All Is Not Lost – Financial Assistance Information Is Easy To Find

While the economy may be a mess, there is money in the coffers to lend, to grant, and to move around. If you are an individual in need of funding for a new venture like a business or a home, or a college education, or to catch up on student loans, credit card debt, or medical bills, you can find the financial assistance information you need online.

There are small business loans available, especially for women. Investors know that if the business plans are solid, an investment in a woman’s business start up is a wise move. Woman and minority owned businesses have the advantage in today’s commerce and if she is also a shrewd business woman, there is very little risk at all. Venture capital is put into the start up, and is paid back in the first year’s profits.

1st time homebuyers are another demographic that is still able to access capital. It is in the best interests of the community, the banks, and the economy to have new home owners on the landscape. For this reason, these buyers are able to find options such as grants that pay their down payments and their closing costs, fixed rates that will automatically adjust if rates go down, and more. Even low income families can buy a new home with help from the right benefactors.

The next great adventure you may be considering embarking upon is a college education. It will make you more competitive in the work place and simply make finding a job a lot easier. Over the past decade, college costs have risen by leaps and bounds. With this has come arisen a myriad of private and public, non profit and for profit, businesses and organizations dedicated to helping students by offering tuition assistance. Special programs exist for special demographics, like minorities, single mothers, and veterans. Some financial aid programs have also been developed for those who have been unemployed for a long time and for those on Welfare.

Of course, you may be seeking financing for a far less adventurous reason. Perhaps you are financially comfortable but have been hit with a family emergency. Whether you have a special needs child who needs equipment and medical care, an elderly parent in the hospital, or a family member who has been diagnosed with cancer, the results can be financially devastating. Long term medical care and prescription medication for cancer patients, terminally ill patients, or someone dealing with a chronic illness can be very expensive. When you need help financing your medical bills, you will find that there are service providers that can help you make the finances work and still leave you with a few dollars in your wallet.

Another big problem facing today’s society is foreclosure. Of course, the goal is to avoid this, but if your credit is less than perfect and you cannot make the payments, it is difficult to know what to do. Single parents, elderly individuals, unemployed heads of household, and more have found themselves in this position. Banks have realized that the foreclosure wave still is not over and are more and more interested in working with current home owners on refinancing their homes. With these services available, you do not have to lose your home.

Financial and Investment Advisor Certifications That Are Widely Recognized

The following certifications are widely recognized within the financial services advisory industry:

* Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)

* Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

* Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

* Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

* Insurance Agents

> Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

> Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

* Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

This short list of certifications was constructed using several sources. First, many other certifications require these certifications as a prerequisite. Second, when registering as an adviser with certain states, some of these certifications can substitute for passing various tests administered by the North American Securities Administrators Association, Inc. (NASAA) Third, Form ADV, which is used by the SEC and most states to register advisors, explicitly lists many of these particular designations. Finally, these designations are mentioned more frequently in the financial planning literature and on financial and investment websites.

Accredited Estate Planner (AEP)

The AEP is conferred by the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC). To obtain the AEP an applicant must:

* hold an attorney’s license, CPA, CLU, ChFC, CFP, or CTFA

* be professionally engaged in “estate planning activities,”

* have at least five years of directly relevant experience (or 15 years to exempt the educational requirements)

* take certain required courses from the The American College or take two “challenge exams”

> (See the ChFC and CLU listings below for more information on The American College.)

* have membership in an NAEPC council,

* submit references, and

* commit to the NAEPC code of ethics.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The CFP is conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFPBS). To obtain the CFP designation, a candidate must have either five years of personal financial planning work experience or three years and a bachelors degree. He must pass a comprehensive examination. To take this examination, he must either complete a course of study offered by various educational organizations, or he must already hold a CPA, ChFC, CLU, or CFA designation or a Ph.D. in business or economics, Doctor of Business Administration, or an Attorney’s license. The CFPBS has an on-line consumer complaint and practitioner disciplinary process, and it supports on-line professional status checking and referrals.

According to the CFPBS, it is “a nonprofit regulatory organization (that) fosters professional standards in personal financial planning so that the public values, has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(TM) and federally registered CFP (with flame logo), which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements. CFP Board currently authorizes more than 43,000 individuals to use these marks in the United States.” The CFPBS also “establishes and enforces education, examination, experience and ethics requirements for CFP® certificants.” (Footnote 1)

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

“CFA Institute is composed of more than 70,000 individual voting members and 131 nonvoting member societies that believe in setting a higher standard for the investment profession. Individual members either hold the CFA designation or are active in the investment business and agree to abide by the CFA Institute ethical requirements.”

Formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR), the CFA Institute confers the CFA designation. Successful candidates must pass three successive examinations requiring approximately 250 hours of preparation for each examination. A candidate must also have either four years of work experience or an undergraduate degree and three years of work experience.

The CFA Institute manages a professional conduct process including an investor complaint process and investors can enquire about the status of an advisor’s CFA credentials.

Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

The CIC designation is conferred by the Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc. (ICAA). The ICAA “is a national not-for-profit association whose membership consists exclusively of federally registered investment adviser firms.” (Footnote 2) Candidates must have worked for an ICAA member firm and must hold the CFA designation.

Insurance Agents

+ Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

+ Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

The ChFC and CLU designations are conferred by The American College. To obtain either designation a candidate must complete eight courses and have three years of full-time personal finance or insurance experience. If a person has completed the CLU designation, then he could also obtain the ChFC designation by completing three additional courses. There is no complaint or disciplinary process for either designation.

The American College states that “founded in 1927 as The American College of Life Underwriters, the College has in recent decades broadened its instructional offerings to reflect the growing convergence of insurance and other financial services professions. A variety of designation, certificate, graduate-degree, and continuing education programs now complement its long-respected CLU designation.” (Footnote 3)

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

The PFS designation is conferred by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA established a PFS credential “for CPAs who specialize in personal financial planning.” To hold the PFS designation a person must:

* be an AICPA member

* hold a CPA that is issued by a state and is unrevoked

* earn points based upon experience and examination

* submit references and other proof of experience doing personal financial planning work.

Footnotes:

1) Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFPBS) website 2) Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc. (ICAA) website 3) The American College website