As many long time readers know, I have been a consistent cheerleader for the CFP® certification that I hold from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. That’s why I am delighted to announce that I am assuming a new role, “Senior CFP Board Ambassador.” Just like I do in this column, I will provide consumers with timely personal financial advice, explain how current economic and financial news impacts their lives and underscore the importance of having a financial plan.
Let me back up and explain how I came to the organization and why the mark has been so important to me. More than twenty years ago, I decided to leave the world of trading gold, silver and copper options on the floor of the Commodities Exchange in New York and jump into the financial planning profession. Although the trading world was exciting I much preferred working with people and helping them get on track with a plan to help them achieve their financial goals.
Early in my financial career, it became clear that I needed to learn more about a broad range of planning topics that went beyond the investment theory that I had learned as a young pup on Wall Street. I decided to work toward CFP® certification, so that I could learn more about the concepts behind tax, retirement, estate, education and insurance planning.
I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I actually loved the process of studying– I spent early mornings cranking through the material, then headed to work, where theory transformed into real world solutions for people who sought financial advice. Each component of the process made sense to me and even the exam, while rigorous, synthesized the material in a way that was magical to me.
I passed the CFP® Exam and was officially a CFP® professional as of 1998, the moment at which I became a full-throated enthusiast for the mark. Whenever a young employee, a college alumnus or anyone else who demonstrated a scintilla of interest or asked about a career in financial services, I would immediately drone on about how CFP® certification was instrumental to my career success.
After 14 years of providing financial planning and investment advice to individuals, I made another career change, this time into media. Although I did not really “need” the CFP® mark to make the leap into television, radio and online, I continued to maintain it and still proudly promote those little three letters after my name. Back in early 2009, I began to meet other financial journalists and was a bit surprised by how few wrote or talked about the CFP® mark or understood that CFP® professionals were held to the fiduciary standard, which meant that they had to place their customer’s best interest above their own when providing financial planning, regardless of the adviser’s business or fee model.
But there has been a sea change. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, attention shifted toward covering the difference between suitability and fiduciary; the importance of understanding what various certifications mean; and there have even been a few journalists themselves who have sat for the CFP® Exam.
Given that I have one foot in the CFP® professional world and the other in the media world, I hope to continue the effort to increase awareness and help promote the certification. In my new role, you might see me wear my new hat in other media outlets, as I support the CFP Board’s Public Awareness Campaign. That said, I promise that you will not have to address me as "Madame Ambassador"...just Jill is just fine.