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Some Financial Professionals More Pro than Others

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There are a over 150 designations for financial professionals—CPAs and CFPs are just the tip of the iceberg. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

When it comes to choosing a financial professional, it helps to know your ABCs. That's because the names you see are probably followed by a string of letters. Take Anja Luesink.

"I am a financial planner," says Anja Luesink.

A certified financial planner, actually, or CFP. Those three letters, she says, tell a potential client what she's trained to do and how she trained to do it.

"A person has to go through six modules, learn everything about cash flow management, insurance, estate planning, retirement planning, investments and taxes—everything about taxes, but it goes beyond preparing a tax return. It's tax planning," Luesink says.

She also had to pass a two-day exam and log three years of experience before officially becoming a CFP, a title she maintains through required continuing education courses.

CPA Avery E. Neumark went through a similarly grueling process.

"I had to learn a lot to become a certified public accountant," says Avery E. partner at Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company LLP.

He too was tested on what he'd learned, including accounting theory, tax problems, auditing and ethics.

"And just to let you know i also am a lawyer and I took the bar exam. The bar exam is two days. The CPA exam is three days," says Neumark.

Another important group of letters to know is F-I-N-R-A. Finra, or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, lists over 150 different designations on their website.

Don't be dazzled if you see a professional with the whole alphabet after his or her name, though, since not all certifications are created equal.

"There are many designations that you pass an exam and you have some letters that you can put behind your name and that does not really speak for quality," Luesink says.

While designations are helpful in choosing a pro, they shouldn't be the only thing you take into account. Make sure you understand what the fee structure is and ask your friends and other professionals like your lawyer for referrals.

"You have to feel comfortable with the professional that you work with. That's essential," Neumark says.

To find out more about designations or to locate a professional near you, visit finra.org.

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