With only three years of experience in retirement planning so far, Rachel Fieweger makes up for her lack of years at the craft with deep levels of drive and commitment.
Indeed, her LinkedIn profile perhaps says it best: “As an associate financial planner with RTD Financial Advisors, Inc. [in Philadelphia], I am involved in all aspects of the financial planning process, from developing goals and recommendations, to implementing and monitoring financial plans. I am passionate about providing my clients with comprehensive, unbiased advice, and seek to help them fulfill their dreams by merging money and values through Financial Life Planning.”
Helping others to realize their dreams is certainly no easy matter. It requires financial smarts, the right credentials, and no small measure of passion.
In Fieweger’s case, that passion revealed itself early. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Tech in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance. While still a student, she pursued the CFP Board Registered Financial Planning Program, and became a Certified Financial Planner professional.
While at Virginia Tech, Fieweger also came to the attention of the Fairman Group Family Office in Berwyn, PA. She initially worked with the group as a wealth management intern, and armed with her new certification, was later hired back as an investment advisory associate, where she was responsible for maintaining multiple client relationships.
Fieweger has no doubts about what professional credentials or designations a professional retirement advisor should seek out to be successful.
“I think the CFP is a required designation for anyone seeking to advise others on their retirement plan,” Fieweger said. Beyond that, other areas of study or professional designations would depend on what the planner chooses to specialize in.
For example, “The topics would depend on the client base,” Fieweger said. “If they are working with federal employees, knowledge of the TSP plan and FERS are a must. If they are working with executives, then knowledge of deferred stock and employee options is critical.”
Why Retirement Planners Get Certified
There are a number of reasons why a retirement planner should seek out designations in the field:
• They are starting out and must demonstrate a basic mastery.
• They are looking to change jobs and need to convince an employer of their skill level.
• They are seeking a promotion and want to illustrate progress they have made in expanding their expertise.
Some designations or certifications confirm that the planner has covered broad financial and retirement-related material, and others are more specific to an area of expertise.
“Certainly the CFP is the gold standard—it is widely respected and known,” said Kristen MacKenzie, associate professor at the College for Financial Planning. “Average people out there are familiar with that designation. Another would be the CRPC – the Certified Retirement Planning Counselor. We have a number of corporate clients that send their employees to that program.”
The College for Financial Planning has been around since 1972, “and we consider ourselves to be the premier provider of professional education for people seeking designations and their CFP certification,” MacKenzie said. “We have a number of designations in financial planning ranging from basic introductory level up to masters courses, and we also do a lot of CFP prep.”
Specific retirement designations could include training “not just in investments, but talk about healthcare, Social Security, estate planning, incapacity, that sort of thing,” MacKenzie said.
“Personally, I teach a master’s level retirement planning class and I really try to talk a lot about, instead of just spinning facts, the application of strategies and their fiduciary role as a CFP to act in the best interest of the client. We talk a lot about behavioral finance, about getting to the bottom of what people’s goals are, about getting people to think about their longevity, and strategize from there.”