What Is a CPA Personal Financial Specialist?

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who fulfills the financial planning requirements established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) can also earn designation as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). To receive this title, the individual must possess the required education, experience, examination, and ethical standards that have been established by the AICPA.

Are there specific requirements?

In order to obtain the PFS credential, there are several requirements an applicant must meet. These include:

  • Being a CPA in good standing
  • Being a member in good standing with the AICPA
  • Passing a comprehensive Personal Financial Planning exam
  • Earning a minimum of 75 hours of personal financial planning education
  • Having at least two years (or 3,000 hours equivalent) of full-time financial planning business experience
  • Meeting continuing education requirements
  • Agreeing and adhering to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct

How does a CPA/PFS serve clients?

CPA’s with the PFS credential have extensive training in business, investment, tax, estate, charitable giving, risk management, and retirement planning. This training and hands on experience enables them to address their clients’ comprehensive financial planning needs. Every area of your plan has potential tax implications. You can take comfort in the knowledge that a professional who has earned the CPA/PFS credential is familiar with these issues and that they will be carefully integrated into your financial plan.

No recommendation is made without considering the impact on all of your goals. He or she can help you control expenses and develop and implement a plan for retirement, education, or wealth protection. He or she can also offer advice in tax planning or asset management.

More specifically, a CPA/PFS can help you:

  • Objectively analyze your situation in order to understand and help you establish financial and personal goals
  • Assess your current financial well-being through a thorough analysis of your income, assets, taxes, liabilities, investments, and insurance
  • Identify areas that could be a cause of concern and help you address them by developing a suitable plan that emphasizes your financial strengths while reducing financial weaknesses
  • Assist with establishing plans to effectively transfer accumulated wealth to successive generations, charitable organizations or some combination there-of
  • Review and update your plan periodically to accommodate your changing personal circumstances and financial goals

Every CPA/PFS is held to a high standard while serving their clients and addressing their individual needs. As CPAs, they are licensed and regulated by their state board and must provide a standard of care defined by the law. Penalties for noncompliance are much more than losing a credential or membership; a CPA’s license to practice in that state could be in jeopardy.