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A Who's Who Guide to Financial Advisers

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Consumers in need of a little professional financial advice have more choices than they may realize. Choice, though, can be a source of confusion.

"There are over 2,000 financial designations," says Joel Redmond, a certified financial planner based in Syracuse, N.Y.

There are more than 2,000 financial designations, but fortunately, only three primary financial adviser fields consumers needs to know.

Furthermore, these days, wealth management companies have integrated so many services into their business model that many in the industry have obtained the right to list more than one acronym after their name.

"Designations have become arrows in the quiver of a wealth management adviser," says Ben Stacy, senior vice president of Investment with HDS Wealth Solutions of Raymond James. Stacy adds that because of this integration, financial professionals may operate under a business model that's a bit different than their designations indicate, which can make it difficult for people to find the right adviser for their needs.

To help you wade through the alphabet soup, we looked into what Redmond calls "the three most coveted designations" in their given worlds -- the Certified Financial Planner, Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst -- so consumers know what to expect when they see those three little letters after a pro's name.

Certified Financial Planner
CFPs specialize in assessing whether a person can meet life goals through careful planning. They're generally sought out by consumers interested in making sure that they have enough money for retirement, are adequately insured and/or have their assets protected.

"They're generalists, but with a very high level of expertise," says Toby Johnston, a CFP and a CPA with accounting firm Mohler, Nixon & Williams. He adds that those in the midst of a serious search for a financial adviser look for the CFP acronym since it's a good indicator that person is top tier.

Redmond notes, though, that while financial planners do know a thing or two about investments, they're more apt to let you know whether you can afford to take risk rather than outline which specific investment risks you should take.

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