Certifiable (more than others!)
Many attorneys haven’t worked with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® before, and so they wonder: What’s the difference?
I should know. I’m a CDFA®.
But I’m also a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, and a CPA. That’s a lot of framed documents to hang on the wall.
But how does this matter to you? How will all of these certifications of mine help you to make a better case for your clients, and to build your practice?
That’s what I’m going to detail in this article.
All Hail Trifecta
Before I get started, let me say, candidly, that there are lots of “designations” out there, besides the three that I can tack after my name. I won’t mention them specifically, but some of them are, well, pretty worthless. I don’t hold much regard for a certification you can earn in a weekend. So I have no interest in getting a certification just to add some letters after my name. I want this effort to be worth it.
(By the way, the very term “financial advisor” is pretty squishy. You can be one and be highly credentialed and experienced… or not. To discuss investments with a client, you must be registered with either the SEC or at the state level. I and my team all have the appropriate licenses, but earning them, by themselves, is not the world’s highest bar.)
Anyway, let me put this into perspective for you:
- There are a lot of CPAs out there—over 600,000 nationwide. This is one tough designation to earn, and it’s rightfully well-respected. There are about 20,000 CPAs in Arizona.
- There are more than 90,000 Certified Financial Planner™ professionals in the U.S.; there are just under 2,400 in Arizona.
- There are about 5,000 Certified Divorce Financial Analysts® in the U.S. and Canada. Of these, fewer than 75 serve clients in Arizona.
So who has all three? Let me put it to you this way: 1) I know of no one else in Arizona who has all three of these certifications; and 2) I only met one other person, in my entire professional career, who also had all three… at a national conference.
Let me tell you what each of these mean.
The Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® certification is awarded to people with experience in the unique financial circumstances that surround a divorce. The professional training for the certification is focused on understanding and estimating a divorce’s long-term costs.
The education includes both theoretical and practical knowledge. There’s a four-part curriculum and certification exam. There’s a strict code of ethics and professional conduct. There are minimum experience requirements. And there’s ongoing certification, too: 15 hours every two years.
Family-law attorneys will often bring a CPA or financial advisor onto the case. But they often lack experience in divorce and its special circumstances and nuances. My CDFA® designation—not to mention the fact that I’m divorced, myself—assures you that that gap is securely plugged.
You’re likely more familiar with the Certified Financial Planner™ professional designation; it’s granted by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. The CFP® certification is widely recognized for its high standard of professional education, stringent code of conduct and standards of practice, and ethical requirements that govern professional engagements with clients.
You need a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. college, plus years of professional financial-planning experience, to even apply. The ten-hour exam takes two days and is packed with case studies and client scenarios. There’s 30 hours of continuing ed, required every two years, which includes mandatory training on ethics and professional conduct. And there’s the seven-step financial-planning process that a CFP® uses to maximize a client’s potential for meeting their life goals.
I’ll admit: My CPA certification never fails to impress; you see it in people’s eyes; it’s like saying “I’m a surgeon.”
The CPA license is, quite simply, the best tax designation you can get.
My Certified Public Accountant licensure is issued by the Arizona State Board of Accountancy; it’s a lot like the Arizona Bar. They monitor; they discipline; they even publish the names of offenders!
Getting a CPA license requires a five-year college degree, tons of verified experience, passing their brutal exam, following their rigorous Code of Professional Conduct, and 80 hours of continuing professional education every two years, with about half of that dedicated to taxes and audits. It’s hard.
A matter of degrees
Between your law degree and my multiple designations which affirm my expertise and experience in both finance and divorce, we make an unbeatable team when it comes to helping craft the best financial case for your clients, while avoiding liabilities and financial pitfalls. Better outcomes equate to more satisfied clients, which equates to more referrals.
Let’s work together.