Social Security benefits can be confusing, even for the most seasoned financial professional. But those advisors who have earned the Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies certification are well-versed in the ins and outs of their Social Security. They can help their clients understand tax considerations, spousal benefits and other key strategies that will maximize their benefits. Here’s what you should know about the certification and the steps financial professionals take to obtain it.
Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies: The Basics
Issued by the Corporation for Social Security Claiming Strategies, the Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies certification helps educate professionals. It teaches human resources representatives, financial advisors, and others about the many rules and regulations surrounding Social Security. It also tells them the best way to claim those benefits.
In 2018, 67.9 million people received benefits from programs run by the Social Security Administration. Meanwhile, the percentage of private-sector workers with employer pension plans fell from 38% in 1980 to 20% in 2008. Consequently, for a majority of the elderly in the U.S., Social Security is a major source of retirement income.
Despite Social Security’s importance, navigating the system isn’t always easy. That’s where the CSSCS certification comes in. Certified financial professionals can better help retirees and other beneficiaries create a Social Security filing strategy. As a result, they’ll know how to explain to clients why a certain strategy is more beneficial than another.
However, the Corporation for Social Security Claiming Strategies is not affiliated with the Social Security Administration or the federal government.
About the Courses
There are two different levels of Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies certification: gold and platinum. The gold program includes a copy of CSSCS’ “Comprehensive Guide to Social Security Retirement Benefits and Social Security Claiming Strategies.” Also, it offers access to the online course, and a tool kit of Social Security must-know facts and graphics. The gold program costs $499.99, with an annual renewal fee of $149.99.
The platinum program also includes a copy of the guide. Meanwhile, it also includes access to the online course and the tool kit. Most importantly, it allows access to the certification exam and designation upon passing the exam. Platinum certification also includes a free listing in the organization’s “find a strategist “listing system. This level of certification costs $749.99 with a $299.99 annual renewal fee.
For certification, Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies candidates must complete the required coursework. Also they must pass the exam and meet ethical and professional standards..
The training course is a live, 1.5-day program. Candidates become well-versed in Social Security benefits and their many claiming strategies. The course runs from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. the first day and from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. the second day. All required material will be provided on the first day of the course.
Subject material included in the course and exam includes the history of Social Security. Meanwhile, it also explains basics such as who is covered and who is not. That portion includes spousal benefits, widows and survivor benefits, and rules related to common-law and same-sex marriages. It also looks into divorce, special provisions involving dependent, minor and disabled children Beyond that, there are sections on the earnings test, taxation of Social Security benefits, the windfall elimination provision, government pension offset, Medicare basics, and claiming strategies.
Once they complete the course, CSSCS candidates can take the certification exam. The computer-based exam contains 100 multiple-choice questions. Candidates must score 70% or higher to pass. To renew one’s CSSCS certification, graduates must take a continuing education course every two years and pay the annual renewal fee.
The ethics requirement includes adhering to the ethical codes and standards set forth by the CSSCS Board of Standards. Essentially, it denotes that upon receiving your certification, you agree to help clients plan their retirement income in said client’s best interest while following the utmost in standards for financial planning.
The Bottom Line
The Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies certification program helps financial professionals stay up-to-date on Social Security distribution rules and claiming strategies, which in turn helps clients maximize their overall benefit. Though not necessary, it’s likely beneficial to opt for a financial professional with a wide breadth of knowledge regarding Social Security and its many rules and regulations.
To earn the CSSCS certification, candidates must complete the required coursework, sit for and pass the exam, and meet the ethical and professional criteria. They must also complete the required continuing education and pay a renewal fee to keep their certification current.
- Finding a financial advisor who’s well-versed in Social Security strategies and other retirement topics can be a big help in putting together a retirement income plan. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Want to estimate how big a role Social Security can play in your retirement plan? A good first step is to use our Social Security calculator to estimate your benefits.
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