Should You Trust A Retirement Adviser?

By on September 9, 2013
Categories: RETIREMENT

If you are getting close to retirement, you will have to figure out how you’re going to stretch your nest egg as far as possible.

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable tackling this retirement challenge on your own, but who should help you with this complicated decision?

Should it be an Accredited Retirement Advisor (ARA)? A Certified Asset Protection Planner (CAPP)?  A Certified Financial Gerontologist? Or maybe some other advisers who have a senior designation on their business cards?

A Bewildering Number of Designations

According to a report from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureauopens PDF file , older Americans who seek financial help are encountering advisers who earned a bewildering number of senior designations.

The bureau counted more than 50 senior designations among advisers trying to attract retirees and other clients. The government estimates that tens of thousands of financial professionals are using senior credentials.

Questionable Senior Adviser Designations

It’s only understandable that consumers are going to assume that somebody who has an acronym behind his or her name underwent advanced training or demonstrated expertise to obtain these credentials. That, however, is not always the case. Some of the credentials appear next to worthless.

Here is an excerpt of the statement that Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, made when releasing the senior certification report:


Studies have suggested that older consumers may be more likely to rely on the recommendations or advice from a professional using a senior designation.

Regulating Senior Adviser Designations

The report suggests ways to protect consumers including these recommendations:

  • Require professionals to explain their qualifications.
  • Provide an explanation of the senior-specific certification.
  • Share how consumers can find adviser disciplinary actions.
  • Suggests Congress explore requiring minimum standards for acquiring senior designations including training and testing.

If you look at the qualifications of some of these senior designations in the federal chart below, they are dubious. Some of these designations, such as Accredited Retirement Advisor and Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant, require no coursework and don’t offer accreditation.

The Certified Financial Planner Designation

In contrast to many of these designations, a credential that stands out on this list is the Certified Financial Planner or CFP.

Financial professionals who hope to obtain the CFP mark must undergo extensive classes and pass a difficult test. There is also an avenue for consumers to investigate a CFP’s background and to determine if there have been disciplinary actions lodged against him or her. This should be a model for groups awarding senior certifications.

Bottom Line:

Don’t assume that advisers are qualified to help you simply because they have acronyms on their business cards. Be sure you understand what a person’s credentials, experience and training are before you trust them with your life savings.

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