September 21, 2018


Credentials for Accountants: Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Check out our previous certification posts on the CMA and CFE if you are interested.

The CFP is a pretty common sense credential for an accountant to pursue if one is focused on client service and looking to work closely with clients to create a blueprint for their future financial success. If you became an accountant to help people put their finances together, this one is for you. Unless you’re the least bit unethical or otherwise of unsatisfactory moral fortitude; check the CFP board’s Candidate Fitness Standards if you’re not sure whether or not your sketchy past will pass.

Here’s a quick rundown on the CFP:

Education requirement
The CFP Certification Examination is administered by the CFP board and in order to take the exam, you will need to be knowledgeable in all of areas covered by the financial planning topic list. There are three ways to complete the educational requirement: CFP Board-Registered Programs, Challenge Status or Transcript Review.

CFP candidates must have a bachelor’s degree but that requirement is a condition of initial certification and is not needed to take the exam. The areas of financial planning are as follows:

• Financial planning: process and environment
• Fundamentals of insurance planning
• Income taxation
• Planning for retirement needs
• Investments
• Fundamentals of estate planning

Professional requirements
Three years of full-time relevant personal financial planning experience is a requirement for certification.

Career Options
There are approximately 59,000 CFPs today, twice the number there were a decade ago. Despite the explosion in this designation’s popularity or perhaps because of it, the CFP is still an in-demand certification that can only grow in these uncertain financial times. CFPs can end up at large or small firms, or wish to start a private practice.

Compensation and Other Benefits
CFPs with 20 years experience make twice as much as those just starting out in the field, according to PayScale. Starting median salary is about $50k, and by 20 years a CFP can make anywhere from $90 – $100k. Of course pay depends on location and NY CFPs will naturally make much more (about $75k in their first year) than, say, metro Houston CFPs. Naturally, adding an MBA to one’s resume on top of the CFP will likely earn you an extra $20k in your first year. Income potential is based mostly on performance (sales).

It’s clear that CFPs have a real desire to help their clients (and pay their bills), so if you’ve got stars in your eyes and are planning to make a partner’s salary one day, this may not be the designation for you. But if you’re driven, love finance, and have a real feel for investments and clients, perhaps this is just what you need.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here.