If you're in the market for a financial advisor, you've probably been confused by all the different credentials that various pros have. To help you decipher those fancy clusters of letters 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 Advisor
  • 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 (OK, kidding)

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 these initialisms, check out this list of three-letter ones.

And by the way, your friends at the Fool offer a personal financial planner service, too. You're invited to look into our TMF Money Advisor service, which features customized independent advice from a variety of objective financial experts. Meanwhile, to take savings matters into your own hands, visit our Savings Center, which offers some special rates for Fools.