At Oakwell Private Wealth Management, we have an elite staff of advisors who hold or are in the process of earning the highest designations within the financial industry.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) The Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is the only designation of the three focused on investing. It provides an extremely practical course of study for those wishing to work directly with individual investors. The focus of the CFP® is to train financial advisors to create and implement financial plans for investors.
Requirements and Exam
The requirements for the CFP®, as specified by the CFP® Board of Standards, are a bachelor's degree in any major, three years financial planning experience, other educational requirements (see below) and an exam. The 10-hour exam covers the following: investments planning, insurance, estate planning, risk management, tax and retirement planning.
In order to take the exam, one must complete a prescribed course of study - unless exempt - in relevant financial planning areas. These six required courses take about nine months to complete and are conducted on college campuses nationally. They are:
- Financial planning: process and environment
- Fundamentals of insurance planning
- Income taxation
- Planning for retirement needs
- Fundamentals of estate planning
For most people, a CPA is best known as the person who prepares tax returns. CPAs certainly do that, but they do much more as well. A CPA license is legally required in order to do particular jobs, such as public accounting (independent auditing). However, one does not require a CPA license in order to prepare tax returns. State laws govern what CPAs can and cannot do with their license.
Requirements vary by state, but in general, in order to sit for the CPA exam, applicants must have a bachelor's degree with 120 semester hours. To obtain the CPA designation, applicants must pass the Uniform CPA Exam, gain relevant work experience and meet additional educational requirements. Overall, additional educational requirements usually consist of 24 to 30 semester hours in accounting, earned through a graduate or bachelor's degree in business. Many states also require a minimum number of one to two years accounting and/or auditing experience. Some states may require 150 semester hours to obtain the CPA.
Aside from the experience requirements, a CPA license usually takes about 18 months to complete beyond the educational requirements. Many students choose to pursue a masters degree in accounting to fulfill their educational requirements.
Although classroom requirements are a major requirement, the CPA exam is a difficult task in its own right. Exams are administrated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the governing body of CPAs in the United States. The 14-hour computerized exam consists of four sections:
- Auditing and attestation
- Financial accounting and reporting
- Business environment and concepts
The CFA reputation in the business community is world class, and CFA charterholders work in many countries around the world. The CFA program is very broad, and might be more aptly described as the equivalent of a master's degree in finance with accompanying minors in accounting, economics, statistical analysis and portfolio management. Although the CFA designation is not a legal requirement to perform work as a financial analyst (the cornerstone CFA job), it is a great way to get a foot in the door for one of the most difficult jobs to crack.
By reputation, the best way to get a finance job on Wall Street is to get a Master of Business Administration degree from one of a handful of exclusive schools including Wharton, Harvard and Stanford. The second best way is to earn the CFA charter and have good industry experience. In some instances a CFA designation is even held in higher esteem than an MBA.
The CFA designation (granted by the CFA Institute) earns its reputation mainly due to the grueling process candidates must endure to earn the CFA charter. While the exam is very democratic and open to anyone with a bachelor's degree, the only people with a realistic chance of passing are those who are serious about the field. The three general requirements to earn a CFA charter are to pass three exams, have an undergraduate degree (in any subject) and have three years related work experience in the financial area.
To earn the CFA charter, candidates must pass a six-hour exam for each of three levels. The first exam is available twice per year (in June and December) and the next two are only available in June. The pass rates on the three tests are typically less than 55%, so if you don't pass the second or third exam, you must wait one year to take it again.
Each of the three tests has overlapping material such as ethics and financial analysis. Generally, though, the first test covers broad financial principles, the second is a very intensive exam on financial analysis and accounting, and the third exam covers portfolio management and decision making.
Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist (PFS)
A professional designation for Certified Public Accountants who have completed the required coursework and passed an examination administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist designation enables the accountant to offer personal financial-planning services separate from similar services that may be offered as an adjunct to accounting services.
Registered Fiduciary (RF™)
The Registered Fiduciary™ (RF™) certification identifies financial professionals that have achieved pertinent academic qualifications and licenses, learned required practices, and have passed a background check.
The RF™ certification prepares a candidate to comply with the regulatory requirements of acting as a fiduciary under current laws. The RF™ certification is continuously being updated to reflect the most recent regulatory, marketplace and technology changes.
This fiduciary standard distinguishes RF™ designated professionals as having met the highest standard in the financial industry. All valid certified RF™ are listed on the Registry of Fiduciary Professionals. RF™ certifications are further defined by specialties. Each designee has one or more specialties that identify the services that he/she is qualified to provide. Specialties currently include:
- 401(k) Plan Advisor
- 401(k) Participant Advisor