What is a personal financial specialist?
A personal financial specialist is a specialty title for CPA’s who are experts at helping individuals in all aspects of wealth management. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) only grants the title of Personal Finance Specialist (PFS) to Certified Public Accountants (CPA) with significant training and experience in personal financial planning. Individuals seek the PFS title because they want to display their expertise and knowledge regarding all aspects of financial planning.
Understanding the personal financial specialist
Applicants selected as winning Personal Financial Specialists (PFS) are entitled to use the PFS designation with their name, which can improve employment opportunities, professional reputation and salary. In the words of AICPA, “a PSF is more than a financial planner – he or she is a CPA with the powerful combination of extensive tax expertise and in-depth knowledge of financial planning.”
PFS candidates study estate planning, retirement planning, investing, insurance and other areas of personal financial planning. Persons holding the PFS title can work for accounting firms, consulting firms or manage their firms. To become a PFS, applicants must be active members of AICPA, have at least three years of financial planning experience, meet all the requirements to be a CPA, receive recommendations and pass a written exam.
Candidates specializing in personal finance must meet the following requirements:
- Be a member of AICPA;
- Hold an unrevoked CPA certification issued by a State;
- Have at least two years of full-time teaching or business experience (or the equivalent of 3000 hours) in personal financial planning during the five years preceding the CPA / PFS application;
- A minimum of 75 hours of training in personal financial planning in the five years preceding the PFS application.
In addition, every three years, PFS professionals must follow 60 hours of continuing professional training. Each year, they have to pay fees of several hundred dollars to continue using the designation.
The PFS exam consists of 160 questions, half of which are self-contained multiple choice. The rest are case studies with multiple choice questions. These include short scenarios followed by 2 to 5 multiple choice questions and longer cases with 12 to 18 linked multiple choice questions. AICPA provides a short video tutorial that includes a mock exam session. The examination is carried out by computer. Applicants have five hours to complete it, as well as a 30-minute break.
CPA who have passed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) exams are exempt from the PFS exam. They are deemed to have satisfied the requirements of the examination.