How to Become a Chartered Financial Consultant in the US

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Being a Chartered Financial Consultant is one of the most lucrative careers in the financial planning industry. A qualification in this field is awarded only by the Certification Committee of the Board of Trustees of the American College, and only after successful completion of its required courses. A graduate of the program is allowed to add ChFC after their name on their professional CV or portfolio. Roughly 45,000 individuals have that distinction since the program’s inception in 1982. The ChFC is ideal for loan and bank officers, investment and estate planners, stockbrokers, insurance agents, and accountants. It is most useful for financial planners who want to gain advanced knowledge in wealth accumulation, retirement planning, and taxes, as both a leg up on the competition in the industry, and to offer better advice and suggestions to their clients.  

Prerequisites and Work Experience

A degree in business or finance is recommended but not required for any applicant hoping to get their ChFC certification. As the program primarily looks at financial planning and elements, a solid grasp of higher level financial concepts and decent math skills are a definite bonus. Before formal certification is awarded (only offered by the American College and its affiliates), applicants must demonstrate a minimum of three years experience in the financial services industry during the past five years.

Completion Requirements

The formal program consists of nine (seven core and two elective) college-level courses, and each has a closed book and proctored exam at the end of it. While students may work through at their own pace, it is recommended to take one course every three months, allowing for roughly 2.5-3 years to complete all nine subjects.  

Core courses include:

  1. The Financial Planning Process
  2. Insurance Planning Fundamentals
  3. Income Taxation
  4. Retirement Planning
  5. Estate Planning
  6. Investment Planning
  7. Applications of Financial Planning
  8. The Financial System in the Economy
  9. Applied Estate Planning
  10. Executive Compensation
  11. Financial Decisions for Retirement

Elective courses (of which at least two must be completed) include:

While everyone works at their own pace, the College estimates roughly 70-80 hours of work per course, for a total between 600-800 hours to complete all nine. Each course culminates with a closed-book final exam.

There is an opportunity for transferring credits from prior CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) or CFP (Chartered Financial Planner) certification. Check with the American College for details.

ChFC Cost

The program currently costs $599 per course, for a total of $5400. Financial assistance is available, including a special offer for professional students to pay $135/month for 40 months while they complete the full program.

Ongoing Training and Additional Costs

ChFCs must complete an additional 30 hours of training and refresher courses every two years - and pay $200 - in order to keep their certification.  

Graduates must also adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

Study Options

The American College offers several ways to complete the ChFC program of study:

  • Live Webinars, including live interaction and collaboration in real-time.
  • Onsite Review Sessions, including 16 hours of review with an American College instructor. Students write the final exam at the completion of the review session (spread over 2.5 days).
  • Self-paced Program, including downloadable course materials and ebooks, audio reviews, video lectures, and online discussion forums.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the job site Indeed, a financial planner with ChFC credentails can reasonably expect to earn a salary in excess of $100,000. The lowest regional average appearing in the most recent data was $67,000/year, and it topped out at $125,000/year at the high end of the range. On top of a very high average salary, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards expects a 32% increase in jobs for certified financial advisers through 2020. The future looks bright. 

Other Useful Links

The American College

ChFC Highest Standard

The Chartered Financial Consultant designation is very highly regarded in virtually every industry connected with finance and insurance. That “ChFC” on your resume goes a long way to advancing your career and adding a great deal of credibility and authority. The return on investment makes the ChFC program one of the most attractive financial certifications out there, and most graduates will recoup their $5400 investment very quickly. Many applicants chose to complete a CFP program of study first, and then use the available transfer credits to gain their ChFC afterwards, giving them two of the most recognized financial planner designations. And while there is no requirement to do that, it should definitely be something you consider. Apply online with the American College of Financial Services. Advanced planning for every person, every need.