Alphabet Soup of Advisor Credentials

What are the various credentials for advisors?

Do you know the difference between a CFS® and a ChFC®? Do you want your advisor to be a CIC or CIMA?  What does a CMT have to offer as opposed to a CLU®?  Here are the nine most common financial professional designations to help you navigate the sea of professional designation acronyms.

DesignationIssuing OrganizationQualifications in BriefArea of Expertise
Chartered Market Technician (CMT)Market Technicians Association (MTA)
  • 3 Exams
  • 3 years professional analytical or investment management experience

Technical analysis

Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist (CPA and PFS)

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • Hold unrevoked CPA certificate
  • 2 years of teaching or experience (3,000 hours) in personal financial planning with 5 year period preceding application
  • 75 hours of education and leading to final exam and then continuing education

Financial planning including tax, estate, retirement and insurance and some niche areas like employee benefits and elder planning

Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®)The American College
  • 3 years experience within 5 years of designation
  • 24 credit hours
  • Exam and then continuing education

Legal aspects of life insurance and the and assisting clients in estate planning, including various wills and trust arrangements

Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA)
  • 3 years experience within 5 years of designation
  • 24 credit hours
  • Exam and then continuing education

Wealth management professionals that meet an international standard for personal certification (ISO/IEC 17024:2012) and accreditation by American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)Investment Advisor Association (IAA)
  • Be employed by an IAA firm
  • 5 cumulative years work experience
  • 50% or more time devoted to investment counseling and portfolio management
  • Letter of reference from manager or above and 3 additional letters
  • Hold Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Designation

Portfolio management

Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®)The American College
  • 3 years full time business experience within 5 years preceding designation
  • 7 core and 2 elective courses of 27 credit hours
  • Exam, continuing education

Financial planning including insurance, income taxation, retirement planning, investments and estate planning

Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®)Investor of Business & Finance (IBF)
  • Bachelor’s Degree or 2,000 hours financial services work experience
  • Self-study, 3 exams then a case study and continuing education

Mutual funds, ETF (Exchange Traded Fund), REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust)

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)

CFA Institute
  • Undergraduate degree or combination of college and work experience adding up to 4 years
  • Self-study (250 hours of study for each of 3 levels)
  • Three six-hour course exams

Investment analysis and portfolio management

Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

  • Bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited school or university
  • 3 years of full time personal financial planning or equivalent part-time experience (2,000 hours=1year)
  • Must complete a CFP-board registered program or hold one of the following: CPA, ChFC®, CLU®, CFA®, Ph.D. in business economics, Doctor of Business Administration, Attorney’s license
  • Final certification and continuing education

Financial planning and competency in over 90 topics including stocks, bonds, taxes, insurance, retirement planning and estate planning

Lou Melone's Office

Lou Melone, CFP®

Managing Member



Lou helps clients answer two questions: 1) Do you know exactly how much money it is going to take for you to retire comfortably 2) to remain comfortably retired? As a board CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Lou provides...

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Branden Carney, CFP®

Wealth Planner



Branden’s career in the financial industry began with Plante Moran Financial Advisors in 2016, after receiving his degree in Finance from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. He then moved on to work...

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Cindy Vaccarino

Operations Manager



Cindy's career in the financial industry began shortly after college when she moved to New York to work at Morgan Stanley. Her current role includes overseeing administrative functions including but not limited to: operations, client...

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Vicky Berisic

Client Relationship Manager



Vito Curcuru

Marketing Consultant



Vito works as a marketing consultant for Lou Melone's team. His activities include communicating information about financial planning and behavioral investing. He updates the website, manages social media and reviews the data and...

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Jake Veri




Jake is a sophomore studying finance at Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business.  He plans to pursue a career as a financial planner at Melone Private Wealth after graduating.

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