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SmartAsset: How to Find a Certified Financial Planner

With so many online resources to choose from, finding a financial advisor has become easier. However, there’s a lot to sift through when it comes to picking one. Every financial advisor tends to have different types of certifications, such as certified public accountant (CPA) or chartered financial analyst (CFA). But perhaps the most popular designation is certified financial planner (CFP). While not every CFP has exactly the same areas of expertise, they each have met stringent requirements and passed multiple exams that have to do with multiple areas of financial planning. In short, a CFP is a licensed professional with a standard baseline of knowledge that can help you manage your money. Use SmartAsset’s free matching tool to find financial advisors who serve your area.

What Is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

A certified financial planner (CFP) is a financial professional that has earned the title by going through multiple educational courses and passing a series of exams. In order to earn and keep the CFP designation, advisors must also meet ongoing education and experience requirements. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. manages the CFP exams.

A CFP is a financial advisor or planner that can help with financial planning, as well as money management. An advisor with the CFP designation will usually work with you as a client to develop a plan for managing your money in the short, long and medium term. However, many CFPs can also help with other, non-financial planning issues, such as investing, taxes and estate planning.

What to Look for in a Certified Financial Planner

If you’re in the process of trying to find a CFP, it’s important to remember that they’re not all the same. While every CFP has been held to the same standards in terms of minimum experience, examinations and education, you should still make sure that the CFP you decide to work with is right for you. This will likely involve having a personal conversation with them about your needs and whether they can adequately meet them.

If you’re looking for a certified financial planner, you should make sure that they’re prepared to help with the problems you’re most interested in tackling. While CFPs tend to be experts in financial planning topics like budgeting and goal-setting, take the time to get to know your CFP before deciding to enter into a contractual, financial relationship with them.

Should You Work With a CFP?

SmartAsset: How to Find a Certified Financial Planner

There are lots of reasons to work with a financial advisor, and more specifically, a CFP. First and foremost, if you’re looking for help planning your financial future, that’s a sign that a CFP could be right for you. No matter how broad or narrow your financial planning goals might be, a CFP could be able to help you reach them.

However, you don’t have to just be looking for financial planning advice to work with a CFP. CFPs are, at their core, financial advisory professionals, and many can still help with other financial topics. Make sure you talk with any potential CFP before you decide to work with them so that you understand if they’re right for you and your financial situation.

How to Find a CFP

When you start your search for a certified financial planner, you should be fully aware of what you’re looking for. That way, you’ll know the types of questions to ask and specific qualities to look for. There are lots of ways to start your search once you’re ready.

One of the most popular and easiest ways of finding a financial advisor who’s a CFP is online with SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool. While not every advisor you match with through this tool will be a CFP, many, in fact, are. Once you use the tool, you’ll be paired with up to three advisors who serve your area, with the ultimate choice of who to work with being up to you.

You can also take advantage of online financial advisor databases to find a CFP. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards is one such database that you can comb through to find an advisor that can help you. Some other CFP-centric examples of databases are Garrett Planning Network, XY Planning Network and the National Association for Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).

Finally, one of the oldest and most popular ways of finding a financial advisor is by asking friends, family and colleagues. This way, you can ask for recommendations from people you explicitly trust. This will also make it easier to decide if an advisor might be right for you even before meeting them face to face.

Bottom Line

These days, it’s easy to find a financial advisor. There are plenty of resources you can take advantage of both online and in person. Finding a certified financial planner (CFP) is no different. While not all financial advisors you meet with will have the CFP designation, it’s easy to find out simply by asking. CFPs must pass a set of exams to earn their certification and a CFP may be able to help you manage your financial life.

Tips for Investing

SmartAsset: How to Find a Certified Financial Planner

  • Investing isn’t always easy, which is why it may be a good idea to work with a financial advisor. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you decide to invest on your own, it’s good to prepare ahead of time. SmartAsset has you covered with several different financial resources that you can take advantage of for free. For example, check out our free investment calculator today.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/LiudmylaSupynska, ©iStock.com/scyther5, ©iStock.com/Cecilie_Arcurs

Sam Lipscomb, CEPF® Sam Lipscomb is a writer for SmartAsset. His work spans a wide variety of personal finance topics with expertise including retirement, investing and savings. He is particularly well versed in credit cards. Sam has been featured in The Economist and on The Points Guy. He is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). Sam graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Economics and enjoys being a go-to resource for family and friends when it comes to personal finance. Originally from Washington, DC, Sam loves all things aviation and is a Cleveland sports fan. He currently lives in New York.
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