September 2004 "Certifications, Titles and Pedigrees"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH AND SECURITY
By Attorneys Jennifer and Jeff Hawkins
CERTIFICATIONS, TITLES, AND PEDIGREES
“Professor” Herald Hill, the con-artist from the acclaimed musical The Music Man, wowed River City, Iowa, with his fancy talk and fake credentials. The magic of Broadway and Hollywood gave us a happy ending that does not often appear in the real world. When consultants, salesmen, and advisors waive their certification credentials around we must be sure that their claimed knowledge and skill are authentic.
Certified designations such as CSS, CSA, and CFRA are confusing a lot of people. A recent article entitled Alphabet Soup: Industry Churning out Dubious Designations, published on the internet by Robert Powell at CBSMarketWatch.com on July 21, 2004, indicated that proliferation of these designations is increasing as the “baby boomers” approach retirement age. The article indicates that people should check out advisors claiming these designations and make sure that they are reputable people.
The Center for Senior Studies, which offers a Certified Senior Specialist (CSS) designation, requires participants to take course work and pass an examination to receive the designation. However, Mr. Powell’s article indicates that the program has no continuing education requirement and that its website tends to promote using the designation to induce senior citizens to trust its participants and rely on their expertise.
The Society of Senior Advisors offers a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) program that requires classroom studies, an examination, and continuing education. The organization’s website promotes the CSA designation as a marketing tool that will enable members to sell their services more effectively.
NF Communications, Inc. offers a Certified Retirement Financial Advisor (CRFA) designation that requires participants to attend a four day seminar that includes such topics as “The Winning Financial Sales Presentation for Retirees” and “How to Become the Dominant Retiree Advisor in Your Town.” The organization includes a continuing education requirement. Other items that appear on the organization’s website under the heading of Direct Benefits from Attending include: “Gain a System for Retiree Referrals by the Boat Load,” “Learn the Magnetic Marketing that Attracts Affluent Retirees Owing Significant Assets,” “Learn to Pack a Seminar with CPA’s Who Can Refer Business to You,” and “Learn How to ‘Un-Sell’ the Retirees Current Portfolio and Move Money Away from Their Current Advisor.”
Most state Supreme Courts, including the State of Indiana, regulate whether an attorney can disclose such a certification designation. Under Indiana Law, the certifying organization must be approved as an independent certifying organization by the Indiana Commission on Continuing Legal Education. Organizations like the National Elder Law Foundation and the Indiana State Bar Association are developing certification systems to distinguish attorneys, who have demonstrated exceptional skill in particular specialties.
If a potential financial advisor is introduced to you as an expert with an impressive list of certified credentials, you may want to take some time to surf the internet and gain an understanding how the advisor gained his credentials. If the advisor has no experience or formal training in the subject matter beyond his certification, you should suspect that he knows more about how to sell an investment to you than to choose an investment prudently.
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. ALWAYS CONSULT AN ATTORNEY DIRECTLY BEFORE RELYING UPON THIS ARTICLE OR CHANGING AN ESTATE PLAN.
© 2004 by HAWKINS LAW PC, Estate, Trust & Business Attorneys. All rights reserved.