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By Christine Benz | 09-01-2010 11:04 AM

Zweig: Where Financial Reform Should Focus First

Addressing the confusing proliferation of financial credentials will be important as millions enter into retirement over the next several years, says the Wall Street Journal columnist.

Christine Benz: Hi. I'm Christine Benz for Morningstar.com.

We're joined here today by Jason Zweig. He is personal finance columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also author of several books about money and investing.

Jason, thanks so much for being here.

Jason Zweig: Sure. Thanks, Christine.

Benz: So we've recently seen a lot of financial regulatory reform, and there is the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a new leader.

Zweig: Yep.

Benz: I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about what that person, Elizabeth Warren, should be focusing on as she sets that bureau's agenda.

Zweig: Well, aside from preserving her own sanity from massive information overload and also from – sort of from "mission creep," as they call it in Washington, I think there are few areas that are well worth exploring.

One is the massive proliferation of professional credentials in the financial planning profession. And I paused as I said "profession" because one of the problems with financial planning in the U.S. is that unlike medicine or law or accounting or dentistry, there is no one universal standard. If you go to your doctor, typically you'll see on a business card so and so, M.D. – period, done.

Benz: You have a sense of what that means and what the person has been through to earn that M.D.?

Zweig: Exactly. So, M.D., that must stand for Medical Doctor, and my doctor must be a Doctor of Medicine.

Benz: Right.

Zweig: But when you go see a financial planner, you could see CFP, you could see CPA PFS, you could see CSFP, you could see CRFA, you could see CWM, you could see countless, countless initials after that person's name, and there is no universal standard. There is no official licensing requirement. And one of the difficulties we have is over the next five years, something like 9 million Americans will reach the age of 55, and those people are going to be in more intensive need of financial planning advice than they ever have been before in their lives.

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