Most observers agree that retirement income planning has arrived. The demographics are there (10,000 boomers a day are turning 65). Consumer demand is high (84 percent of annuity producers report having client discussions about retirement income). And advisor interest is mounting (77 percent of advisors are planning to add such planning to their offerings in 2014).
But here’s the question facing advisors: Should you respond tactically or strategically to this opportunity? A tactical response might involve claming to offer retirement-income planning on your website. Or puchasing and delivering a webinar on the topic. Or perhaps earning a new retirement-income planning designation during a spare weekend.
A strategic response would involve re-evaluating your practice’s business model to make sure all elements synch with your new strategy. A key element, of course, is acquiring the skills and credentials you need to serve clients in this capacity.
Now, there will always be advisors who respond tactically to paradigm shifts. And that’s certainly their right. But only those who respond strategically will reap the biggest rewards. Among this group are the thousands of advisors who have begun to pursue a rigorous retirement-income planning credential. If you are in this camp, my hat is off to you!
If you’re still on the fence, read on. According to Wade D. Pfau, professor of retirement income at The American College, there are more than 50 retirement credentials available today. However, in his opinion, four programs have risen to the top:
- The International Foundation for Retirement Education’s Certified Retirement Counselor®
- The College for Financial Planning’s Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM.
- The American College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional®
- The Retirement Income Industry Association’s Retirement Management AnalystSM.
All of these are rigorous, offered by credible organizations, and require a significant (though not onerous) financial commitment. Some have been around longer than others; some require more study time; and some are independently accredited while others rely on the accredition of university partners.
The programs also have varying academic methods, relying on self-study learning or participation in a university-sponsored program. But here’s the bottom line: if you’re interested in pursuing retirement-income planning, any of these will spark a successful entry.
Our best advice for moving forward?
- Select a program that shines a spotlight on customer needs. The more you know about their retirement challenges, the better prepared you’ll be.
- Make sure the program incorporates actual advisor experiences and is grounded in current real-world practices.
- Make certain it dwells on the various risks that threaten income continuity, especially healthcare expenses, as well as on longevity risk.
- Also make sure the program addresses ethics and compliance standards that minimize client complaints and lawsuits.
- Finally, select the program that will challenge you the most. I know . . . easy is good, but when it comes to entering this new specialty, hard is better.
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