The CFP Board Financial Planning Competency Handbook hit the shelves and e-readers last month, marking the board’s foray into the publishing world.

The meaty, 735-page tome aims to be a thorough handbook for financial planners, candidates for the CFP certification, academics and people in the industry.

“The book fleshes out where we are as a profession,” says its editor, Dr. Charles Chaffin, the director of academic programs and initiatives at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Chaffin spearheaded the effort and oversaw its development over the course of a year.

“Some of the elements of the profession haven’t been defined in print before,” he says. “At the risk of oversimplification, the book can be boiled down to three areas: What a financial planner needs to know, what a financial planner does, and when and where a financial planner needs to do it.”

The handbook is divided into two parts. Part One outlines the 78 topics required to meet the CFP Board education requirement. Each topic, or chapter, follows a uniform structure with a content diagram, an introduction and historical overview, a student-centered learning objective and an instructional resource. All chapters also contain a professional practice capabilities section that outlines what a planner should be able to do based on a given experience level (whether he or she is entry-level, competent or an expert), along with vignettes that illustrate how a specific concept can be applied.

The second part covers the domains, or what planners do on the practice side, that are part of the CFP Board examination requirement.

The book’s 85 chapters were written by 22 volunteer contributors in both the industry and academia.

Commenting on the book’s length, Chaffin says he wanted to bring theory and practice together. “When you start doing that for all of the topics and actions and some of the context, your book gets really thick, he says with a laugh.

He views the handbook as a reference for both students and practitioners, and as a source for keeping a financial planner’s repertoire as complete as possible. “I hope it gets people thinking about things within a practice they haven’t thought about in a while,” he says.

CFP professionals can obtain 28 continuing education credits by reading the book and passing a test provided through its publisher, John Wiley & Sons (visit

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