Elite Financial Thinking

We are committed to our craft.  Both of our firms’ principals have achieved the Certified Financial Planner™ designation and earned Master’s degrees in Finance.  Combine that with over 35 years of experience advising institutional and individual clients as an investment adviser, CPA, and consultant, and it is difficult to find another advisory team that has a similar combination of advanced certifications, education and practical expertise.

Most people think all advisors are ‘certified’, but this couldn't be further from the truth.  Employees of large broker dealers and insurance firms, typically called ‘financial advisors’, are often glorified sales professionals, with the only requirement being a few securities licenses that allow them to sell financial products.  On the other hand, it is estimated that only 15 percent of financial services professionals have passed the rigorous education, examination, experience and ethical requirements to achieve the CFP® credential.  An even fewer amount work with independent, fee-only firms.  An even fewer amount also hold the AIF® and CPA credentials. 

Joseph J. McDonnell, CPA, CFP®, PFS®                   

Certified Financial Planner™
Certified Public Accountant
Personal Financial Specialist
Master of Business Administration, Finance, DePaul University

Christopher J. McDonnell, CFP®, AIF®                     

Certified Financial Planner™
Accredited Investment Fiduciary®
Master of Business Administration, Finance, Kogod School of Business, American University


CFP® professionals must demonstrate knowledge and continued professional development in various topics areas, including, but not limited to, trusts and estates, employee benefit and retirement plans, investments and portfolio management, risk management and insurance, and tax planning.  They also must annually attest to an independent Code of Ethics written by the CFP® Board of Standards.    

Why should you hire a CFP®?

The following is taken directly from the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards website at www.cfp.net.  This information is solely owned and Copyrighted © 2012, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.

Anyone can call himself or herself a "financial planner."  Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks.  When selecting a financial planner, you need to feel confident that the person you choose to help you plan for your future is competent and ethical.  The CFP® certification provides that sense of security by allowing only those who meet the following requirements the right to use the CFP® certification marks.

CFP® Certification Requirements

Education:  CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical financial planning knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board.  Other options for satisfying the education component include submitting a transcript review or previous financial planning-related course work to CFP Board for review and credit, or showing the attainment of certain professional designations or academic degrees.

Examination:  CFP® practitioners must pass a comprehensive two-day, 10-hour CFP® Certification Examination that tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format.  Based on regular research of what planners do, the exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance.

Experience:  CFP® professionals must have three years minimum experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks.  As a result, CFP® practitioners possess financial counseling skills in addition to financial planning knowledge.

Ethics:  As a final step to certification, CFP® practitioners agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, that sets forth their ethical responsibilities to the public, clients and employers.  CFP Board also performs a background check during this process, and each individual must disclose any investigations or legal proceedings related to their professional or business conduct.

How does CFP Board’s Code of Ethics Benefit me?

Through the Code of Ethics, CFP® practitioners agree to act fairly and diligently when providing you with financial planning advice and services, putting your interests first.  The Code of Ethics states that CFP® practitioners are to act with integrity, offering you professional services that are objective and based on your needs.  They are required to provide you with information about their sources of compensation and conflicts of interest in writing.

Ongoing Certification Requirements

Once certified, CFP® practitioners are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations.  Every two years, they must complete a minimum 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients.  Two of these hours are spent studying or discussing CFP Board’s Code of Ethics or Practice Standards.  In addition to the biennial continuing education requirement, all CFP® practitioners voluntarily disclose any public, civil, criminal or disciplinary actions that may have been taken against them during the previous two years as part of the renewal process.

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