Decoding the Alphabet Soup of Financial Advisor Certifications

Aug 20, 2019 2 min read

When it comes to finding a financial advisor, it can be intimidating deciphering what all the acronyms, titles, credentials and designations mean. How do you know what each finance certification and designation means? And how do you know which type of advisor provides the services you want?

We’ll help you decode some of the most commonly used designations and certifications for financial professionals in the wealth management and insurance industries. This will also help you determine which advisor will be the right fit for your needs.

AAMS – Accredited Asset Management Specialist

Individuals with this designation completed a self-study course and an exam covering several topics, including investment strategies, aspects of asset management and allocation, taxation of investment products, and investment risk, return and performance. They work with individual clients and small business owners. Other areas of advising may include compensation and benefit plans, estate planning, and policy, ethical and regulatory matters.


An individual who acts as a liaison between a buyer and seller (ex. client and securities firm) of an investment or insurance product or fund. Sometimes they’re called a dealer or broker/dealer.

CFP — Certified Financial Planner

Professionals with this designation understand the intricacies of the shifting financial market and know how to make recommendations of financial planning in your best interest.

CFS — Certified Fund Specialist

CFS are financial professionals who focus on mutual funds advising and staying current on mutual fund market information. Someone with this finance certification may also advise in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), real estate investment trusts (REITs) and other retail investments. They also may offer advisory services in advanced fund analysis and selection, portfolio design, asset allocation, taxes and estate planning.

ChFC — Chartered Financial Consultant

Very similar to the CFP designation, the ChFC credential has the same core skills and knowledge, with a more focused approach to personal financial planning.

CIC – Chartered Investment Counselor

Investment advisors who have established skills in investment counseling and advance portfolio management can be awarded this certification. It recognizes extensive experience as investment counselors and portfolio managers. Oftentimes, their experience comes from overseeing mutual funds and larger accounts.

CLU — Chartered Life Underwriter

If you’re looking for someone who has extensive knowledge and experience with life insurance and estate planning, a CLU would be able to help you develop a personalized plan for your future in those areas.

CRPC – Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Individuals with this designation are very knowledgeable in the needs of people both before and after retirement. CRPCs will be able to help create a retirement plan for their clients. They’re able to walk through the planning process and advise in the areas of meeting multiple financial goals, retirement income sources, savings and asset management, employer-sponsored retirement plans, estate planning, income taxes and more.

RICP — Retirement Income Certified Professional

This designation indicates an extensive knowledge of retirement income planning. An RICP can help retirees and those nearing retirement to come up with a plan to manage the distribution of the money earned for retirement. This will help retirees live within a realistic and appropriate budget for their lifestyle.

As you navigate the world of wealth management, knowing what an advisor focuses on can help you determine who will most effectively meet your financial advising needs. Contact a Farm Bureau advisor today to talk about your financial goals and start planning for your future.

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