Why is Alphabet Soup Important to You?

AWMAWhen I first joined the Detterbeck Wealth Management team, I knew it would not be long until I started my designation pursuit. Three of the most respected designations in the financial services industry are the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and the CFP® (Certified Financial Planner). Each of these designations are considered to be the best of the best in their niche. “The CFA designation is considered the gold standard among financial professionals worldwide (Finance Professional Post, New York Society of Security Analyst); meaning someone who holds this designation is a chartered professional when it comes to portfolio and investment management. If the CFA is considered the gold standard of finance, it is easy to see the CPA has the same importance with respect to accountancy. Where the CFA and CPA focus on portfolio management and accountancy/tax, respectively, the CFP® focuses on comprehensive financial planning as a whole.  Someone who holds a CFP® designation has proven competence in all areas of the financial planning process including: financial statement preparation and analysis, investment planning, income tax planning, education planning, risk management, retirement planning and estate planning. DWM founders, Brett and Les Detterbeck, understand the importance of continuing education and have set the bar high for the rest of the team. Brett holds his CFA, CFP®, and AIF; while Les holds his CPA/PFS, MBA, CFP®, CFA, and AIF®. They understand what it takes to become true financial planning experts and help pave the way for the rest of the DWM team.

The CFP® or CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification is the most respected financial credential for financial planners, financial firms, and those seeking the advice of a financial planner. Therefore, the CFP® is a designation new DWM team members set their sights to obtain, however, there are many other well respected designations in the industry as well. Rather than jumping right into the CFP®, the team and I decided to go after a different designation; one that is specific to our clients and is a great stepping stone to the CFP®. I decided to pursue becoming an Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM (AWMA®).

“The AWMA® professional education program is the nation’s original and most well-respected designation for providing financial advice to high net worth clients”. The coursework consists of roughly 2,000 pages of material, 25 hours’ worth of video sessions, and a 4 hour examination that must be taken within 6 months of signing up for the class. DWM team member Grant Maddox is also pursuing the AWMA® and will be sitting for his test later this month.

While the AWMA® is a great program and allows a individual to become specialized in working with high net worth clientele, it is not the only path to becoming a financial planning professional. For example, DWM team member Ginny Wilson took a different path by obtaining the CRPC® or Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠. The CRPC® is the nation’s premier retirement planning credential and someone who holds it is considered to have mastered every step of the retirement process and can create a “roadmap to retirement” for almost any client.

As the entire DWM team knows, it is a bit of an adjustment working during the day and studying at night/mornings/on the weekends, but most of the information is very interesting and gives us the knowledge to help clients on their path to financial freedom. I learn something new every time I sit down to study. While I find investment strategies to be the most interesting coursework topics, I probably benefitted the most from learning all of the different estate planning techniques, as I had zero experience with this aspect of financial planning prior to joining DWM. The most eye-opening part of this entire process is just how complicated financial planning can be. If someone does not have the correct asset allocation funded in the proper kind of account, proper estate planning, or doesn’t fully understand all of the different tax ramifications that can come with financial planning, etc., it is possible they could hamper or damage their plan. Planning for your money must be done thoroughly and correctly.  The entire DWM team has dedicated thousands of hours on continuing education, and we are still all learning every day. Working with an advisor who lacks the proper credentials could end up costing you money.

Even though I am still just starting my wealth management journey, I am thrilled I was able to obtain my first designation, AWMA®, two weeks ago. On top of that, I realize now more than ever how important it is to work with a firm like DWM because the alternative could mean working with someone who is not as qualified, thus, costing the client money, servicing and care.  Continuing education is a valued process at DWM and we recognize its importance to our clients. All designations require continuing education classes, seminars, etc., which we welcome as an opportunity to expand our knowledge and be in a position to provide even greater value to our clients.