How do I become a Certified Financial Planner?

I would like to know if it is possible for a layperson like me, someone who is not employed as a financial analyst or planner, to become a certified financial planner (CFP). Additionally, if it is possible, I would like to know the timeline and list of tests or certifications I would need to complete to become a CFP. What are the benefits and risks associated with becoming a CFP?

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In order to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, you must complete what the CFP Board calls the Four E's: education, examination, experience, and ethics.

The education component requires completing college-level CFP Board coursework, which covers the following Principle Knowledge Topic categories: Professional Conduct and Regulation, General Principles of Financial Planning, Education Planning, Risk Management and Insurance Planning, Investment Planning, Tax Planning, Retirement Savings and Income Planning, and Estate Planning. You must also have a bachelors degree or higher in order to obtain the designation, although this does not required to be able to take the exam. Once you have completed the coursework, you will be eligible to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination, which is a computer based exam consisting of two 3-hour sessions with a 40 minute break. Once you pass the exam, you must complete 6,000 hours of qualified experience in financial planning or 4,000 hours in a qualifying apprenticeship. After gaining your experience through either of these pathways, you become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®.

The pace at which you complete each requirement varies greatly by individual. You can absolutely begin the path of becoming a CFP® professional even if you do not have a background in financial planning, but you will need to gain the education and experience requirements in order to earn the designation.  It sounds like this may require a career shift for you if you are serious about learning financial planning. Becoming a CFP® professional is a long journey, taking years of experience to become a solid financial planner, but it can be extremely rewarding for those that enjoy learning about the intricacies of financial planning and find purpose in helping others.

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