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The PFS designation adds value.

Many practitioners have reported increasingly narrowed margins on traditional individual accounting services, such as write-up and tax preparation work. Further, intensified competition in the middle-to-upper-income client universe has begun to erode a typically core market for CPA services, especially with the advent of financial "supermarkets" that provide guidance and advice to clients "for free."

To increase and solidify their businesses, CPAs need to find new and value-added services to offer. Many practitioners are finding that one way is to become a personal financial specialist (PFS) and to add personal financial planning (PFP) to their existing practices.

Heretofore, many practitioners have been hesitant to enter into a new line of business, especially one that appeared to have some significant barriers to entry, such as technical training, software and regulatory compliance. But that has changed in recent years, as the cost of entering into the PFP business has decreased dramatically. Many practitioners may not be aware of the tools and resources available to them through the AICPA and their state societies, which can support their educational and practice implementation needs more effectively than in the past.

Studies have shown that clients continue to regard their accountants as their "most trusted advisors," which gives these practitioners (even new entrants into the PFP field) a significant competitive advantage; see, e.g., Mass-Mutual Financial Group, "American Family Business Survey," available at afbs.pdf. Further, CPAs who currently provide tax and other personal services already possess many of the required skills to provide PFP services.

Core Competency

Whether practitioners know it or not, PFP is one of their core competencies, and the AICPA's PFS designation is the only PFP credential specifically designed for CPAs. The PFS credential not only designates CPAs who specialize in PFP, but it also signals to clients a higher level of skill and knowledge.

By becoming a PFS, a practitioner is joining other dedicated, passionate professionals with whom they can share ideas and experiences. Further, they can access the breadth of knowledge and tools that their professional association--the AICPA--has accumulated and makes available to members.

Extraordinary Benefits

One of the most often-cited reasons that CPAs have not previously entered into PFP is a lack of technical skills and training. Many practitioners may have missed some of the great strides the AICPA has taken. For example, on the training side, they can acquire technical insights at the annual PFP conferences sponsored by the AICPA and the various state CPA societies. The conferences offer a vast array of practical information and networking opportunities. Further, they frequently include media training classes, which can prepare CPAs for news and media opportunities that come the way of a PFS credential holder.

CPAs can also expand their expertise by participating in the AICPA PFP Forum. This is a wonderful way for CPA financial planners to communicate with one another and to exchange ideas; see Discussion+Forum.htm.

Another extraordinary benefit of becoming a PFS credential holder is the outstanding information that will become available to them at the AICPA's PFP website ( The value of this enhanced facility practically pays for the annual membership dues. For example, the site features the PFS marketing toolkit, which can help promote the PFS credential. It also provides access to a significant amount of Forefield Advisory content, which is helpful for client communication, development and personal training. On an ongoing basis, the AICPA transmits monthly e-mail and print publications exclusively to PFS designees and is developing a new client referral database that will be an exclusive benefit for PFS credential holders.

Community Involvement

Because the PFS designation indicates broad financial knowledge, CPAs with the credential are appropriate resources for the financial literacy programs of the AICPA and the various state societies. These programs not only give CPAs an opportunity to give back to the community, but provide the satisfaction of helping individuals make significant changes that will improve their lives.

Become a PFS Credential Holder

The benefits of the PFS designation are an indication of the advantages it provides to a CPA. It especially can help practitioners stand out from the crowd. Although CPA firms offering PFP services are increasing in number, many lack CPAs with the PFS designation. The PFS credential is a mark of distinction and an indicator that clients can have even greater confidence in the advice they receive.


Marc J. Minker, CAPA/PFS

Managing Director, Private client & Family Office Services

Mononey Cohen & Company

New York, NY

Michael M. Eisenberg, CPA/PFS


Eisenberg Financial Advisors

Los Angeles, CA
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Title Annotation:personal financial specialist
Author:Eisenberg, Michael M.
Publication:The Tax Adviser
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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