Is Your Financial Planner Knowledgeable?
When I am in need of a doctor who is a specialist, I want to find a doctor that has a lot of letters after their name. I seek out someone who has gone to school for a number of years, someone who is an expert in their field. Ultimately, I’m looking for someone who knows what they are actually talking about.
This same analogy should be used when seeking out a financial planner to work with. I previously worked for one of the largest mutual fund companies in Canada. When I started, more than a decade ago, all that was required of me was to pass the mutual fund course, and then I was sufficiently qualified to call myself a financial planner. I would learn over time, however, that this job title was a façade, and that, in fact, I knew very little yet the industry allowed us to call ourselves financial planners. Similarly, in banks you will often have clerks who introduce themselves as financial planners and who typically know very little about comprehensive financial planning. If you are going to entrust your finances to someone, it is imperative that you find yourself a financial planner who is actually qualified to plan finances.
One way to ensure that you will find a reliable or trustworthy financial planner is to make sure that they at least have their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. Long considered the gold standard for financial planning in Canada, the CFP designation provides assurance that a qualified professional will put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. The CFP designation is a very important first step, as it provides you with a solid foundation upon which to build. CFP professionals have an obligation to ensure that their knowledge and proficiency remains current. To renew their CFP certification, CFP professionals must commit to completing 25 hours of Continuing Education (CE) activities each year. Added last year was a CE requirement in Professional Responsibility, which is an essential element of the commitment that a CFP professional makes to their clients to ensure that their interests are being served ethically, competently and diligently. If the candidate you are interviewing does not have their CFP designation, then I would suggest that you move onto the next candidate. The last thing that you need is to meet with someone professing to be a financial planner who has the hidden objective of trying to sell you ill-advised financial products.
In addition to the CFP designation, you should be looking for an individual who also has their Chartered Life Underwriter designation, or CLU for short. The CLU designation is recognized as the highest standard of knowledge and trust in financial planning. A CLU has earned the highest attainable credential in the insurance profession, representing eight or more comprehensive college-level courses covering all aspects of insurance planning, estate and retirement issues, taxation, business insurance, and risk management. Becoming a CLU develops the financial planners’ knowledge and application skills in the key areas of wealth transfer and estate planning advice. For more than 80 years, clients have trusted this credential. The average study time for the program is over 400 hours, and it can take years to earn this credential. Each CLU must also complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every year.
In summary, you need to find yourself a financial planner who continues to invest in themselves, and who possesses at a minimum both their CFP and CLU designations. If you are interviewing a candidate who does not have both of these designations, then you are wasting your time, and it is in your best interest to move onto the next candidate.
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