Home for the Holidays

The holidays provide a time to reconnect with family members. So this is an appropriate time to discuss the family of financial planners. For decades, this financial planning family, as covered by the financial press, has included Chartered Financial Consultants® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERSTM. One family member absent from the published festivities has returned—the CPA Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS).

In this season I am reminded of the critical role of CPAs in the financial planning process because of another cyclical event: the recruiting of CPAs by financial services firms. About every ten years financial services firms go on a binge to recruit CPAs to both refer business (and share in compensation) or to recruit the CPA into Financial Planning, asset management and product sales. The economy has recovered and the season as begun anew. Some recent headlines that have come across my desk are: “10-Step Plan to Meet More CPAs” and “What CPAs Want.” The articles opine that financial services firms through “strategic arrangements” with CPAs hope to provide financial services and products to the CPA’s clients.

What the financial press and the financial services firms fail to note is that CPAs have been practicing personal financial planning since 1985. In 1985, the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants (CSCPA) formally established the Accredited Personal Financial Specialist (APFS) credential. The program established specific standards for CPAs to meet in order to achieve and maintain a credential in personal financial planning.

In 1992 the name of the APFS credential was changed to the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). Demonstrably, the holder of the PFS designation possesses a higher level of professional attributes than do the other financial planning designations. Every PFS is a CPA. Everyone is aware of the rigorous educational requirements necessary to become a CPA. This 125-year old profession has provided, and continues to provide, an unwavering commitment to values and the highest standard of client care.

And to tie everything up with a bow: the ChFC® does not require a college education and the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM designation only began requiring a college degree in 2008.

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