The New York Times has a great story on financial planners who hold the Certified Senior Advisor designation and other easy to get financial designations.
For Elderly Investors, Instant Experts Abound
A cup cake designation like CSA can easily be confused with a real designation that is far more difficult to obtain, like a CFP, CPA or CLU.
I have an ax to grind so I ought to disclose my bias. I have two Master's degrees and four financial planning related designations. They came from good schools (Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and the American College) and were not particularly easy to get.
Thus, I get angry when I see planners acting like they have credentials when they obtained those credentials from programs as simple as the curriculum described in the New York Times.
The questions remind me of the old Cheech and Chong skit, "Lets Make a Dope Deal" that asks questions like, "Bob, What is your name?"
I understand why planners want designations. Education separates the peddlers from the professionals. However, clients want professional credentials because they want the education that goes along with those credentials.
Every full-time structured settlement consultant we have had at McNay Settlement Group has received their Certified Structured Settlement Consultant (CSSC) designation from Notre Dame. I took the program years ago and still utilize some of the things I learned in the class.
Early in my career another financial professional with no credentials was competing with me for a client. He said, "credentials aren't important." I responded that if you were going in for open heart surgery and the surgeon said he or she had not gone to medical school, would you let them cut on you? If you were on trial for murder and the person defending you had not gone to law school or passed a bar exam, would you let them defend you?
Particularly in the case of elderly investors, their life savings are often in the hands of advisors. If they lose what they spent their lives accumulating, they have no way of getting it back.
Those people deserve advisors with real credentials. Legislators and regulatory agencies need to look at banning the concept of "credentials the easy way."
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC