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RICP vs. CFP Designations for Financial Advisors

ricp vs cfp

The retirement income certified professional (RICP) and certified financial planner (CFP) are two certifications for financial advisors. Here’s how they differ, in terms of training and professional focus, and how to tell which may better serve your specific needs. For help finding a financial advisor, use SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service.

What Is an RICP?

An RICP is a retirement income certified professional. These professionals specialize in retirement income planning in addition to helping with risks associated with aging. The RICP is offered by the American College of Financial Services. It was created to help meet the needs of an aging population for financiall planning.

The RICP may help in a variety of specific areas, such as claiming Social Security benefits, company retirement benefits and how to budget for a financially secure retirement. They may also cover health and long-term care and how best to draw down your retirement portfolio.

Those who obtain an RICP designation must have at least three years of prior professional experience. It requires three courses, equivalent to nine semester credit hours. To receive the certification, one exam is required for each course, plus 15 hours of continuing education every two years.

What Is a CFP?

ricp vs cfp

CFP stands for certified financial planner. Unlike RICP, a CFP is not necessarily focused on one demographic, such as older Americans. A CFP can specialize in many different areas, such as tax and estate planning, investments or insurance. Although the CFP certification is quite broad, most CFPs specialize in just one of these areas.

While CFPs usually have a particular specialty, they can help you create a comprehensive financial plan. They’ll help you take stock of your assets, such as your cash, investments and properties, as well as evaluate any debts. Then, they will work with you to create a step-by-step financial plan to help you meet your financial goals based on where you are right now. And if they lack the expertise to help in one particular area, they often have a network of other CFPs to whom they can refer you.

The requirements to become a CFP are among the most rigorous in the industry. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Plus, they must also have three years of full-time financial planning experience or the equivalent part-time experience (2,000 hours per year).

To receive the certification, applicants must complete the CFP-board registered exam or hold a qualifying certification, license or degree. They must also complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years. CFPs must also meet high ethical standards set by the CFP board.

Because CFPs usually specialize in one specific area, they often hold at least one additional designation that corresponds to their area of expertise. This is where the overlap comes in: A CFP dealing with insurance might also be a chartered life underwriter (CLU).

There are dozens of financial professional designations like this. FINRA maintains a complete list of professional designations on its website.


As we have seen, RICP and CFP are different; however, it isn’t exactly an either/or situation. For example, a CFP who specializes in retirement planning may also be an RICP. The table below offers a basic head-to-head comparison of the two certifications.

Comparison of RICP and CFP

– Issuing organization– The American College– Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
– Prerequisites– 3 years’ professional experience– Bachelor’s degree or higher
– 3 years’ experience or 6,000 hours of part-time experience
– Training requirements– 3 courses (9 credit hours)– CFP-board registered exam or hold a relevant license, certification or degree
– Continuing education– 15 hours every 2 years– 30 hours every 2 years

If you’re wondering which certification is best for you, think about what services you want. If you’re looking for an advisor to take a broad look at the entire range of your financial planning needs, a CFP might be the right choice. For those looking simply at establishing a retirement income plan, though, an RICP might be better. If you want both, try to find an advisor with both certifications.

Bottom Line

ricp vs cfp

The CFP is a broad designation indicating expertise in financial planning. The CFP encompasses all areas of personal finance, such as retirement and investment planning, taxes and estate planning and insurance. In contrast, the RICP focuses on issues specific to retirement planning and aging. This includes drawing down retirement savings, claiming Social Security and planning for aging-related risks. CFPs who specialize in retirement planning often hold an RICP as well.

Tips for Financial Planning

  • Whether you need a CFP or an RICP, it’s important to know how much money you will have in retirement. With Social Security and pensions covering less of the bill these days, you will need your own savings to cover your expenses. Use SmartAsset’s free retirement calculator to estimate how much you should have saved.
  • Regardless of certifications, getting a financial advisor is often a good idea. 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.

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