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10 Financial Psychology Certificates and Designations for Advisors

Sasha Grabenstetter August 3, 2023

financial psychology student

There are hundreds of financial advisor designations to choose from. However, one area that has seen an explosion in interest in recent years is financial psychology and behavioral finance.

Helping people with behavior change and the emotional aspects of money alongside financial planning can be incredibly valuable. In fact, it may add 100 to 200 basis points in net return, according to Vanguard’s most recent update of its Putting a Value on Your Value report.1

It’s so valuable, the CFP Board’s Practice Analysis Study discovered, that anyone holding the CFP® marks should have specific training in this field of study. The CFP Board announced that it would add “Psychology of Financial Planning” to the topics that professionals need to know to pass the CFP® exam in 2021, and it first appeared on the test in 2022.

Explore Financial Psychology and Behavioral Finance

Maybe you earned your CFP® marks before then, and you’d like to know what you might have missed in current coursework. Or maybe you just find this area of finance intriguing and need to earn some continuing education credit. The good news is, there are quite a few choices for upgrading and refreshing your knowledge.

Here, we’ve gathered 10 financial psychology designations and certificate programs that provide professional training in addressing the emotional aspects of money decisions or complement a holistic financial planning skillset. Some are listed in the CFP Board book The Psychology of Financial Planning.

Before diving in, you should know that some state securities and insurance regulators don’t permit financial professionals to hold out a designation unless it’s accredited by a board, such as the ANSI National Accreditation Board or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. If you plan to use the designation in your marketing, check with your firm’s compliance team.

And keep reading to the end for a bonus CE resource that is freely available to all financial professionals.

1. Certified Financial Therapist™ (CFT-I™)

Issuing organization website: Financial Therapy Association

Competency areas include: Money and relationships; communication and general counseling skills; theories and models of therapeutic intervention; the fundamentals of financial planning & counseling

Certification process: Complete educational training and gain hours of experience (this includes 500 hours of approved experiential training, including 250 direct client service hours), pass an examination, agree to a code of ethics, and maintain competency through continuing education

CE requirements: 20 hours every two-year renewal cycle

Certification prerequisites: Must have a bachelor’s degree in a finance- or mental health-related field, or a designation such as Certified Financial Planner™ or Accredited Financial Counselor®

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to explore financial therapy certification to expand their services or serves a clientele that could benefit from a therapeutic approach.

2. Financial Psychology and Behavioral Finance graduate certificate

Issuing organization website: Creighton University

Competency areas include: Financial psychology, applied behavioral finance, the psychology of family finances, communication, and client interviewing skills

Certification process: To earn the graduate certificate, you must complete five courses

CE requirements: None (not a designation)

Certification prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to learn directly from experts in the field, including Drs. Ted and Brad Klontz. If you earn the graduate certificate, you can apply to become a Certified Financial Behavioral Specialist®.

3. Certified Financial Behavior Specialist® (FBS®)

Issuing organization website: Financial Psychology Institute®

Competency areas include: Financial psychology, behavioral finance

Certification process: Complete a certificate in financial psychology and behavioral finance or a related field, adhere to a code of ethics

CE requirements: 20 hours of continuing education every two years

Certification prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited institute of higher learning and/or a license, registration, or certification in financial planning, counseling, coaching, mental health, or a related field; two letters of recommendation from professionals familiar with financial psychology or financial therapy who are also familiar with your work

Best for the financial professional who: Is seeking a designation to show expertise in financial psychology and behavioral finance.

4. Certified Financial Transitionist® (CeFT®)

Issuing organization website: The Financial Transitionist Institute

Competency areas include: Transition traits, financial triage/The Decision Free Zone®

Certification process: Attend a minimum of 10 live monthly training sessions, complete client experience homework and a written case study, and pass a six-hour exam

CE requirements: 15 CE credits each year

Certification prerequisites: Only those with a CDFA, CFP®, CFA®, ChFC®, CIMA®, CPA/PFS, CPWA, or CWS designation may sit for certification

Best for the financial professional who: Specializes in serving clients in transition and is familiar with The Sudden Money Institute.

5. Registered Life Planner® (RLP®)

Issuing organization website: Kinder Institute of Life Planning

Competency areas include: Life Planning (Defined on the organization’s website as “expertise in a structured interview process and the relationship-based listening skills that help clients uncover their most meaningful and fulfilling aspirations so financial planning can most efficiently support the lives they long to live.”)

Certification process: Complete three steps, including: EVOKE® Life Planning Training; The Seven Stages of Money Maturity® Training; and the 6-month Life Planning Mentorship

CE requirements: Eight hours of continuing education every two years

Certification prerequisites: None

Best for the financial professional who: Is a fan of George Kinder’s work and wants to learn the life planning methodology.

6. Certified Internal Family Systems℠ Practitioner

Issuing organization website: IFS Institute

Competency areas include: Internal Family Systems (Defined on the organization’s website as “a transformative tool that conceives every human being as a system of protective and wounded inner parts lead by a core self.”)

Certification process: Complete a course of study; complete 200 direct service hours of IFS practical application; submit an IFS-I approved clinical consultant recommendation; undergo a session review

CE requirements: 20 hours of IFS CE or 10 hours of IFS CE plus 10 hours of clinical consultation every two years

Certification prerequisites: An individual must be registered or certified in their own field of practice

Best for the financial professional who: Is familiar with Internal Family Systems and sees how it would benefit their practice.

7. Accredited Behavioral Finance ProfessionalSM (ABFPSM)

Issuing organization website: College for Financial Planning

Competency areas include: Behavioral finance

Certification process: Complete two courses and pass a certification exam

CE requirements: 16 hours every two years

Certification prerequisites: None

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to further their knowledge of behavioral finance and obtain a designation.

8. Behavioral Financial Advisor (BFA)

Issuing organization website: Think2Perform

Competency areas include: Behavioral finance

Certification process: Complete two courses and pass a certification exam

CE requirements: 20 hours of continuing education every two years

Certification prerequisites: None

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to further their knowledge of behavioral finance and obtain a designation.

9. Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®)

Issuing organization website: Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®

Competency areas include: Principles of counseling; managing credit and debt; housing; student loans; retirement planning; tax planning

Certification process: Complete a course of study (candidates that hold the CFP®, CPA, ChFC®, or CFA certification may submit documentation of a recognized credential), pass a proctored exam, and adhere to the AFCPE Code of Ethics

CE requirements: 30 hours of continuing education every two years

Certification prerequisites: Earn at least 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience confirmed by letters of reference

Accredited designation: Yes, through the Institution for Credentialing Excellence

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to provide financial advice to a broader audience and gain counseling skills for helping clients going through a crisis event.

10. Psychology of Financial Planning SpecialistTM certificate

Issuing organization website: Financial Psychology Institute

Competency areas include: Client values and goals: the planner’s role in facilitating financial success; understanding your client’s money beliefs; multicultural competence in financial planning; dealing with client money conflicts

Certification process: Complete a 9-hour course and pass an online certification exam

CE requirements: Three hours of continuing education every two years

Certification prerequisites: None (certificate, not designation)

Best for the financial professional who: Wants to learn financial psychology but doesn’t want to pursue a designation.

Bonus: The eMoney CE Webinar series

The eMoney team hosts a free webinar every month to help you expand your knowledge and earn CFP® CE credit. To receive CE credit, all you must do is register and attend the entire live session. The series covers topics such as data visualization, client motivation, and couples and conflict, to name a few.

Visit emoneyadvisor.com/continuing-education to learn more and register for our latest webinar.

Source:

1. Vanguard. “Putting a Value on Your Value: Quantifying Vanguard Advisor’s Alpha,” July, 2022.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

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About the Author

Sasha Grabenstetter, AFC®, BFA™ is a Financial Planning Education Consultant at eMoney Advisor. She is an integral part of the internal and external financial planning education programs, as well as financial planning content development. Sasha won the 2020 Outstanding Symposium Practitioners' Forum Award from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. She previously co-authored “Apple Seed: A Student Guide to Pro Bono Financial Planning” and “All My Money: Change for the Better.” With close to 10 years in financial education, Sasha received her AFC® designation in 2015 and graduated with her master’s degree from Texas Tech University in 2012.

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