Some financial professionals use designations that imply that they are experts at helping seniors with financial issues. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) do not endorse professional designations or titles such as “senior specialist” or “retirement advisor” that some financial professionals use to market themselves.
The requirements for being designated as a “senior specialist” vary greatly. In some cases, a financial professional may need to pass several rigorous exams and have several years of experience working in a particular field to receive a specialist designation. Other “senior specialist” designations may be relatively quick and easy to obtain, even for an individual with no relevant experience
To find out more, check out the Understanding Investment Professional Designations page on the FINRA’s website. It describes the education and experience required for many professional designations. In addition, you can find out whether the granting organization for a particular designation requires continuing education, offers a public disciplinary or investor complaint process, or provides a way to check the status of a financial professional.
Even with research, it may not be clear to you whether a professional designation represents legitimate expertise, a marketing tool, or something in between. That’s one reason you should always look beyond a financial professional’s designation and determine whether he or she can provide the type of financial services or products you need.
We encourage you to thoroughly evaluate the background of anyone with whom you intend to do business -- before you hand over your cash. You also should ask questions -- that’s the best advice we can give you about how to invest wisely. We see too many investors who might have avoided trouble and losses if they had asked basic questions from the start.
You can learn more about the questions you should ask about investments and financial professionals by reading our Ask Questions section. Using BrokerCheck and Using IAPD tells you how to get background information on a financial professional, including prior employment history and disciplinary actions.