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What Is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI)?


Certified Financial Education InstructorA certified financial education instructor, or CFEI, has undergone advanced training in teaching money management skills to people from all walks of life. To earn a CFEI designation, candidates must demonstrate extensive knowledge of personal financial topics and competency in methods of classroom teaching. Read on to learn about what a CFEI does and what the certification process entails.

The CFEI Designation, Defined

In a nutshell, a certified financial education instructor is someone who specializes in distilling money management concepts in a classroom setting. Administered by the National Financial Educators Council (or NFEC), graduates of the program hone their teaching techniques and may go on to lead financial literacy courses, workshops and lectures. 

Though a CFEI doesn’t allow certificate-holders to sell investment products or manage someone’s portfolio, it does equip them with the skills to help people — from grade-school students to retirees — take steps toward financial stability. This might include developing and teaching lessons on creating a budget; evaluating various financial products; weighing investment options; and other related money matters.

CFEI Program Overview

Certified Financial Education InstructorAnyone can apply to become a certified financial education instructor, no matter their level of education, though a background in teaching or finance is recommended. The range of people who get the certification typically hail from sectors including education, finance, philanthropy and community-based initiatives. But if you simply demonstrate a passion for promoting financial wellness and can afford the $297 fee, you’ll likely be accepted to the program.

Note, however, if you do lack the recommended work experience, you’ll have to complete a 10-hour course in addition to the 30-hour regular course requirement. According to NFEC, you can expect to spend between 40 and 50 hours to complete the course.

Coursework to become a CFEI is comprised of two key subject areas: methods of teaching and content knowledge. Prospective CFEIs must also complete a workbook, best practices manual and homework assignments. The program culminates in an online exam, after which you immediately receive your results. If you get a score of 75% or above — congrats! — you’re now officially a certified financial education instructor. 

Once you receive your CFEI credential, you can begin using your new title to teach money management lessons. You’ll also be accepted into the Personal Finance Speakers Association and have the opportunity to conduct financial literacy presentations.

To keep their CFEI designations current, certificate-holders are required to complete five to 10 hours of continuing education, provided by the NFEC, each year. They must also pass a yearly exam. There is a $97 annual fee to maintain the designationt.

CFEIs and members of the Personal Finance Speakers Association must adhere to the NFEC’s code of ethics. These standards are set to determine a CFEI’s mastery of the material and effective education of students, as well as the ability to simply show up on time.

How a CFEI Differs From a CFEd

Yes, the acronyms are similar, but becoming a certified financial educator (CFEd) does differ from a certified financial education instructor. 

Like CFEIs, CFErs also complete a program to become trained financial teachers. For starters, the CFEd program is offered through the Heartland Institute of Financial Education, not the NFEC. A CFEd also requires more direct background experience than a CFEI.

To become a CFEd, you must have a minimum of three years’ experience in financial services and experience in teaching adult learners. Those who have worked in financial planning, accounting, banking or mortgage services, insurance and investment services, estate planning, and debt management may be eligible.

If the Heartland Institute determines you have the necessary background, you can apply online for the CFEd designation. Once accepted, you will receive supporting materials before starting a self-study course. Once you pass an online exam, you’ll be granted the CFEd designation. 

Another distinction between the CFEI and CFEd programs: The former requires passing an annual test to keep the certificate current, while the latter only mandates 12 hours of continuing education credits to maintain theirs.

The Bottom Line

Certified Financial Education Instructor

Because every person’s situation is unique, teaching personal finance effectively requires specialized knowledge, both in financial literacy topics as well as best practices in education. 

Those with a demonstrated passion for helping others improve their financial well-being might find that earning the CFEI designation can help them jump-start a career in personal finance education.

Tips for Financial Health

  • You don’t have to be a CFEI to track and manage your spending and plan for the future. Even if it’s decades off, it’s crucial to know how much you should be socking away now in order to save enough to retire comfortably later.
  • You also might consider enlisting a professional to help you out. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in just 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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