Certified Public Accountant (CPA) CPAs are licensed and regulated by their state boards of accountancy. While state laws and regulations vary, the education, experience and testing requirements for licensure as a CPA generally include minimum college education (typically 150 credit hours with at least a baccalaureate degree and a concentration in accounting), minimum experience levels (most states require at least one year of experience providing services that involve the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills, all of which must be achieved under the supervision of or verification by a CPA), and successful passage of the Uniform CPA Examination. In order to maintain a CPA license, states generally require the completion of 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year (or 80 hours over a two year period or 120 hours over a three year period). Not all individuals licensed as a CPA at SBSB are currently providing CPA services to the public or on behalf of their employer and therefore. may be exempt from the required continuing professional education requirements. Additionally, all American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) members are required to follow a rigorous Code of Professional Conduct which requires that they act with integrity, objectivity, due care, competence, fully disclose any conflicts of interest (and obtain client consent if a conflict exists), maintain client confidentiality, disclose to the client any commission or referral fees, and serve the public interest when providing financial services. The vast majority of state boards of accountancy have adopted the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct within their state accountancy laws or have created their own.
The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® and federally registered CFP (with flame design) marks (collectively, the “CFP® marks”) are professional certification marks granted in the United States by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”).
The CFP® certification is a voluntary certification; no federal or state law or regulation requires financial planners to hold CFP® certification. It is recognized in the United States and a number of other countries for its (1) high standard of professional education; (2) stringent code of conduct and standards of practice; and (3) ethical requirements that govern professional engagements with clients. Currently, more than 71,000 individuals have obtained CFP® certification in the United States.
To attain the right to use the CFP® marks, an individual must satisfactorily fulfill the following requirements:
- Education – Complete an advanced college-level course of study addressing the financial planning subject areas that CFP Board’s studies have determined as necessary for the competent and professional delivery of financial planning services, and attain a Bachelor’s Degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university (or its equivalent from a foreign university). CFP Board’s financial planning subject areas include insurance planning and risk management, employee benefits planning, investment planning, income tax planning, retirement planning, and estate planning;
- Examination – Pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination. The examination, administered in 6 hours, includes case studies and client scenarios designed to test one’s ability to correctly diagnose financial planning issues and apply one’s knowledge of financial planning to real world circumstances;
- Experience – Complete at least three years of full-time financial planning-related experience (or the equivalent, measured as 2,000 hours per year); and
- Ethics – Agree to be bound by CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, a set of documents outlining the ethical and practice standards for CFP® professionals.
Individuals who become certified must complete the following ongoing education and ethics requirements in order to maintain the right to continue to use the CFP® marks:
- Continuing Education – Complete 30 hours of continuing education hours every two years, including two hours on the Code of Ethics and other parts of the Standards of Professional Conduct, to maintain competence and keep up with developments in the financial planning field; and
- Ethics – Renew an agreement to be bound by the Standards of Professional Conduct. The Standards prominently require that CFP® professionals provide financial planning services at a fiduciary standard of care. This means CFP® professionals must provide financial planning services in the best interests of their clients.
CFP® professionals who fail to comply with the above standards and requirements may be subject to CFP Board’s enforcement process, which could result in suspension or permanent revocation of their CFP® certification. To learn more, visit https://www.letsmakeaplan.org/
Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) is a specialty credential awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to CPAs who specialize in helping individuals plan all aspects of their wealth. To become a PFS, candidates must be active members of the AICPA, have at least two years of financial planning experience, meet all the requirements for being a CPA, receive recommendations, have a minimum of 75 hours of personal financial planning education, and pass a written exam. Under the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct, a PFS must always act with independence, due care, integrity, and objectivity.
The Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) is a professional designation given by the Center for Fiduciary Studies. In order to earn the AIF® designation, candidates must complete a classroom or online-based program, pass an examination, meet a minimum combination of education, industry experience, and/or professional development, and satisfy the Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards. The AIF program provides detailed instruction on how to comply with the fiduciary standards of care and introduces the participant to the 22 Prudent Investment Practices developed by the Foundation for Fiduciary Studies. These practices combine “the minimum requirements of pertinent legislation with industry best practices.” AIF® designees have the ability to implement a prudent process into their own investment practices as well as being able to assist others in implementing proper policies and procedures.
Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL) is issued by The American College, accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Agency. CASL is a rigorous credential in the senior and retirement planning space, with curriculum that covers wealth accumulation, income distribution, and estate planning strategies for those preparing for or in retirement. Requirements include completion of five college-level courses and examinations, minimum of three years relevant experience and adherance to The American College Code of Ethics.
Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) is a professional designation given out by the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association to establish an educational standard for individuals that specialize in the area of alternative investments (such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and real estate investment). In order to receive the designation, individuals must have at least one year of professional experience, a U.S. bachelor’s degree and must pass two levels of curriculum that include topics ranging from qualitative analysis, trading theories of alternative investments, to indexation and benchmarking.
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter is a professional designation established in 1962 and awarded by the CFA Institute. To earn the CFA charter, candidates must pass three sequential, six-hour examinations over two to four years. The three levels of the CFA Program test a wide range of investment topics, including ethical and professional standards, fixed-income analysis, alternative and derivative investments, and portfolio management and wealth planning. In addition, CFA charterholders must have at least four years of acceptable professional experience in the investment decision-making process and must commit to abide by, and annually reaffirm, their adherence to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.
Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP) is a graduate level specialization in estate planning awarded by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils to recognized estate planning professionals who meet special requirements of education, experience, knowledge, professional reputation, and character. AEP is available to attorneys, Chartered Life Underwriters®, Certified Public Accountants, Certified Trust and Financial Advisors, Chartered Financial Consultants®, and Certified Financial Planners® who are actively engaged in estate planning, have completed two courses at The American College (except if more than 15 years of experience), have a minimum of 5 years of experience, and abide by the NAEPC Code of Ethics.
The Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) is a financial planning designation given by The American College of Financial Services. In order to receive the ChFC®, candidates must complete and pass 9 courses, have a minimum of 3 years business experience, and agree and comply with The American College Code of Ethics and Procedures. Individuals who become certified must participate in the Professional Recertification Program in order to maintain the right to continue to use the ChFC® mark.
Enrolled Agent (EA) An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service by either passing a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee. Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards. Individuals who obtain this elite status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.(Source: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/enrolled-agents/enrolled-agent-information)
CIMA® Certified Investment Management Analyst. CIMA® is a registered certification mark of the Investment Management Consultants Association, Inc. in the United States of America and worldwide. It is an advanced professional certification for financial advisors and investment consultants. The certification program requires professionals to learn and apply sophisticated technical investment knowledge necessary to meet real-world needs of individual and institutional investors. This is accomplished by completing a series of courses and passing a certification examination. Certificants must renew their certification every two years.
Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®) is a certification granted by the HR Certification Institute to individuals who demonstrate proficiency in the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management in the United States. The certification has a degree and experience requirement and certificants must first pass a comprehensive examination. There is an ongoing continuing education requirement to retain the certification. (Source: https://www.hrci.org/our-programs/our-certifications/sphr)
Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) is a credential granted by the American Bankers Association to individuals who demonstrate expertise in the wealth management and trust fields. To receive the designation, candidates must meet an industry experience requirement, pass a comprehensive examination, and sign a Code of Ethics statement. Designation holders are expected to earn 45 continuing education credits every three years. [Source: https://www.aba.com/Training/Certifications/Pages/CTFA.aspx]
Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA®) is an advanced professional certification granted by the Investments & Wealth Institute for financial planners and financial advisors who work with high-net-worth clients on the life-cycle of wealth: accumulation, preservation, and distribution. Candidates who earn the certification learn to identify and analyze challenges high-net-worth individuals face, and understand how to develop specific strategies to minimize taxes, monetize and protect assets, maximize growth, and transfer wealth. There are experience and education requirements, and candidates must also pass a comprehensive examination to earn the designation. Certificants sign a license agreement to adhere to the Investments & Wealth Institute’s Code of Professional Responsibility and the appropriate use of the certification marks. [Source:https://investmentsandwealth.org/cpwa]. To learn more, visit https://investmentsandwealth.org/cpwa and https://investmentsandwealth.org/investors.
Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) is a designation granted by The American College of Financial Services to individuals who have demonstrated expertise to provide guidance to clients on types and amounts of life insurance, make recommendations on aspects of risk management, and possess expert knowledge of various insurance solutions. A CLU® designee understands the legal aspects of life insurance, and assisting clients in making decisions about estate planning, including various wills and trust arrangements. To receive the CLU® designation, an individual must successfully complete eight courses and exams, meet experience requirements and ethics standards, and agree to comply with The American College Code of Ethics and Procedures. Participation in the Professional Recertification Program is also required. [Source: https://www.theamericancollege.edu/designations-degrees/CLU]
Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) is a designation granted by the Exit Planning Institute to individuals who complete a five-day executive MBA-style program that trains and certifies qualified professional advisors in the field of exit planning. Designees are also required to pass a proctored exam and have five years or more, full-time or equivalent, experience working directly with business owners as a financial advisor, attorney, CPA, business broker, investment banker, commercial lender, valuation advisor, estate planner, insurance professional, business consultant, or a similar professional capacity. [Source: http://exit-planning-institute.org/program/certified-exit-planning-advisor/]
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) is a certification issued by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts awarded to individuals who have demonstrated expertise on the financial aspects of divorce. Divorce Financial Planning is the application of the discipline of financial planning to settlement strategies in divorce. The process requires the synthesis of tax, insurance, retirement and other areas of knowledge with their specific application to divorce. To be eligible for the certification, candidates must meet a relevant professional experience requirement, complete a program of study, and pass an examination. Certificants must complete 15 hours of divorce-related continuing education every two years.
The Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP™) designation is granted by the College for Financial Planning to individuals who complete a program that covers the six main facets in personal financial planning, but in a way better suited to practical rather than professional application. Candidates must complete coursework and pass a comprehensive final examination. Designees must complete a continuing education requirement every two years. Source: https://www.kaplanfinancial.com/wealth-management/fpqp
SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP®) certification demonstrates to the global business community that the credential-holder has strong capabilities in both aspects of HR practice—competency and knowledge—that are required for effective job performance. The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK™) is the foundation for this certification. The SHRM BoCK consists of eight behavioral competencies organized into three clusters: Leadership (Leadership & Navigation, Ethical Practice), Interpersonal (Relationship Management, Communication, Global & Cultural Effectiveness), and Business (Business Acumen, Consultation, Critical Evaluation). Additionally, there are 15 HR knowledge areas that are critical to the success of any HR professional. (See The SHRM BoCK for additional information.) To be eligible to sit for the exam, applicants must have a combination of education and work experience.
Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) is a financial professional who specializes in retirement income planning. Financial professionals earn the RICP designation after following the program for retirement income professionals. Once qualified, RICPs advise retirees and near-retirees as to the best way to use the assets they have accumulated for retirement to live comfortably within a realistic budget and not run out of money prematurely. To learn more, visit https://www.theamericancollege.edu/designations-degrees/RICP.
Resources for Retirement Plan Sponsors:
- RMS: www.consultrms.com
- Benefits Administrators: www.benadms.com
- IRS Plan Sponsor Responsibilities: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/a-plan-sponsors-responsibilities
- SHRM – Administering a 401k Plan: Who Does What? https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/administering-401k-plans-who-does-what.aspx
Resources for Retirement Plan Participants: