Educating advisors to serve the public

Managing your personal finances can be a daunting task. Consider a few recent issues affecting your finances: the financial crisis, tightening credit markets, ever-changing interest rates and mortgage rates, changing tax rates, changing estate laws, the new health care reform legislation, conflicts in the Middle East, disaster and tragedy in Japan, etc.

How should you respond to these events, if at all? Do you have a person you can go to that understands your personal situation?

The Financial Planning Association of Southern Wisconsin, an organization of financial professionals, provides continuing education and resources to financial advisors. Here are some of the characteristics that the FPA recommends individuals make sure their advisors possess:

Credentials: The FPA supports the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification as a rigorous standard to prove core competencies in several areas of financial planning and demonstrate an ongoing commitment towards learning.

Education: A CFP must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification. In this ever-changing world, it is imperative to deal with an advisor who is staying current with the changing laws, rules, and markets.

Experience: You want to verify that your advisor has the experience necessary to navigate through difficult times. To carry the CFP credential you must have at least three years of financial planning experience.

Ethics: Each CFP practitioner must ascribe to the CFP Board’s code of ethics and designate two hours of continuing education towards ethics courses.

Professional commitment: Continuing education alone isn’t enough to stay current in today’s fast-paced world. You want to work with an advisor who is committed to their profession and takes an active role in building their industry and the community in which they serve. Be sure to inquire if your advisor is active in at least one of the many professional organizations that exist.

Choosing an advisor: Identifying an advisor with the credentials, education, experience, ethics, and professional commitment is just a starting point. Be sure to ask if the advisor has a specialty they focus on and if they have the support and resources necessary to meet your needs.

To search for a CFP, visit www.PlannerSearch.org.

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