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Key Takeaways

Many people call themselves financial planners, but the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® certification has been considered the standard of excellence in financial planning for more than 30 years.

According to the CFP Board, only about 1 in 5 financial advisors in the U.S. hold the CFP® designation.

Not all certifications are created equal. With more than 100 certifications available to financial professionals, the CFP® designation stands out in part due to the rigorous CFP® certification process.

What makes a CFP® Professional different from other advisors?

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® certification has been considered the standard of excellence in financial planning for more than 30 years. Unlike many financial advisors, CFP® professionals have developed theoretical and practical knowledge by completing demanding education, examination, experience, and ethical requirements, and agreeing to continued monitoring and continuing education.  

Who should choose a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional?

Choose a CFP® Professional if you want a comprehensive plan covering every aspect of your finances that can grow and change through the phases of your life.

Or, choose a CFP® Professional if you have a more complex financial situation. Their proven technical competence, educational background, and qualifying experience gives them the skills to advise on investment management, retirement planning, tax planning, insurance planning, estate planning, education planning, and much more. 

Learn more about choosing a financial planner on the CFP website,

Download our free guide to help you interview financial advisors.

Gordon Wollman

Gordon Wollman

MS-Financial Planning, CFP®

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Jill Mollner

Jill Mollner


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Andrew Ulvestad

Andrew Ulvestad


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The CFP® Certification Process


CFP® Professionals are required to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Applicants have up to five years from the date they pass the exam to receive their bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, unlike many financial certifications, CFP® practitioners are required to develop their theoretical and practical financial planning knowledge by completing specific coursework at an approved college or university approved by the CFP Board. Part of this coursework must be a capstone course on financial plan development. Planning professionals with training outside of the CFP Board’s approved list may meet the education requirement through a review process, which looks at transcripts, previous coursework, and other professional designations.

Once certified, CFP® practitioners are required to complete a minimum 30 hours of continuing education every two years to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients.


The CFP® Certification Examination tests the ability to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. The exam, taken in two sections, consists of 170 multiple-choice questions linked to at least one of the eight Principal Knowledge Topics such as the financial planning process and principles, tax planning, income and retirement planning, estate planning, risk management and insurance. The exam requires the use of critical thinking and problem-solving ability, with less emphasis on factual recall or recognition.

According to the CFP Board, the pass rate for November 2021 was 58%.(1)



CFP® practitioners must complete either 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship that meets additional requirements. Qualifying experience includes activities involving the delivery of financial planning services to individual clients. These hours can be completed either within 10 years before and/or 5 years after passing the CFP® exam. If the experience requirement is not completed within 12 months of successful completion of the CFP® exam, professionals are required to complete continuing education (CE) before certification.(1)



CFP® professionals must pass a background check and commit to a strict code of professional conduct known as CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. This Code of Ethics, including principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence, sets forth their ethical responsibilities to the public, clients and employers.

The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put clients’ interests above their own, and to provide their financial planning services as a "fiduciary" — acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients.

Following the exam, the CFP® Board continues to monitor advisors. CFP® Professionals can be sanctioned, and certain misconduct will automatically bar or revoke an applicant’s CFP® license

Learn more about Cornerstone’s commitment to the fiduciary standard of care.

Learn more about the requirements for CFP® Certification.

What is the CFP Board?

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) is a a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves the public by fostering professional standards in personal financial planning. The board was started in 1985 to certify new planners and ensure there would be a fair, separate organization overseeing the profession.

The mission of CFP Board is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning.

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Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.