Taking a Self-Paced CFP Education Course For Fun and… Personal Knowledge

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While pondering potential goals for the New Year, I ended up poking around Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Certification Education Programs. I have been toying with the idea of taking one of these courses off and on for years, which helps you fulfill the first two requirements of obtaining the CFP certification:

  • Education. Completion of CFP Board-approved coursework, and a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university.
  • Exam. Pass the CFP® Exam, which is 6 hours long and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions covering a variety of topics.
  • Experience. Complete 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements.
  • Ethics. Pass the Candidate Fitness and Standards Background Check.

I have no plans to pursue a career as a financial planner, as even helping my parents with their portfolio is stressful enough on it own. Accordingly, I don’t plan on completing the Experience requirement and thus won’t be able to obtain the actual CFP certification. So why bother spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time?

  • I do plan on managing my own portfolio and financial situation (and portfolio of my parents) for the next few decades and beyond.
  • I know that I enjoy financial topics in general and am curious to fill any knowledge gaps that I have.
  • I’m curious about what the CFP board thinks is important and “correct”.
  • Hopefully I will find some useful information to share with you readers.
  • Even at a robo-advisor-like annual management fee of 0.30%, a $1 million portfolio would still cost $3,000 in fees each year. For someone who has accumulated a significant portfolio, it doesn’t seem completely reckless to spend $3,000 learning this stuff instead.

I read some reviews and comparisons, and somehow ended up on the website for the University of Georgia Self-Paced Online CFP® Program. This wasn’t the most well-known program, or the oldest program, but it seemed like a decent CFP Board-registered program and covered all the required topics at a relatively affordable cost of $3,250 (+$750 for optional textbooks). There are six courses and a capstone course where you develop an actual financial plan:

  • Fundamentals of Financial Planning
  • Insurance Planning
  • Investment Planning
  • Income Tax Planning
  • Retirement Planning
  • Estate Planning
  • Developing the Financial Plan

I filled out the form for a “free Demo”, and shortly thereafter received an e-mail offer for $700 off the “sticker” price. This offer has since expired, but I share this story for those seriously interested as you might also decide to express interest and see if you get an offer. The course itself appears to be run by a third-party called Greene Consulting, which runs the CFP courses for five different universities including UGA. (Yes, I checked them all, and they all list the same prices.)

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Note: I have no affiliation with this program besides being a paying customer. Oh yes, I forgot, I impulsively bought the program after receiving the discount offer. I had already “anchored” myself to paying the $3,250 and felt it was a good deal… I fell for the old infomercial trick! Still, if you compare prices for CFP courses (full core content, excluding textbooks), this was definitely the cheapest net price that I’ve found.

This self-paced program allows you up to 21 months to complete all of the courses. My plan is to complete one course per month starting this month (February), and so right now I’m only about halfway through the first course “Fundamentals of Financial Planning”. I did go ahead and purchase physical textbooks (I’m old-fashioned… and old), but I haven’t had to open them yet. They use the financial textbooks from Money Education, and I paid $750 through UGA for the complete set.

Note that many financial professionals decide to take an additional “exam cram course” with lots of practice questions that is solely focused on passing the CFP Exam. This adds roughly another $1,000 on top of the ~$925 to actually take the CFP Exam itself! I don’t know if all that extra cost will be worth being able to say “I passed the CFP Exam!” when I don’t need the CFP certification for career advancement purposes.

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  1. This is great, thanks for sharing.

  2. Looking forward to your review and opinion on how applicable these courses are to managing your personal finances.

  3. I’ll be interested in your comments on what you learn from these courses! Many years ago a local financial journalist decided to do this, and he wrote some very interesting columns about what he learned from the process. And then he decided to take the exam … and switched careers. He’s now a CFP and drew up a financial plan for me!

  4. I’m thinking of sending a link to your blog to our followers. I am curious how user friendly is the text. Does it assume some background before you started the course or do you think the course will be accessible to the beginner.

    • Greetings Paul, thanks for reading. So far, I would say the text is relatively easy to understand. It’s a bit dry I suppose, but it’s good in that it is direct and to the point. It does not assume any background, and it’s interesting as for example first I am learning how to gather all of the required information from the client, along with the types of critical information. That’s a new perspective. Another example is that I also just reviewed how to use an RPN calculator (HP 12C). So pretty basic stuff so far, but still interesting.

  5. Do courses like this qualify for any kind of educational tax credits? Thanks for sharing!

  6. Did the demo and got an email for $350 off. Still seems reasonable in comparison to a lot of other programs.

  7. Hi Jonathan –

    Have you looked into whether your writing here would qualify for the experience requirement? Journalism qualifies as indirect support, I believe, but I’m not sure what qualifies as a journalism (e.g., does it have to be for a publication or does a blog count?). It might at least be worth submitting your experience here to see if it would qualify.

    • Thanks for your comment, that led me to this article about a financial journalist that got her CFP:


      I think I would definitely pursue it further if the CFP designation helped me professionally, as it did the writer above. I also found that the CFP certification costs $455 a year to simply to maintain the certification, even after I take the $1,000 test and pass and get them to accept my past work.

      • Hi Jonathan. I’m signed up to sit for the CFP exam in July and am a long time reader of your blog. I have a few details to add. You can sign up for a free CFP Board account at cfp.net and view the dashboard there to submit your experience. When I log into my dashboard, I see the option “I indirectly support the financial planning profession,” and then on the next page there is a drop-down menu where you can select “Journalism/blogging (financial planning topics).” This would appear to indicate that the CFP Board will at least officially consider financial blogging to be a valid means of satisfying the experience requirement. There is also a page explaining the “indirect support” experience rule here: https://www.cfp.net/-/media/Files/CFP-Board/CFP-Certification/Experience/experience-for-indirect-support.pdf

        You will also need to find a “qualified attester” who can vouch for you that you actually completed the work. I can confirm that the experience can be unpaid work and the attester doesn’t have to be a supervisor. Seems like the only requirement is that the attester has “firsthand knowledge” that you did the work you submitted to the Board and that the attester have a professional credential such as CFP, CFA, CPA, attorney, ect.: https://www.cfp.net/get-certified/certification-process/experience-requirement/the-paths-to-experience/experience-reporting-details

        I think your blog speaks for itself in terms of quality and breadth of topics as an incredibly rich resource for the financial planning world and personal finance do-it-your-selfers. If you’re willing to one day sit for the CFP exam, you might as well see if you can get the 6,000 hours of experience requirement waived from all the hard work you’ve done on your blog over many years and get a CFP credential out of it. Good luck.

        • Hi Daniel, thanks for taking the time to share that! I’ll definitely keep that in mind. I’ll have to see how I feel about it after finishing, I’m definitely learning some interesting new stuff in this course, but also a lot of not-so-useful stuff that I’m not sure I want to stress about cramming for, ha. Good luck on your exam in July.

  8. Hi Jonathan,
    Thank you for this post. How’s your experience so far? I am Considering taking the course & possibly getting the certification to be a CFP although I am not sure how I would be able to get the 4000 or 6000 hrs requirement as I am in IT & would need to transition full time into finance to be certified.

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