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What Is a Retirement Management Advisor?


There are many certifications for financial professionals. Each one specifies a distinct type of service that an advisor is qualified to offer. A retirement management advisor (RMA) is one such designation. You may consider working with this financial advisor when you need guidance and help in creating a personalized retirement income plan. Here’s what you need to know about retirement management advisors, and how they compare to other financial advisors.

What Is a Retirement Management Advisor (RMA)?

A retirement management advisor is a financial professional who is certified to create custom retirement plans for their clients. This financial designation is used to delineate professionals who have undertaken additional education and training in the area of retirement planning.

Individuals who may consider pursuing an RMA certification include:

What separates retirement management advisors from other types of financial advisors is their approach to retirement planning. Rather than simply being focused on accumulating wealth, RMAs also work with their clients to create personalized retirement income plans that are designed to mitigate risk.

What Retirement Management Advisors Do

The RMA program is designed to offer advanced training and learning in the area of retirement planning. Specifically, that means retirement income planning and advising clients on how to accumulate and make use of retirement assets.

The program training focuses on helping advisors learn the necessary skills to create custom retirement income plans for their clients while balancing risk. According to the institute, RMA education uses a “safety-first” approach that applies a broader view to retirement planning beyond just how to build wealth.

For example, the RMA coursework and exam cover these topics:

The coursework also educates RMA candidates on the institute’s Code of Professional Responsibility, legal compliance and regulatory compliance in managing client accounts. Once the program is complete, a financial advisor who’s earned a retirement management advisor certification should have the necessary skills, knowledge and ability to build retirement income plans focused on their clients’ needs while mitigating risk.

Requirements for Becoming an RMA

Retirement advisor talks with clients

The retirement management advisor program is like any other professional designation, in that there are certain requirements that need to be met in order to complete it.

The certification program, administered by Investments and Wealth Institute, is designed for financial services professionals who have three years of relevant experience or hold one of the following designations:

Those hoping to achieve an RMA certification must also agree to the Investments and Wealth Institute Code of Professional Responsibility. This code outlines specific guidelines for maintaining professional integrity as a financial professional.

The certification process itself involves three steps.

  • Completion of the RMA online course
  • Completion of the RMA capstone course
  • Completion of the RMA exam

The institute estimates that about nine weeks of study are necessary to complete the online course. The capstone course is an in-person course taken over two days while the exam typically takes about three hours to complete. The exam consists of 100 questions.

Once you sign up for the certification program, you have two years to complete all of the requirements and earn an RMA designation. Like other designations, there are fees involved to earn certification.

Investments and Wealth Institute members pay $2,495 (as of June 2020) to take the online course, complete the capstone course and take the exam one time. The fee for non-members to join the institute and complete the program is $2,695.

If you only want to take the online course, the fee $1,395 for members and $1,595 for non-members. If you take the RMA exam and fail, retakes cost $195 each. You can retake the exam as many times as needed until you pass, but there’s a 30-day waiting period you have to observe between tests.

Working With a Retirement Management Advisor

If you’re looking for a financial professional to help you manage your retirement plan, then an RMA could be a good option. Other financial advisors may offer a broader range of services that includes more than just retirement, such as paying off debt or planning for college. While those things are also important elements to include in a comprehensive financial plan, an RMA would put their primary effort and focus into helping you plan for retirement.

Investments and Wealth Institute offers an online tool you can use to search for an RMA professional. When comparing potential candidates to work with, remember to ask the right questions. Here’s a list with eight questions to guide your first interview:

  • What is your overall investment advisory strategy?
  • What services do you offer your clients?
  • What does your typical client’s age, income and overall financial situation look like?
  • How often do you communicate with clients and what’s your preferred method of communication?
  • How much do you charge for your services and how do you determine your fees?
  • Have you ever been subject to any legal or disciplinary action associated as a financial professional?
  • How long have you been working as an RMA?
  • What other professional financial designations do you hold?

Asking these kinds of questions can give you a better idea of what you might be able to expect when working with a particular retirement management advisor. It’s also helpful to check out online reviews and ratings from organizations like the Better Business Bureau and FINRA to get an idea of a potential advisor’s reputation and track record. And you can use SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool to get connected to vetted fiduciary financial advisors.

Regardless of how you find your advisor, pay close attention to the fees so you understand what you’re paying for. Since fees detract from overall investment earnings, it’s important to balance the quality of the services an RMA is offering against what they expect you to pay.

Bottom Line

Copy of a retirement plan

A retirement management advisor could be a good fit if you’re looking for a financial advisor who has in-depth knowledge of creating retirement income plans. As with any other financial advisor, it’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure you’re connecting with a professional who’s best suited to helping you further your financial goals.

Tips for Retirement Savings and Investments

  • A financial advisor could help you create a savings and investment plan for retirement income. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in 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.
  • A good retirement calculator can give you quick insights into your best court of action, at no cost. Social Security income is a key part of many retirees’ income streams. Learn what you will be entitled to receive once you leave the workforce.

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