What Is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)?
Chartered financial consultants can help you with a wide range of financial planning tasks. Learn more about them here.
As you plan for your financial future, it’s important to have someone qualified to help you by your side. One type of professional that can help is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). These individuals carry vast business and monetary experience and often serve as advisors.
In this article, you’ll learn all about the ChFC designation, including what they do and how they attain the role. You’ll also get an idea of whether you should hire one as an advisor. Finally, we’ll break down how you can find one, as well as how much you can expect to pay.
ChFCs are professionals that specialize in advanced financial planning. They receive the role from The American College of Financial Services after completing eight college-level courses and agreeing to follow and uphold a specific set of ethical standards, which we’ll explain in more detail below. With their certification, they’re able to serve individuals and businesses alike.
As mentioned, the role of a ChFC centers around financial planning. That is, helping clients build a comprehensive plan for their money, so that they may be better off in the future. More specifically, this includes the following areas:
- General financial planning
- Tax planning (income and estate)
- Retirement planning
- Estate planning
- Insurance planning
- Employee benefits planning
- Risk management
- Investment management/planning
Like other designations, such as chartered financial analysts (CFAs) and certified financial planners (CFPs), being a ChFC is a prestigious role. It immediately tells clients that the person has put in the time and effort to become well-versed in various aspects of the industry. And, perhaps equally important, it shows that they’re agreeing to follow a strict set of standards that put their clients first.
Becoming a ChFC
Earning the ChFC title takes significant time and effort. Before completing the college requirement, candidates must have at least three years of full-time business experience within five years of receiving the role. They must also have a high school diploma or GED.
After prospective ChFCs have the necessary experience, they must complete eight online, self-study courses that teach them about a variety of topics regarding financial planning, which are:
- Fundamentals of Financial Planning
- Fundamentals of Insurance Planning
- Fundamentals of Income Taxation
- Planning for Retirement Needs
- Fundamentals of Estate Planning
- Personal Financial Planning: Comprehensive Case Analysis
- Contemporary Applications in Financial Planning
For each course, students must also pass final exams. Upon completing the education requirements, a candidate will receive their degree and certification. Then, they must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years, which includes at least one hour toward ethics CE.
All ChFCs must follow a set of standards set forth by the Board of Trustees of The American College of Financial Services. These govern the actions and behavior of professionals with the designation, including their interactions with clients. The standards (or Canons) are as follows:
- Conduct oneself at all times with honor and dignity.
- Avoid dishonorable practices that would impact oneself and the College.
- Publicize accomplishments in ways that only improve one’s integrity.
- Commit to continuing studies into the future to keep current and stay competent.
- Put best effort toward maintaining a highly distinguished record of service.
- Pledge to support organizations and institutions that impact the integrity of the profession.
- Build the profession by assisting those seeking and participating in professional studies.
- Strictly follow all laws and regulations, especially those that relate to professional activities.
ChFCs must also follow a fiduciary standard, which means they put their client’s best interests ahead of theirs. This includes taking “The Professional Pledge,” which reads: “In all my professional relationships, I pledge myself to the following rule of ethical conduct: I shall, in light of all conditions surrounding those I serve, which I shall make every conscientious effort to ascertain and understand, render that service which, in the same circumstances, I would apply to myself.”
Who Needs a ChFC as a Financial Advisor?
A chartered financial consultant is more than qualified to work with individual clients to develop their financial plans. However, because of their extensive knowledge and experience, these professionals often work for entities within the financial services industry, including:
- Financial advisory firms
- Banks and credit unions
- Insurance companies
- Investment firms
- Accounting firms
- Retirement plan providers
- Government agencies
- Non-profit organizations
The roles and duties of a chartered financial consultant vary depending on who employs them and what kind of customers their employers serve. While many work for corporations and institutions, some may elect to operate as independent advisors.
For instance, while working with an individual, ChFC may simply assist with general financial planning, as well as retirement and estate planning. However, if they assist an organization, they may take part in advanced risk management strategies, as well as investment management.
ChFC vs. CFP
ChFCs and CFPs both take part in financial planning services. Because of this, they’re very similar designations. The main difference between the two is the experience and coursework necessary to attain each role.
CFPs must, similarly, complete extensive coursework. However, the CFP Board only requires candidates to take one exam upon completion, rather than one for every single class, as with ChFCs. CFPs must also complete a bachelor’s degree, which isn’t a requirement for the latter.
Note that both designations are indications that a person is experienced with financial matters and is a fiduciary. These are important qualities to look for in an advisor, and ones you’ll find with each titled professional.
How to Find a Chartered Financial Consultant
If you’ve decided that a ChFC is right for you, it’s time to find one to work with. This can be a tough task, and it may take some work on your part to figure out who’s best. We recommend comparing a few in your area to see if one’s a good fit.
To ensure you’re finding a legitimate ChFC, you should start by using the YourAdvisorGuide database that The American College of Financial Services offers. Once on the site, you simply need to enter your ZIP code and it’ll help you locate experts near you with the designation. You can also use the service to verify a professional’s designation.
You can also explore and compare other financial advisor options by using a free matching tool. After filling out a short quiz about your current situation and goals, it’ll connect you with up to three vetted professionals near you.
How Much They Cost
The cost to hire a ChFC depends on a variety of factors. This includes their experience, as well as the complexity of your needs.
Fee structures can also vary. Here are the most common ones you’ll encounter:
- Hourly fee. This is where you pay a ChFC for their time. Typically, advisors can charge anywhere from $200 to $400 per hour for their services.
- Flat fee. In this case, you’d pay them for a specific project. The amount varies depending on the complexity.
- Assets under management (AUM). Commonly, advisors will charge you a percentage of the assets they manage. Typically, this hovers around 1%, but could go up if you have less.
- Commission. Occasionally, a financial consultant charges on a fee or commission basis. In this arrangement, they’ll receive compensation if you buy certain products or investments.
- Retainer fee. In this case, you’ll pay a professional in advance for services they’ll perform later. If they end up doing less, you’ll receive a refund.
It’s crucial to fully understand fee structures and any possible conflicts of interest before employing a ChFC. How much they cost can vary widely based on their individual expertise and the difficulty of your financial situation. Make sure that you discuss the fee structure at your first consultation to ensure transparency. Your advisor should be more than willing to engage in a conversation of this nature.
Keep in mind that fees can be negotiable, depending on the advisor. You can also minimize costs by only paying for the services you need, and nothing more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a chartered financial consultant a fiduciary?
Yes, they’re fiduciaries, and must follow a strict set of standards, including putting an emphasis on their client’s best interest.
What does a chartered financial consultant do?
ChFCs engage in a wide variety of services in the financial planning industry. This includes tax planning, retirement planning, risk management, estate planning, and more. They may serve both individuals and organizations.
How long does it take to become a ChFC?
This depends on the prior experience a candidate has. Prospective consultants must already have five years of business experience under their belt to be considered. Then, they must take eight college courses, which take an estimated 24 months to complete.
What kind of knowledge and expertise does a ChFC have?
ChFCs should be well-versed in all aspects of financial planning. The American College of Financial Services requires them to take eight college courses pertaining to the subject, each coming with its own final exam. Candidates must also have five prior years of business experience to round out their expertise.
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