For instance, New York-based Kaplan Financial's Kaplan University offers a wealth management certificate to high school graduates who pay a tuition fee of $595, take seven online lessons in areas such as "asset allocation process" and "investment strategies," and pass an open-book test online.In contrast, the CFP designation requires at least 1,000 hours of study, the completion of six courses, a series of exams and a grueling comprehensive final. CFP certificants must have at least three years of work experience as planners, adhere to a strict code of ethics, submit disclosure forms and complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
The entire process "should only take maybe one month or three at most," a Kaplan admissions adviser said. Kaplan Financial is a division of Kaplan Inc., a New York-based subsidiary of The Washington Post Co.
Until the industry can step up and regulate the quantity and quality of these designations, consumers need to be cautious. The letters that follow a financial professional's name may be practically meaningless. For information or to find a CFP practitioner in your area, contact the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.