Q. Do financial planners have to be accredited? Do they have to be certified, registered by states and/or do they have to take courses like accountants do to keep up with the latest information? What about testing? How do I learn about a financial planner’s experience, etc. What is a financial services adviser — just what the title says, advises you about your finances? Is there a site that checks for any complaints and/or if a person really is accredited or does he/she have a degree? What is required to become a financial planner?
A. Anyone can call themselves a financial planner. There is no accreditation required. There is no special certification or registration required. There are no continuing education or testing requirements. You learn about a financial planner’s experience by interviewing them. The title “Financial Services Adviser” has no fixed meaning, but usually means “saleperson.” There is no easy and reliable way to ensure that a financial planner is competent, honest and reliable. The only thing required to become a financial planner is the willingness to call yourself one. The Certified Financial Planner license is currently the highest standard for financial planning professionals, but it is a voluntary trademark use license issued by a private entity and does not guarantee quality. For example, many securities salespeople carry this license. I hope you will encourage your elected officials to support the regulation of financial planning as a profession, along with law, accounting and medicine.