Certificate Program in Financial Planning

Certificate Program in Financial Planning

Course Descriptions

Program fast facts

  • Traditional Path (one night per week)
  • Pacesetter Path (two nights per week)
  • Intensive 11-month Cohort Program
LOCATION SMU Dallas campus
NEXT ENTRY DATE Sep. 25, 2017 (Traditional or Pacesetter Path)
CLASS DAYS 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (M/W)
Priority Rate (by Sep. 11): $775 per course
Standard Rate: $875 per course
Pacesetter Rate: $1,350 (call to register)

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Fundamentals of Financial Planning: 101

Fundamentals of Financial Planning introduces students to the financial planning process and to the technical skills a competent financial planner must possess in order to serve his or her clients successfully. Students will learn the fundamental elements of financial planning (insurance, investments, taxation, retirement planning and employee benefits, and estate planning) and their corresponding interrelationship in providing comprehensive personal financial planning. This course explores the financial planning industry and how to develop a financial planning practice: including the current economic environment, regulation and licensing, reporting and compliance, and compensation methods. The course defines and reviews the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

Insurance & Risk Management: 102

Insurance and Risk Management explores the financial risks that individuals and businesses face and how they can manage these risks, including the utilization of insurance solutions. Students will be exposed to the purpose, structure and coverage options of the following types of insurance: health, disability, long-term care, life, property and casualty, and more. This course also reviews the taxation of insurance benefits and how taxation should affect a financial planner’s decision to recommend insurance solutions under certain circumstances. After completing the course, students will be able to determine a client’s risk exposure and develop a comprehensive insurance and risk management plan for his client based on the client’s goals and objectives.

Investments 103

Investments exposes students to the concepts of risk and return, the differences between equity and fixed income investments, the mathematics of investing, the evaluation of investment theories and strategies, and the regulation of the investment industry. The course explores the difference between fundamental and technical analysis, and students will perform basic bond and equity valuations. The course introduces modern portfolio theory (asset allocation, diversification, market timing, and security selection). The course also introduces the capital asset pricing model, arbitrage pricing theory, and the efficient market hypothesis. Students calculate investment fees and expenses, time weighted vs. dollar weighted returns, arithmetic vs. geometric returns, risk adjusted returns, and after-tax returns. Students will develop a suitable investment portfolio established to meet a client’s goals and objectives and prepare an appropriate plan of implementation based on this information.

Retirement Planning & Employee Benefits: 104

Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits explores the nature and function of retirement plans and surveys the more common employee benefits companies offer today. The course outlines the various retirement plans available including government and private plans, pension plans, individual retirement accounts, and other qualified and non-qualified retirement plans. Students learn to determine a client’s eligibility to participate in a retirement plan, calculate a client’s tax deductible contribution limits, and calculate the taxation of retirement plan benefits upon distribution. The course includes a complete needs analysis to determine a client’s expected monetary needs and the associated cash flow required in a client’s retirement years. Students will recommend an appropriate plan of action including retirement plan options that achieve the client’s goals and objectives and compliment the client’s comprehensive financial plan.

Tax Planning: 105

Tax Planning delves into current tax code concepts, issues, and regulations and the resulting consequences and liabilities to a financial planner’s clients. The course explores the structure of the code as it pertains to the taxation of individuals, their businesses, partnerships, trusts, and other legal entities. The course walks students through personal income tax calculations and the ramifications of taxable transactions. Students work through practical scenarios including calculating taxable income, exclusions and deductions, depreciation and amortization schedules, the alternative minimum tax, and real estate and business sales and exchanges. The course explores tax management techniques such as excluding income, deferring income, shifting income, and managing or timing income. Students will develop tax planning strategies to manage tax liability and to accumulate assets while minimizing tax consequences. Taxation is studied as it relates to each of the key areas of financial planning: insurance, investments, retirement planning, employee benefits, and estate planning. Students will integrate a client’s financial goals and objectives into a well developed tax strategy within the context of a comprehensive financial plan.

Estate Planning: 106

Estate Planning examines the taxation of gifts, estates, and generation skipping transfers. The course includes the calculation of the gift tax, estate tax, and generation skipping transfer tax in consideration of applicable exclusions and deductions. Students are exposed to estate planning techniques such as lifetime transfers and gifting, charitable gifting, the utilization of trusts and partnerships, and postmortem planning. The course emphasizes solving a client’s estate planning problems by providing students with the tools to develop practical strategies that focus on a client's goals and objectives and apply current tax law in order to develop an effective estate plan.

Financial Planning Strategies & Case Studies (Capstone): 107

Financial Planning Strategies and Case Studies serves as the capstone course for the SMU Program. The case-study format differs from the traditional lecture format in that students take a more active role in the learning process. Students complete a number of segmented financial planning cases related to insurance, investing, taxation, retirement planning and employee benefits, and estate planning. Students develop both basic and complex comprehensive financial plans by following the six step financial planning process. Students complete individual and group work and participate in the presentation of a comprehensive financial plan to the class. This experience serves as a model for application as a professional.


Get Started!

  • Choose a starting date. Students may join the SMU Program in April or September on the main campus in Dallas, or in January at SMU-in-Plano.
  • Choose a track. Students may elect to take one course per quarter, on the Traditional Path, or take 2 courses per quarter on the Pacesetter Path (at a discounted rate). Students in the SMU CPFP in Plano program move through the program one course at at time, at an accelerated pace; each of the seven courses in the program are taught in 6-week modules. For an overview of the course paths, click here.
  • Enroll in an Information Session. New online information sessions coming soon! These on-demand sessions are packed with information about the SMU Program and the CFP® certification process. Join our mailing list to be notified when the new session is available.
  • Meet program instructors, view prerequisites and course fees.
  • Complete the program application. Click here to complete the SMU program application process.
  • Register for class. After the application has been approved, students may enroll online, by phone, or by fax. Traditional Path and Plano students begin the program with course 101; Pacesetter Path students begin with courses 101 and 103.

Current Students

Are you a current student? If you have questions as you progress through the Financial Planning Certificate Program, please call the office at 214.768.2273.

Smart Option Loans

Loans for the Plano cohort are available from Sallie Mae.


Please contact Karoline Staton, Senior Recruitment Specialist, at caperecruiter@smu.edu or 214-768-1086.