Guidelines for PFS Credential Released by AICPA

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New guidelines for achieving the Personal Financial Specialist credential have been announced by the AICPA.

Candidates for the PFS designation will be evaluated on a point system, with 100 points required to attain the PFS credential. The system covers three areas: business experience, lifelong learning and examination. To be a candidate for the PFS certification, a person must hold an unrevoked CPA certificate and must be a member of the AICPA.

Relevant business experience is drawn from the following financial planning disciplines:

  • The personal financial planning process (goal setting)
  • Personal income tax planning
  • Risk management planning
  • Investment planning
  • Retirement planning and estate planning
  • Teaching college-level personal financial planning courses

Lifelong learning embraces both traditional (standard continuing professional education courses) and non-traditional (self-directed reading and research) methods and includes:

  • Conference presentations
  • Professional writing credits
  • Advanced degrees, such as a juris doctor and masters of business administration
  • Participation on the committees of nationally renowned personal financial planning associations

All PFS candidates are required to pass the Comprehensive PFS Exam. Several other certification exams are also eligible for points toward accreditation. These include:

  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Chartered Financial Analyst
  • NASD Series 65
  • NASD Series 66
  • NASD Series 7

Some of these additional exams will require the applicant to obtain a greater number of points in business experience and lifelong learning.

"Our goal in developing these new guidelines is to recognize that there are alternative methods for determining someone's qualifications and competence to deliver financial planning services and thereby achieve the PFS credential," said James K. Mitchell, Chair of the AICPA's Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee. "The PFS credential remains a mark of distinction in the personal financial planning field."

In a recent Harris Poll survey conducted for the AICPA to gauge consumer attitudes toward personal finances, CPA/PFS emerged as the most widely recognized personal financial planning credential among respondents.

The AICPA established the PFS credential in 1987 for CPAs who are committed to personal financial planning as a practice discipline. To date, there are approximately 3,000 CPAs who hold the designation.

The AICPA will launch an online PFS application/assessment tool on January 1, 2001, at

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