The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education has created a new professional credential for financial planners. The Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) provides financial advisors with practical training in all aspects of personal finance.

However, this credential is not a clone of other certifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner® or the Chartered Life Underwriter. It does, however, complement the CFP® in many respects, although it also stands alone as a credential by itself. This article examines the curriculum and certification process for this designation and how it compares to the CFP® mark. (Learn the tips and tricks of the trade before heading into this test. See Studying For The CFP Exam.)

Key Takeaways

  • The Accredited Financial Counselor designation includes training in personal finance.
  • This credential complements the CFP® or Chartered Life Underwriter credentials.
  • Counselors must meet educational, experience, and ethical requirements.

Founding Organization

The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education is an international non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting financial education and helping to train financial educators and counselors. It is entirely supported by its members and resembles the CFP® Board in both purpose and practice, although it is much less well-known. However, there are some general differences between the designations, which we’ll address below.

The membership consists primarily of university educators, private practitioners, counselors who work with members of the military and government officials as well as various financial interest organizations, such as America Saves, FINRA, the FTC, the IRS, NEFE (The National Endowment for Financial Education), the SEC, and the U.S. Treasury. Members receive periodic newsletters, research journals, and discounts for the annual conference.

AFC candidates must have at least 1000 hours of experience as a financial counselor.

AFC Credentials and Curriculum

Like their CFP® counterparts, Accredited Financial Counselors must meet educational, experience, and ethical requirements before receiving their certifications. AFC candidates must have at least 1000 hours of relevant experience as a financial counselor in one capacity or another.

The definition of a financial counselor, in this sense, encompasses those who counsel others on an individual basis, those who help to train or educate clients or other planners and those who supervise them. This is similar to the requirements of the CFP® Board, which requires 6,000 hours of financial planning experience.

The curriculum for the AFC is also less rigorous than what CFP® candidates must complete, although it delves much more substantially into financial issues that are relevant for lower and middle-class Americans.

Nine Core Competencies

The AFC curriculum is divided into nine core competencies. They are as follows:

  1. Set the stage and gather client information (10% of the exam)
  2. Assist a client in creating an action plan (12% of the exam)
  3. Develop financial statements, rations, and spending plans (10% of the exam)
  4. Manage Money (15% of the exam)
  5. Manage Credit and Debt (15% of the exam)
  6. Educate a client about major acquisitions (10% of the exam)
  7. Manage financial risks (9% of the exam)
  8. Discuss investment basics with a client (10% of the exam)
  9. Educate a client about the financial aspects of retirement and estate planning (9% of the exam)

On the website you can see in greater detail what each core competency entails. As you can see, those seeking the AFC must be able to cover the full spectrum of personal finance with their clients.

Course Requirements and Exams

The AFC has multiple education pathways to complete the material. The most popular is the self study option. The costs are a registration fee of $75, $750 for the educational materials, and an exam fee of $750 for a total cost of $1,575. A premium bundle with more review materials sells for $2,175.

After each module is completed, the student will arrange to take the final exam at a qualified proctor testing site. The exam itself consists of 165 multiple choice questions. If you do not pass, you must pay a retake fee to try again.

Once the designation has been awarded, certificants must complete 30 hours of approved continuing education every two years in order to maintain their credentials.

CFP® Vs. AFC

As mentioned previously, the AFC curriculum focuses much more on issues that are relevant to middle- and lower-income clients. Accredited Financial Counselors are trained more thoroughly in the particulars of debt, credit, and governmental assistance programs than most CFP® candidates, who are trained to focus chiefly on the needs of upper-middle-class and wealthy clientele.

Those who are seeking the best-rounded professional financial education possible may want to consider earning both credentials. However, those who are more passionate about educating the lower-income segment of the population may want to consider eschewing the CFP® in favor of the AFC credential. AFC candidates are also eligible for a number of positions within the U.S. government relating to financial education and training.

Conclusion

The Accredited Financial Counselor designation is a relatively new credential in the financial planning industry but has received virtually no publicity compared to other designations, such as the CFP®. However, it is highly relevant for much of the middle- and lower-income populations in America. For more information on the AFC credential, log on to http://www.afcpe.org/

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