The path to certification as a Financial Planner is arduous. The courses and examinations are intense, and can be stressful. At least it’s not nicknamed “The Marriage Killer” – like the CFA – but if you’re not carefully managing your life, it could be!
Afterwards, when you’ve completed your Level 1 Certification, your Capstone Course, your final CFP examination, and your three years of qualifying work experience…
You’re not done.
Maintaining your Certification as a Financial Planner with the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) requires a lifelong commitment to education. Realistically, how could you continuously give excellent planning advice to your clients if you didn’t pledge to stay in the know?
In order to renew your certification each year, the FPSC requires you to complete 25 hours of Continuing Education (CE) each year (12 hours if you’re a Level 1 Certificant). That’s just over 2 hours a month, if you want to break it down into bite-sized pieces, or just over 3 full working days a year.
PLUS, the educational criteria must fit into the following categories:
These CE courses must fit into the FPSC CFP Competency Profile (which you can download here). These are the things CFP professionals actually do, particularly the integration of the six disciplines: financial management, investment planning, insurance & risk management, tax planning, retirement, planning, estate and legal planning. It includes the application of technical knowledge, a list of which you can find in the profile – it’s updated regularly so stay tuned. Finally, the Competency Profile includes the professional skills that set us apart, including cognitive abilities and judgment, communication, commitment to professional behaviour, and responsibility to our profession.
- Minimum Annual Credits: 10
These CE courses must focus on the direct application of the FPSC’s Standards of Professional Responsibility – not just a theoretical knowledge of them. They could be delivered through discussion, debate, storytelling, case studies, and role-playing – taking you through what it’s like to make difficult ethical decisions or to handle the challenges of practice.
- Minimum Annual Credits: 1
If you sell or give advice on products, such as investments, debt, and insurance, the education that you receive to better understand these is an important part of your growth as a professional. Ideally, these courses should present a balanced view of the product. Don’t just learn how great it is – learn exactly how it is designed, and determine both the upsides and downsides of the product. Your first job as a CFP professional is to give great, appropriate, and customized advice to your clients.
- Maximum Annual Credits: 5
You’ll be out building your professional relationships and your practice. Education focused on prospecting skills, business development, business planning, networking, and sales skills all fall under this category.
- Maximum Annual Credits: 5
Volunteering in your community with organizations, associations, charitable groups and more. I encourage you to look into my personal favourite: Junior Achievement.
- Maximum Annual Credit: 5
The FPSC may or may not approve your CE Credits – and they audit a percentage of certificants every year, so you really ought to keep track. Some organizations, such as Advocis, provide an online tracking tool – but you should also keep copies of all of your certificates.
Yes, for every year.
The FPSC website has a handy-dandy tool that can help you search for those courses that have been reviewed and pre-approved here: http://www.fpsc.ca/approved-ce-credits.
If your course is not listed, you are responsible for assessing whether it fits into the criteria. You can check with the Council directly to ask for an assessment, or you could hold your breath and wait for an audit (not really recommended).
Some courses can get you more designations, including:
- Trust & Estate Practitioner (TEP)
- Certified Executor Advisor (CEA)
- Canadian Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
… and many, many more. These often come with their own continuing education requirements, which may not be exactly the same as that of the FPSC. You could end up with much more than 25 hours in a year, depending, so it’s worth reviewing carefully.
Some conferences are approved for CE credits as well, such as the annual STEP and CIFP conferences. Check the program and the FPSC website to find out before you attend, as they will have to apply for approval every year.
While it may seem exhausting, the requirements are honestly worth the effort. Each year, you are improving the quality of your knowledge, and the advice your clients receive. Your participation improves not only your practice, but also recognition and respect for our designation.
I look forward to welcoming you to the profession!
Julia Chung is the founder of JYC Financial, an independent fee-for-service financial planning firm, which provides unbiased advice and planning, separated from product sales. She’s also a charter member of Lead Family Enterprise Advisors, a collaborative family enterprise advice service company.
Financial planning, lifelong learning, and entrepreneurial growth are Julia’s key obsessions. She loves helping people achieve, building companies, and adding letters after her name (such as: CFP, CLU, and FEA – so far).