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Download the 2021 principal knowledge topics list
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To become a CFP Board Registered Program, schools must demonstrate coverage of the Principal Knowledge Topics within their curriculum. CFP Board released an updated list of Principal Knowledge Topics in March 2021, which will become effective in January 2022.

Registered Programs should begin incorporating this updated topics list into their coursework curriculum beginning in 2021.

The required Principal Knowledge Topics are determined through a Practice Analysis Study and serve as the blueprint for the CFP® exam. Each exam question is linked to one of the Principal Knowledge Topics, in the approximate percentages indicated with the general category headings.

More information about the 2021 Practice Analysis Study

2015 Principal Knowledge Topics

Download the 2015 Principal Knowledge Topics List
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The existing 2015 Principal Knowledge Topics list — along with related Contextual Variables resources — are available below for reference. Current and prospective CFP Board Registered Programs should refer to the 2021 Principal Knowledge Topics list above when developing and updating course content.

The 2015 Principal Knowledge Topics were determined through the 2015 Job Task Analysis.

2015 Principal Knowledge Topics

A.1. CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Rules of Conduct
A.2. CFP Board’s Financial Planning Practice Standards
A.3. CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures
A.4. Function, purpose and regulation of financial institutions
A.5. Financial services regulations and requirements
A.6. Consumer protection laws
A.7. Fiduciary

B.8. Financial planning process
B.9. Financial statements
B.10. Cash flow management
B.11. Financing strategies
B.12. Economic concepts
B.13. Time value of money concepts and calculations
B.14. Client and planner attitudes, values, biases and behavioral finance
B.15. Principles of communication and counseling
B.16. Debt management

C.17. Education needs analysis
C.18. Education savings vehicles
C.19. Financial aid
C.20. Gift/income tax strategies
C.21. Education financing

D.22. Principles of risk and insurance
D.23. Analysis and evaluation of risk exposures
D.24. Health insurance and health care cost management (individual)
D.25. Disability income insurance (individual)
D.26. Long‐term care insurance (individual)
D.27. Annuities
D.28. Life insurance (individual)
D.29. Business uses of insurance
D.30. Insurance needs analysis
D.31. Insurance policy and company selection
D.32. Property and casualty insurance

E.33. Characteristics, uses and taxation of investment vehicles
E.34. Types of investment risk
E.35. Quantitative investment concepts
E.36. Measures of investment returns
E.37. Asset allocation and portfolio diversification
E.38. Bond and stock valuation concepts
E.39. Portfolio development and analysis
E.40. Investment strategies
E.41. Alternative investments

F.42. Fundamental tax law
F.43. Income tax fundamentals and calculations
F.44. Characteristics and income taxation of business entities
F.45. Income taxation of trusts and estates
F.46. Alternative minimum tax (AMT)
F.47. Tax reduction/management techniques
F.48. Tax consequences of property transactions
F.49. Passive activity and at-risk rules
F.50. Tax implications of special circumstances
F.51. Charitable/philanthropic contributions and deductions

G.52. Retirement needs analysis
G.53. Social Security and Medicare
G.54. Medicaid
G.55. Types of retirement plans
G.56. Qualified plan rules and options
G.57. Other tax-advantaged retirement plans
G.58. Regulatory considerations
G.59. Key factors affecting plan selection for businesses
G.60. Distribution rules and taxation
G.61. Retirement income and distribution strategies
G.62. Business succession planning

H.63. Characteristics and consequences of property titling
H.64. Strategies to transfer property
H.65. Estate planning documents
H.66. Gift and estate tax compliance and tax calculation
H.67. Sources for estate liquidity
H.68. Types, features and taxation of trusts
H.69. Marital deduction
H.70. Intra-family and other business transfer techniques
H.71. Postmortem estate planning techniques
H.72. Estate planning for non-traditional relationships

Contextual Variables

In addition to the Principal Knowledge Topics and Financial Planning Job Task Domains, CFP Board Registered Program courses cover other important variables that need to be considered when dealing with specific financial planning situations. These are referred to as “Contextual Variables” and are used as part of content development for the CFP® exam and other case-based scenarios.

These variables account for client situations that require applying specific financial planning knowledge, including:

  • Family Status (traditional family, single parent, same-sex couples, blended families, widowhood)
  • Net Worth (ultra-high net worth, high net worth, mass affluent, emerging affluent, mass market)
  • Income Level (high, medium, low)
  • Life or Professional Stage (student, starting a career, career transition, pre-retirement)
  • Other Circumstances (health issues, divorce, change of employment status, aging parents, special needs children)
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