Know Your Expert’s Certifications

The New York Times today ran a great piece on how disturbingly easy it can be to get “credentialed” in a way that makes one sound like an expert in financial planning, when really all they’ve done is sat through a three-day course and took a test with questions like “Marketing can best be described as:”

“There are limitless combinations of words getting invented to convey an expertise in senior finances,” said the Massachusetts securities regulator, William F. Galvin. “Most of them seem designed to trick seniors into listening to swindlers.”

[There are] tens of thousands of financial advisers working hand-in-hand with insurance companies to market themselves to older Americans using impressive-sounding credentials like Certified Elder Planning Specialist, Registered Financial Gerontologist, Certified Retirement Financial Adviser and Certified Senior Adviser.

Many of these titles can be earned in just a few days from for-profit businesses, and sound similar to established credentials, like Certified Financial Planner, that require years of study, difficult tests and extensive background checks.

And when they’re out they start selling the same ill-advised junk: Variable and deferred annuities to elder clients on fixed incomes. Almost always a bad idea.

Know your adviser!

And know how and why he or she is able to serve in that very important capacity. A few questions can save you and you heirs a lot of money, time and trouble.

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