CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional Reveals the Challenge and Reward Behind the Certification

We are ecstatic to bring you exciting news: Julie Karstens, a cherished McBeath Financial Group team member, has officially obtained her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.

In July, we celebrated as Julie passed her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ board exam on the first attempt – a remarkable achievement that only 67% of candidates attain. It became official in August, so we congratulate her once again. Her relentless determination and hard work have culminated in this prestigious recognition from the Certified Financial Planner™ Board of Standards, Inc.

Why is the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certification Important?

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ marks are not only a respected credential in the financial planning industry but also signify a profound commitment to excellence, ethics, and continuous education. Earning this prestigious title is no small feat. Apart from completing rigorous coursework and passing a demanding exam, candidates must also accrue 6,000 hours of professional experience. Additionally, holding a bachelor’s degree or higher is a prerequisite. This comprehensive set of requirements ensures that clients are paired with professionals equipped with the knowledge and expertise to provide advice tailored to their unique financial needs and goals.

Now, let's delve into Julie's journey of success, which underscores the dedication and expertise that clients can expect when seeking a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional for their wealth management needs.

Interview with Julie Karstens, CFP®

Q: Why did you decide to pursue the CFP® certification?

A: I wanted to deepen my knowledge and skills in financial planning. The CFP® marks represent a high standard of excellence, and I knew that earning this certification would enable me to provide the best possible service to our clients.

Q: How long did it take you to finish the coursework?

A: Interesting story. I was expecting the program to take 2-3 years. To earn the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, one of the many requirements is completing the certified coursework. An applicant must take seven courses and pass the exam for each of them. On average, I would say each course usually takes 2-3 months to complete and pass each individual exam. Preparation and additional study time for the board exam is usually another 3-6 months on top of that. With a work, family, and study balance, I assumed the process would likely take me closer to three years than the normal two years.

I started my first course in November of 2022. The next month, Krista and Robert were having a conversation with Dr. Chris Tamm, Director of the Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis at ISU. They got on the subject of the CFP® marks, and the professor informed them that ISU now has a program that qualifies as the prerequisite for the CFP® certification process. By that time, I had been pulled into the conversation and started asking more questions. We then realized that there was a chance that some of my courses for my Financial Planning minor in college may count toward these 7 required classes. After gathering the syllabi (with a lot of help from Dr. Tamm), from 5 classes I took over a decade ago, I submitted this information to the CFP Board and was approved! By January of 2023, I found out that I only had one more course to take before the education part of the program was complete! Chris Tamm was instrumental in my fast track to achieving my CFP® course requirements, and I owe him a debt of gratitude!

I started studying that month in preparation for the July exam. The CFP Board only offers the CFP® exam three times a year. I knew my studies for the exam would need to be more intense than the normal applicant since I had not reviewed the material from 5 of the 7 courses for over 10 years. Yes, much of the knowledge I use at work was helpful in my studies, but this exam goes into much more detail with manual calculations, tax code memorization, and so much more. Six and a half months and 350+ hours later, I sat and passed the exam! So, my 2–3 year timeline turned into a 9-month timeline!

The journey was intense but incredibly rewarding.

Q: Were there any challenges to overcome?

A: Balancing family, work, and nearly 350 hours of study was indeed challenging. But my passion for helping clients and support from the McBeath team kept me focused and motivated. The fact that I really enjoyed most of the information I was studying helped me push through this challenge. It was exciting to me that a lot of the material I was studying, I could incorporate into my everyday work life to help benefit the organization and our clients!

Q: How is this milestone personally meaningful to you?

It is something I know I wanted to do for a long time. I put it off because I thought there might be a better time to do it in the future. When I finally decided to move forward with it, it was at one of the hardest and busiest times of my life. I had a four-year-old, two-year-old, and 6-month-old. My husband and I work full-time, and both have long commutes. He works in Streator, IL, and our daycare provider lives 20 minutes in the opposite direction of our home and my work.  The fact that with all of that, I still remained disciplined in my 15 hours of studying each week and found time to play with my kids each day is crazy looking back on it. I was waking up at 5 am each morning, listening to my study books during all of my car rides, studying nights, weekend mornings, every nap time… And I owe so much of my passing to my husband, who took care of the kids and the house during that time period.

Q: So, do you feel this means you’re more qualified in your role as a financial planner?

A: Of course, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals are known to have a high level of skills in providing more in-depth and comprehensive financial planning. And I think the marks are proof of this, giving McBeath Financial Group further confidence in our expertise. But I feel our team at McBeath Financial Group has always provided top-notch services, whether it's investment strategy, retirement planning, or estate planning. But, achieving the CFP® certification is essentially confirmation that I have the knowledge and tools to create personalized solutions that align with each client’s financial goals.


Julie Karstens’ achievement as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional is a testament to her dedication, expertise, and the quality of service we strive for at McBeath Financial Group. Her success story is an inspiration to all, especially those in search of a committed and qualified financial planner for their retirement planning.

If you’re seeking expert financial advice and personalized solutions, our team of Financial Planners, including our newest CFP® professional, Julie Karstens, is here to assist you. Contact us today to embark on a journey towards financial success.

Krista McBeath is an Investment Advisor, Chartered Financial Consultant, a Licensed Insurance Advisor, a Fiduciary, and an experienced tax advisor who specializes in financial planning, investments, and insurance.

She utilizes advanced tools for in-depth calculations that analyze tax and retirement scenarios to help her clients avoid a future tax time-bomb.  Whether this means enjoying more of your hard-earned money in retirement or passing along assets to loved ones with less tax burden, planning makes the difference.

Her new book, The Generational Wealth System outlines a holistic approach to preserving lifestyle, wealth and legacy.

click to schedule an appointment with financial planner Krista McBeath of Normal IL