Is a Certified Financial Planner a Fiduciary?

Posted Aug 2, 2022


Implementing a wealth-building strategy usually requires the guidance of a finance professional. Financial advisors and planners can help you manage your wealth; however, neither designation implies a fiduciary duty on your behalf. 

A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is expected to be a fiduciary, meaning they take an oath to make financial decisions in your best interest. Explore the differences between a CFP and other financial advisors and how to choose a CFP to help you build a plan designed to grow your wealth. 

What Is a CFP?

A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a finance professional who helps their clients manage investments and general finances. Your CFP may help you: 

  • Plan for retirement
  • Create an investment strategy
  • Reduce your tax liabilities
  • Manage against risk

They also evaluate your finances to estimate your net worth. Your CFP will take stock of your assets, properties, mortgages, debts, and other financial factors to help you choose the appropriate wealth-building strategy in the short and long term. They may introduce you to new investment approaches, such as using a REIT, 1031 exchange, and DST to help you build an investment portfolio in an attempt to grow your assets. 

Do CFPs Have a Fiduciary Duty?

Yes, CFPs are expected to act in a fiduciary duty to their clients. A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on their client’s behalf. A fiduciary designation means that your CFP should not make an investment that goes against your interests for any reason. 

For instance, your CFP should not invest in a property or asset to receive a kickback or commission from the transaction unless the activity is in your best interests and you agree to the action. 

Differences Between CFP and Financial Advisor

A financial advisor, sometimes called a financial planner, provides financial advice. They may guide you in investing, retirement, and insurance and must carry a Series 65 license. A financial advisor can have a fiduciary responsibility, but it isn’t required. They are usually held to a suitability standard, meaning they should make decisions on your behalf that match your financial situation. 

The main difference between a financial advisor and a CFP is the education and qualifications necessary to become a CFP. A CFP must complete a board-level program and pass an exam to achieve their title. They must also undergo 4,000 to 6,000 hours of training and 30 hours of continuing education every two years to use the CFP designation. 

How to Find a Qualified CFP

Choosing a qualified CFP to handle your finances and investment strategies can be important. To find an experienced CFP, take the following actions: 

  • Ask for a referral from friends, family, or other professionals like your attorney, stockbroker, or accountant
  • Perform a search using industry tools such as the FPA PlannerSearch or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors search tool

If you are looking for a planner in a specific field, take note of special designations like Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) or Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA). When searching for a CFP, remember to look for the certified designation to help ensure they have a fiduciary responsible for handling your accounts.

This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation. 

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