I am asked from time to time if I am a certified financial planner (CFP). I am not. There is a lot of confusion out there about exactly what all these “credentials” mean, so if you are so inclined I have provided a detailed (and mind numbing) explanation of the financial services certifications and licenses below. However, here is the shorter answer…
What it really comes down to is that all these certifications and almost all the licenses described below revolve around stock market investing. I could make a case that the majority of the CFP, CFA and Securities Licensing training is essentially a Wall Street indoctrination program – coupled with some common sense personal finance wisdom that pretty much anyone, can get from any number of sources, virtually free…
My philosophy regarding the stock market is very simple. Today’s stock market is a rigged shell game and a house of cards. Most of us do not have the excess capital, the time or the sophistication to make stock market investing more than plain and simple casino gambling.
Sadly, I believe that is also true of the vast majority of financial planners out there. Instead of you gambling with your money, you are gambling on them, gambling with your money…
The bottom line is that unless you have reached a point where your future financial security is 100% certain, you have no business gambling with your resources. I call it Critical Capital Mass. After you achieve Critical Capital Mass and you have some extra money and want to take your chances in the Wall
Street casino, go for it! Maybe you’ll get lucky.
What this means is that about 99% of people should have ZERO dollars “invested” in stock market based assets – that’s mutual funds, 401K’s, IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, Brokerage accounts, etc., etc. So my only “investment” advice to almost everyone is: “Don’t put ANY money in these types of stock market based accounts and if you have money in these types of accounts already, get it out.”
Most securities licensed CFP’s are in the business of selling you stock market based products like IRA’s, mutual funds, etc. Some securities licensed CFA’s and CFP’s are in the business of helping you pick the right stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., and may “manage” your money for you. An RIA may also be CFA or CFP. RIA’s do all of the above, but get paid a fee for their time, versus a commission on the products they sell you.
These folks live and work in a Wall Street world. I do not. Therefore, I am not a CFP or a CFA or an RIA. I do not hold any securities licenses because I do not analyze, pick or recommend buying or selling any specific stock market based products. Again, my only “investment” advice is not to be in the stock market casino at all.
The only type of license that fits with my financial philosophies and my actual business practices is an insurance license. As for a fiduciary responsibility to put my client’s interest first; I just thought that was business (and decent human being) 101 and my plain ole insurance license already requires that of me anyway… And if you want to know how I get paid, just ask me…
First of all there is a big difference between a “certification” and a license. Licenses are issued by government regulatory agencies, “certifications” are awarded by private companies when someone has jumped through a particular set of hoops, established by that private company. Two common “certifications” are the CFP and CFA.
CFP – Certified Financial Planner: A professional certification for financial planners conferred by Certified Financial Planner Board of standards Inc., a private, non-profit corporation formed in 1985.
CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst: A professional certification offered internationally by the American-based CFA Institute (formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research, or AIMR), a private, for-profit, corporation formed in 1999.
A person can earn these certifications when they have completed a combination of college level study, CFP and/or CFA specific programs of study and some level of field experience working directly under an executive with higher level certifications.
A CFP or CFA may (or may not) also be an RIA.
RIA – Registered Investment Advisor: manages the assets of high net-worth individuals and institutional investors. He or she must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and any states in which he or she operates.
Pretty much every CFP, CFA and RIA will hold one of a dizzying array of securities licenses…
Securities Licensing: Licenses issued to financial professionals by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) or NNSA (North American Securities Administrators). There are various levels of securities licensing:
Series 6 (FINRA): allows its holders to sell “packaged” investment products such as mutual funds, variable annuities and unit investment trusts (UITs).
Series 7 (FINRA): Authorizes licensees to sell virtually any type of individual security. This includes common and preferred stocks; call and put options; bonds and other individual fixed income investments; as well as all forms of packaged products (except for those that also require a life insurance license to sell).
Series 3 (FINRA): Authorizes licensees to sell commodities futures contracts.
Series 63 (NNSA): All series 6 and 7 licensees must also carry this license, known as the Uniform Securities Agent License and is related to the Uniform Securities Act.
Series 65 (NNSA): This license is required for investment advisors who provide investment advice and money management services for an hourly or other type of non-commission related fee.
Series 66 (NNSA): Essentially combines the series 63 and 65 licenses into one.
Clear as mud?
If you’d like to discuss a financial strategy that is simple, predictable and backed by contractual guarantees, schedule a free consultation call with me. It’s just a casual 15 – 20 minute chat to find out if the strategies I use and recommend might be a good fit for you and your family.
Noah the Financial Advisor: “It’s going to rain. It’s going to rain a lot. I suggest you start preparing now, before it starts raining. I’m building a boat. I’d be happy to share my blue print with you.”
Everyone else: “Fpaw! It’s not going to rain. When will it start raining?
Noah the Financial Advisor: “I don’t know exactly – and that’s sort of my point. You won’t be worse off by having a boat – even if I’m wrong and it doesn’t start raining. But, I’m not wrong. Rain is inevitable.”
Everyone else: “All the kings and all their men say it’s unpatriotic fear mongering to talk about rain. They have statistics that say rain is very unlikely. They have contingency plans to take care of us if it rains. Besides, I ‘m already prepared, I have a dugout canoe somewhere in the basement.”
Noah the Financial Advisor: “Wow. A canoe? You’re going to die.”
Everyone else: “Yeah, well maybe you’re a nut case – or a terrorist. Your boat is stupid . Well, I’ve gotta run, gladiator games are starting soon and I want to get there before those clouds on the horizon move in.”
Noah the Financial Advisor: (Exasperated sigh…)
As a safe money oriented financial advisor, I feel Noah’s pain. I think I have similar conversations with people every single day. It makes me sad. My entire motivation for becoming a financial advisor is to help people get out of the way of the coming financial storm.
I have at least one conversation every day with someone who believes their money is safe because their portfolio is “diversified.” Every penny of their wealth is in a 401K or IRA. How is this diversified? Do you really think that having a few bond funds in the mix is protecting your nest egg from a massive market crash? That’s a bit like a canoe in a maelstrom!
The Infinite Banking Concept or Bank On Yourself is like the boat that will keep you safe when the rain starts and the flood waters rise. The time to prepare is now, because once it starts, it will happen very quickly. You could very well be drowning beneath your overturned canoe in the blink of an eye.
As a financial advisor, here’s the best financial advice I can give you. Think for yourself. Tune out all the kings and their men and their statistics and promises. Think through the worst case scenarios, then act in your own best interest. You will not be worse off for building your own financial ark. In fact, someday you may look back and find it was the wisest financial decision of your life.
You can take the first, painless step by scheduling a free financial analysis today…
Whether you lose money in your retirement plan (401K, IRA, etc.) to market losses, fraud or management fees, doesn’t really matter – it all results in loss of your precious capital. Figuring out what you’re paying in retirement plan fees and how you’re paying it in most retirement plans is about as clear as mud, but trust me, Wall Street bankers don’t do anything for free.
Recent legislation designed to improve retirement plan fee disclosures has resulted in over fifteen pages of disclosures which has actually made it more difficult than ever for the average person to determine what they are actually paying. There is still no requirement for companies to provide a simple figure or percentage to represent the overall cost to the plan participant. If you study the disclosures you can find some retirement plan fee information, but to determine that your total fees are, say 2%, is all but impossible.
I was recently at a meeting where a financial advisor for one of the largest financial planning firms in the U.S. was explaining that their overall fee structure ranged from 1.6% to 2.4% depending upon the amount of money in your portfolio and the strategies you chose. He was pitching 1.6% to 2.4% as a selling point in that these are very low compared to his competition. I put some numbers together to see for myself how it turns out in the real world. Check out the video below to see the results:
So let me get this straight. If my portfolio does well, the planners get a huge share of my returns. If my portfolio fails and I lose money or break even, the planners not only still get their fees, but I’m actually paying them out of my principle for their poor performance! By the way, none of these examples takes taxes into account. Between taxes and fees, an investor in any one of these examples would likely be losing money.
The reason management fees are so destructive to wealth building is because of the not-so-obvious fact that compounding interest works in both directions. Everyone can grasp the idea of earning compound interest over time, but few think about it in reverse. Interest you pay also compounds over time and ongoing fees as a percentage of your retirement plan balance are just interest charges by another name.
“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world…without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.” – Neo’s phone message to the Machines. The Matrix Movie, 1999
Red pill or blue pill? Knowledge is power. Ignorance is bliss. Harsh reality versus comfortable delusion. Which is freedom, which is slavery? Does it matter? These are the powerful questions the movie is asking us to think about.
I admit it, I love the Matrix movies. I own all three dvd’s and I have a Matrix marathon at least once per year. In the movie, the machines (technology) have taken over and are raising crops of human beings that are used as batteries to provide an unlimited energy source for the machines, but most of the humans don’t know what’s going on because they are “jacked-in” to a virtual reality world where they go to work, drive around in cars, eat out, take vacations, etc. They are blissfully ignorant that their entire lives are a delusion; a delusion hiding the reality that they are slaves.
If we replace the idea of machines with banks, mega corporations, politicians and energy with money, the super sci-fi Matrix movie can suddenly hit a little too close to home.
Banks and mega corporations, in cahoots with governments world-wide, have taken over the world. They are raising crops of human beings (school systems, colleges, universities) that are used to provide an unlimited source of energy (money). Most of the human beings don’t know what’s going on because they are “jacked-in” to a virtual world (main stream media, social media, reality TV, sports, advertising, propaganda, etc.) where they go to work every day, drive around in cars, eat out, take vacations, etc. They are blissfully ignorant that their entire lives are a delusion; a delusion hiding the reality that they are slaves.
Well, that’s not a very happy thought…
Don’t despair! In the movie, there are human rebels who can jack-in to the matrix, but remain aware that it is an illusion. Because they are aware of the delusion they are able to accomplish extraordinary feats within the matrix. For the rebels, it all begins with the question, red pill or blue pill? It’s the same for us. At some point, we must choose to see the delusion for what it is, or choose to stay lost within it, blissfully ignorant.
If that was all there was to it, the status quo could go on indefinitely, but let’s not forget Agent Smith. Agent Smith is the virus in the program, the fatal flaw, that left unchecked, will bring down the machines, the matrix and destroy all the unknowing humans too. In the movie, in order to defeat Smith, and save themselves the machines must change. They must embrace and make peace with free human beings – they must find a way to work together to create a system that allows freedom to all who wish to pursue it. Time is of the essence. Smith is growing too powerful to control. The end is near. Choices must be made.
Our own version of the matrix, the financial system, is also endangered by fatal flaws, quickly becoming too powerful to control – excessive debt, money printing, market manipulation, corruption. It’s not if, but when, these “viruses” will destroy our matrix, and the lives of millions of unknowing human beings along with it. Time is of the essence. The end is near. Choices must be made.
I want to show you a world without… them. I can’t tell you how exactly it will end – no one can, but I can tell you how it begins. Where it goes from there is a choice I leave to you.
You can opt out of dealing with banks and Wall Street and work within the system to free yourself and your loved ones and prepare for the coming storm. This is all totally possible, but first you must make a choice. Will it be the red pill or the blue pill?