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Decoding Financial Adviser Alphabet Soup Comments

  • By MP Dunleavey
  • August 19, 2010

 

expertIs an MBA better than a CPA? Is a CDFA more qualified than a CFP? How do you sort through the alphabet soup credentials to pick the right financial adviser?

We'll tell you, PDQ:

CFA—A chartered financial analyst is a prestigious designation, often held by securities analysts, investment advisors. It doesn't spell "financial planner" for ordinary folks.
star_graphic CFP—A certified financial planner has completed years of training, tests and work experience, and is geared to help consumers choose investments and manage a long-term financial plan. You want to see these three letters, at minimum.
ChFC—A chartered financial consultant is trained sell insurance products and can also do basic planning.

CDFA—Certified divorce financial analysts offer financial advice to those going through a divorce. They aren't financial planners, unless otherwise noted.

CPA with PFS—A certified public accountant with a personal finance specialty indicates that a highly trained tax pro (CPA) has an additional certification that allows them to do financial planning.

Bottom line
Take any adviser's designations as a starting point for discussion, "rather than the final criteria," says David McPherson, a CFP in Falmouth, MA. And beware of flimsy titles like "financial planner," without the appropriate credential.

Do you have a financial planner? Are you a financial planner—what kind? Tell us.

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