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Susannah Snider, CFP

I am interested in working with a financial planner who specializes in retirement planning. I’d prefer someone with experience and with the newer retirement planning credentials. How do I narrow down my search to those types of planners?

-Mark

The hunt for a financial advisor can be overwhelming, so I’m glad to see that you’ve narrowed down your search parameters to finding someone who specializes in retirement planning topics and carries relevant credentials.

Interestingly, you’re not alone in wanting someone with a retirement focus. In a recent survey, most consumers said that retirement income planning is their top priority when seeking advice from a financial advisor. And advisors are listening to that demand, demonstrating expertise in various retirement topics through certifications and credentialing.

Here’s how to find someone who meets your criteria.

What Is a Retirement Financial Advisor?

Consider a financial advisor for retirement.Retirement financial advisors typically help clients navigate their finances to and through retirement.

Their offerings may include advice services specific to financial planning, investment management and insurance products such as annuities. An advisor may also specialize– or hire staff who specialize – in Medicare, Social Security, estate planning and tax planning. A retirement advisor may be the person you consult when considering a Roth rollover, when to start taking Social Security or how to navigate required minimum distributions (RMDs).

At the heart of a retirement advisor’s expertise will be navigating the drawdown phase – or the period of your life when you’re taking money from retirement funds. But a retirement advisor should also be competent at helping you navigate the accumulation – or savings – phase, especially how it will look in the last few years before you retire.

An important point to note is that the title “retirement financial advisor” isn’t something controlled by regulation or law. Advisors may use this title at their own discretion, so it’s important that you do your due diligence when interviewing a retirement advisor.

Retirement Financial Advisor Credentials

There are some credentials offered from third-party financial education programs that can give you insight into whether the advisor has recent training in retirement-adjacent topics, adheres to a code of ethics or professional standards, and takes continuing education courses to maintain her expertise.

Retirement income certified professional (RICP). This certification designates a specialty in retirement income planning, including portfolio drawdown management and Social Security strategies.

Certified financial planner (CFP). While the CFP designation is general in nature, CFP professionals complete coursework in retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and tax planning that homes in on strategies and challenges unique to retirees. CFP professionals adhere to ethical and professional standards and must act as fiduciaries when providing financial advice.

Chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC). This credential is for experienced advisors who focus on clients’ pre- and post-retirement needs. Plus, it deals with issues related to asset management and estate planning. Candidates must follow professional standards.

Certified retirement counselor (CRC). This credential is designed to demonstrate mastery of “the accumulation and distribution retirement counseling concepts,” among other topics, according to the International Foundation for Retirement Education. Candidates adhere to a code of ethics.

Retirement management advisor (RMA). This educational program is designed to give advisors an in-depth understanding of topics that help preretirees and current retirees navigate the complexities of their financial situations. Applicants must adhere to a professional code of responsibility.

Bottom line: These credentials are just a sample of what to look out for. Your advisor may hold one, or several, of these marks. But seeing them is shorthand for an advisor who’s taken the time to beef up retirement-related skills, knowledge and understanding.

How to Find an Advisor for Retirement

Retirement financial advisors specialize in topics related to the drawdown phase.There are numerous ways to find a financial advisor for retirement. On a platform such as SmartAdvisor Match, investors with $25,000 or more in investable assets can pair up with a financial advisor. The platform may link you with prescreened matches with whom you can chat at no obligation to you.

Additionally, professional organizations such as the CFP Board and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors have databases for finding advisors in their networks.

No matter what service you use to find names, it’s important to ask prospective advisors about topics that are important to you. You’ll have to do some legwork to ensure that you and the advisor are good matches for each other.

I’d suggest chatting with at least three advisors before committing to working with one to ensure that the person is the right fit for you, has the expertise you require and is accustomed to working with folks in a similar situation to yours.

Questions to Ask a Retirement Financial Advisor

You mentioned that you want someone with experience and recent retirement planning credentials. When interviewing advisors, ask these questions:

  • What’s your experience with retirement planning? Don’t be afraid to grill them on their experience. How long have they been at this? Why do they specialize in retirement? And have they helped folks in similar situations to yours?
  • What are your credentials? We’ve reviewed some more common retirement planning credentials, so ask about them and what those designations have done to help them hone their expertise.
  • What happens when you retire? Normally, this isn’t top of mind when interviewing a prospective financial advisor. But you mentioned that you want someone with a lot of experience, so it’s important to note. If the advisor has decades’ worth of experience, he is likely at least middle-aged. Ask about succession plans. Who would handle your money if the advisor retired in a decade?
  • What services do you provide to retirees? Determine what range of retirement-related services this person is able to provide. Does she direct investments? Provide comprehensive financial-planning services? Tackle Social Security and Medicare planning?
  • What are your areas of specialty? Are they retirement income specialists? Social Security mavericks? Investing wunderkinds? Insurance experts? Do they excel at retirement income planning?
  • How are you paid? Advisors are paid in a number of ways. Make sure you understand whether you’re paying a percentage of assets under management (AUM), an hourly fee, a per-project fee or some other cost.
  • What custodian do you use? Many experts recommend working with a financial advisor who helps manage your investments but doesn’t actually hold them. This can act as a buffer against fraud.
  • Are you a fiduciary? Fiduciaries have an obligation to act in their clients’ best interests.
  • What do you think are the greatest threats to my retirement? Do they understand what’s keeping you up at night when it comes to retirement? How would they address those fears?
  • What’s your investment philosophy for handling retirement portfolios? What does their portfolio management look like and does it differ from how they handle nonretirement portfolios?

What to Do Next

You know what kind of advisor you need, and that’s a great first step. Using a platform such as SmartAsset’s can help you narrow down your search to a few prospective advisors. Next, it’s about looking for the credentials that matter to you and asking questions to ensure the advisor has the expertise, philosophies and ethical frameworks you require.

Investing and Retirement Planning Tips

  • If you have questions specific to your investing and retirement situation, a financial advisor can help. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • As you plan for income in retirement, keep an eye on Social Security. Use SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator to get an idea of what your benefits could look like in retirement.

Susannah Snider, CFP® is SmartAsset’s financial planning columnist, and answers reader questions on personal finance topics. Got a question you’d like answered? Email AskAnAdvisor@smartasset.com and your question may be answered in a future column.

Please note that Susannah is not a participant in the SmartAdvisor Match platform.

Photo credit: ©Jen Barker Worley, ©iStock.com/Mladen Zivkovic, ©iStock.com/AscentXmedia

Susannah Snider, CFP® Susannah Snider is the ​​Managing Editor of Financial Education at SmartAsset where she oversees the strategy and production of all expert-driven personal finance content, including commentary and columns from CFPs and other financial professionals. In addition, Susannah writes articles, newsletters, columns and commentary found on SmartAsset.com and syndication partner sites. She also serves as a spokesperson and quoted expert on a wide range of personal finance and financial planning topics, including retirement, investing, estate planning, mortgages, and more. Susannah earned her CFP designation in 2019 and leverages her expertise to easily explain complicated financial topics with an approachable tone. Prior to SmartAsset, Susannah was the Senior Editor for Financial Advisors at U.S. News & World Report. She also previously covered personal finance, careers, and college financing for U.S. News and worked as a staff writer for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. She is the recipient of the McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism program and won the 2018 RTDNA/NEFE Excellence in Personal Finance Reporting award in the digital category. Susannah holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. Susannah has appeared as a personal finance expert on Cheddar, Fox & Friends, The Tavis Smiley Show, Your Money on Wharton Business Radio, Fox Business News and more.
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