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Retirement Planning > Social Security > Claiming Strategies

There's a New Social Security Certification in Town

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What You Need to Know

  • A new credential, registered Social Security analyst, is available to advisors.
  • Advisors find that understanding Social Security takes extra education to maximize client benefits.
  • As baby boomers age, a larger audience needs this guidance.

There are many credentialed designations that follow names of advisors: CFP (certified financial planner), CFA (chartered financial analyst), PFA (personal financial analyst) and more. But a new one, registered Social Security analyst, has joined the alphabet soup.

The RSSA is the product of a new organization called the National Association of Social Security Analysts (NARSSA), which was co-founded by Michael Rosedale, a CPA, and Martha Shedden, a chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC), a designation given by the College for Financial Planning.

This new organization and program not only trains and tests advisors on the ins and outs of Social Security planning for clients — approved by the CFP Board for 8.5 hours of continuing education credits — but also has software available to create in-depth reports that project maximum Social Security benefits for clients.

Advisors who take the course are trained and tested on the Maximize My Social Security software developed by economist Laurence Kotlikoff, although other Social Security software programs are available.

Need for Social Security Knowledge

Looking to add more credentials behind his name, Brian Keith Moon, an RIA with Toro Bravo Investment Advisors in Amarillo, Texas, says he took the course largely because the firm saw “huge interest” in Social Security webinars it ran.

Upon taking the course, he says, “I was surprised how much I didn’t know. I do financial planning, I’ve taken prep for the CFP [exam], done financial planning education, but those were light on Social Security except for basics.”

He passed the test, got the designation, joined the association and uses the software. Due to the pandemic, he has run only about five reports for clients thus far, but hopes to run about five a month going forward, he says.

He acknowledges that at first he planned only to take the course, which includes use of its software, and then he realized that the tool can help in projecting the highest Social Security returns, sometimes 75% more than the Social Security Administration projects, he says.

Likewise, Will Robbins of Pacific Horizon Investment Management, a boutique advisory firm in Seattle, took the course a couple of years ago after researching Social Security training options. He says he wanted to “add a bow to the quiver to help clients.”

The training and five-module course was comprehensive, especially for “such a nuanced” subject as Social Security, and the firm acquired a license for the software, which he believes is a helpful tool, especially as it provides various filing strategies that can be presented to the client.

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Pacific Horizon hasn’t developed a Social Security niche, he says, but he definitely uses the knowledge to advise clients, especially those in their 50s and 60s.

Brainstorm

In fact, Rosedale, whose CPA background gave him footing to found CPAdirectory.com in 1999 as well as 1-800Accountant (which he sold), got the idea for NARSSA in his 50s as he kept getting notices from AARP.

“I started realizing like everyone else in their 50s, ‘Hey, I got to start thinking about my own retirement,’” he says.

Further, his clients were asking him about Social Security and “I realized there was a huge gap with financial professionals, not limited to CPAs, but insurance agents, advisors … who really did not have an understanding — nor did their clients — about Social Security and how they can maximize and optimize their benefits.”

He said a lot of advisors would send clients to the Social Security Administration for answers, “but that’s like sending clients to the IRS to get their taxes done.” He teamed up with co-founder Shedden, created the course that provided a “foundation of knowledge” and integrated it with the software.

About 2,200 people have taken the course and around 300 have taken the exam, which is proctored by an independent company, for the RSSA credential, Rosedale says.

The course fee is $1,500 and an annual membership fee to NARSSA is $479, which includes marketing and resources on the website. They also provide a back office to perform the analysis for advisors for an additional fee. The software, which advisors are trained on but don’t need to keep using, is about $250 for a yearly license.

The RSSA joins the ranks of the National Social Security Advisor program that also provides training and certification focused on Social Security. This showcases that it’s a growing area, Rosedale says, especially as baby boomers age.

“Right now there’s a great deal of due diligence that must be done when you’re dealing with seniors,” he says. “Baby boomers are the wealthiest segment in the country, so there is great interest from [advisors] from the point of view of lead generation and serving current clients to help them understand Social Security.”