The needs of people in retirement or about to retiree are different than those of baby boomers. Yet all you see in articles is advice for baby boomers on how to prepare for retirement. What about help for those age 60+ who have already cashed in their chips or about to do so?
Good news. There has been increased education, albeit slowly, for financial advisors to help people in retirement. But be careful about the several designations you may see.
The most widely held senior designation, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) is not a financial training at all. Although many financial professionals gain this designation, so do nurses, gerontologists, funeral home directors and others dealing with older people. The designation is really a training in communication skills and issues of aging and not in financial issues.
The Certified Retirement Financial Advisor designation (CRFA) is ONLY for financial professionals that have at least 2 years experience in financial services. The enrollees seek to polish their retiree-specific financial knowledge and the course covers every aspect of financial concerns to someone in their retirement years: how to avoid tax on social security income, how to liquidate assets for the lowest or zero capital gains tax, how to utilize section 72 rules for early retirees who need to tap their retirement funds before age 59 ½, IRS sections 1035 and 1031 exchanges for tax deferral, Roth IRA conversions, how to minimize taxes on IRA distributions, how to build retiree portfolios for greater secure income, how to create low risk equity portfolios, training in estate planning and asset protection, long term care planning and related tax issues, trusts, advance directives, integration of your retirement plan and estate plan, asset titling issues, beneficiary selection for retirement accounts and other assets. Fifteen hours of continuing education is required annually to maintain the designation.
The other legitimate designation is Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL). However, of the 5 courses that graduates must complete, 2 of them are general and not retiree specific. Fifteen hours of continuing education is required every 2 years to maintain the designation.
Be cautious of any other designations held by a financial advisor who contends that the designation has prepared him to give appropriate financial advice for people in retirement. There are several designations that have no substance and are programs designed to make a financial sales person look like a professional.
Here are some simple questions you can ask a retirement planner. If the professional cannot answer them easily, then move on:
How can IRS section 1031 help me (it helps people divest real estate without current taxation)
What is the lowest possible rate on capital gains that I could possibly qualify for (5% currently, 0% starting in 2008)
Can anyone convert their IRA to a Roth IRA (their modified adjusted gross income must be under $100,000 currently)
If I want to leave my IRA to my 3 children, do I need to split it into 3 accounts (no, the children can split the IRA after your death into 3 accounts)
Will a living trust help me save taxes (no—the benefits of a living trust that cannot be accomplished otherwise is the avoidance of probate and privacy)
What’s the difference between an annuitant driven and owner driven annuity (all annuities are owner driven—if the owner dies, the owners beneficiary gets the proceeds)
Can I lose money with an equity indexed annuity (yes, if you withdraw funds during the surrender period, the surrender charge could be larger than anything you have earned resulting in a loss)
Why shouldn’t I put my sons name on my accounts as joint tenant so he inherits them directly if I die (you can be deemed to have given a gift which may have tax consequences and you have exposed jointly held assets to your son’s creditors).