Do you stand out as an ace-high or a crowbait advisor?

byRob Wick

Given that this is an educational piece and this week’s focus is on retirement, let's discuss designations. I see more and more agents earning designations and I think it's fantastic. This is a phenomenal way to separate yourself from your competitors and allows your clients to know you are dedicated to your craft. With this in mind, there are two designations that should be at the top of the list: NSSA® and RICP®.

Obtaining a designation can be both costly and time consuming. The NSSA® or National Social Security Advisor doesn't fall into this category. In fact, you can attend a one-day workshop for as little as $350 through Once the workshop is completed, you're eligible sit for the test. Given that practically every single one of your clients will trigger their Social Security; having a deep understanding of when to trigger the benefit for your clients could be the difference of thousands of dollars per year. Once you have obtained the designation/certificate you will be able to host a conversation with confidence on:

  • How benefits are calculated
  • Spousal benefits
  • Reduction if benefits are taken before full retirement age (FRA)
  • Increase if benefits are delayed beyond FRA
  • How Social Security benefits are impacted due to earnings
  • How Social Security benefits are impacted by children
  • Impact of public employee pensions on benefits
  • Social Security options available to married couples
  • Social Security options available to a divorced individual
  • Social Security options available to a surviving spouse
  • Social Security options available to single individuals
  • Factors to consider when deciding when to begin benefits
  • The appeals process

How often do you discuss retirement income plans with your pre-retiree or retired clients? Given this is the name of the game, I would think most of your clients fit the bill. If you truly want to master your craft and be a student of the game when it comes to income planning, you need to look into obtaining the RICP® or Retirement Income Certified Professional designation. The RICP® isn't inexpensive nor is it time efficient, however, your efforts will pay off in leaps and bounds. This is THE designation/certificate to grow your business. The RICP® will cost a bit more than the NSSA® as the cost for all three courses is $2,450 through Completing the three courses can take 12 months or more as is an investment into your business and your clients. The courses and topics covered are:

HS 353 Retirement Income Process, Strategies and Solutions

  • Understand the steps in creating an effective retirement income plan
  • Identify retirement income needs, objectives, and goals by evaluating the clients current situation
  • Determine how to choose the appropriate retirement income strategy for your clients
  • Evaluate income tax, estate issues, retirement risks, and other threats to an effective retirement income plan
  • Integrate risk management tools, products, and strategies to create an effective retirement income plan

HS 354 Sources of Retirement Income

  • Recommend the optimal age to claim Social Security benefits as appropriate for each client's situation
  • Help the client evaluate the factors to consider when determining an appropriate retirement age
  • Understand the role of annuities in a retirement income plan
  • Have a better understanding of how executive benefits and retirement benefits for federal and military employees fit into the plan
  • Understand the different ways that life insurance can be used in planning and how to address the retirement needs of the small business owner
  • Understand how to build a retirement income portfolio
  • Become more familiar with the latest research on strategies for ensuring that retirement assets last a lifetime

HS 355 Managing the Retirement Income Plan

  • Choose the appropriate tax-efficient distribution options from a retirement plan
  • Help a client create a health expense budget and navigate the many decisions regarding Medicare and other health care options
  • Help a client prepare for their long-term care needs
  • Navigate retirement housing decisions and address home equity strategies
  • Identify the key ethical issues in retirement income planning
  • Create and manage retirement income portfolios appropriate for each clients situation

Should you pick up both the NSSA® and the RICP®, you will have taken the appropriate steps to master two of the largest concerns for many retirees. You'll also be able to craft true comprehensive income plans. Don’t get complacent in your business, always continue to grow your knowledge and skill set. Both of these designations can and will help you do just that.

*Speaking of taking exams, depending on your state, there is a new NAIC one-hour Best Interest course that is required for annuity sales. Please call me to discuss if your state is on the list and where/how to complete the exam. I can be reached at (866) 866-7050 x1105. *

  •  Ace-high is a cowboy expression used to indicate high quality. 
  •  Crowbait is a cowboy term for a low-quality horse.