The Cost of Obtaining the CFP® Certification

I passed the CFP® exam! I am very relieved – my shoulders definitely feel lighter now. As expected, it was quite the time commitment. But additionally, it ended up being a big money commitment as well. It was an expensive process for sure.

Below is a breakdown of how much the process cost me:

CFFP capstone course plus review course – $1,319
CFP® exam fee (early bird discount) – $625
Note cards (that I didn’t use) – $48
Supplies (mainly HP 10bII+ calculator) – $34
Initial certification fee and first year annual dues – $449
Total cost – $2,475

Luckily, I have my CPA license so I was able to “challenge status” and did not have to complete the full coursework. But I was required to do the capstone course. I bundled the capstone course with a review course from the College for Financial Planning (CFFP) and was able to save a little money that way. I actually received review courses from Kaplan and the CFFP as the CFFP had been recently acquired by Kaplan. I relied on Kaplan for approximately 85% of my studying and the CFFP material for the other 15%.

If I wasn’t able to challenge status and had to take the course work, it appears that reputable programs start around the $3,000 range and go up from there. So if you don’t have your CPA or are a licensed attorney (or don’t have whatever other accreditations allow you to challenge status), then budget another $3,000 to $4,000 for the coursework.

I signed up for the exam early to receive the early bird discount which saved me $100 off full sticker price.

I bought note cards from Brett Danko and never used them. These are definitely not required to pass and I wouldn’t recommend them as the Kaplan review course was enough for me.

An approved calculator is also required for the exam, which I picked up on Amazon for $26.

When I received an email letting me know I passed the exam, sheer excitement was met with some aggravation when I realized I had to pay another $449 to obtain the certification ($125 initial certification free + $324 of prorated first year annual dues).  Going forward the annual dues will be $355 per year – terrific.

With regard to all the costs incurred, the only thing I could have done without was the note cards. So for a more bare bones budget and the ability to challenge the status will run about $2,400 to take the capstone, study, sit for the exam, and obtain the certification. If you can’t challenge the status you’re looking at another $3,000 plus, for a total of $5,400 and up.

Through this process I do feel for those who are younger and/or don’t have the discretionary income to do it on their own. If that is the case, my advice would be to try and obtain a job at a reputable RIA that will pay for it as part of professional development, or will at least split the bill. This will kill two birds with one stone as it will also go towards the education requirement.

Was it worth it? For me, yes. I don’t know if I’ll ever use the marks in my professional career, but I want the option. Financial planning is something I’m passionate about and it would be nice to someday be able to directly help others improve their financial lives, while hopefully helping me quench some entrepreneurial spirit.

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