New site explains what all of those crazy credential letters mean

Long confused by the alphabet soup of designations after the names of financial advisors, consumers now have a reliable resource to help them determine which credentials are rigorous and offered by leading institutions, as well as credentials awarded for attendance at one-day seminars.

The American College in Bryn Mawr, PA has launched, a Web site providing consumers with extended descriptions of the most common designations, tips on how to select a financial advisor, and search tools to help them find advisors with credentials well-regarded by regulators. includes full descriptions of many designations offered by several universities and institutions.  The site also offers insight on educational and experience requirements, codes of ethics, examinations, continuing education requirements, enforcement, accreditation, and information about the conferring organization.  Non-profit organizations that would like to have their credential listed may submit their request through the Feedback section on 

Larry Barton, Ph.D., CAP, president and CEO of The American College, stated: "At any time, but especially now in an erratic economy, there is an inherent lack of trust in insurance and financial planners. While no credential such as a CPA or CLU guarantees superb advice, we know for a fact that those with these designations are more likely to ensure sound and unbiased planning and that they have completed a course of study that took years and numerous exams to complete.   

"Unfortunately, there are over 300 financial designations available, and some can be completed in just one day of study," Barton said.  Barton believes Congress should be encouraged to take action to prevent unlicensed and unchecked, for-profit companies from issuing certificates with initials that can confuse consumers.

"Advisors with advanced education such as ChFCs and CFP certificants are the kinds of professionals consumers should seek out," Barton adds.  "This robust Web site includes a wide variety of industry credentials and will help consumers connect directly with knowledgeable and qualified financial advisors." also contains links to other resources, including those available from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The "10 Considerations for Choosing an Advisor" feature on the DesignationCheck Web site covers the questions consumers should be asking when they select an advisor, and the search feature helps consumers find a credentialed financial professional near them.  The advisor search tool focuses on what the site describes as the Big Three financial planning marks: CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter), CFP (Certified Financial Planner) Certification (through a link to CFP Board's site), and ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant).  Another link on the site helps consumers locate a CPA with the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential.

"While FINRA and a few other sites provide lists of popular designations, there is no other site that provides as much detailed information for consumers about what each credential represents," said Barton.  "We believe it is critical for families to have this tool available free of charge so they are able to choose their advisors carefully and with full information about their qualifications."

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