Anybody can say, ‘I’m a financial planner.’ Here’s how to dig deeper to tell what that really means.


There’s no shortage of people with impressive-sounding job titles who want to help you reach your financial goals. They may call themselves a financial adviser, financial planner, money coach, financial counselor or financial educator.

These people can obtain certifications from a long list of professional associations, universities and other entities. Look for the string of initials after their name. If you’re unsure what the alphabet soup of letters signifies, search the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) website to get the details.

Just about anybody can set up shop as a money expert. The barriers to entry vary: advisers who earn a certified financial planner (CFP) designation must pass a series of rigorous exams and meet other professional criteria. Others may or may not have such solid credentials to back up their billing.

For consumers seeking to hire a financial pro, the cast of characters…

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