What is a Certified Financial Planner?

what is a certified financial planner? The couple pictured is meeting with their CFP® and getting a better take on their financial future.

Managing your personal finances can be stressful. Are you saving enough for retirement? Will you have enough set aside to help your kids with college expenses? Are you dealing with any debt? Are you confident about your current savings and investment decisions? There are subtleties, legalities, best practices, and changing rules that influence all of these things. It’s a big ask for anyone to handle every aspect of personal finances. Fortunately, you don’t have to: that’s where a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM comes to the rescue! So…what is a certified financial planner?



Working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (also known as a CFP® professional) can provide many benefits. Let’s answer some of your questions and highlight common advantages of working with a CFP® professional:


Overall, what is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM going to do for me?

A CFP® professional’s primary goal is to create a plan tailored to your unique financial and life situation. We incorporate your goals, needs, and risk tolerance in order to guide you in achieving specific financial objectives. We assist you in setting realistic and attainable goals. That includes breaking everything down into manageable steps and providing strategies to help you reach your goals. By incorporating multiple aspects of your finances, including estate planning, insurance, investments, retirement planning, and tax strategies, we provide a comprehensive approach to your financial strategy. Financial planners often collaborate with other professionals, like attorneys and CPAs, to provide a well-rounded and thorough plan.


Can a CFP® help maximize my investments?

In regard to your investments, working with a professional to assess your risk tolerance can be very beneficial. We can design a portfolio that balances risk and reward based on your goals and comfort level. A CFP® professional will also consider diversification, tax efficiency, and market trends while monitoring and rebalancing your portfolio.


Preparing for retirement is a major element of a financial plan. Keeping your specific goals in mind, we analyze your current savings and project future needs and recommend the necessary savings and investment strategies. This includes measures to minimize tax liability as well as tax-efficient investment options that comply with tax laws.


What is a Certified Financial Planner going to say if I have debt?

Many people have debt. Some debt can be useful, while other debt can be burdensome. Depending on your objectives, advisors can create a plan to help you manage and reduce your debt burden and pay off the debt more efficiently. A few planners, like myself, have a specialized designation called the Certified Student Loan Professional (also known as the CSLP®). CSLP® professionals have additional, in-depth expertise to aid in student loan repayment strategies.


How much time does working with a CFP® take?

While working with a CFP® takes a little investment of your time upfront when you first start working together, it can ultimately save you a lot of time in the long term. Managing your own finances can become overwhelming and very time-consuming. As your portfolio and needs grow, it can be difficult to keep up with the necessary education and ongoing monitoring. Free up your time for other priorities, reduce stress, and put your mind at ease by bringing in a trusted CFP® professional who has the specialized training, knowledge, and experience to handle complex financial strategies.


A trusted planner can also provide a third-party perspective that is objective. Removing that emotional aspect guides you to informed decisions about your financial situation. Financial planners often meet with our clients on an annual or semi-annual basis. This encourages you to be accountable and provides the opportunity to make necessary adjustments to your plan.


What is a Certified Financial Planner going to do over time?

Planning isn’t just done for the short term. We help you manage your life-long financial health by anticipating major life events like funding education, buying a new home, taking that big trip you’ve always wanted to. Careful financial planning can positively affect generations to come.


A good advisor will also educate you along the way. We explain financial principles, options, and strategies so that you feel more comfortable and confident in the decisions we are making together.



What will a certified financial planner ask to bring with you? Most financial planners provide a list of documents and information to gather prior to your first meeting. Much of the information will be relatively simple. Other items might require a bit of digging to have on hand (and that’s ok!):


  1. Family names, birthdays, and social security numbers
  2. Address, phone number, email
  3. Driver’s license
  4. Income information (W-2s, 1099s, and /or most recent 1040)
  5. Investment and Retirement Plan information (IRAs, brokerage accounts, workplace retirement plans, etc). For the first meeting, a recent statement is helpful, or be ready to log in to your online account.
  6. Mortgage Statement
  7. Insurance information (life, disability, property and casualty, health/Medicare, and/or Long Term Care)
  8. Current budget/living expenses
  9. Debt Info (credit card and loan statements)
  10. Estate Planning documents (wills, trust, power of attorney, etc)
  11. Business Ownership documents (business tax returns, financial statements, etc)


If the above list seems daunting, don’t let it deter you from scheduling a meeting. We don’t expect you to find every bit of information immediately. We typically begin by reviewing what you were able to provide and discussing concerns and goals.


What is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM going to do for you? By leveraging the expertise and experience of a financial planner, you can strengthen your financial health, make more informed decisions, build a firm financial foundation, and work towards a successful, sustainable future.


As always, if you have questions about this or any other financial topic, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Nichole Coyle, CFP®, CSLP®

Managing Partner, Financial Planner

2300 St. Clair Ave NE

Cleveland, OH 44114

216.621.4644 x1607 office

330.607.2213 cell


Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a Broker-Dealer, and a Registered Investment Advisor.

Cetera is not affiliated with the financial institution where investment services are offered or any other named entity.

Investments are: Not FDIC/NCUSIF insured * May lose value * Not financial institution guaranteed * Not a deposit * Not insured by a federal government agency.


For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.  Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.  There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

A diversified portfolio does not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

Rebalancing may be a taxable event. Before you take any specific action be sure to consult with your tax professional.