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Happy elderly couple planning for their retirementFinancial advisors who want to acquire and display expertise at helping businesses set up and run effective and appropriate retirement plans for their employees can study for a Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS) certificate. The designation shows that an advisor has completed a course of education and passed a final exam testing knowledge on implementing and administering company-sponsored retirement plans.

The CRPS program is overseen by the College for Financial Planning, which is part of the Kaplan professional education business. It is intended for advisors, sales representatives, record keepers and others who specialize in working with employer-sponsored retirement plans.

CRPS holders can assist private and for-profit businesses as well as non-profit organizations and governmental bodies. They are knowledgeable about various types of plans, including 401(k) and SEP plans. And they can help make sure plans are set up and managed in compliance with the applicable regulations.

CRPS Certification Requirements

To qualify for the CRPS certificate applicants have to complete a set of educational courses, pass a final exam and agree to follow a code of conduct. The program costs $1,300 and requires about 45 hours of effort to complete. There are no prerequisites necessary to apply for a CRPS.

The curriculum can be delivered in either of two ways. Live online classes conducted by faculty members can be taken from any location. The on-demand model includes instructor-led lectures that can be viewed at any time.

The course material includes knowledge about different types of plans, including defined benefit and defined contribution plans, 401(k) plans, SEP and SIMPLE plans. In addition to setting up the plan, CRPS holders can advise businesses on administering the plan, distributions, handling claims and penalties and terminating a plan.

Students have to take a 30-question quiz after each module and pass a final exam with a score of 70% correct answers. The three-hour final has 80 questions. Students who don’t pass it on the first attempt can try twice more.

As with many financial certifications, there are continuing education requirements. To maintain a CRPS certificate, holders have to complete 16 hours of continuing education every two years. They also have to pay a $95 renewal fee every two years and follow a code of ethics.

CRPS Certificate Holder Jobs

In addition to advisors who want to bolster their knowledge and credentials, the CRPS may be appropriate for people pursuing a master’s of science degree in personal financial planning from the College for Financial Planning.

Completing the CRPS requirements is considered equivalent to one semester hour of graduate level coursework.

CRPS Powers and Privileges

Grandfather and granddaughter listening to the same smartphone

The CRPS is an optional certification that shows the holder is interested in retirement plans and has received specialist training. However, it doesn’t grant advisors who have it any special powers or privileges. The college categorizes this as an early-career credential, between entry-level certificates like the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) and mid-career designations such as the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA).

More advanced certificates include the Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

If you have a complaint about the way a CRPS has done business with you, you can file a complaint with the College for Financial Planning. The college’s ethics committee will investigate and, where appropriate, take disciplinary action.

Comparable Certifications

Several retirement planning certifications are comparable to the CRPS. They include:

Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) is overseen by the Society of Professional Asset Managers and Recordkeepers (SPARK). It is primarily aimed at sales and marketing professionals and requires approximately a year of relevant work experience, a supervisor’s letter of recommendation and passing an exam. It costs $350 to apply and another $350 to take the exam.

Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC) is offered by the International Foundation for Retirement Education. To get a CRC, advisors need to meet education and work experience minimums, take a test and follow a code of ethics. Taking the test costs $550.

Fellow, Secure Retirement Institute (FSRI) certificates are issued by the Life Office Management Association (LOMA). Requirements include completing a course of study, passing a final exam and paying a fee of $1,880 for LOMA members and $2,800 for non-members.

Bottom Line

A retired coupleEarning a CRPS requires completing a course of study on company retirement plans, passing a test and agreeing to follow a professional code of conduct. While not as prestigious as more advanced certifications like a Certified Financial Planner, the CRPS demonstrates that a financial professional is interested in advising businesses about their employee retirement plans and has received specialist training. Advisors typically acquire this certification early in their careers.

Tips on Retirement Planning

  • A business owner considering a retirement plan for employees can get help designing, implementing and managing the plan from an experienced financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • One quick way to determine if you have enough to retire on is to use a free retirement calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/dragana991, ©iStock.com/Alex Liew, ©iStock.com/LifestyleVisuals

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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