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PF Bloggers: Would You Consider Becoming a CFP?

Most of us have little disclaimers on our site explaining that we’re not actually professionals and that this is professional advice. Even the professionals have the latter (which is a good idea, since they can’t advise a general audience without knowing particulars in many cases). Are they actual lawsuit protection? Probably not, but at least we can show a jury that we tried to warn the plaintiff.

Just seeing them on all the blogs I read got me thinking about the certified personal finance professionals. I wonder what they think of PF bloggers. Some bloggers certainly don’t like them.

I began to wonder–while we don’t want to guarantee results, I’m sure that most of us hope to positively influence peoples’ lives through our blogs. It may not be our primary purpose but it’s in there somewhere.

If we’re so interested that we’ll spend hours on our blogs earning pennies (not you bigger bloggers, of course, but I’ll bet even some of you don’t have a great earnings to hours ratio), why wouldn’t we just get ourselves certified and set about making a real difference?

My first answer to myself was “Self, I don’t have the right personality.” While I wouldn’t plan on selling products as a CFP, I’d probably sell ideas (indexing and whatnot). I’m much better at writing persuasively than I am at persuasive, off-the-cuff speaking. In fact, my ideal job is shelving books…pretty different. (ok, blogging would be ideal too. maybe both?)

I’m also not sure that I’d be comfortable trying to handle peoples’ whole financial situations. That’s a lot of responsibility.

Do I think I could do a better job than some CFPs? Indubitably. Especially if I spent more time studying to get licensed. I wouldn’t put people in loaded funds or plain old dumb ones. I’d actually work with my customers. That’s better than the ones who pop up in horror stories.

So what’s your take? Could you see yourself becoming a CFP? Are you one already?


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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynnae @ beingfrugal.net January 4, 2008 at 3:01 pm

I don’t think I would do it. Like you, I’m much more comfortable writing than speaking.

Also, it’s one thing to encourage others through my own experience, but sometimes my own financial situation is overwhelming and time consuming. I just can’t see myself taking on other people’s situations, too.

unequivocal January 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I have always thought about becoming a CFP. I am good at numbers and finance interests me a lot. I have some experience developing financial software. I have to start collecting information as to how long it would take me to get certified and find out if it fits my long term plans.

plonkee January 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

I’m not interested in being a financial planner, but I have thought about volunteering with Citizen’s Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) which offers free, impartial and confidential advice to the public on money and legal matters. The top two problems people go to them about are benefits (welfare) and debt.

The reason that I’m not pursuing it is that they keep regular office hours, and I’ve got day job. If I could cut down to 4 days a week though…

deepali January 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I’ve done it in the past, though I’m not certified, mostly on a volunteer basis. Now I give advice to my friends, though I don’t tend to get into specifics with investing – that’s really something an investment advisor should do.

I enjoy it – I like seeing people on the right path. The difficult part, though, is when you give everyone the standard spiel, and they come back to you with the problems they would have avoided if they’d just followed your advice! 🙂

vh January 4, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Y’know, the thought has crossed my mind. I even looked into it, briefly; came away with the impression that the CFP letters alone will help you earn almost as much as a degree in English will.

A friend of mine is thriving as a financial planner–she wears more on her body every day than my entire net worth. However, she went back and got an MBA shortly after she unloaded her husband. She was still relatively young then–I think we were in our 30s. So she has the MBA and the certification as a financial planner. She works in a swanky high-rise with a view of the entire city, all very sophisticated and subdued, and she affects to be excessively busy.

She is, however, very sosh, much more so than I could possibly manage. I think you have to like people and, to move in really monied circles, possess some panache.

Uhm, you know…with an undergraduate degree in English, you could get into an MBA program pretty easily. Businesses welcome people with real education (i.e., training in logical thinking, which is what a liberal arts degree does for you).

RacerX January 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

I believe where I had been hesitant about working with a Certified Planner before, is that I always felt that there was an agenda.

When I went to meet with AmEx advisors it was really a pitch on their services.

There are some great independant advisors out there for those with a high enough net worth, but I really like to hear the input of others living the same issues.

Hard to listen to an advisor that tells you to cut back on your spending when they drive a Porsche!

Hilda January 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Nope! Getting my own personal finance in order is one heck of a job already, I don’t think I can handle other people’s finance, too.

Eden January 4, 2008 at 4:44 pm

I actually have considered it and I am actively considering it and I am also considering getting a Master’s in Finance. I was close to doing that a couple of years ago, but I wanted a break from school.

I actually started as a business, then finance major before my life took some odd turns and I ended up in IT as a developer. Ultimately I think I will come back to the finance world for a career. If for no other reason than to put out of business some of the thieves (salesman) financial advisors and planners that are out there now.

Dan January 4, 2008 at 6:17 pm

I am currently studying to take the licensing exam and will write about it in my blog. I am not going for the CFP credentials right now because of the 3 years of financial planning work experience required. I don’t work in financial planning right now because I don’t want to sell bad products. If I do become a financial planner someday, it will be when I don’t need a job so I can give honest advice I believe in instead of sales pitches. Mostly, I am taking the test for personal improvement. I may start offering financial planning help in my local area someday. Then I’ll look at whether I want to work toward a CFP, CFA, or ChFC.

In most (maybe all) states, none of these certifications are required to be a paid financial planner. What is required is to pass the NASAA Series 65 exam (or Series 7 + Series 66) and register with the state.

wealthy_1 January 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm

I think my husband should consider it. He’s done an excellent job with our retirement money. He doubled it in about five years. Plus he enjoys growing our money. He doesn’t want to have to prospect for clients, so it’ll probably never happen,

mrsmicah January 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm

“If I do become a financial planner someday, it will be when I don’t need a job so I can give honest advice I believe in instead of sales pitches.”

Dan, I think you have a really good point. I expect that working at a lot of companies would mean having to sell out. I don’t know how successful I’d be if I just started off on my own, though, there’d have to be a way to attract clients and whatnot.

Ashley January 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm

I’d like to be a CFP if I could just help others plan how to get out of debt. I think I just like to help people – and I like order. So helping others put things in order would be fabulous. haha

I also don’t feel like I know enough to help them plan retirement and things like that. So I probably wouldn’t like it as much as writing a blog. 😀

Lily January 4, 2008 at 9:17 pm

I would love to be a CFP, at least the part where I’d help people achieve their financial goals.

However, like Dan, I want to be financially independent myself before I pursue that career. I don’t want to work on commission, because I am absolutely unwilling to sell products I don’t believe in.

I also can’t see myself working for a large firm or firms that target high net worth individuals, because these firms usually require you to bring in a certain dollar amount under the firm’s management – or you’re out. I think that encourages financial advisors to seek quantity (number of clients) over quality, since there’s no way you can effectively advise dozens of clients.

That really leaves opening up or joining a small private practice, and possibly forgoing big bucks with established firms. But I think, more than many other professions, ethics count for a lot in personal finance. I don’t want to be in it for the money.

Frugal Dad January 4, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Much like you, it is the salesmanship aspect of being a CFP that scares me away. I don’t think I would want to attempt to lead customers for certain products, unless I had the money to fund running my own brokerage with investments that matched up with my own philosophies.

Brip Blap January 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Being a CFP is more about sales than financial knowledge. I have a masters in accounting, so I’m technically a “pro” but that’s a long way from being CERTIFIED to offer advice. I think the only difference from being a financial planner (which we all are, at least for ourselves) and a certified financial planner is a test, some qualification requirements, etc.

I wouldn’t do it because I’m not sure I could handle cold-calling. I’m a contract consultant and I have to develop business, but so far I’ve been able to work networks, etc. I’ve never had to descend to handing out my business card at the neighborhood barbecue. That would be gruesome. Being an employed CFP? Maybe. Being a solo CFP? Yuck.

FourPillars January 5, 2008 at 12:15 am

I’d love to be a financial advisor but as others have mentioned, it’s more about sales than finance if you are relying on the money.

The other problem is that you basically get paid on commission so it’s tough to avoid the “high fee” funds. You can try fee only but it’s hard to convince people that you are worth a “fee” for when JoeBlow is telling them he can get great returns for them “for free”.

Mike

Ryan S. January 5, 2008 at 1:04 am

I am not a fan of financial planners myself (I don’t like to spend money on stuff that I can do myself). However, I’m not sure I would rule out doing it professionally (I’m a social worker; I don’t rule anything out as long as I can avoid it 🙂

Ryan
http://uncommon-cents.net/

rocketc January 5, 2008 at 7:10 am

I have often thought about doing becoming a CFP. My day job already involves a certain amount of debt counseling. However, I don’t think my family could afford a return to school right now.

I need to get that disclaimer up on my site.

fathersez January 5, 2008 at 7:27 am

I have sometimes thought about getting a CFP acredititation. I am an accountant too, not not a master like BB.

Something has always held me back.

So, I’ll have to vote with the “nays” also.

Jim January 5, 2008 at 7:58 am

I have thought about it. My current day job is in accounting for a company that is for sale. I have been told that there are 1-5 people that will lose their job if the company is sold. I am number 5 on the list. Everyone beyond us “lucky” 5 will keep their jobs. So I have thought about what I would like to do afterward and a CFP is interesting.

Having a friend that is one and owns his own company, I would ask him first to take me under his wings. He has the philosophy that they help everyone regardless if they are on the doors of bankruptcy (most times without charging). His thought is that when they are back on their feet and have money to invest who are they going to call? Him of course.

Side note: I wonder how many of us finance/accounting professionals can’t keep their own finances in order. I know I struggle from time to time. I make mistakes too. My biggest monster is keeping my personal papers organized. My office is perfect but home YIKES! Actually I will start this question on my blog gettingaheadinlife.blogspot.com.

E.C. January 5, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I’ve looked into the requirements for becoming a certified financial planner, and I can envision doing it at some point in my life, but not right now. I like physics too much, and I wouldn’t want to sell things either. If I became a CFP, I’d probably want to work for someplace like our local non-profit credit counseling agency, but a first year public school teacher in my area makes at least $10,000 more than their employees so it wouldn’t be a fiscally prudent career choice.

Andrew Stevens January 5, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Most CFPs do a pretty good job, I think. I don’t think many of the horror stories you hear have to do with genuine CFPs, so much as people passing themselves off as financial planners when they’re really trying to sell you stuff. If you ever have a genuine CFP advise you to act against your own financial self-interest, please do report them to the CFP Board. That’s what they’re there for. My understanding is that they take the ethics of CFPs very seriously. While there certainly are disreputable financial planners out there, there are also plenty of reputable ones who do not receive kickbacks or commissions or referral fees. One key is just to ask them if they receive kickbacks, commissions, or referral fees. It is often perfectly legal to receive these things, but it is fraudulent to lie about it, so many of them will tell you the truth rather than risk lying and getting caught later.

When I’m close to retirement, I’m going to look into becoming a CFP and spend my retirement volunteering my services as a financial advisor for the working poor. The biggest problem with financial planners is that the people who most need them can least afford them.

Most independent CFPs specialize in helping quite wealthy clients. They may very well recommend different strategies than the average PF blogger, but this is because large amounts of wealth needs to be dealt with differently (estate planning, greater tolerance for risk, etc.) than merely planning for retirement.

CatherineL January 5, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Hi Mrs M – I think I’d take advice from non CFP’s more seriously. It’s probably more honest as they wouldn’t be motivated solely on persuading me to sign up to whatever brings them in the most commission.

Kevin Smith January 5, 2008 at 7:24 pm

All:
The dirty little secret is this. You cannot be employed as ‘financial planner’ as there is no state or federal licensing for such an occupation. You CAN BE an insurance agent, stock broker, or investment adviser and call yourself almost anything you want like: SENIOR WEALTH MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT and VP. The first two SELL financial products while the latter sells investment advice. 99% of CFPs sell products.

Chief Family Officer January 5, 2008 at 11:16 pm

I like the response I read at (I think it was) My Money Blog because I feel the same way: I wouldn’t mind having a CFP’s knowledge but I don’t really want to be a CFP. In fact, I have the CFP textbook used in the intro course at UCLA, though I acquired it just before baby #2 was born and haven’t had a chance to really delve into it. (I tried, but my brain just doesn’t function at that level right now.)

JvW January 5, 2008 at 11:39 pm

I’ve thought about it. I like dealing with people and solving problems, which I think is part of what CFPs do. I am wary of how they are paid, though, and I don’t know much about having money (yet!) so I feel like I’m not qualified to plan for other people’s money.

I like the idea of teaching financial practices in general much better – maybe at a college or something along those lines. I have to know more than they do, right? right? 🙂

Prince of Thrift January 6, 2008 at 12:11 am

I have considered it, even checked out schooling options, but like several of you, the selling and persuasive speaking scares me.

Laura January 6, 2008 at 7:19 pm

I would actually consider it as an option. Right now, though, I’m enjoying not going to school. It would probably be a year or so before I would seriously work on that.

42 January 6, 2008 at 8:04 pm

any ideas where to get some edu about being a debt counselor? the kind that people must hire if they file Ch11 BK? that doesn’t (far as I know) involve selling product.

my one qualification, so far, is that I’ve gotten myself out of debt, so I think I could be helpful to those seeking counseling and education about spending and debt.

mrsmicah January 6, 2008 at 8:13 pm

@42, I’m not really sure. Perhaps a reader would know. I’d probably start with an internet search and also call up people who work in that position, ask if they could give you any pointers on how to get started. Getting out of debt is a good first step.

Millionaire Mommy Next Door January 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I’ve previously considered becoming a fee-based financial advisor (selling my time; not products). This has come up for me again since launching my blog, as I occasionally receive emails from my readers asking if I’d do this with them. I should look into it, but hey, I guess I enjoy giving away my opinions via blogging. After all, I’m supposed to be retired now…

Bill January 7, 2008 at 12:08 am

I am a CFP who frequents PF blog sites. Hey, I’m in the biz cuz I like the same stuff on the PF blogs.

I liked post #25 by Andrew Stevens. Having personal experience in the biz, I think he is the most on target of all the comments.
Getting into the business is tough, however the industry is maturing incredibly fast. If you’re remotely interested in pursuing this as a career you MUST check out the Moss Adams studies that are published yearly. They have been providing benchmarking studies for many years now and their research shows that the industry is experiencing incredible growth and change.

I would not advise starting out with a company like Ameriprise, Merrill Lynch, Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley or any such company. In those cases you will be a salesman for the most part. If you’re truly interested in this as a career seek out an independent RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) who works on a fee basis, not commission. A decent sized RIA office will have hte ability to bring on newbies and move them up through the ranks to the point where they’re able to work with clients directly and provide advice to clients. With most decent RIA shops, you will not be pushing investments you will be selling ADVICE. This is was true Advisors do, they give ADVICE for a fee. The investments are a by-product of the advice. Most investment management will be “sub-contracted” out to professional money managers. Most post here miss the point that CFP are NOT money managers, they are financial planners. If you want to be a professional money manager, look at the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation.

Other’s have made comments about CFP’s not helping those who need it most, namely the lower income folks. This is true and it is a battle that is discussed at length within the industry. The problem is the economics of helping someone who cannot afford to pay for the advice. It’s impossible to run a business without paying clients. So it’s puts the Advisor’s office between a rock & a hard place. My office routinely accepts clients who’s fees do not make them profitable clients. The lager clients, who pay more in fees, end up subsidizing the smaller clients. Many offices will help a certain number of people pro-bono each year. But there really is no good solution yet.

Good luck to you all.

Bill, CFP

Dan January 7, 2008 at 12:11 am

42,

It depends on your state. I live in Texas, where the Consumer Credit Commissioner manages licensing Debt Management Services Providers. The only requirements are to fill out an application, obtain a surety bond, and paying a $250 investigation fee and $430 annual fee. This license is required for anyone who wants to provide a debt management service in Texas, regardless of where they are based.

You can additionally become certified through the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors for $350, though you don’t need this to call yourself a debt counselor or credit counselor.

Writer's Coin January 7, 2008 at 8:57 am

You bring up an interesting point about personality and how a lot of people are just better suited to the writing aspect than the “off-the-cuff” part of PF. I considered doing this in the past but didn’t feel like getting THAT deep into the whole thing.

Blogging about money allows the freedom to explore new ideas while we teach ourselves more and more things. Also, we don’t have the immense responsibility of handling other people’s livelihoods.

It’s too bad some financial professionals have the ideal personality for “off-the-cuff,” while their advice isn’t nearly as good as what you’ll find on PF blogs.

SavingDiva January 7, 2008 at 10:46 am

I think I would have a hard time selling products…I would like to create budgets and help people with that…but I don’t know if I could do it as a career.

Moises Garcia May 7, 2011 at 12:46 am

I have worked as a licensed life insurance agent with a financial planner and I must say it was a very rewarding experience. I was 19 when I started and a computer science major at Cal Poly Pomona. I began to help middle to low income families where I was only paid for any transaction including: Life Insurance, Refinance, pre-paid legal service, investments, and anuities. We offered a line of financial services like a walking talking bank. We took a 32 yr old lady from getting a 30 refinance to a 14 year refi with almost 1500 dollar less than what she was currently doing. Also, as the main financial provider of the family it is true that if she died the rest of the family would go bankrupt because no one else was in a position to provide financial help. Furthermore, becaus she would be done paying off all debt by age 46 it ment she could pay herself the almost 3,000 a month to her Roth IRA that she would otherwise be pay for the mortgage had she stayed in the origanial 30yr refy. She was then paying herself $3,000 per month for retirement in a Roth IRA till she become 65 which equates to 31 months or (31*$3,000)=$93,000 in investment captal. Keep In mind this money would be invested in a tax sheltered account. When I saw and understood what we did for that family it I genuinely felt happy I was there to inform that refinancing with a 30 yr mortgage when you are 32 makes you 62 when you are done paying the mortgage and have had very little to no chance fm save for retirement. Financial planners help people look to help people incorporate heir goals to a retirement plan while protecting assets. When I understood that I quickly changed my major to Finance, real estate, and businesslaw. I have about 6 more classes to go and will begin my studies for the CFP designation. To be a CFP is no joke- you must currently be enrolled in or have a 4 year degree and 2 or 3 years in the field. Moreover, you must pass a 10hr exam and do a certain amount of continuing education. The same way there are bad cops there are very good cops and in this industry it is very much analogous. There are good planners and some that are trying to get rich quick. However, undstant that becoming a CFP is not an overnight or overyear process- It takes several years of hard ethical work- such hard work that a CFP would not risk loosing their license to make an extra buck at the expense of the client as it is so spelled out throughout this blog. Thank you for reading. -Moises E. G. Rodriguez

Moises Garcia May 7, 2011 at 1:02 am

I do apologize for the gramatical errors, however, I couldn’t proof read the blogg on my phone since scrolling up and down the msg was not an option. Thanks again for reading and I am eager to read what readers think regarding my experience and interpretation of what a financial planner can help accomplish.

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