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Getting a CFP

Question: I am always inspired by Chris Farrell who is so knowledgeable and can answer any questions. That makes me want to pursue career as a financial planning. I am thinking of taking classes to become CFP but looks like there are so many other qualifications you can get. What do you recommend in terms of preparing for future career as a personal financial planner? I have worked in investment banks but never as a personal planner. Kumi, Carlsbad, CA.

Answer: Thanks for your kind words. I'm a fan of the certified financial planner designation. From my experience as a journalist, plus knowing several friends that got a CFP, it gives the practitioner a very broad overview of household finances. The CFP offers the kind of broad background that will enable you to deal with everything from managing a portfolio to dealing with long-term care insurance to philanthropic gift giving.

That said, in quiet conversations over the past year or so I have been told by a number of CFPs that the new generation is having a hard time building up a business. The current generation of successful financial planners are having a tough time letting go.(Of course, another way of looking at the succession problem is that a good CFP can easily work well past the normal retirement age.) What's more, we've lived through an enormous expansion of the financial services industry over the past two decades. One implication of the current credit crunch is that the industry will consolidate in coming years.

So, while I admire the CFP professional degree, it pays to investigate what your career prospects will be once you have the designation in hand. You might want to visit the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards at www.cfp.net.. I'd look for a conference or CFP gathering near you to ask some tough questions of current practitioners about the CFP as a career. Good luck.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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