I am a “Top Financial Planner” – but don’t just take my word for it…

I am a “Top Financial Planner”!

Or, so I was told by a solicitation I got in the mail from a company called “SLD Industries”.

It’s one of, apparently, many such fake promotions designed to convince me to spend upwards of $200 on a fancy plaque or award to display in my office.

Folks, don’t be taken in by any such “Top [professional]” award or honor you see, especially if it’s from the “Consumers’ Research Council of America”.

ABC News did a piece a while back on some “Top Doctors” with awards granted by this organization. It was an expose – some of those folks had never even practiced (one went to dental school before becoming an anesthesiologist, never having spent a single day of his life practicing dentistry, yet was given a “top dentist” war).

<http://abcnews.go.com/Health/top-doctor-awards-deserved-abc-news-investigation/story?id=16771628&singlePage=true>

And Forbes did a piece about the “Top Financial Planner” awards specifically:

<http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/02/americas-top-financial-planners-personal-finance-consumers-research-council.html>

The “Top <whatever>” is not what it appears to be.  It is misleading to consumers, and it’s ripping off professionals who pay for those “awards”.

Please be careful out there.  In addition to such bogus awards as this, there are well over 100 “professional designations” – and for a consumer who isn’t aware of which ones to look out for, it’s not obvious which have any meaning versus those which someone can get by simply sending a check to the appropriate place.

When considering getting professional financial advice, look first for the most serious designations – those with rigorous testing and educational standards, ongoing continuing education requirements, active boards of standards which police the use of the designations and ethics of practitioners who have those designations.

I’m proud to hold a CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) certification and invite folks to learn more about it at <http://www.cfp.net>.

I’m also a proud member of NAPFA (The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors).  NAPFA is not a professional certification or designation, but to become a member, one must be a true fee-only financial planner (and receive no transaction-based compensation such as commissions, awards, bonuses, finder’s fees — all of which would create conflicts of interest), submit a financial plan for peer-approval, get ongoing continuing education, and meet their ethical guidelines which are quite similar to those required by the CFP Board.  To learn more, please visit <http://www.NAPFA.org>.

There are many other designations with a lot to recommend them.  Some of the most rigorous include the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and EA (Enrolled Agent).

The Wall Street Journal periodically reviews the various credentials that advisors may be adding to their resumes.  Here’s an article from 2010 about it:

“Is Your Adviser Pumping Up His Credentials? Those Fancy Initials After Your Financial Adviser’s Name Might Not Be As Impressive as They Seem” <http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703927504575540582361440848>

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