Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 12, 2023

Are You Retirement Ready?

What Is a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)?

A PFS is a financial professional who holds a specialized designation granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

PFS professionals are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) with extensive knowledge and expertise in personal financial planning, enabling them to provide comprehensive financial advice and services to individuals and families.

The PFS designation demonstrates a high level of expertise and commitment to personal financial planning.

These professionals are uniquely qualified to assist clients in navigating complex financial matters, such as tax planning, investment management, and retirement planning.

By working with a PFS, clients can benefit from tailored financial strategies and expert guidance to achieve their financial goals.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Personal Financial Specialist

Comprehensive Financial Planning

Personal Financial Specialists provide comprehensive financial planning services, considering all aspects of a client's financial situation, goals, and objectives. They help clients create a cohesive financial plan that addresses short-term and long-term financial needs.

Tax Planning and Strategies

As CPAs, PFS professionals possess in-depth knowledge of tax laws and regulations. They help clients develop tax-efficient financial strategies, minimize tax liabilities, and ensure compliance with tax filing requirements.

Investment Advice and Management

PFS professionals provide investment advice and management services, assisting clients in selecting appropriate investments, constructing portfolios, and monitoring performance.

They consider factors such as risk tolerance, investment objectives, and time horizon when making investment recommendations.

Retirement Planning

Personal Financial Specialists help clients plan for retirement by evaluating their financial needs, identifying income sources, and developing strategies to maximize retirement savings and income. They also assist with Social Security planning and pension optimization.

Risk Management and Insurance Planning

PFS professionals assess clients' risk exposure and help them develop risk management strategies to protect their financial well-being. This may include recommending appropriate insurance products, such as life, disability, and long-term care insurance.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is an essential aspect of personal financial planning. PFS professionals work with clients to develop estate plans that minimize estate taxes, protect assets, and ensure that their wishes are carried out in the event of their death.


Qualifications and Requirements for PFS Designation

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) License

To become a Personal Financial Specialist, an individual must first hold a valid CPA license. The CPA designation ensures that the professional has met rigorous education and examination requirements in accounting and taxation.

Education and Experience in Personal Financial Planning

In addition to holding a CPA license, PFS candidates must have significant education and experience in personal financial planning.

This includes completing a minimum of 75 hours of personal financial planning education and having at least two years of full-time experience in personal financial planning services.

Passing the PFS Examination

Candidates for the PFS designation must pass a comprehensive examination that covers various aspects of personal financial planning, including tax planning, investment management, retirement planning, risk management, and estate planning.

Ongoing Continuing Education Requirements

To maintain the PFS designation, professionals must complete ongoing continuing education in personal financial planning and adhere to the AICPA's professional standards and ethical requirements.

Fee Structures and Compensation Models for Personal Financial Specialists

Fee-Only Compensation

Fee-only PFS professionals charge a flat fee or a percentage of assets under management for their services.

This compensation model eliminates potential conflicts of interest that may arise from commissions or product sales, ensuring that the PFS's advice is unbiased and in the client's best interest.

Fee-Based Compensation

Fee-based PFS professionals may charge a combination of fees and commissions for their services. This compensation model may create potential conflicts of interest, as the professional may receive compensation from product sales or referrals.

Commission-Based Compensation

Commission-based PFS professionals receive compensation through commissions on the sale of financial products or referrals to other financial professionals.

This compensation model can create potential conflicts of interest, as the PFS's recommendations may be influenced by the commissions they receive.

Benefits of Hiring a Personal Financial Specialist

Expertise in Tax and Financial Planning

PFS professionals possess a unique combination of tax and financial planning expertise, allowing them to provide clients with comprehensive and integrated financial advice.

Holistic Approach to Personal Finance

Personal Financial Specialists take a holistic approach to personal finance, considering all aspects of a client's financial situation and goals when developing financial strategies and recommendations.

Objective and Unbiased Advice

As fiduciaries, PFS professionals are obligated to act in their clients' best interests, providing objective and unbiased advice tailored to each client's specific needs and objectives.

Tailored Financial Strategies

Personal Financial Specialists create customized financial strategies for their clients, taking into account individual goals, risk tolerance, and unique financial circumstances.

This personalized approach ensures that clients receive advice and guidance that is most suitable for their specific situation.

How to Find and Choose a Personal Financial Specialist

Referrals and Recommendations

One of the most effective ways to find a Personal Financial Specialist is through referrals from friends, family, or colleagues who have had positive experiences with a PFS professional.

These personal recommendations can provide valuable insights into the quality of service and expertise provided by a PFS.

Professional Directories and Organizations

The AICPA maintains a directory of PFS professionals, which can be a useful resource for finding a qualified PFS in your area. Additionally, local professional organizations and financial planning associations may have listings of PFS professionals.

Evaluating Credentials and Experience

When considering a Personal Financial Specialist, it is essential to evaluate their credentials and experience. Verify that they hold a valid CPA license and PFS designation, and inquire about their experience in providing personal financial planning services.

Assessing Compatibility and Communication Style

The relationship between a client and their PFS professional is built on trust and open communication.

When selecting a PFS, consider their communication style, availability, and willingness to listen to your needs and concerns. A strong working relationship with your PFS is crucial for achieving your financial goals.



Personal Financial Specialists play a vital role in helping clients achieve their financial goals by providing expert, comprehensive financial planning services.

By leveraging their unique expertise in tax and financial planning, PFS professionals can help clients navigate the complexities of their financial lives and create tailored strategies to grow and protect their wealth.

Choosing the right Personal Financial Specialist is essential for ensuring that you receive the best possible financial advice and guidance to achieve your financial objectives.

By carefully evaluating a PFS's credentials, experience, communication style, and compensation structure, you can select a professional who is well-suited to your needs and who will provide the expert assistance necessary to secure your financial future.

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Meet Top Certified Financial Advisors Near You