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CFPB Report on Financial Planner Certification and "Senior Designations"

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, itself one of the few meaningful reforms to have come out of the 2008-onward financial crisis, issued a report earlier this year on the state of certification in the financial planning industry, with a special focus on those credentials aimed at professionals working with retirees or on old-age pension/benefit issues.  While some certificates, such as the "gold standard" CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation do signal competence and integrity, others seem to be awarded without much more effort on the part of the certify than writing a check.  The CFPB is quite worried that these fake, or at least "baseline," certifications are being used by individuals working more as salespeople than as professional financial planners, using the veneer of legitimacy offered by a certificate hanging on the office wall and a few letters after their name on their business card to mislead senior citizens into poor financial decisions.  Yet, since financial planning is not yet a licensed occupation, there is not much more that the CFPB can do other than issue this report and use the media to try to warn individuals to exercise great care in choosing a financial adviser.  If you use professional financial services, you might want to read the report for yourself, especially if you live in the United States, and see if your adviser holds any of the certifications called out by CFPB - while holding an "easy" certification does not in and of itself signal a quack, if not pared with a more rigorous credential it could be a sign of someone more interested in lining his or her own pockets than providing genuine financial help...

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