America’s Top Financial Planners
Woo-hoo! I’ve been listed as one of “America’s Top Financial Planners” by the Consumer’s Research Council of America. At least that what the mailing says. Oddly, the letter seems to only want me to purchase a commemorative “museum quality” plaque. There is no survey, no application and as far as I can tell, no nomination process. So how did I become one of America’s top financial planners anyway? I’m a small boutique shop that a research outfit would surely overlook.
Though SLD Industries, Inc. makes and sells these awards (some for as much as $229), the Consumer’s Research Council of America determined that I’m one of the best. According to an insert in the mailing, the CRCA in an “independent research company” based in Washington, DC. The selection process for this prestigious award is “based on a point value system that awards points for education, years in practice, and affiliations with professional associations.” Furthermore, no fees, sponsorships, donations or advertising are accepted. As Saturday Night Live’s “Church Lady” character used to say “well isn’t that special”.
It should be obvious that this honor is dubious at best, a scam at worst. The criteria used for inclusion are nothing special and are easily culled from public databases. The organizations name is suspiciously similar to the “Consumers Union” who publishes the Consumer Reports magazine that we all know and trust. Upon further digging, I discovered Forbes magazine had done some investigation work on this too. It turns out that (according to Forbes):
-The CRCA address in DC is just a UPS Store mailing address
-Despite being a “.org” website usually representative of non-profits, the Consumer’s Research Council of America is not listed among registered US non-profits
-Even though SLD claims to be “independent” of CRCA, it was a representative of SLD who registered the CRCA website in SLD’s home city of Simi Valley, CA.
-Forbes found one financial planner in Florida who put out a press release touting their inclusion. Forbes used the Certified Financial Planner Board’s database to identify 51 planners within a 5-mile radius of this Florida planner. The CRCA’s website showed that 46 of these 51 had made the cut of America’s Best.
I could go on, but you get the gist. Awards such as these are bogus. Beware of any professional touting their accomplishments by being listed as one of America’s “Best” or “Top”. Note that financial planners aren’t alone in this regard, the CRCA produces guides to Top Lawyers, Nursing Homes, Schools, Real Estate Professionals, Pharmacists, Veternarians, Anesthesiologists, Cardiologists…and just about every specialty you can think of. I counted at least 30 lists on their homepage alone. If anyone is using a CRCA list to promote themselves, they are either incredibly naïve or outright dishonest.
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