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What’s a CeFT? A Look At Financial Professionals’ Designations

by | Feb 12, 2024 | *Financial Awakenings, Education, Fee Only Financial Planning, Weekly Column

If you’re looking for a financial advisor, one of the first things you may notice is the array of letters behind their names. (For example, mine include MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, and CeFT®.) Chances are you don’t know what all these designations mean, and your eyes may glaze over just reading them.

Yet those designations matter. Not all certifications are equal; some require much more education or rigorous qualifications than others. Some indicate areas of specialization that may either be important for you or irrelevant for your needs. Some, when combined (like a CWM® and a CeFT®), can be the financial equivalent of a superpower.

Let’s look at some of the designations that are important to know. I’m informally putting them into three categories based on the level of training and time commitment they require. These are:

  • Gold. Requiring extensive academic programs, work experience, exams, and continuing education; thousands of hours.
  • Silver. Requiring coursework, self-study, exams, and sometimes continuing education; hundreds of hours.
  • Bronze. Shorter programs and more narrowly focused exams; dozens of hours. Sometimes held in addition to Gold or Silver certifications.

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Financial Planning

Gold: Personal Financial Specialist (PFS™). Merges CPA-licensed accounting expertise with advanced financial planning.

Silver: Certified Financial Planner (CFP®). Industry standard for comprehensive financial planning for diverse clientele.

Bronze: Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®). Financial education and counseling for a broader audience.

Financial Life Planning

Gold: Certified Financial Transitionist® (CeFT®). Comprehensive knowledge and advanced skills in both financial planning and clinical training to guide clients through major life transitions.

Silver: Golden Gate University Graduate Certificate in Financial Life Planning. Integrates financial planning and coaching skills.

Kansas State University Financial Therapy Graduate Certificate. Provides a practical foundation in financial therapy concepts applicable to life planning.

Texas Tech University MS in Personal Financial Planning with a Financial Health and Wellness Specialization. A comprehensive fusion of financial planning and therapeutic skills.

Bronze: Registered Life Planner® (RLP®). Combines financial planning knowledge with coaching skills.

Investment Advising

Gold: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®). In-depth investment analysis, portfolio construction, market acumen.

Chartered Wealth Manager® (CWM®). For clients with high net worth. Requires an advanced degree and three-plus years of experience.

Silver: Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®). Portfolio management for individuals and institutional clients.

Bronze: Chartered  Portfolio Manager (CPM®). Portfolio management expertise.

Wealth Management Certified Professional© (WMCP©) Manages a client’s money.

Financial Coaching and Therapy

Gold: Certified Financial Therapist-I™ (CFT-I™). Integrates financial planning with therapeutic skills. Requires license in therapy or formal training in personal financial planning, CFT-I™ program completion, passing CFT-I™ exam, ongoing continuing education.

Silver: Financial Fitness Coach™ Certification (FFC). Combines financial knowledge with coaching skills.

Bronze: Certified Personal Finance Counselor© (CPFC). Coaching skills, financial knowledge, counseling skills.

Specialty Training, Typically in Addition to CFP or Other Certification

Chartered Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP®). Advanced knowledge of estate planning, trusts, wills, and asset protection. Requires JD or LL.M. degree, CTEP program completion, 3 years of experience, passing CEP exam, and 15 hours of annual CE.

Chartered Special Needs Consultant® (ChSNC®). Comprehensive training in legal, financial, and emotional aspects of supporting individuals with disabilities and their families.

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®). Equips financial professionals to guide clients through the complex financial implications of divorce.

If any of these designations appear to represent skills that would be a good fit for your circumstances, I suggest researching them further as part of your search for financial advisors. Understanding the various designations and the level of training they require can help you find the right professionals with the right qualifications to serve your particular financial needs.

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