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Financial and Investment Advisor Certifications That Are Widely Recognized

The following certifications are widely recognized within the financial services advisory industry:

* Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)

* Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

* Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

* Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

* Insurance Agents

> Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

> Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

* Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

This short list of certifications was constructed using several sources. First, many other certifications require these certifications as a prerequisite. Second, when registering as an adviser with certain states, some of these certifications can substitute for passing various tests administered by the North American Securities Administrators Association, Inc. (NASAA) Third, Form ADV, which is used by the SEC and most states to register advisors, explicitly lists many of these particular designations. Finally, these designations are mentioned more frequently in the financial planning literature and on financial and investment websites.

Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)

The AEP is conferred by the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC). To obtain the AEP an applicant must:

* hold an attorney’s license, CPA, CLU, ChFC, CFP, or CTFA

* be professionally engaged in “estate planning activities,”

* have at least five years of directly relevant experience (or 15 years to exempt the educational requirements)

* take certain required courses from the The American College or take two “challenge exams”

> (See the ChFC and CLU listings below for more information on The American College.)

* have membership in an NAEPC council,

* submit references, and

* commit to the NAEPC code of ethics.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The CFP is conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFPBS). To obtain the CFP designation, a candidate must have either five years of personal financial planning work experience or three years and a bachelors degree. He must pass a comprehensive examination. To take this examination, he must either complete a course of study offered by various educational organizations, or he must already hold a CPA, ChFC, CLU, or CFA designation or a Ph.D. in business or economics, Doctor of Business Administration, or an Attorney’s license. The CFPBS has an on-line consumer complaint and practitioner disciplinary process, and it supports on-line professional status checking and referrals.

According to the CFPBS, it is “a nonprofit regulatory organization (that) fosters professional standards in personal financial planning so that the public values, has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(TM) and federally registered CFP (with flame logo), which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements. CFP Board currently authorizes more than 43,000 individuals to use these marks in the United States.” The CFPBS also “establishes and enforces education, examination, experience and ethics requirements for CFP® certificants.” (Footnote 1)

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

“CFA Institute is composed of more than 70,000 individual voting members and 131 nonvoting member societies that believe in setting a higher standard for the investment profession. Individual members either hold the CFA designation or are active in the investment business and agree to abide by the CFA Institute ethical requirements.”

Formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR), the CFA Institute confers the CFA designation. Successful candidates must pass three successive examinations requiring approximately 250 hours of preparation for each examination. A candidate must also have either four years of work experience or an undergraduate degree and three years of work experience.

The CFA Institute manages a professional conduct process including an investor complaint process and investors can enquire about the status of an advisor’s CFA credentials.

Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

The CIC designation is conferred by the Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc. (ICAA). The ICAA “is a national not-for-profit association whose membership consists exclusively of federally registered investment adviser firms.” (Footnote 2) Candidates must have worked for an ICAA member firm and must hold the CFA designation.

Insurance Agents

+ Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

+ Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

The ChFC and CLU designations are conferred by The American College. To obtain either designation a candidate must complete eight courses and have three years of full-time personal finance or insurance experience. If a person has completed the CLU designation, then he could also obtain the ChFC designation by completing three additional courses. There is no complaint or disciplinary process for either designation.

The American College states that “founded in 1927 as The American College of Life Underwriters, the College has in recent decades broadened its instructional offerings to reflect the growing convergence of insurance and other financial services professions. A variety of designation, certificate, graduate-degree, and continuing education programs now complement its long-respected CLU designation.” (Footnote 3)

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

The PFS designation is conferred by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA established a PFS credential “for CPAs who specialize in personal financial planning.” To hold the PFS designation a person must:

* be an AICPA member

* hold a CPA that is issued by a state and is unrevoked

* earn points based upon experience and examination

* submit references and other proof of experience doing personal financial planning work.


1) Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFPBS) website 2) Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc. (ICAA) website 3) The American College website

How to Find a Financial Advisor!

How to make your choice

We all know by now the types of financial advisors existing today; it’s essential to decide which type to go for first. There are financial advisors and independent financial advisors; the first one functions as a part of a firm or a similar financial institution while the other operates like a freelancer. That makes sure one thing; with an independent financial advisor, your options are more. A financial advisor shall thus providefinancial advice- which is correct – but then again, financial advice is a very broad term requiring fine-tuning.

To be precise, financial advices are as many as the number of financial products and strategies available in the market; there also remains a question on their individual suitability. A financial advisor is the one who matches them up and therefore; it’s a specialized service that you require for better results.

Let’s see what can be achieved from an independent financial advisor. An IFA doesn’t hold any contract whereas others remain bound by contracts with financial institutions (e.g. life insurance or mortgage companies) or work directly under the company’s payroll. Therefore, why a contract bound/employed financial advisor may suggest going for a financial product sold by the same financial company – maybe that’s not meant to suit you completely – an independent financial advisor shall select a plan tailor-made to your needs if all other readily-available financial packages fall short. So now that you’ve known the difference, it’s time to learn how to choose the best.

Questions to ask

The regulatory body of financial services (FSA or Financial Services Authority) has put up certain requirements for any person willing to work as an IFA. This is something you need to enquire about when you are on the process of finding a suitable independent financial advisor; for those working under some financial institution, their credibility can be verified with the employing company. A Certificate in Financial Planning is the bare minimum; if there are advanced qualifications showing, it is all the better. These qualifications are specialization based, for example, an IFA dealing in mortgages must have a Mortgage Advice Qualification (MAQ) or a certification from the Association of the Pensions Management Institute (APMI) and so on. Just remember that the field an IFA is providing his services for must tally with the degrees he/she has earned so far. Ask your questions as you feel, but the abovementioned points must stay included in the answers you receive. And always remember; don’t hesitate to take any free quote that’s available. It helps to gain some idea on who’s more correct to address your needs. 

What to expect next

Be prepared to reveal your entire financial history to the chosen financial advisor, from your most silly impulse spending to your long-term financial goals and everything that’s influencing your current spending habits. The financial advisor shall then choose for you a package, but it’s always better to get it verified from another source.

Finding the Advisor Match for You

However, with, you can save yourself from the hassles of collecting free quotes or the cross-verification process; finds the best Financial Advisor to ensure you a faster and surer entry to a brighter financial future.

Dallas Financial Planners

Are you a resident of Dallas? Do you want to make profitable investments? Taking wise and informed investment decisions is no easy task, however. The financial markets are complex in their working mechanism, and a common investor might feel lost in here. The market movements cannot be predicted with certainty, and the risk of losses always remains. A professional Dallas financial planner can help you in your investment decision-making. Indeed, with the help and advice of an expert Dallas financial adviser, you can end up with considerable profit margins on your investment.

There are various types of financial planners who can guide you in your investment and wealth-making decisions. You need to be sure of your exact requirements, before you search and find a financial planner. The different financial advisers include:

a) Certified financial planner,
b) Chartered financial consultant,
c) Chartered financial analyst,
d) Personal financial analyst, and
e) Registered investment adviser.

All the above classes of financial planners have specific functions. You need to be sure of hiring the services of the professional who would be ideally suited to your requirements.

In Dallas, there are a number of financial advisers, and hence, finding an expert financial planner is not too tough a task. Some of the most popular Dallas financial planners are:

i) Merrill Lynch,
ii) LGT Financial Advisors,
iii) Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance,
iv) Pegasus Advisors,
v) Championship Financial Advisors,
vi) Financial Success Coaching,
vii) Palmer Financial Planning,
viii) Principal Financial Group,
ix) Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, and
x) Cessna Financial Corporation.

Hiring a suitable Dallas financial planner is immensely beneficial to clients on a number of counts. Some of the ways in which financial planners can help you in your investments are:

a) Convenience & Expertise: Most common investors have neither the time nor the requisite skill to deal in the various financial market instruments. An expert financial adviser helps them arrive at informed, profitable decisions,

b) Fulfillment of investment goals: You should ideally have a target rate of return from your investments. Your financial planner can then help you attain these investment targets via intelligent strategies,

c) Experience: Most financial consultants have a large pool of experience to draw upon, when serving their client investors. This experience holds them in good stead while deciding which investment projects need to be taken,

d) Variety of Services: Dallas financial planners can help in investment decision-making in two ways: they can either take all decisions on your behalf. Or, they can simply make suggestions regarding projects that might be undertaken. Clients are free to accept or reject such advice,

e) Learning: You can learn a great deal about investment techniques from interaction with a financial planner. Such knowledge is helpful in gauging the benefits and risks of any investment project.

Texas is unique in some of its rules regarding investments, savings, budgeting and retirement planning. In case a person dies intestate, the rules are stringent here, and extra hassles might await the family. The financial laws regarding annuities, insurance, IRAs and estate planning is also rather complex in Texas, and hiring a quality Dallas financial adviser is an absolute must for handling them effectively.

In general, any common investor needs to completely disclose his/her current financial positions, so that a financial planner can provide the maximum benefits. Apart, from this, if (s)he has clear investment goals in mind, Dallas investment advisers can help him/her attain these targeted profit levels.

Collecting Credit Card Travel Rewards – Is It Really Worthwhile?

Collecting credit card travel rewards may come easily to those customers who have made an informed decision based on their usual spending habits and an insider knowledge of how the card works, but how do you get this know-how? There are many ways to find your way around credit cards before you commit to anything and the best tool is right at your fingertips.

The good thing about credit cards that allow you to start collecting credit card travel is that you’re being rewarded for just making the purchases you already make in the shops that you favour. These cards work to your advantage as long as you sign up for the right one, and make sure your favourite outlets are partners to the scheme you’ve joined. Signing up for a card which will mean you have to shop elsewhere may not only cost you more in petrol, but will also change your spending habits and can mean your shopping bill comes to more every week than you might normally spend.

Make sure you read as much as possible around the subject of cards that encourage you to get collecting credit card travel rewards before you commit to anything. Know which outlets are partnered with your card before you commit, and assess whether these outlets are relevant to your current spending habits. Changing your lifestyle to suit your card is never a good idea; if you’re shopping at an outlet that’s not your local supermarket you’re more likely to spend more on petrol – and when you add that in to extra costs on your shopping bill, you’re probably losing out on money rather than ‘working’ the card.

When looking around at cards try not to be too swayed by the bonuses that these cards offer when making your decision. Remember that if you don’t have a solid credit history these cards sometimes come at a higher APR than the average, so you need to think about how you are going to repay your loan as well as what you will get out of such a card. Credit companies like customers to pay over the minimum amount every month and to spend a little and often using the card. If you think the interest on your loan won’t offset the benefits you should look into another card type until your credit rating is sufficient to apply for a travel affiliated one.

Make your Air Miles work for you and check out how many Miles you need to reach the destination of your choice. The world map is divided into seven zones in this popular scheme and according to how many Miles you accrue you can travel for free almost anywhere. With fantastic deals set up for Air Miles customers at almost every destination you can even earn more Miles while you are away sunning yourself. Take advantage of deals on hire cars and rebates on dinners to truly make your card work for you and start planning where you and your family would like to go next. With all these great benefits to be had, why choose another card that doesn’t help you to see the world when you can start collecting credit card travel rewards today?

Whichever card you do choose, a quick visit to the Air Miles site can help you get your head around the best ways to qualify for the most Miles. Tips on which affiliates get you the most for your money mean that even when you’re purchasing a holiday with this great loyalty scheme you’ll be building up your Air Miles in order to get you going on the next one!

Are You Struggling With Debits and Credits? If So Read On

An introduction to debits and credits.

If the words “debits” and “credits” sound like a foreign language to you, you are more perceptive than you realize-“debits” and “credits” are words that have been traced back five hundred years to a document describing today’s double entry accounting system. Don’t worry we have you understanding the rules of debits and credits within minutes. Our easy to use, debit and credit chart, will aid your understanding together with practical, debit and credit examples

What is Double-Entry

Under the double entry system every business transaction is recorded in at least two accounts. One account will receive a “debit” entry, meaning the amount will be entered on the left side of that account. Another account will receive a “credit” entry, meaning the amount will be entered on the right side of that account. The initial challenge with double entry is to know which account should be debited and which account should be credited.

Double-entry bookkeeping system ensures the integrity of the financial values recorded in a financial accounting system. It does this by ensuring that each individual transaction is recorded in at least two different nominal ledgers (sections) of the financial accounting system and so implementing a double checking system for every transaction. It does this by first identifying values as either a Debit or a Credit value. A Debit value will always be recorded on the debit side (left hand side) of a nominal ledger account and the credit value will be recorded on the credit side (right hand side) of a nominal ledger account. A nominal ledger has both a Debit (left) side and a Credit (right) side. If the values on the debit side are greater than the value of the the credit side of the nominal ledger then that nominal ledger is said to have a debit balance.

Each transaction must be recorded on the Debit side of one nominal ledger and that same transaction and value is also recorded on the Credit side of another nominal ledger hence the expression Double-Entry (entered in two locations) one debit and one credit. This ensures that when the nominal ledgers (sometimes known as accounts) are placed in a list which has two columns, the left column for listing nominal ledgers with Debit balances and the right column for ledgers with Credit balances, then the total of all the Debit values will equal the total of all the Credit balances. If this does not happen that may mean that one of the transactions was not recorded twice, i.e. once as a debit and once as a credit as required in the double-entry bookkeeping system.

The double entry system uses nominal ledger accounts. From these nominal ledger accounts a Trial balance can be created. The trial balance lists all the nominal ledger account balances sequentially. The list is split into two columns, with debit balances placed in the left hand column and credit balances placed in the right hand column. Another column will contain the name of the nominal ledger account describing what each value is for. The total of the debit column must equal the total of the credit column.

From the Trial balance the Profit and Loss Statement and the Balance Sheet can then be produced. The Profit and Loss statement will contain nominal ledger accounts that are Income or Expense type nominal ledger accounts. The Balance Sheet will contain nominal ledger accounts that are Asset or Liability accounts.

Double-entry bookkeeping is governed by the accounting equation. If revenue equals expenses, the following (basic) equation must be true:

assets = liabilities + equity
In any period of time, revenue might not actually be equal to expenses. If so, the equation can be further expanded, so that the (extended) equation becomes:

assets = liabilities + equity + (revenue – expenses)


assets = liabilities + (capital – drawings) + (revenue – expenses)

A = L + C – D + R – E

Finally, the equation may be rearranged algebraically as follows:

A + E + D = L + R + C

This equation must be true, for any time period. If it is, then the accounts are said to be in balance. If the accounts are not in balance, an error has occurred.

For the accounts to remain in balance, a change in one account must be matched with a change in another account. These changes are made by debits and credits to the accounts. Note that the usage of these terms in accounting is not identical to their everyday usage. Whether one uses a debit or credit to increase or decrease an account depends on the normal balance of the account. Assets, Expenses, and Drawings accounts (on the left side of the equation) have a normal balance of debit. Liability, Revenue, and Capital accounts (on the right side of the equation) have a normal balance of credit. On a general ledger, debits are recorded on the left side and credits on the right side for each account. Since the accounts must always balance, for each transaction there will be a debit made to one or several accounts and a credit made to one or several accounts. The sum of all debits made in any transaction must equal the sum of all credits made. After a series of transactions, therefore, the sum of all the accounts with a debit balance will equal the sum of all the accounts with a credit balance.

Debits and credits are then defined as follows:

debit: A debit is recorded on the left hand side of a T account
credit: A credit balance is recorded on the right hand side of a ‘T’ account
Debit accounts = Asset and Expenses (also debit money received into bank accounts)
Credit accounts = Gains (income) and Liabilities (also credit money paid out of bank accounts)

The following accounts have a normal balance of debit:

Accounts receivable: debts promised by other entities but not yet paid
Drawings by the owners on equity

The following accounts have a normal balance of credit:

Accounts payable and taxes payable, notes or loans payable: debts promised to outsiders but not yet paid

Credit and debit items are summarized at the end of a recording period in a trial balance which is a list of all the debit and credit balances. The trial balance acts as a self checking mechanism for the correctness of entries in the individual accounts and also as a starting point for the preparation of the Final Account which is made up of the balance sheet and the trading, profit and loss account.

Examples of debits and credits:

Purchase of a new computer system

Debit Computer account (Fixed asset account) is increased.
Credit Creditors account (Liability account) is increased.

This then results in the following transactions:

Paying supplier for the computer

Debit Creditors account (Liability account) is reduced.
Credit Bank account (Asset account) is reduced.