With the boomers in or near retirement, more advisers are earning credentials as retirement specialists. But with a bewildering array of such designations currently in use — there are 50 in all — “the use of senior designations is extremely confusing for consumers,” according a report earlier this year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Making Sense of the Acronyms
Moreover, the titles mask big differences in the training and examinations these programs require.
For example, while the Accredited Retirement Advisor and Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant require no specific coursework, those earning a Retired Income Specialist (RIS) certification must put in 60 hours of online coursework, according to the report.
Check for Required Experience
For some credentials, for example, applicants don’t have to demonstrate any previous professional experience, nor do they have to use any officially accredited curriculum.
Neither the Accredited Retirement Advisor nor the Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant has an online database consumers can use to submit complaints or look up an adviser’s disciplinary record, according to the report. The Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), on the other hand, has both.
The CFPB report lists the coursework requirements, accreditation status, and consumer complaint and disciplinary procedures used by eight senior designation programs. (See pages 26 through 29 of the CFPB report.)
Financial Planners Specializing in Retirement Issues
Pfau, who is also a MarketWatch RetireMentor columnist, singles out the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) designation; the Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC) and the Retirement Management Analyst (RMA). Full disclosure: The American College sponsors the RICP, and Pfau is a former curriculum director of the RMA.
Finding a Qualified Retirement Income Pro
In all, each course requires 60 to 80 hours of study and covers topics including long-term care, Medicare, tapping home equity, maximizing pension and Social Security benefits and tax-efficient withdrawal strategies, says Littell.
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