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At some point in recent history, the use of acronyms after one's name, got seriously out of control. Adding to the already confusing world of investments and financial planning, some advisors are sporting acronyms that even those of us in the same business don’t understand. Some of these acronyms have been proven to be nothing more than marketing schemes, and many show little evidence of being of much value to consumers.

There is one acronym, or professional designation, that is universally accepted and promoted in the financial planning community. The Financial Planning Association (FPA) and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) consider the CFP®, or Certified Financial Planner™ designation, to be the pinnacle designation for financial planning.

Becoming a CFP® involves completion of coursework, passing a comprehensive multi-phase exam, and completing ongoing continuing education on the topics of investments, insurance, estate planning, and taxation. In addition, CFP® candidates promise to adhere to a code of ethics.

As a CFP®, I am proud of the work required, difficulty of the exam, relatively strenuous ongoing requirements and the community of planners that I share the designation with. However, the CFP® should be seen as a minimum requirement, and not a "seal of approval." Earning the marks means you’ve demonstrated knowledge but it doesn’t guarantee anything to the client. Actions speak louder than words, or acronyms, so it is in our actions that we gain the respect of our peers and clients.