Hi! The website Larry references is a great place to go. It is a little overwhelming though because there are SO MANY listed there. It’s also hard to know which of those designations mean what.
A good rule of thumb for figuring out if a designation means that the person is more likely to do a good job for you is if the designation requires that they take and pass a closed-book exam that they had to study for. Another good check is if the cert requires “continuing education” (CE) that the person must take each year to continue to be certified.
Not all people who are paid to help people with managing their money need to be certified or registered. For example financial planners do not NEED to have any certification or take any exam to practice as financial planners. However, many planners do earn certifications such as ChFC or CFP®. Both of these certs are great and can be good markers for choosing your planner. They are slightly different in their requirements, however. Although both certs require 30 CEs every two years and a closed-book exam, the ChFC requires just 3 years of any kind of business experience and no college degree whereas the CFP® requires a bachelor’s degree, completion of a CFP-board registered program, and 3years of financial planning experience. Neither of these certs guarantee that you will be hiring a competent financial planner, nor does a college degree and completion of a program ensure competence, but in general people tend to equate more education with more expertise.
For regular people doing the common kind of investing the majority of people do, here are what I personally think are the most common and most helpful certifications. These are the designations that seem hardest to get because the education required takes a long time and the tests are very hard. Of all of them, the CFA seems to me to be the most prestigious.
· Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)
· Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
· IRS Enrolled Agent (EA)
· Masters in Business Administration (MBA)
· Retirement Management Analyst (RMA)
You can research individual investment advisors and firms at the FINRA IARD site once you’ve narrowed things down. I hope this helps! Best wishes to you and thanks for writing!