I Jealously “Shake my Fist” at Somnath Basu PhD

On CFP® Mis [Trust] – One Doctor’s Painful Personal Experience

[“So Sorry to Say it … but I Told You So”]

By: Dr David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™


According to Somnath Basu, writing on April 6, 2009 in Financial Advisor a trade magazine, the painful truth is that many financial practitioners are merely sales people masquerading, as financial planners [FPs] and/or financial advisors [FAs] in an industry whose ethical practices have a shameful track record. Well, I agree, and completely. This includes some who hold the Certified Financial Planner® designation, as well as the more than 98 other lesser related organizations, logo marks and credentialing agencies [none of which demand ERISA-like fiduciary responsibility]. For more on this topic, the ME-P went right to the source last month, in an exclusive interview with Ben Aiken; AIF® of Fi360.com  


The CFP® Credential – What Credential?

Basu further writes that stockbrokers and insurance agents who earn commissions from buying and selling stocks, insurance and other financial products realize that a Certified Financial Planner® credential will help grow the volume of their business or branch them into other related and lucrative products and services. After all, there are more than 55,000 of these “credentialed” folks. And, this marketing designation seems to have won the cultural wars in the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting – i.e., duped public; probably because of sheer numbers. Didn’t a CFP Board CEO state that its’ primary goal was growth, a few years ago? Can you say “masses of asses”, as the oft quoted Bill Gates of Microsoft used to say when only 2,000 micro-softies defeated 400,000 IBMers during the PC operating system wars of the early 1980’s. Quantity, and marketing money, can trump quality in the public-relations business; ya’ know … if you repeat the lie often enough … yada … yada … yada! Yet, as the so-called leading industry designation, the CFP® entry-barrier standard is woefully low. Moreover, the SEC’s [FINRA] Series #7 general securities licensure sales examination is not worth much more than a weekend’s study attention, even to the uninitiated.


Easy In – Worth Less Out

In our experience, we agree with Basu and others who suggest that scores of lightly educated, and sometimes wholly in-articulate and impatient individuals are zipping through the CFP® Board of Standards approved curriculum in three to six months of online, on-ground, or “self-study”. But, that some can do so without a bachelor’s degree when they join wire-houses and financial institutions, which cannot be trusted to adequately train them, is an abomination. And, even more sadly, some of these CFP™ mark-holders, and other folks, believe they have actually received an “education” from same. Of course, their writing skills are often non-existent and I have cringed when told that, in their opinion, advertiser-driven trade magazines constitute “peer-reviewed” and academic publications. Incidentally, have you noticed how thin these trade-rags are getting lately? Much like the print newspaper industry, are they becoming dinosaurs? One agent even told me, point-blank, that his CLU designation was the equivalent of an “academic PhD in insurance.” This was at an industry seminar, where he thought I was a lay insurance prospect.

THINK: No critical thinking skills.



There is another sentiment that may be applied in many of these cases; “hubris.” I mean, these CFP® people … just don’t know – how much they don’t know.”  The very real difference between training versus education is unknown to many wire-houses and FAs, isn’t it? And, please don’t get me started on the differences in pedagogy, heutagogy and androgogy. Moreover, it’s sad when we see truly educated youngsters become goaded by wire-houses into thinking that these practices are de-rigor for the industry. One such applicant to our Certified Medical Planner™ program, for example, had both an undergraduate degree in finance and a graduate degree in economics from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University – in my home town of Baltimore, MD [name available upon request]. He was told, in his Smith Barney wire-house training program, to eschew CMP™ accountability and RIA fiduciary responsibility, when working with potential physician and lay clients; but to get his CFP® designation to gather more clients. To mimic my now 12 year-old daughter; it seems that: SEC Suitability Rules – and – Fiduciary Accountability Drools. And, to quote Hollywood’s “Mr. T”; I pity the fools, er-a, I mean clients. But, T was an actor, and this is serious business.


Of CEU Credits and Ethics

Beside trade-marks and logos, we are all aware that continuing education, and a code of ethics, is another important marketing and advertising component of state insurance agents and CFP licensees. It’s that old “be” – or “pretend to be” – a trusted advisor clap-trap. Well, I say horse-feathers for two reasons. First, both my insurance and CFP® Continuing Educational Unit [CEU] requirements were completed by my daughter [while age 7-10], by filling in the sequentially identical and bubble-coded, multiple-choice, answer-blanks each year. Second, this included the mandatory “ethics” portions of each test. When I complained to my CEU vendor, and state insurance department, I was told to “enjoy-the-break.”  My daughter even got fatigued after the third of fourth time she took the “home-based tests” for me.  After I opened my big mouth, the exact order of questions was changed to increase acuity, but remained essentially the same, nevertheless. My daughter got bored, and quit taking the tests for me, shortly thereafter. She always “passed.”dhimc-book3

Thus, like Basu, I also find that far too many financial advisors are unwilling to devote the time necessary to achieve a sound education that will help attain their goals, and would rather sell variable or whole life products than simple term life, even when the suitability argument overwhelmingly suggests so, for a higher payday. We not only have met sale folks without undergraduate degrees, but also too many of those with only a HS diploma, or GED. Perhaps this is why a popular business truism suggests that the quickest way for the uneducated/under educated class to make big bucks, is in sales. Just note the many classified ads for financial advisors placed in the newspaper job-section, under the heading “sales.” Or, in more youthful cultural terms, “fake it – until you make it.”

Of the iMBA, Inc Experience

According to Executive Director Ann Miller RN MHA, and my experience at the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc:

“Far too many financial advisors who contact us about matriculation in our online Certified Medical Planner™ program – in health economics and management for medical professionals – don’t even know what a Curriculum Vitae [CV] is? Instead, they send in Million Dollar Roundtable awards, Million Dollar Producer awards, or similar sales accomplishments as resume’ boosters. It is also not unusual for them to list some sort of college participation on their resumes, and websites, but no school affiliation or dates of graduation, etc. And, they become furious to learn that we require a college degree for our fiduciary focused CMP™ program, and not from an online institution, either. The onslaught of follow-up nasty phone-calls; faxes and emails are laughable [frightening] too.”  



More often than not, it is the financial institutions that FAs and CFP™ certificants’ work for that reward sales behavior with higher commissions, rather than salaries; which encourage such behavior and create the vicious cycles that are now the norm.

THINK: ML, AIG, Citi, WAMU, Wachovia, Hartford, Prudential, etc.

Note: Original author of Restoring Trust in the CFP Mark, Somnath Basu PhD, is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. We have asked him to respond further.

My Story: I am a retired surgeon and former Certified Financial Planner® who resigned my “marketing trademark” over the long-standing fiduciary flap. I watched this chicanery for more than a decade after protesting to magazines like Investment Advisor, Financial Advisor, Registered Rep, Financial Planner, the FPA, etc; up to, and even including the CFP® Board of Standards; to no avail. Feel free to contact me for a copy of a 43 page fax, and other supportive documentation from the CFP® Board of Standards – and their outsourced intellectual property attorneys – over a Federal trademark infringement lawsuit they tried to institute against me for innocent website errors placed by a visually impaired intern. Obviously, they disliked the launch of our CMP™ program. As a health economist and devotee of Ken Arrow PhD, I polity resigned my license, as holding no utility for me, to the shocked CFP Board. They later offered to consider re-instatement for a mere $600 fee with letter of explanation, to which I politely declined. Of course, my first thought after living in the streets of South Philadelphia while in medical school, during the pre-Rocky era, was to say f*** off – but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I still seem to be on their mailing list, years later. No doubt, the list is sold, and re-sold, to various advertisers for much geld. And, why shouldn’t they; an extra bachelor, master and medical degree holder on their PR roster looks pretty good. I distrust the CFP® Board almost as much as I distrust the AMA, and its parsed and disastrous big-pharma funding policies. Right is right – wrong is wrong – and you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time, especially in this age of internet transparency.

Shaking my Fist at Somnath … in Envy

And so, why do I shake my fist at Somnath Basu? It’s admittedly with congratulations, and a bit of schadenfreude, because he wrote an article more eloquently than I ever could, and will likely receive much more publicity [good or slings-arrows] for doing so. You know, it’s very true that one is never a prophet in his own tribe. Oh well, Mazel Tov anyway for stating the obvious, Somnath. The financial services industry – and more specifically – the CFP® emperor have no clothes! Duh!


Good Guys and White Hats

Now that Basu’s article has appeared in Financial Advisor News e-magazine, the other industry trade magazines are sure to follow the CFP® certification denigration reportage, in copy-cat fashion. And, the fiduciary flap is just getting started. This is indeed unfortunate, because I do know many fine CFP® certificants, and non-CFP® certified financial advisors, who are well-educated, honest and work very diligently on behalf of their clients. It’s just a shame the public has no way of knowing about them – there is no white hat imprimatur or designation for same – most of whom are Registered Investment Advisors [RIAs] or RIA reps. For example, we know great folks like Douglas B. Sherlock MBA, CFA; Robert James Cimasi MHA, AVA, CMP™; J. Wayne Firebaugh, Jr CPA, CFP®, CMP™; Lawrence E. Howes MBA, CFP®; Pati Trites PhD; Gary A. Cook MSFS, CFP®, CLU; Tom Muldowney MSFS, CLU, CFP®, CMP™;  Jeffrey S. Coons PhD, CFP®; Alex Kimura MBA, CFP®; Ken Shubin-Stein MD, CFA; and Hope Hetico RN, MHA, CMP™; etc. And, to use a medical term, there are TNTC [too many, to count] more … thankfully!


Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com


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51 Responses

  1. Dr. Marcinko and Dr. Basu

    You both opined very well. And, I can’t “shake-my-fist” at either of you. What you say seems very true to me.

    As a sole designation, none of the financial services initials are worth very much; in my opinion. Who knows what they mean, anyway?

    I recently spoke with one financial advisor, for example, who had more than a dozen initials behind his name. Yet, he didn’t have a college degree. Of course, as a medical residency program admission’s executive, I am sensitive to this sort of “resume augmentation.” So, don’t these morons understand that trust is lost, in this way?

    Moreover, a designation or certification is NOT a degree. Degrees come first, then subspecialty designations.

    Finally, it is customary to list the highest degree, and perhaps one other relevant designation behind your name – not an entire litany of acronyms [i.e. MD, FACS]. In this case – a physician – who is also a surgeon [Fellow of the American College of Surgeons].

    Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your ME-P concept of linking FAs with MDs, and related industry info. The need for this sort of material is certainly there.

    Dr. Rhodes


  2. I was pleased to learn that you invited Dr. Basu to comment further on this topic. I hope he does so.

    A concerned CFP


  3. On CFP ® Resignations and other Questions

    Has anyone noted a small, but possibly emerging trend to resign their CFP certification? We think we may have; and it ma be an intriguing [natural?] evolution during this time of industry scandal. So, former, or current CFPs® and others, please comment on these questions:

    1. Is the fiduciary, independent and RIA business model ascending?
    2. Are FAs, BDs, and Series #7 stockbrokers and asset aggregators in decline?
    3. Is there a paradigm-shift “out-there” in retail financial product sales and delivery?

    Finally, medicine is shifting from a retail to a wholesale model; why not financial services?

    Ann Miller; RN, MHA
    [Executive Director]


  4. In Defense of the CFP Mark

    In a rebuttal, the CFP Board’s CEO criticized the statements of a professor, and former doctor-CFP® and publisher, who contends the educational requirements for the CFP® mark are too weak. So, we present the opposing opinion to be fair and balanced. The marketplace will then decide; as it always does.


    Candor – Intelligence – Goodwill to all ME-P subscribers, readers and visitors.

    Hope Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™
    [Atlanta, Ga]


  5. Dear Concerned CFP

    Of course, salesmen defend their turf vigorously – regardless of the facts – as it is their bread and butter.

    And, Kevin Keller the CEO for the CFP Board of Standards does same – but very poorly – as part of his job – as did his predecessor, and the next CEO, and the next, and the next. IOW: It is his JOB.

    Who is this guy and who really cares? Just another employee mouth-piece and marketing rep; nothing new here to report! Just the same old “buyer-beware” admonition.

    Un-Concerned Reader


  6. Now read this post by Dr. David Edward Marcinko at the Medical Executive-Post. Dr. Marcinko finishes his comments with …

    -Bill Winterberg; CFP®


  7. Bill,

    Sorry, but I don’t think the public or doctor’s-at-large, ever solely trusted the CFP® mark in the first place; do you? And, the internet exposes them all; even the charlatan doctors.



  8. Dr. Basu,

    RE: An invitation for your feedback

    Along with our ME-P readers, we enjoyed your recent CFP® mark article on credibility very much. In fact, we have been writing about same for years, now.

    And so; several of our members have asked that you comment further on the topic. Please read this link, and join-in on the lively conversation at the Medical-Executive Post.


    Joining is fast, free and secure. Tell us what you think!

    Thank You.
    [Executive Director]


  9. Dear Ann,

    I was traveling abroad recently and hence and am late in responding – please accept my apologies.

    However, I did manage to view the responses to my article on your blog and wanted to express my gratitude in the strong support I read from the readers comments. I will respond to these comments during this week.

    Again, please convey my gratitude to your readers – it is a great example of consumer anger spilling over – if all consumers were as knowledgeable as yours, then that would truly be the case.

    Look forward to further communications and best regards.
    Dr. Basu

    Dr. Somnath Basu, Director
    California Institute of Finance at CLU
    Cell – (805) 405 4448
    Work – (805) 493 3980


  10. Somnath,

    We look forward, very much, to continuing the conversation with you. And, I believe our insight is somewhat unique, and yet complimentary.

    Incidentally, you might enjoy this link on FA fiduciary accountability. It represents an interview by Ann and Hope, with Ben Aikin, AIF® of http://www.fi360.com

    Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/an-interview-with-bennett-aikin-aif%c2%ae/

    Dave Marcinko

    Suite #5901 Wilbanks Drive
    Norcross, Georgia, 30092-1141 USA
    Phone: 770.448.0769

    PHYSICIANS: http://www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com
    HOSPITALS: http://www.HealthCareFinancials.com
    ADMINISTRATORS: http://www.HealthDictionarySeries.com
    ADVISORS: http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com


  11. Hello all,

    I spoke privately with Dr. Marcinko some many months ago.

    Muck like him, I became disenchanted with the CFP BoS as a financial advisor – for various reasons – and resigned my CFP® mark. Sadly, I didn’t hear a single peep from the board, after more than ten years as a member in good standing. So, I concluded that all they wanted was my license renewal fee dollars?

    Of course, dire predictions of business disaster ensued from my colleagues. Yet, absolutely nothing happened! Several years later, I not only remain pleased with my decision, but use it as point of differentiation and marketing advantage.

    Margaret; MBA
    Former CFP®


  12. Dr. Marcinko,

    Your comments aside, on Smith Barney, unfortunately ring so true for me. For example, take a look at this article comparing their retention bonus with MLs.

    Link: http://www.fa-mag.com/fa-news/3767-smith-barney-retention-bonus-comparable-to-merrills.html

    Keep up the excellent investigative reporting. Although sometimes seemingly harsh, the ME-P does seem to be fair and balanced.



  13. Here is a comment, posted elsewhere, by Carolyn MD, CFP®. And we, at this ME-P, have privately communicated with her previously:

    “The profession of financial planning is in its’ infancy. As a physician, former educator, and financial planner, I have to agree with Dr. Basu’s remark that the experience requirement in inadequate. For us to create a profession, we need consistent standards to document the experience one has obtained to earn the marks. Furthermore, the lack of an organized venue to gain experience has left a large gap in creating clear career paths for financial planners. This is the link missing in creating a true profession.

    My 50 year dream is to create residency training program fashioned after the training physicians receive after medical school. This would truly elevate the profession and provide the public with financial planning professionals who can truly address their needs. If we can dream it, we can do it, although many would say it does not need to be done …”

    Of course, we couldn’t agree with her more. And hopefully, with the launch of our CertifiedMedicalPlanner™ online educational program in health economics and management for financial advisors, her vision will not take 50 years.

    Ann Miller; RN, MHA
    [Executive Director]


  14. I think it is interesting that many here are decrying the CFP® marks and clearly have their own agenda to promote the CMP™ designation. They are a group of shameless shills if you ask this graduate and law school educated CFP® designee.

    As a graduate of a very well respected educational institution that has Bachelor’s, Master’s and PH’D level programs concentrated in the areas of personal finance and counseling, I can confidently say (while I love them) that the academics like Dr. Basu have agendas as well: get as many people into their programs as possible so they can retain/acquire funding and keep tenure.

    As Dr. Marcinko very briefly illustrates at the very bottom of the article, there are a number of CFP® designees who are very well educated, practice in the best interest of their clients, and have vast experience and resources at their disposal to improve the situation of the client. It warrants a stronger distinction from the general “lumping” together Dr. Marcinko does throughout the rest of the article.

    All of the arguments Dr. Marcinko and Dr. Basu illustrate can also be said of certain physicians. After all, many physicians graduate from sub-par institutions at the bottom of the class; the difference is that there is some state body that recognizes the passing of a comprehensive exam. That and we as CFP® designees are not lumping all MDs together and saying abandon the medical profession for a new credential. So instead of tearing down the CFP® mark which is clearly the current industry leader, and create yet one more confusing credential, why not stand behind the CFP® and improve the curriculum and educational requirements as things stand? This is where Dr. Basu and Dr. Marchinko differ. Dr. Basu, while an academic with a clear agenda, at least is offering up points of improvement for the CFP® marks to achieve rather then abandoning it entirely.

    Also, how many physicians, with vast hordes of knowledge and experience have had someone die on the table or in their care? I would probably say quite a number. Does it mean that every physician is incompetent or should be abandoned? No … Why? Because in life just like the financial markets there are things that are out of our control and can’t be predicted. Not everyone is a fraud. In fact, I would argue that just like in the medical profession, the vast bulk are trying to do right by their clients and earn a decent living at the same time.

    I would also argue that the requirements for the CFP® designation have noticeably increased since I believe Dr. Marcinko was credentialed. Anyone who has taken the CFP® ten hour comprehensive exam in the last decade or so would tell you that it is far from easy. The CE requirements are the same as most other more established professions. It’s pretty easy to get CLEs too you know. Besides, any profession will tell you the real mark of competence is gained from true real world experience. I don’t care what you had to do to get your MD, JD, CPA, etc. You don’t know jack until you have practiced for a few years. That also includes academics. I would much rather take a class from someone who has actually practiced in the profession for a few years and had one degree and credential than someone who went straight to teaching from college. Zero practical experience equals a non relational education and merely recitation of facts.

    All Dr. Marcinko is going to create for those who follow his writing, is people who will strike out on their own, not trusting anyone (because clearly no one can be trusted right? Or at least a very few worthy of only one line at the end of my sale’s pitch for the CMP®.) and inevitably causing more damage to themselves. I doubt Dr. Marcinko would want me to espouse that if you really knew what went on in all Doctors’ offices you would be better off just going online and doing your own self care and avoiding all Doctors unless you absolutely have to. Why? Because I don’t believe the bulk are frauds or horrible. The bulk is probably trying to do right.

    My overall point is that some responsibility in choosing a financial planner (whether it be a CFP® or not) lies with the consumer to do research, ask questions, get multiple opinions, and have some element of trust. Gee, just like in the medical profession. I don’t think tearing down an industry effort and credential that currently is the leader in trying to improve the situation, unify the profession, incorporate fiduciary responsibility, increase awareness, and increase the requirements of earning the credential is helpful, Especially in light of the obvious agenda.



  15. Wow, now I really see a conflict. I think its interesting now that I dig a bit deeper on Dr. Marcinko’s page (and thus likely to get my post deleted) and rewarded by the almost in your face conflicts present here.

    First, the obvious shilling for the CMP™ designation, then the books (“Insurance and Risk Management Strategies for Physicians and Advisors)”, and (“Financial Planning Handbook for Physicians and Advisors”), etc written by Dr. Marcinko; then the engage Dr. Marcinko for speaking services! Wow, sign me up. Don’t you all see the rampant hypocrisy here?

    Dr. Marcinko declares his CFP® designation as a “marketing trademark” and despouses it in an article framed by his created and profitable alternatives …. He also lumps all CFP® designees in with big institutions (the primary purveyors of product oriented services vs. fiduciary services); not recognizing many of these same insitutions have asked CFP® designated reps to terminate their credentials, not because the credentials are weak, but because of mark requiring a fiduciary obligation!


  16. Hello Mike,

    I don’t think that Dr. Marcinko, or Dr. Basu, lump all CFPs® together at all. In fact, Mike’s comments prove Dr. Basu’s and Marcinko’s larger point, exactly. In other words, in debate linguistics, his exceptions do indeed prove the rule.

    Moreover, Mike states that:

    “My overall point is that some responsibility in choosing a financial planner (whether it be a CFP® or not) lies with the consumer to do research, ask questions, get multiple opinions, and have some element of trust.”

    So, allow ne to ask what good is the CFP® mark then, if it allows the holder to do nothing more than before it was acquired? At least doctors, CPAs, RNs and attorneys can do something the rest of us can not – PhDs and MBAs perhaps not so – stand alone at least.

    Moreover, to feign surprise at conflicts-of-interest is unthinking. Every one has them. And correctly, we should strive to just acknowledge and reduce them to the extent possible.

    Finally, I have been reading Dr. Marcinko’s print books, before the internet and the CMP™ program, for more than two decades. Some people are lightening-rod doers like him, who get criticized; while others are passive-talkers who do the criticizing, but accomplish little else.

    Sorry, your points are disorganized and follow Aristotelian, rather than Decartian, logic.



  17. Mike, Jackson and all ME-P Readers,

    To equate the “CFP® ten-hour comprehensive exam” with a law, medical or nursing degree is preposterous.

    As a physician, these real professions mandate both extreme education and fiduciary responsibility at all times. Perhaps this is why they rightly command more prestige from the lay public.

    How do I objectively know all this?
    My brother was a CFP®.

    Sign me;

    Not a CFP® … “Just” a Doctor


  18. Actually, I can go online and do my own taxes, diagnose my own injuries, draft my own legal documents, all without any of the above credentials.

    I agree with you though that the CFP mark needs to carry more legal weight. I have always agreed with that. I think it has the best chance of achieving that of the existing credentials — thus my defense.

    And regards to your lightening-rod doer comments, Dr. Marcinko’s seems to be a consultant, and now a writer first and foremost, when you write you want your opinion commented on so you can frame your next opinion — otherwise why post? Same with me–blast away.

    And; by the way the only part of all his commentary that truly irritated me was the interspacing of the CMP® information, the book information, the speaking gigs, etc.

    Of course we all have conflicts, but there is a huge difference between writing from an implied, underwritten conflict postion like Dr. Basu’s, then “buy my book!”, “sign me up to speak!”, “get my credential!”.

    What’s my agenda? To defend a mark, myself and many others of my friends, associates, and peers spend a lot of time, money, and effort getting. I was a former AIF® as well, but you know what (and no offense to the folks at fi360), I let it lapse because it was very easy to get, I felt the CFP® covered all of the same things, and I didn’t want to confuse my clients.


  19. I stand by my comment that the exam is difficult. Did your brother take the current exam (in the 10 hour format)? Or did he get his the old way?
    I never equated it sir, I merely stated it is very difficult. I knowCFP(r) designees who are both attorneys and CPAs and I get mixed responses from them as to the difficulty. It really depends on you and your preparation. There are many accountant’s and attorneys who have failed the CFP exam.


  20. Hi Mike,

    As far as I can see, this blog is not advertiser-driven; nor does it seem to promote the products or services of others; like FAs seem to do. You see, I read all the disclaimers and disclosures. So, please stop talking; or post comments elsewhere, such as in Financial Advisor or the other advertiser driven trade-magazines … They have NO agendas; do they?

    PS: With all due respect, I wouldn’t let U do my taxes, diagnose my injuries, or draft my legal documents. Sorry your arguments are getting abusive, specious and rancorous. And, I bet Dr. Marcinko is too polite to respond.

    Of course, unlike this blog, I do not discern a strategic competitive advantage, or point-of-differentiation in your comments at all; rather just plain jealousy.

    Show us – do not tell us – what you have accomplished. Or, pass the baton to others.

    Stuart; the Psychologist


  21. Sigh … Yes. I admit to all you have said Stuart, please help me …


  22. Clarification and FYI – ME-P Readers

    Actually, Dr. Marcinko was only a contributing author, and Editor-in-Chief, of the two above mentioned books, along with many other peer-reviewed and non-reviewed works redacted in the Library of Congress, National Institute of Health and Library of Medicine, etc.

    He is a medical, legal, business, health economics and HIT consultant with an active medical license. And, in as much as some pontificators have obviously not read his books, Dave always graciously acknowledges that virtually every [medical and non-medical] textbook, journal, handbook, whitepaper, pamphlet, electronic wiki, blog, website and print dictionary produced during the last thirty years was a team effort. They were produced along with many other nationally known contributing authors and international experts; holding a vast and multiple array of degrees, designations, agendas and experienced credentials. He is grateful to them.

    And, most would rather hold these degrees, certifications, honors and fiduciary distinctions; than not.

    Candor – Intelligence – Goodwill to All

    Hope Hetico; RN, MSHA, CMP
    [Executive Director]


  23. Hello Stu,
    I bet you must see a lot of pathology in your practice; some of it more obvious than others; right?


  24. Hi Mike,

    I see you like to post anonymously; but why? What is your name? What and where is your practice. Do you have a website? What books have you published [peer-reviewed, or not]? Are you a speaker or consultant; both or neither?

    Most importantly, do you have anything innovative to say like Dr. Basu and Marcinko, and other thinkers on the ME-P; rather than the same ancient history? Does the CFP BoS tell you how to defend the marketing mark; as poorly as its’ CEO, Mr. Keller, did elsewhere?

    Come out in the open; and please advise – for us all to see. Thank you so much.



  25. Mary, Jim, Hope, etc,

    The biggest mistake the CFP Board ever did was not mandating real fiduciary accountability; thirty plus years ago. They lost the opportunity, and little has changed with this insurance agent originated society.

    Even today FINR, and the SEC, for example, are still just “flirting” with the idea. But, it will not happen soon, if ever. Too much money is involved.

    Even the BOD thinks that fiduciary accountability is a “mark”; rather than a philosophy.

    Of course, their goal is to “market the registered trade-mark”; and not necessarily integrity. Mike, the non-fiduciary above got it so right. He resigned his AIF® fiduciary status because the CFP® BoD got this distinction wrong. He and the Board apparently do not want to be held accountable. Honesty is far too confusing to clients.

    For more info, read this excellent ME-P interview; done by nurses no less! Mike, CFP BoD, and those of similar BD sales ilk; you are all so busted!

    Link: http://www.fa-mag.com/blog/evan-simonoff/4033-finra-flirting-with-the-f-word.html#JOSC_TOP



  26. All,

    With all due respect, and unlike some commentators here and elsewhere, I have actually read several of Dr. Marcinko’s books.

    Far from being a CFP® detractor, he was actually an advocate of the mark – if used with fiduciary accountability – which by the way – is not done by the vast majority of the industry and its’ many other designations. Hence, the CMP™ program, with deep health economics information, and mandatory fiduciary status.

    In other words, the CFP® mark was indeed the high water-mark designation, but for an industry with notoriously low standards; no more I fear!

    Moreover, Marcinko’s books, blogs and posts all have disclaimers on them. Now, do all FAs tell their clients of conflicts-of-interest or self-dealings, to the extent that he has done? We can only hope, or hallucinate so.



  27. Hi Mike,

    PS: My brother is also a CPA; and now reformed CFP. And, the “tough” CFP test was easy for him. It is also well known to be a psychometrically unsound exam, with multiple choice detractors and dated concepts; at least it was 7-8 years ago.

    Do docs, RNs, JDs, PhDs, MBAs, and CPAs take a single 10 hour exam? No they do not, for this zero sum game. And, a single surgery can last longer. Oh; those medical school dissection and chemistry labs often lasted long too — weekly [cheese].

    So, please, call me again …

    “Just” another doctor


  28. A multiple choice test has the answers listed; all one does is pick-them out. A good guesser could do same. Just flip a coin or use test-wiseness principles. There are no orals, written exams or practicals.

    Perhaps, that’s why some CPAs and JDs fail; they are thinkers. Moreover, the majority of JDs do not practice law or make a living at it. Ever wonder why?



  29. Dr. Basu,

    I look forward to your follow-up comments. Many thanks in advance.

    Dr. Weaver


  30. Anonymous comments are not as credible as signed comments.
    Also, everyone may have an opinion; but some are more informed than others.



  31. And, the problem is …

    Mike — says that he is not a fiduciary. He is not bound to disclose conflicts of interest, etc. And, 99% of the industry is same … So, since when is honesty too complicated to understand?



  32. This is the only post I am going to make today because I can see you all are pretty set in your ways; there is little hope to convince you otherwise. I saw a ton of “reading into” my comments though that I thought I would address. I enjoy spurring the conversation and health debate but I really wish you all wouldn’t make too many assumptions. As a good friend of mine recently said to me “arguing on the internet is dumb”.

    1) I never once said I was not a fiduciary. I said I let my AIF® credential lapse because I felt the topics covered were already encapsulated by the far more demanding effort, time, and requirements to obtain the CFP®, and I simply didn’t want to pay the additional annual cost. From this website and interview with Mr. Aikin about the fiduciary status of the AIF® credential—which requires a three day class, plus two hour open book exam, and four hours of annual CE, to achieve by the way (the AIFA® mark they issue is more difficult to attain): “AIF(r) holders have received training on a process that meets, and in some places exceeds, the fiduciary standard of care. We do not require an AIF® to always function as a fiduciary. For example, we allow registered reps to gain and use the AIF® designation. Receiving training on and legally requiring a fiduciary obligation on are two very different things. Mr. Aikin’s same commentary on the CFP® marks by the way: “CFP®: The act of financial planning does very much imply fiduciary responsibility. And, the recently updated CFP® rules of conduct does now include a fiduciary mandate: 1.4 A certificant shall at all times place the interest of the client ahead of his or her own. When the certificant provides financial planning or material elements of the financial planning process, the certificant owes to the client the duty of care of a fiduciary as defined by CFP Board.”

    2) I never said I worked for a large BD. While true, I have to retain anonymity, that is because it is my choice, my firm’s policy, and because we are a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) (is the one thing in the financial services industry which does legally require Fiduciary Status under the Investment Advisor’s Act of 1940). The website hosts (Hope, I believe) have my email and I would be more then happy to engage in a private dialogue with them or Dr. Marcinko if they are interested, and send them my curriculum vitae (yes I know what that is).

    3) I never mounted a defense for the FA trade Magazines or the CFP Board of Standards (lord knows there have been enough mistakes there). I have had issues with all them. What I have recognized though, in my defense of the CFP® mark, is that when the profession of financial planning was envisioned 30 years ago by a small group of former insurance agents who want to provide their clients a more responsible form of planning, it would be a long process with many bumps in the road. From my research and education, I decided that the CFP® marks coupled with being a Registered Investment Advisor, while far from perfect, have the best chance of realizing the visions of those founders. You all act like the medical profession, the legal profession, and all the others just sprung into perfection over night. The financial planning profession in its infancy recognizes the positive attributes of those professions and is trying to model itself after them—I believe it will get there.

    4) The biggest problem I see here is many of you all seem to associate all CFP® practitioners and other planners who take their fiduciary status seriously (legally binding or not) with the big wirehouses or large insurance companies and the like, where a profit motive drives many things. I and many other planners, disclose all fees, custody assets elsewhere, am not locked in to one product provider, and are fee only (no commissions). It is a discussion for another day but all fee arrangements have conflicts by the way and are suspect, even in the medical profession where one has to wonder if all those tests are really needed, or in the legal profession where a 30% contingency fee is the norm. I would encourage you all to visit the FPA or NAPFA website where there are a ton of folks who are trying to do the right thing (and are CFP(r) credentialed). I also want to put it out there (to not lump them together) that I have worked and communicated with many fine people at the larger firms, BDs, and wirehouses, who are trying to do the right thing by their clients within the constraints of a larger organization geared towards profits.

    5) The CMP® mark. I have no problem with the credential—it’s a free country. Just please recognize it for what it is and what legal weight it carries. 1) I believe it was created to require a fiduciary status on the part of its holders, an alternative to the CFP® mark at the time—fine, this carries no legal weight however (it carries the same weight as the CFP® board now requiring a fiduciary status of it holders—they can revoke the credential), 2) Another reason I perceive (you will disagree) it was created was to create a “marketing niche” for planners to physicians. From the CMP®’s own website: “Earn the Certified Medical Planner™ charter designation and receive a complimentary membership to the iMBA Network for possible referrals, R&D projects, continuing education discounts, speaking engagements, publication opportunities, and/or other invitations as available, etc. Practice as a fiduciary Certified Medical Planner™ for the benefit of your physician clients”.

    6) Finally, last point. I never attacked Dr. Marcinko or his accomplishments (to which you all raised a rousing defense). I respect his credentials, his books, his speaking, etc. Nor do I have any problem with the CMP® (other then what I perceive to be “announced” reason it was created and that right now it carries the same exact legal weight as the CFP). What I had issue with in his commentary and clearly pointed it out if you read through it again in detail (maybe it was Aristotelian? Oh well.), is simply calling “a duck, a duck”. Part one: Lumping everyone together. Dr. Marcinko decries in this particular post specifically: “Basu further writes that stockbrokers and insurance agents who earn commissions from buying and selling stocks, insurance and other financial products realize that a Certified Financial Planner® credential will help grow the volume of their business or branch them into other related and lucrative products and services. After all, there are more than 55,000 of these “credentialed” folks. And, this marketing designation seems to have won the cultural wars in the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting – i.e., duped public; probably because of sheer numbers.” If that is not lumping all CFP®s together and decrying the entire credential as a “marketing designation”, I am not sure what is. One point of clarification is that I am not sure if this is purely Basu’s statement, and Dr. Marcinko only adds his own commentary at the end but either way the premise of the article is that Dr. Marcinko agrees with Basu. Part two: Interspacing the article with links to the CMP program, books (ok he co-authored), and speaking opportunities. Fine, he disclaimed his background. I would have no issues other than to say I disagree, if he said, “Hey look, I think the CFP® marks are a marketing tool, here is my own marketing tools for you which I believe allow you to operate in a better manner for clients. Yes, I will make some money, yes I created them, and yes I have an interest in seeing the CFP® marks brought down because I have a competing mark which I feel better encapsulates what I wanted out of the CFP®. And yes, my objective is for it to help you grow your business. And Yes, many of these things are the same things I decried the CFP® marks for, and because of that I added a fiduciary requirement when I founded the CMP® eight years ago, but as a side note the CFP Board recently added a Fiduciary Requirement to its Practice Standards.“ Sorry, that was a ramble but I hope you see my point.

    Thank you for the time. Look, I didn’t insult anyone (again by the way). No further responses from me as I have spent too much time already on this.


  33. As I mentioned in my interview with this blog, fi360 has a very high opinion of the CFP® curriculum. Our CEO is a CFP® certificant and the most common other designation held among our AIF® and AIFA® designees is the CFP® certification. That said, our stance on the financial industry in general is that it does not yet rise to the level of a profession in that there is no standard curriculum, no industry-wide code of conduct, no blanket fiduciary mandate, etc. And, the designations are not a substitute for those deficiencies. Each designation holds a symbolic meaning based on the training received to acquire them, prerequisites, continuing education, and marketplace value. It is up to each practitioner and consumer to decide how much value the various designations provide in distinguishing knowledge and services. A consumer shopping for a financial planner needs to investigate their options based on the complete picture of factors including education, designations held, track record, etc. To be sure, there are many outstanding financial advisors who personally adhere to “professional” standards of competence and ethical conduct. However, it would be a mistake for anyone to consider the CFP®, CMP®, AIF or any other designation as an equivalent symbol of uniform professional preparedness as is represented by an MD or JD credential.

    To address Mike’s comments about dropping the AIF designation, I’d first like to say I’m sorry we didn’t support his needs in a way that made him feel he needed to keep our designation. I’m happy to point out that many others do not feel that way as the number of professionals carrying our designation continues to grow, as does our recognition in the industry. If Mike or anyone else reading this would like to discuss what fi360 can do better for them, myself and others are available at fi360 and take those comments to heart.

    Continuing to address Mike’s comments, I’d also point out that we do not consider our designation a direct competitor to the CFP certification. The CFP curriculum is meant to signify one’s ability to fulfill the role of a financial planner and thus is more comprehensive of the entire scope of a financial planner’s responsibilities. Our AIF designation is much narrower in scope and caters to a broader audience of skilled investment professionals, professionals from non-investment-related fields and lay people who find themselves in the role of a fiduciary as a trustee, plan sponsor or investment committee member. Accordingly, our certification process is certainly shorter than the CFP process, and a highly trained professional with substantial experience in fiduciary issues may pass our exam with relative ease. However, our training is unique in being entirely focused on performing your role according to a fiduciary standard of care, which is not part of the CFP curriculum. Those without significant training or experience in the fiduciary area, including both practitioners and lay people, generally find our curriculum quite challenging. We do continue to evaluate our requirements to ensure it is sufficiently rigorous for our purpose, yet accessible to the full range of individuals who may be acting as a fiduciary.



  34. Ben,

    Well said, and lemme get this straight!

    Mike says he resigned his fiduciary marks as too costly and redundant – while Dr. Marcinko teaches in a program that demands same without exception; and at no additional cost. The CMP™ program demands peer-review publishing; not annual dues, according to its’ website. All very novel – and – very innovative. Perhaps that is why they publish so frequently, and their books are so popular?

    But my, what FPing polar extremes of opinion we have here. Ain’t diversity grand?

    Now, let’s stop the rancor; and start the constructive improvements. Dr Marcinko and his band of financial advisors, medical professional and free-labor entrepreneurs have apparently done more good for the financial planning industry lately, than most financial planners. And now, more than ever, the industry desperately needs the help

    PS: It is true that medicine, accounting and law did take time to develop as “learned professions”; but it takes but a moment to sign-on as a fiduciary and be responsible for your “advice”. Some people “just don’t get it.” …

    And yes, much like Apple computer aficionados, we fiduciaries are zealots and do not need a CFP® or CMP™ mark to be honest with clients. We put it in writing, too. No BD excuses, either. FAs, please don’t blame your lack of accountability on the BDs; you have a choice; i.e.; “the devil made me do it”.

    To the CFP BoS, I say: “please get a clue.” But, my guess is that they will not. Who really cares about them anyway? Not the public I know.

    Thank you.
    Deborah CPA


  35. Mr. Aiken,

    I missed you the first time, but went back after reading Mike’s often conflicted comments. Your interview remarks and explanations were excellent, as well. Clarity and level headedness is always appreciated.



  36. The problem with the financial planning community is diversity … too much of it!


  37. Ben,
    I appreciate your commentary and agree with you.


  38. Drs. Basu, Marcinko and Pruitt; Ben; Hope and Ann,

    You people are the most well spoken experts, and articulate writers, on this blog communications forum. Thank you for all you do on behalf of medicine, health economics, medical management and financial planning.



  39. Dear Readers:

    First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you to have been so engaged in this discussion, which shows a keen understanding of just how important it is to maintain individual financial and mental health, as well as preserve society’s well being. I received numerous e-mails that were nearly unanimous in support of my unwavering opinions about restoring trust in the CFP mark, as the title of my op-ed piece suggests. I thank you all for speaking your mind, regardless of whether or not you support my position, and believe that we become intellectually richer as a nation when we express such spirited disagreement.

    Of course, I feel compelled to respond to some of the points that Financial Advisor readers raised. Let me begin by saying that the CFP mark is indeed the hallmark in this financial advisory field, which is cluttered by credentials that have created a veritable alphabet soup of professional designations. It is obvious from the proliferation of these credentials that the target is an unsuspecting public. To that effect, owners of the CFP mark seek a role to differentiate themselves as purveyors of the profession/trade of a higher order and quality of service.

    Having said that, it becomes even more important for the CFP board (and all the certificants) to be introspective, and accept and understand the inherent weaknesses of the mark so that the necessary improvements can be made. Here are some of these weaknesses I have observed that require further scrutiny:

    1) The requirement for three years of experience, which can be earned by working in a financial institution (e.g., brokerage houses and insurance agencies) that clearly specify the only way to survive in the job is to sell to the “natural market” (i.e., to family and friends). Sales volume targets are specified. As long as you can sell, you earn commissions. Otherwise, you are out the door. And by the way, the fine print in your contract mentioned that you cannot take with you any friends and family (now the company’s clients). Most anyone who really wants one of these jobs can get one and deliver their natural markets to these companies. I once heard an internal presentation to agents on selling techniques that suggested a cinnamon roll be heated in a microwave oven (read “wafting smells”) before the client was shown in!

    a. This kind of work does not constitute as experience, which leads to a serious ethical problem whether attained within or outside such institutions.

    b. Financial institutions are supposed to teach their employees about the suitability of different financial products for different types of clients. This is an abomination that the SEC and its compliant arm, FINRA, have created. Which company in its right mind (i.e., maximizing shareholder wealth) would want to train its employees to minimize sales? Thus, it is unfair to lump employees as being unethical. Brokers/agents have families to care for and mortgages to pay just like anyone else. If their institutional sales targets make the unsuitable products the most easy and lucrative to sell, then how many of us would not want to maximize our (and our family’s) own utilities for the sake of our conscience and ethics?

    c. Bundling insurance and investment products that sell fear of premature death with a high commission/surrender charge tag in the form of a variable life policy or annuity is one of the ways in which these unsuitable products evolved. Selling insurance is not the same as selling investment products – why do so?

    2) The CFP exam is not Darwinian. A simple check of the CPA/CFA exam will reveal this fallacy; leave alone the bar or the medical exams. Case in point: There are 89 topics that the board curriculum covers. About half have analytical content. Yet, in all my years of exam feedback, I have heard the singular comment that not more than 10 to 15 of the questions (out of 285) require a calculator. The exam is randomly selected from about 14,000 questions. I cannot understand the underlying probability conditions. Maybe it’s a couple of classes I missed. It was my standard gripe when I attended CFP program director meetings. No one listened to me then and probably no one will ever listen. I am a professor of investments (the only area I understand within financial planning). Professors from other fields may have similar recertification examination ideas. Obviously, the idea is to test the depth, and not breadth, of knowledge.

    a. As another example consider the single topic (of 89 topics) on macroeconomics. How important is an understanding of this subject in managing money? One could easily do two semester level courses to scratch this subject, yet people with the understanding from a single topic manage millions of dollars. How about certificants taking a basic business school investment exam (undergraduate or graduate) as a recertification requirement – and yes, do not forget to bring those calculators?

    b. The above issues lead to a serious competency problem.

    c. The 89 topic list should be made public (i.e., easily accessible and widely disseminated) so that any and all consumers (especially knowledgeable ones) can decide whether or not the topics are product-based.

    Finally, for those commentators who feel that I am an armchair professor with no practical experience, I have managed (moonlighting) more money than the average dollars under management for all those who profess this trade. I also once qualified for a financial advisory job with a large firm (earned my Series 7, which is still a bad joke, and insurance license) and served as a financial advisor for half a day!! But that is another story.

    I am still a fervent believer that consumers deserve high quality (i.e., ethical and competent) service and that the CFP board truly has an opportunity of developing exemplary professionals for the future.

    As previously mentioned, I am a professor of finance and not a financial planner. I know how much I do not know about investments. After 25 years of work in this field, I feel I know the subject of investments a little bit more than anything else. It is thus very humbling to be able to offer up my opinion to each of you. For that, I express my gratitude and warmest regards.

    Somnath Basu, Ph.D.


  40. Please don’t interpret this as an attack. It’s a request for clarification in a statement in Dr. Marcinko’s story posted above. He writes:

    “As a health economist and devotee of Ken Arrow PhD, I polity [sic] resigned my license, as holding no utility for me, to the shocked CFP Board.”

    But on the CFP Board website, Dr. Marcinko’s record shows the certification was revoked.


    CFP Board Public Disciplinary History:
    Effective Date: 8/16/2006

    In August 2006, CFP Board permanently revoked Mr. Marcinko’s right to use the CFP® certification marks after he failed to respond to CFP Board’s Complaint investigating his company’s use of a mark that is confusing to the public and dilutes the CFP® certification marks. Because Mr. Marcinko failed to respond to CFP Board’s Complaint, the allegations in the Complaint were deemed admitted and an order of revocation was issued.

    Who is right? If the certification was resigned, Dr. Marcinko has the right to correct the record with CFP Board.


  41. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your cogent query; and absolutely no disrespect taken.

    As a non-prescient and visually impaired American, Dr. Marcinko was late to respond to non-specified concerns over some student-intern placed website verbiage. After clarification, not by the Board, but by its’ intellectual property attorneys, they were easily corrected. Thereafter, he certainly did resign the “marketing-marks”, and did not offer a letter of explanation to the Board, considering it redundant. He also declined their mandated $600 “reconsideration fee”; as akin to “extortion”. Sound familiar?

    Moreover, in-as-much as our Certified Medical Planner™ program requires a college degree, fiduciary accountability and CE publication requirements instead of bi-annual dues; we never understood the Board’s dilutive mark allegation – sour grapes; perhaps?

    Nevertheless, thanks for not assuming Board public rebuke is always fair, or even correct; just meaningless to us [life itself is often unfair]. Moreover, as we do not work with the lay public, I offer you these two official medical acronyms, as recorded in our Dictionary of Health Insurance and Managed Care, for light-hearted consideration:

    CFP = Certified Female Prostitute
    CMP = Certified Male Prostitute

    Link: http://www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

    Finally, the Board’s salutation Mr. speaks volumes for its professionalism; but feel free to decide for yourself.

    Sorry, nothing “spicier” to report here … boring!

    Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™
    [Executive Director]


  42. Dear Bill,

    Nice job with the investigative reporting; sorry it wasn’t a “deep-throat” moment.

    By the way; I went to your website. The combination of technology with financial planning is unique and very different; cool niche focus.



  43. Hope

    FYI: “Dragon Naturally Speaking” is a solid speech recognition program. We use it in our medical practice. Not sure if adaptable for the visually impaired however; probably depends on severity.



  44. Hope,

    What about the American with Disabilities Act [ADA]? Did you contact the ACLU, other attorneys, etc?



  45. ME-P

    I’m pleased to see that some do not suffer fools patiently. Wish I had Marcinko’s balls.

    Anonymous CFP


  46. Heck of a job – CFP BoS


  47. Greetings Hope,

    I appreciate the humorous approach to your response.

    Much like the AMA, my financial planners once told me that CFP leaders are generally comprised of self-important; out-of-touch, fools. Hopefully, we will soon be rid of these aging dinosaurs; as they implode, or are replaced by more responsive and nimble competitors. Jackasses are everywhere.

    And, I very much like the tag line on your CMP™ site:

    Raising the Bar
    The informed voice of a new generation of fiduciary advisors for healthcare™

    I will inquire about fiduciary ethics from my advisors, and recommend your program to them.

    Doctor Walker


  48. Mike,

    We are unconvinced by your contradictory arguments because you offer words; and we all see the actions of Wall Street, the Fed, SEC, NASD, CFP BoS, and the banks and insurance companies; etc.

    Sorry dude; “talk” is cheap; “action” is dear.



  49. Dear ME-P Aficionados,

    Deena Katz, CFP recently opined that “in a physician’s world, prescriptions are separate from advice. Perhaps that’s the model we need to adopt?”

    This is of course, the exact model of our fiduciary focused http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com online education program in medical practice management and health economics for Financial Advisors.

    And so, is Deena correct, or were we just prescient since 2000?

    Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA, CMP™


  50. OMG,

    I am considering selling shoes … not annuities.
    We have killed our “golden-goose.”

    A Registered Rep


  51. Outstanding!

    Just one word … outstanding.
    Well done Dr. Basu and Dr. Marcinko.



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