Retirement Income Industry Association (RIIA) launched on June 26 a retirement income planning educational program for advisors called Delivering Retirement Income Solutions, which is designed to provide an overview of the key risks and issues retirees face and also help advisors deliver the correct investment and risk management solutions to their clients. RIIA says the educational program will be the first in a series of programs that will result in an industry designation accrediting financial advisors as “Retirement Income Specialists.”

In announcing the program, John Curry, an RIIA board member and chair of RIIA’s Education Committee, said the educational initiative “stems from a belief that financial advisors are thirsty for an objective, high-quality, and action-oriented perspective addressing retirement, retirement income, and risk management in retirement.”

The Delivering Retirement Income Solutions program is a workshop consisting of a three-hour interactive session accompanied by a course workbook and a series of case studies designed to reflect the complex challenges pre-retirees and retirees face as they plan for a 20- or 30-year retirement, RIIA explained in its announcement. The course is the first of several planned for a comprehensive curriculum, and can be used by financial institutions on either a turnkey, sponsored, or private-label basis. For the turnkey approach, pre-approved instructors will deliver the course on-site at the financial institution, RIIA said. Meanwhile, RIIA said it expects “larger institutions or firms will be attracted to the flexible and reasonably priced class sponsorship approach, or licensing arrangement, which allows private-labeling.”

The new program curriculum has been developed by the Retirement Learning Center (RLC), which is the engine behind the Columbia Management Retirement Learning Center, which RIIA says is “the premier education and training platform for rollover and ERISA technical solutions in the advisor space.”

Co-op America, a national nonprofit organization that says it promotes social justice and environmental sustainability, recently teamed with Springfield, Massachusetts-based Social(k) (www.socialk.com) to offer 3,500 Co-op America Business Network members a diverse 401(k) platform of socially responsible investment (SRI) funds.

Co-op America says the Social(k) program includes more than 100 screened socially responsible funds, and more than 600 traditional non-screened funds from 40 mutual fund companies “to provide investors with greater choice when determining a retirement portfolio mix,” Co-op America said in announcing the venture.

Co-op America cited a January 2006 report by the Social Investment Forum which found that assets in socially screened mutual funds and other pooled products rose to $179 billion in 2005, an 18.5% increase over the $151 billion tracked in 2003.

Thrivent Investment Management recently launched the Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund, which seeks to provide stability of income plus the potential for market growth. Thrivent says the fund incorporates all of the most important income-producing asset classes in one investment option–high-yield bonds, dividend-paying stocks, real estate investment trust equities, and investment-grade bonds.

On May 29, President Bush signed the Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act (P.L. 109-227), which permits military personnel to make IRA contributions based on compensation earned while in combat zones. Normally, combat zone compensation is nontaxable and, therefore, not includible in compensation for determining eligibility for IRA contributions, according to Hewitt Associates. However, the new law counts the combat pay as taxable pay solely for the purpose of figuring the annual allowable IRA contribution, Hewitt says.