SENIOR CERTIFICATION

No, we don’t need a certificate to be considered “Old Farts”. That is not the point of this Post; rather, it covers the myriad of some confusing types of “Senior Certification” designations that some people in Financial Services use to attest to their “credentials” in helping Older Investors. Namely, the question is how to differentiate between the true financial professionals who have an understanding of the special financial needs and concerns of Senior Citizens, and those whose only apparent goal is separating you from your money.

The Bucks Blog article, Telling the Difference Among 50 “Senior” Financial Credentials, http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/telling-the-difference-among-50-senior-financial-credentials/?ref=business&pagewanted=print, provides a good overview of this Topic. Mentioned in the NY Times article, The CFPB’s (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) Office of Older Americans, is leading the efforts to reduce the confusion, and has produced the following brochure: “Senior Designations for Financial Advisors”, which is linked as follows: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201304_CFPB_OlderAmericans_Report.pdf.

As the CFPB brochure points out, some of the so-called designations are are not awarded by any recognized industry authority, don’t seem to have any requirements and appear to be relatively meaningless. But, I can tell you first hand that many people seeking financial help are quite ready to follow the advice of anyone who might appear to be an authority. This could especially be the case for older people, who might not understand the recommendations or risks involved, or know what questions to ask. Namely, are they right for you?

Several points that I would emphasize in the CFPB brochure are:

1. There do not appear to be any CE (Continuing Education) Requirements to maintain a license. There are generally specific tests which must be passed each year to retain most professional licenses.
2. As people age, their ability to understand complex products deteriorates. With two financial-related degrees and decades in the business, I occasionally encountered products, designed for seniors, that I couldn’t understand. Needless to say, if I didn’t understand them, how would I explain them to Aunt Tillie or Uncle Harry?
3. Luncheon seminars have been noted by the CFPB, and flagged by regulators, since the Financial Services Industry has found that people tend to be more receptive to presentations after a meal. Also, the focus is often more on Sales than on Education and Planning.

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