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Should The CFP® Board Require Recertification?

CFP Recertification Exam (just like doctors)

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I wanted to post this article to see if any of our readers, both planners have an opinion on the question of whether you think the CFP® Board should require CFP® professionals to get recertified in order to keep the prestigious CFP® designation.

In recent years the Board has been marketing the CFP® designation as the trusted mark and gold standard when it comes to clients seeking professional financial planning. As you may or may not know there are no laws dictating who can call themselves a financial planner. In other words, anyone can say they’re a financial planner regardless of expertise, experience, ethics, or education (the Board’s 4 E’s).

To be a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ requires much more rigorous work, testing and education, among others.

Like most professions the financial planning industry has evolved as has the CFP® designation. It used to be that a candidate for the designation would study modules and have an exam for each module taken such as insurance, estate planning, investments, etc. There was no comprehensive exam. Thus, previously taken modules could be quickly forgotten.

Now, the requirements are much more stringent and culminate with a comprehensive exam consisting of 285 questions taken for 10 hours over a 2 day span with paper and pencil. (Note: In November of 2014 the exam moves entirely to computerized testing centers taken in one day with 170 questions).

The question becomes: How many CFP® Professionals could pass the exam again? That is, are they qualified to still call themselves CFP® professionals? This is the $64,000 question. I would argue that some could still pass with flying colors and other would have to really study hard to pass again, if at all.

But isn’t that the point? To remain “fresh” with the latest laws, nuances and calculations that are important to clients? Even doctors must recertify to stay on top of the latest treatments, options, etc. Admittedly, the Board does require 30 hours of continued education including 2 hours of ethics every two years. But continued education is a far cry from recertification or retesting. Depending on the CE course can determine the level of “education”.

For example, there are many board approved seminars that will earn CE credit. Having attended some of these seminars it’s evident that earning the CE credits isn’t difficult. Show up, play with your smartphone, sign the attendance sheet and go home. What was learned?

Personally, I’ve had the experience of taking the Board-approved ethics CE module. Having taken several graduate ethics classes I appealed to the Board to see if these would suffice for the ethics component. It did not. I had to use their “approved” course which consisted entirely of reading, then answering a 40 question test. None of which I feel improved my ethical view or made me think hard about ethics.

This leads to another question: Does the Board really want a recertification process? I don’t know the answer to this question. I would guess perhaps not with the reason being is that they may lose several hundred if not thousand professionals who couldn’t pass a difficult recertification exam. This would be a blow to the fees the Board collects from current CFP® professionals annually.

Please understand I am proud to be a CFP® and am glad I took the road less travelled to earn the mark. If the Board mandated recertification I would welcome it. I’m not saying it would be easy (the average pass rate hovers around 50%) but could make the CFP® mark even more invaluable.

This was not an attempt to say that the Board’s current process is faulty; I simply wanted to offer a different point of view. If the Board wants the CFP® to be the trusted mark of true professionals and to make financial planning grow into a true profession then this may be a logical next step.

So what are your thoughts?


  1. Anne says:

    I always feel reassured when I know someone has a “Certification”; esp. a “re-certification; indicates the person is “serious about keeping up with financial laws..!”
    I would chose a “certified CFP” over a “non-certified CFP” any day…!! Thank you !!!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    It’s probably a good idea to retest every 10 years. I think an MD will study for and take a meaningful test to maintain Board Certification every 5 years or so. For the CFP, I’d want to be sure the retest is accurate. When I took the comprehensive test many years ago it was out of date and to answer correctly I had to answer based on tax law from the previous year. I’m sure it’s much more current now.

    1. sraskie says:

      Thank You Elizabeth!

  3. Brian says:

    I think those who didn’t take a comprehensive final should have to take the final exam to maintain their certification. When I took the final only 1/2 passed even though they had all passed the individual topic testing. If my testing class is a fair sample, we would lose many of those who had the designation prior to the comprehensive exam requirement. It would make the designation more exclusive and equally earned.

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