily to their underperformance. Tools like Modern Portfolio Theory, asset allocation, and Monte Carlo simulation don’t account for investors getting emotional about their money. 

Behavioral finance helps us understand why that happens; between our emotional reflexivity and psychological decision-making-pitfalls, we have a tendency to make poor choices often. Industry-leading financial advisors in the US, Canada, and around the world are now equipping themselves with the tools and skills to recognize and manage client emotions. These new tools, when used effectively, enable clients to make better investment decisions and create an even more powerful value proposition for the advisor. By acting rationally, clients improve their return on their assets, and they end up with more assets. Advisors and their firms who use the powerful tools for behavioral financial advice exercise their fiduciary responsibility by acting in their clients’ best interest. In the end, they have more money to manage and therefore generate more revenue.  

Disclaimer: Chuck Wachendorfer is Partner and President of think2perform, Kaplan’s partner for our behavioral financial advice program. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author based on personal research and observations. They should not be viewed as legal advice.

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Posted by Chuck Wachendorfer, think2perform® - April 9, 2019
Financial advisor greeting married couple in her office

How Hard is the CFP® Exam?

Last year, just over 7,500 individuals sat for the CFP® exam in the March, July, and November exam windows combined. If you are planning to sit for the CFP® certification exam in the near future, you’re probably wondering how big of a challenge you’re about to face. We’ve put together this resource as an all-inclusive answer source for your questions about the difficulty of the CFP® exam...and how to improve your odds of success.

CFP® Exam Pass Rate

The overall pass rate for the CFP® exam in 2017 was 64%. That pass rate has remained relatively consistent since CFP Board introduced a new exam blueprint prior to the March 2016 CFP® exam. The new blueprint was based on the 8 Principal Knowledge Topics that were defined in CFP Board’s 2015 Job Task Analysis Study.

CFP® Exam Topics

The topics tested on the CFP® exam are essentially CFP Board’s 8 Principal Knowledge Topic Categories. Every question you face will directly tie back to one of these eight topics. According to CFP Board, the topic categories, and their weight on the exam, can be broken down as follows:

Professional Conduct and Regulation7%
General Principles of Financial Planning17%
Education Planning6%
Risk Management and Insurance Planning12%
Investment Planning17%
Tax Planning12%
Retirement Savings and Income Planning17%
Estate Planning12%


As you can see, there’s no single topic that dominates the CFP® exam curriculum. The test is truly designed to assess your understanding across all of the Principle Knowledge Topic Categories. But with three of the topics, at 17% each, collectively making up over 50% of the exam, it is essential you have a firm grasp on those three topics to be successful. In addition, the exam contains two case studies that comprise 20% of the 170 multiple-choice questions.

Want more help with your CFP® exam study plan? Download our free CFP® Exam Study Plan: How to Make the Most of Your Time eBook

CFP® Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Success

The CFP® exam is not easy. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. But most of the time, failure on the exam is the result of poor preparation. Investing in exam preparation is a way to avoid that. In addition, these tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to pass the CFP ® exam.

  • Put in the study time: CFP Board says candidates should spend at least 250 hours preparing studying. Don’t take this suggestion lightly. You have a lot of material to cover. Starting early will help ensure you leave yourself enough time to master it.
  • Don’t rely on cramming: Candidates who do not manage to dedicate enough time to prepare for the exam might be tempted to resort to cramming. Time and time again, it’s been proven that the best last minute exam prep activities are light review and a good night’s sleep. Cramming is not in the recipe for CFP® exam success.
  • Develop and follow a study plan: To ensure you dedicate yourself to proper preparation for the exam, we recommend developing and following a study plan. This will help you spread the curriculum over the time you have available to study and gameplan to ensure you are giving the right amount of focus to the right topics.
  • Learn how to apply your knowledge to real life scenarios: If you are relying on memorization of vocabulary to get through the CFP® exam with a passing score, you’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise. It’s not enough to be able to recall definitions. The CFP® exam tests your ability to perform the tasks expected of someone who holds the credential. So you need to know how to apply what you know to scenarios you will actually encounter when serving clients.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There is no better way to build your confidence ahead of the CFP® exam than by doing practice questions. This type of practice helps you truly assess your comprehension of critical concepts, identify and address weaknesses, and get comfortable answering the kinds of questions you’ll face on exam day.

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Ensure you are prepared for exam day with Kaplan’s CFP® exam prep review. Choose from our live online or traditional classroom settings and get the expert instruction and education you need to pass the exam with confidence. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 8, 2019
HowHardisCFP_10

3 Reasons Millennials Don't Want You to be Their Financial Advisor

If you’ve been working in the advisory business for some time, you might be wondering what the future of the industry could look like. Unfortunately, it probably won’t look like you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t serve the next generation of wealth successfully. After all, the opportunity is huge. The Millennial generation has officially surpassed Baby Boomers in terms of size. Also, and this isn’t the first time you’ve heard it, they are poised to inherit close to 30 trillion dollars over the next 30 years. Like I said, a huge opportunity!

At Stash Wealth, we cater exclusively to Millennials, and they’ve taught us a lot about what they are attracted to when it comes to choosing a financial advisor. Here are a few reasons why Millennials don’t work with you.

1. You Wear A Suit

Millennials don’t trust suits. Crazy, but true. At Stash, we agree that a few bad eggs (wearing suits) ruined it for all of us. Thanks to 2008/2009, Wall Street has officially lost the trust of the Millennial generation. Yes, we are regaining it slowly, but there’s a very unflattering stereotype embedded in everyone’s minds. And movies like The Big Short and Too Big To Fail haven’t helped. Even if you aren’t the stereotype, your suit and tie gives you away. If you don’t wear a suit and tie, you’re one step ahead….seriously. Perception is reality. If you look like a suit, you are a suit....so switch it up.

2. You Speak A Foreign Language

Imagine if your doctor told you your ice cream headache was Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Drop the jargon. Millennials don’t want to be talked down to. And they definitely don’t want to feel stupid. If you continue to use words like “diversification” and “tax-loss harvesting,” it’s likely that your efforts to educate and empower them will fall on deaf ears. Even if your heart’s in the right place, you need to get smart about how you communicate. Millennials trust clear communicators, not intimidating words and fancy mahogany offices.

3. You Think Your Firm Builds Your Credibility

If a client chooses to work with an individual over a robo-advisor, a common choice for Millennials, it’s likely that they value relationships just as much as technology. Most older advisors I know believe that their firm’s brand is what drives clients to them. Quite frankly, it’s a crutch and a dangerous one. If you work at a firm with hundreds of other advisors, you need to get clear on why Millennial clients should pick you. Advisors who can articulate their value prop beyond the firm’s mission have something real to stand on—something that extends beyond the name of the firm. Why are you unique? Stop falling back on the assumed credibility of your firm and figure out what your advantage is.

A final thought. If you’re in the middle of your career, there’s still time to incorporate a new target market into your strategy. Frankly, you’ll be able to capitalize on the fact that your colleagues probably haven’t seen the light yet. If they are still chasing wealth instead of wealth potential, that’s a good thing for you.
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You know who Millennials trust? Other Millennials. So, if you're a Millennial who is interested in helping other Millennials, consider becoming a financial advisor or earning your CFP® certification. Learn more here.

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Posted by Priya Malani, Stash Wealth - April 8, 2019
Illustration of a millinnial looking for a financial advisor who understands his needs.

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