If you're in the market for a financial advisor, you've probably been confused by all the different credentials claimed by various professionals. To help you decipher those fancy acronyms embossed on letterheads, we spell out the most common -- and not-so-common -- credentials here:

  • CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst
  • CFP: Certified Financial Planner
  • ChFC: Chartered Financial Consultant
  • CPA: Certified Public Accountant
  • MBA: Master of Business Administration
  • RIA: Registered Investment Adviser
  • RR: Registered Representative

Others you may come across are:

  • AAMS: Accredited Asset Management Specialist
  • CFM: Certified Financial Manager
  • CIC: Chartered Investment Counselor
  • CIMA: Certified Investment Management Analyst
  • CLU: Chartered Life Underwriter
  • CMA: Certified Management Accountant
  • CMC: Certified Management Consultant
  • CMT Chartered Market Technician
  • CPCU: Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter
  • PFS: Personal Finance Specialist
  • REBC: Registered Employee Benefits Consultant
  • RHU: Registered Health Underwriter
  • XYZPDQ: Examine Your Zipper Pretty Darn Quick

While these designations don't ensure that the person does good work, they do say the person has had some training and experience, and perhaps a lot of it. Here's more information on many of these designations. If you find that you can't get enough of acronyms, check out this lengthy list of three-letter ones.

You'll find a lot of guidance on how to find the best advisor for yourself in our Advisor Center, including information on our very own TMF Money Advisor.