For decades, the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation was the premier financial and insurance planning credential sported by life insurance agents and financial planners who marketed their products and services to the public.
Then, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation was created in the 1970s and grew in popularity until it became the premier financial planning designation, partly because of its perceived lack of bias toward life insurance.
However, in 1982, the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania decided to create a new financial planning designation tailored to insurance professionals in an effort to level the playing field.
Financial professionals with this credential, known as the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), receive a more thorough education than CFPs and are well prepared to provide comprehensive financial planning for their clients.
That said, although the ChFC credential is still less well-known than the coveted CFP, over 40,000 financial professionals proudly carry the ChFC designation behind their names.
Earning the ChFC Designation
Who Should Earn the ChFC Designation?
Any financial professional who desires to increase his or her knowledge and competence can benefit greatly from obtaining the ChFC designation. Stockbrokers, insurance agents, realtors, loan officers, bankers, investment advisers, estate planners, and tax and accounting professionals are all prime candidates for this credential. Inexperienced professionals who are not yet established can greatly augment their credibility if they are able to put the ChFC designation on their business cards.
Benefits of Becoming a ChFC
Chartered Financial Consultants have the education to more effectively handle complex transactions and cases than most non-credentialed agents. ChFCs typically earn more than their non-credentialed counterparts as well. They are more marketable to prospective employers, as this credential displays a serious intention to remain in the financial industry and may grease the rails leading to management or supervisory positions.
Costs of Becoming a ChFC
The American College is currently the only educational institution offering a ChFC curriculum. Each course costs $599 plus a one-time non-refundable fee of $135 for new students. The entire curriculum costs just under $5,400, but will be more for students who want select supplemental study materials physically shipped to them.
Of course, those who transfer course credits over from other credentials such as the CLU or CFP will have fewer courses to pay for. Alternatively, professional students can pay $135 per month for 40 months to complete the curriculum. The difference between this and the upfront costs are minimal – no interest is charged - and may be the best course of action for the committed student.
ChFCs must complete 30 hours of continuing education coursework every 2 years and pay a renewal fee of $200 at that time. Those who also carry the CLU designation must only pay one renewal fee for both credentials. ChFCs are also required to adhere to a strict code of professional ethics created by the American College.
ChFC Courses & Curriculum
Although the curriculum for the ChFC has been slightly reduced in recent years, it still requires the most coursework of any of the major financial planning designations. ChFC candidates must finish all coursework within five years and satisfy a three-year professional work experience requirement. The curriculum consists of seven core courses followed by two elective courses, broken down as follows:
Required Core Courses
- The Financial Planning Process
- Insurance Planning Fundamentals
- Income Taxation
- Retirement Planning
- Estate Planning
- Investment Planning
- Applications of Financial Planning
Additional Elective Courses
- The Financial System in the Economy
- Applied Estate Planning
- Executive Compensation
- Financial Decisions for Retirement
Students who have already earned other designations such as the CLU or CFP can receive credits for the relevant coursework that they’ve previously completed. Students who are not eligible for credit from other designations can expect to spend 70-80 hours completing each course, which means 600-800 hours for the entire curriculum.
Those who wish to earn the ChFC credential must be willing to make a substantial commitment of both time and money. However, the increase in expertise and credibility that comes with carrying this designation often leads to a significant increase in income over time.
The ChFC designation is most appropriate for financial advisors who value a thorough financial education over professional marketing. This is because the CFP designation is more recognizable to prospective clients than the ChFC credential and requires less of a time and money investment. In other words, clients may choose a CFP over a ChFC primarily because the CFP credential has garnered more media attention and endorsement.
One approach often used by advisors is to earn the CFP credential first and apply those courses to the ChFC designation if they choose to pursue it. For more information, log on to the American College website.