4 Certifications Every Financial Advisor Needs When Working with the Senior Market

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As a financial advisor who works with people over age 50, you’re likely reviewing the best ways to preserve, safely grow and ultimately draw down the investments many of your clients have built up over the years. Your services are critical at this point in their lives, as they navigate tax implications, rising medical costs, the effects of inflation, unexpected financial events, paying off debt, retirement costs and a myriad other concerns and opportunities that move to the forefront of their financial picture. Financial planning for senior citizens is a tricky space to navigate, and making sure that you are fully prepared with the best certifications is essential to providing your clients with the best financial services.

Are You Fully Certified to Be a Favored Financial Advisor for People Over 50?

When you pursue specific financial advisor certifications for older clients, you’ll become more knowledgeable in the topics that people over age 50 want to know about most often, such as:

  • Retirement planning
  • Retirement income
  • Longevity planning
  • Estate planning
  • Planning for living on a fixed income
  • Life insurance and life settlement options

By earning certifications related to these topics, you’ll earn their trust and their business. You can also avoid any unintentional age discrimination issues, under the U.S. Age Discrimination Act.

The Four Most Important Certifications for Working with Clients Over 50

You become much more attractive to the over 50 set with these four certifications under your belt:

Certified Financial Fiduciary (CFF)

Becoming a certified financial fiduciary in the senior market is a simple process and will boost your credibility considerably. Since fiduciaries are required by law to put their client’s interests above their own, seniors feel much more comfortable with them and seriously consider this certification when seeking out a financial advisor.

To become a CFF, you need to take the following steps:

Have a financial certification or financial license (i.e., securities, insurance, etc.) or relevant experience deemed acceptable by the National Associate of Certified Financial Fiduciaries (NACFF).

  • Pass a full background check and be in compliance with all state and federal requirements.
  • Successfully complete a one-day training course.
  • Complete a 100-question exam and score 75% or higher.
  • Allow NACFF to audit and review your business for best practices and compliance.
  • Exemplify the highest standard of morals, ethics, and fiduciary standards of service.
  • Swear to uphold the CFF Code of Conduct.

This certification naturally engenders more trust in your services, and that is a huge selling point for any client; it is especially important for those nearing retirement, who depend heavily on your services for their ongoing financial stability.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)

A certified senior advisor, or CSA, is perhaps the most well-known designation for advisors working with clients over 50. With this certification, you’ll join the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, which is a prestigious association that requires both an extensive application and an ongoing educational component.

Acquiring the CSA certification usually entails up to 60 hours of preparation, including studying a textbook, completing workbook problems and attending courses. You’ll also undergo a criminal background check and complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years to remain a CSA. To pass your certification examination, you must successfully answer financial, legal, social, cultural and health-related questions about the senior population. The financial concepts you need to know represent only about 20% of the required knowledge.

As a CSA, your guidance is invaluable to the 50+ market. With this certification in hand, you’ll be able to help your clients successfully navigate many of the issues that regularly challenge them.

Certified Senior Specialist (CSS)

A certified senior specialist is similar to a CSA, but the training is not as time-intensive. It still follows a rigorous educational curriculum that includes a wide variety of financial planning topics impacting seniors, including demographics, retirement planning, estate planning, income tax issues, government programs like Social Security and Medicare, long-term care, charitable giving, reverse mortgages, life insurance and investment planning.

Earning the CSS designation indicates that you have a strong academic background in working with seniors, and is generally very attractive to seniors looking for a specialist that understands many of the nuances of their financial situation.

Chartered Senior Financial Planner (CSFP)

The Association of Chartered Senior Financial Planners offers the designation of Chartered Senior Financial Planner (CSFP). This is a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) approved professional designation, although it’s one of the least intensive programs available, so it’s easy to achieve and maintain. Becoming a CSFP requires two years of insurance or securities experience, or practice as a licensed attorney or CPA, attendance at a three-day course and a certification exam. It also requires sixteen hours of ongoing education every two years.

Since this designation has FINRA’s stamp of approval, it’s an instant mark of credibility for those seeking your services.

Certified Senior Consultant (CSC)

You’re likely also aware of the certified senior consultant (CSC) designation that was formerly offered by the Institute of Business and Finance. FINRA recently retired this certification, and it is no longer valid. It provided CSC-designated professionals relevant insight into the unique challenges seniors face, among them Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSI and veteran’s benefits.

Since this certification is no longer available, it highlights the importance of researching these types of designations and periodically updating your qualifications to match the current best practices in serving the aging population. Holding an outdated certification could damage an otherwise outstanding financial services reputation.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Your Financial Planning Career

While you don’t want to spend your entire career striving for certifications, these four are must haves when you’re serving senior clients. They keep you up to speed on topics that matter to seniors, and provide essential training in the ever-changing laws and regulations governing programs like Medicaid, Medicare and more, as well as the best practices for helping seniors with a variety of programs, investments and decisions.

At ISC we’re big believers in continuing education since the world is always changing and we need to stay on top of (and ahead of) these changes for the benefit of our clients. If you’re seeking a deeper understanding of the senior market we are here to help. We have a collective 80 years experience managing life expectancy reporting and can help you serve your clients with the most accurate information possible so that they can feel secure and hopeful for their future.