Advisors to Seniors: Do You Need One?

Advisors to Seniors:  Do You Need One? It had to happen sooner or later. New alphabet soup dedicated to seniors. Who are they and what do they stand for?

Most of these designations are earned after a course of study, which may be as simple as a series of self-study CDs, to a curriculum of full classroom instruction, and a lot of other packages in between. What is common to all these programs is specific instruction in the way to market and understand the unique needs of the aging population. Some programs offer blatant promises to have you firmly established as the senior advisor of record in your community while others pay little attention to the business benefit of the credential and support a higher purpose.

In general, this is a good idea. Knowing how to bridge generational issues, how to keep the interests of the elderly uppermost in the professional relationship in the face of the children's demands, and to bring resources specific to the needs of that generation is a very valuable and welcome addition to the financial services community. What does not work is the opportunity this affords to the pond scum to exploit this population and give the concept a bad name. To wit, here are the current list of players and some words of caution:

First, there is the Financial Gerontologist, now using the letters RFG?, which is a designation granted by a collaborative effort of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, American Institute of Financial Gerontology, American Society of Aging, and Widener University.

The RFG certificant must have some background in complementary disciplines (law, financial planning, accounting, insurance, money management, geriatric care managers). When looking at hiring the services of one, consider the credentials of that primary discipline in valuing the experience of such a provider. The RFG is simply an 'add-on' to an underlying professional education and not a starting point. The problem with this program: once a professional gets the designation, there is no current requirement to continue to upgrade their skills in this arena. (http://www.aifg.org)

Secondly, there is the Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). According to their website, the CSAs have completed a curriculum that includes: Trends In Aging, Alzheimer's And Dementia, Chronic Illness In Seniors, Financial Planning, Estate Planning, Social Security, End-Of-Life Planning, Senior Spirituality, Medicaid Planning, Tax Planning, Senior Housing, Long-Term Care, Resources For Seniors, and last and least important, Marketing To Seniors. Unlike the former RFG, the CSA does need to have 18 hours of continuing education every three years to keep the certification. For information of CSAs in our area, contact the website, http://www.society-csa.com/members.html.

And, since we do not have the space to do justice to all comers, suffice it to say that there is only one other designation of note, the Chartered Advisor for Senior Living. This is brought to you by the same folks who give you the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), the American College in Bryn Mawr, PA. They, of the life insurance world, are also interested in the vast marketing opportunities of the Baby Boomers as they age. They have a highly credible program and, to their credit, monitor the activities of those who carry the CASL designation, lest they spoil it for the rest. They have five self-study courses patterned around the same topics as those for the CSA as noted above. To find one in our area, http://www.retirement-financial-advisor.com/.

And not to be outdone, Larry Klein, the famous financial services marketing guru, has a course just for you! Finish his three-day seminar and you, too, can be the Financial Advisor to Seniors par excellence in your area, or so he says. Steer clear!