What Is an Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist?

An Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has obtained special training in providing financial advice to families and individuals. Typically, these professionals will help advise clients on how best to achieve financial goals, such as saving for retirement or for a child's education.

Key Takeaways

  • Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist is a financial designation used by financial planners.
  • To obtain it, candidates must first become CPAs before writing an exam overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
  • Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialists can help their clients with financial challenges such as paying off debts, saving for retirement, and putting together investment portfolios.

Understanding Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialists

The basic role of an Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist is to help clients organize their financial lives. In some cases, this might mean helping clients to overcome an unsustainable debt burden, while in other cases it might involve saving for the future or assembling an investment portfolio. Although they can help clients assess their needs and understand the pros and cons of different investment options, Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialists will typically defer to other financial professionals when it comes to actually executing on these investments.

In order to become an Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist, CPAs must first complete a financial planning examination administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In addition, candidates must also have at least two years of full-time professional experience in financial planning, in addition to 75 hours of formal education in financial planning during the previous five years.

The AICPA also requires Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialists to complete 60 hours' worth of ongoing professional education every three years. Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialists must also adhere to a strict set of professional guidelines designed to ensure that they act in their clients' best interests at all times.

Real World Example of an Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist

Emma is a diligent financial professional with a background in finance and accounting. After working as a CPA for several years, she decides to focus her career on financial planning services, hoping to help clients improve their financial lives. To that end, she enrolls in financial planning courses administered by the AICPA, and she successfully obtains the Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist designation.

As a financial planning professional, Emma's responsibilities include accurately assessing the unique needs, risk tolerance, and financial capacity of her clients. Once she has obtained a thorough understanding of their overall financial picture, she uses her expertise to help them set realistic goals and achieve them over a reasonable timeframe.

For example, one of Emma's first clients came to her because he was deeply in debt. Despite earning a reasonable salary, he had fallen behind in his credit card payments and was finding it increasingly difficult to meet his minimum payments. With Emma's assistance, he was able to use debt consolidation and careful budgeting to gradually pay off his debts. Today, he is slowly building an investment portfolio in order to save for his retirement.