Advisor Certifications

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What is the difference between a CPA, CFP®, CPWA®, RICP®, and CFA® certified professional?

When choosing the best financial advisor for you, it's important to understand what each certification means. Did you know that there are different types of financial planners, and each has its own set of qualifications? For instance, do you want to work with a CPA, CFP®, RICP® or a CFA®? These acronyms all stand for different specialties. Let's take a closer look at each designation and what it means for your financial planning future!

What is the benefit of a CPA, CFP®, RICP® or CFA®?

They signify that a financial planner has met rigorous standards and requirements set forth by respective organizations. These designations also indicate the financial planning services that a financial planner can best provide. These designations are voluntary and earned through extensive study, experience, and personal commitment to the profession.

  • CPA - Certified Public Accountant
  • CFP® - Certified Financial Planner™ professional
  • RICP® - Retirement Income Certified Professional™
  • CFA® - Chartered Financial Analyst

What does CPA stand for?

A CPA is a Certified Public Accountant. The CPA designation is the most recognized financial credential in the United States. CPAs are licensed by the state where they practice and must adhere to strict ethical standards. The CPA designation is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

How does a CPA qualify?

To become a CPA, an individual must pass the Uniform CPA Examination (75% or higher). This exam covers auditing, taxation, business law, and financial accounting. CPA candidates must also have a bachelor's degree in accounting and pass an ethics exam. Each year, a CPA must complete continuing education credits and exams to maintain their license (40 hours/year on average).

Is a CPA a fiduciary?

Although CPAs still must adhere to strict ethical standards, accountants are not, by strict definition, fiduciaries. However, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Professional Code Of Conduct still requires CPAs to act in a manner that will honor the profession, comply with the law, and serve the public interest. So you can trust that your CPA is acting in your best interest!

What services does CPA offer?

CPAs provide a wide range of services, including tax preparation, auditing, and financial consulting. They are also uniquely qualified to provide estate planning services. They can also specialize in other areas, like forensic accounting or business valuation.

How can a CPA help me?

If you are looking for comprehensive financial planning, a CPA is a great choice. They can help you with tax preparation, estate planning, and investment strategies. A CPA may represent you in front of the IRS with additional training. They can also provide valuable insights into your business finances and assist with budgeting and cash flow analysis.

What does CFP stand for?

CFP® stands for Certified Financial Planner™ professional. CFP® certificants are certified by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). The CFP® certification is one of the most respected financial planning credentials available.

How does a CFP® qualify?

To become a CFP® certificant, a planner must complete an extensive education program and pass a comprehensive exam. The topics cover financial planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement planning, estate planning, and risk management. Candidates must have at minimum a bachelor's degree to be eligible for the certification.

CFP® certificants are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and commit to continuing education credits every year (30 hours/year on average).

Is a CFP® a fiduciary?

All CFP® certificants are fiduciaries, which means they must always act in their client's best interests. CFP® certificants are held to a higher standard than many other financial professionals because of their legal fiduciary duty.

What services do CFP® certificants offer?

CFP® certificants provide comprehensive financial planning services. They can help you plan for retirement, invest wisely, and reduce your taxes. As said above, CFP® certificants are also fiduciaries, which means they are legally required to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct to put their client's interests before their own.

How can a CFP® professional help me?

Working with a CFP® professional gives you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your finances are in good hands. The CFP® certification means your professional has a deep understanding of financial planning and how to create holistic plans that address all aspects of financial health.

What does RICP® stand for?

RICP® stands for Retirement Income Certified Professional. The RICP® is awarded by the American College of Financial Services (ACFS). The RICP® program is the only retirement income designation that focuses exclusively on the retirement income planning process. The RICP® is highly respected and recognized as the benchmark in the industry.

How does a RICP® qualify?

To become a RICP®, an individual must complete a rigorous education program, pass a comprehensive exam, and have at least three years of experience in retirement planning. The curriculum covers Social Security claiming strategies, pension maximization, retirement income sources, and investment strategies for retirees.

The RICP® represents a commitment to excellence in retirement income planning and demonstrates a professional dedication to helping retirees generate the lasting income they need to forge a secure retirement and maintain their best lifestyle in their golden years.

What services does a RICP® offer?

A RICP® offers a wide range of retirement income planning services. A RICP® can help estimate how much income you'll need in retirement to keep your current standard of living, develop a retirement budget, and select the right retirement savings and investment strategies.

They can also help you plan for health care costs and long-term care, and protect your retirement savings from inflation. In addition, a RICP® can advise when to claim your Social Security benefits, how to generate income in retirement, and how to minimize taxes on retirement income.

How can a RICP® help me?

Whether you're just starting to think about retirement or ready to start implementing your plan, a RICP® can offer valuable insights and guidance. They can help you design a retirement plan that will meet your unique needs and goals, and provide advice on the best way to generate, manage, protect and access your retirement savings.

What is the meaning of CFA®?

CFA® is an abbreviation for Chartered Financial Analyst, which is an esteemed global qualification in finance and investment conferred by the CFA Institute (previously known as AIMR).

What is the process for obtaining the CFA Charter?

To receive the CFA® charter, an individual must complete the CFA® Program and meet the required work experience criteria. The CFA Program is a three-part examination that assesses fundamental knowledge of investment tools, portfolio management, asset valuation, and wealth planning. Becoming a CFA® charter holder is a rigorous and selective process, with less than one in five candidates achieving the designation. The certification also requires four years of professional experience, in addition to successfully completing the CFA® Program exam, and requires an average of 1,000+ hours of study.

Does holding the CFA® title mean a person is a fiduciary?

As per Standard III.A. of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, CFA charterholders and candidates must act in their client's best interests and prioritize them over their employer's or their own interests. Therefore, a CFA® holder can be considered a fiduciary.

How can obtaining the CFA® designation benefit someone?

The CFA® designation is regarded as the pinnacle of professional growth in investment management, and it is recognized and valued by employers worldwide. This certification is beneficial for professionals working in various fields of the global finance industry, including portfolio management, analysis, private wealth management, and consulting.

Choose the Right Financial Advisor for You

Whether you're seeking help with retirement planning, top-tier wealth management – or anything in between – CPA, CFP®, CFA®, and RICP® certified financial planners can assist you with the advice and services you need. Dave maintains the CFP® designation and has done all the coursework for the RICP®.

Our specialists are here to help you achieve your goals and provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your finances are on track for a secure future. 

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you to grow and preserve your wealth.

To learn more about working with a fee-only advisor specializing in AbbVie executives, visit our contact page and start the conversation about your financial future today.