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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Society of Certified Senior Advisors Releases CSA Journal 57

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA) releases its latest issue of the CSA Journal as an educational tool for professionals seeking information on topics relevant to their senior focused businesses. The e-version of the CSA Journal is available online at CSA Journal 57 for free to seniors, families and all professionals seeking new and relevant content on the health, social, financial, legal, arts, humanities and spirituality issues of aging. 

CSA Journal 57 features peer reviewed articles on topics such as Virtual Retirement Villages: Supporting Aging in Community, Hidden Assets: Managing Your Social Security, Networking: Business Benefits, Partnerships, and Best Practices and valuable Senior Client Handouts.

Director of Strategy for Aging in Community for NCB Capital Impact and the Village to Village Network, LLC Candace Baldwin, M.S., EDFP describes the rapidly growing trend of the Village movement for older adults in her article in CSA Journal 57, Virtual Retirement Villages: Supporting Aging in Community. In this article, Baldwin explains how older adults searching for meaningful lifestyles as they retire are finding a sense of community and belonging in the rapidly growing Village movement.

Social Security expert James A. Hurt, Jr., CLU, ChFC, CSA provides an informational article on the importance of understanding Social Security and knowing how to make the most of retirement benefits in his article Hidden Assets: Managing Your Social Security. Hurt explains the significance of carefully maximizing assets for people contemplating retirement, and provides information on the common failures for taking advantage of spousal benefits.

Owner and CEO of SAGE WAVE Consulting, LLC, Erika T. Walker, MBA, MSeD, CSA shares her experience and expertise on business networking through her article Networking: Business Benefits, Partnerships, and Best Practices in CSA Journal 57. Walker explains that the importance and power of networking cannot be overstated. Organizations, businesses, and individuals must continually develop new connections and relationships to succeed.

CSA Journal 57 is comprised of twelve informational articles written specifically for the benefit of professionals working with the aging population. All issues of the CSA Journal feature a practical case study, senior client handout and opportunity to earn CSA continuing education credit through the Case in Point section. For information regarding subscription to the CSA Journal, article proposals or to purchase ad space please go to

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Our CSA Spotlight, Al Hurt

At the age of 62, in many ways, I feel like I am starting over with my business and not all of that feeling is good. With age comes caution that didn’t exist some 40 years ago. Upon graduating from Mississippi College, I went to work for a retirement plan administration firm. After a great learning experience there and six years under my belt, I threw caution to the wind and started my own retirement plan administration firm. It did not bother me in the least that I had no contacts, never sold a retirement plan or that I had a one year old daughter and a stay at home wife. Life was good and I had six months seed money to make a go of it.

Although I ran out of money long before I got my first plan, in month 8 of this venture I was blessed to have a few CPA’s think kindly enough of me to refer business and I was off and running. Since those days I have sold and bought back my company twice. I have loved the last 35 years of helping companies set up retirement plans for their employees, and in turn helping the employees plan for retirement.

Along this journey a funny thing happened. I got older and my clients started wanting to retire. They began asking me questions, some of which I had not even thought of, such as “When should I take my Social Security benefits? What about Medicare and those supplements? Do I have enough to live on?” and so on.

At about this same time, Jane and I were dealing with aging parents and their housing, failing health, and just-making-it issues that come with older age. Trying to help our parents with their decisions became a tough issue because it was hard to find a source of good information. Most of what we were getting was word of mouth from our friends who were a bit ahead of us dealing with assisted living, extended hospital stays, sitters and/or rehab.

Searching the internet for answers, I stumbled on the Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® website and immediately made a phone call to find out about the organization. I was blown away at the wide scope of information that was available and the eagerness of the folks I talked with to help me.

I had no interest in earning another degree or designation, but after reviewing the curriculum I felt if I had one more learning stint in me, the CSA would be it. As a result of my study for the CSA, I not only gained resources and knowledge to help our parents, but garnered expanded knowledge to answer the questions my clients were beginning to ask regarding their retirement, in particular those questions about Social Security. As I began delving into Social Security, I found that people were getting the same bad answers here that they were getting about their parents’ elder care mostly word of mouth from others.

It is not my nature to love to study and read about government programs, so I started asking questions of my contemporaries about this stuff, only to find they knew just about as little on the subject as I did. Simple question, “Are Social Security Benefits Taxed” ? Best answer I got was, “yes but I’m not sure how and I think there is some tax break”. I was forced to do some reading and self- education, as well as find folks out there who were real authorities on these benefits.

Much to my surprise, as I continued my education journey into the world of Social Security, my appreciation of the program increased. I even called some Social Security experts from around the country about this new found appreciation only to find they had similar experiences. Wow! Who would think better of a government program after learning more about it? A “greater appreciation” does not seem to be the trend with new government programs today.

When 2013 rolled around, I was fully committed to educating my clients and others about Social Security benefits and helping them to optimize their benefits. This has been a real eye opening experience.

I hold a “Lunch and Learn” workshop in our office for CPAs and Attorneys about every six weeks, and those sessions are always filled. I have also conducted three to four education seminars per month for the public at different Learning Centers around the city. These have been well attended with an average of 35.

This past year, regarding Social Security, I have learned that people usually get it wrong when it comes to maximizing their lifetime benefits. Most begin receiving benefits too soon when there is no financial need to do so. Folks have no clue as to the value of this benefit or what they leave on the table. It is not uncommon for me to find $400 to $800 a month being left on the table by couples because they don’t know about their Spousal Benefit.

Being able to assist my clients with their total retirement assets including their “Hidden Assets”, I can now do a much better job of helping them maximize sustainable income during their lifetime.

James A. (Al) Hurt, Jr., CLU, ChFC, CSA, is a 62 year old Retirement Specialist from Clinton, Miss. He is vice-president of Security Ballew Wealth Management headquartered in Jackson, Miss. The past 40 years he has assisted individuals and businesses with wealth management. His expertise runs the gamut from Retirement Plans to Social Security. Al’s knowledge level and expertise regarding Social Security has afforded him opportunities to conduct seminars and accept numerous speaking engagements. He has a keen understanding of the process of electing Social Security benefits. Al’s Certified Senior Advisor designation supplements his other credentials and today, he focuses primarily on optimizing Social Security benefits for his clients.

Mr. Hurt recently hosted the Society of Certified Senior Advisor's March Educational Webinar, Social Security Timing for Married Couples. CSAs can download this recorded presentation, along with the handouts, by logging to their CSA Portal account at

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Financial Advisors: Who Can You Trust?

A recent Investor Trust Study showed that only 52 percent of investors trust the financial services industry. Who can blame them? With all the scandals and media attention on those who manipulate the financial system and the financial setbacks experienced by many investors, a loss of trust seems like a natural response. Complicating matters is that new financial titles for advisors seem to be cropping up regularly. How can you be sure your financial advisor is the right person to be giving you advice? How is a CFP different from a CMFC? Exactly what is a ChFC?

For seniors, the potential for getting unsound or misleading advice and making a bad decision is made worse because many older adults need their investments for retirement, and it’s harder to recover from financial setbacks at an older age.

Making Sense of Financial Titles

The financial services industry started out with simple designations such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). But as the world of finance became more complicated, so did titles and designations. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) weighed in on this topic with a bulletin, “Making Sense of Financial Professional Titles”: “The requirements for obtaining and using these titles vary widely, from rigorous to nothing at all. Do not rely solely on a title to determine whether a financial professional has the expertise that you need—find out what the title means and what the financial professional did to obtain it.”

Some titles are granted by private organizations, such as a trade group. While some of these groups have processes for receiving consumer complaints and disciplining members for misconduct, others do not, the SEC warns. Still other titles may be simply purchased or even made up by financial professionals hoping to imply that they have certain expertise or qualifications. As with any title, you should verify a financial professional is really qualified to advise you. See sidebar, “Where to Find Help.” Your Certified Senior Advisor® can also help you. (For more information about CSAs, see end of article.)

To use certain titles, a financial professional may need to pass exams, meet ethical standards, have relevant work experience and undertake continuing education. Other titles, however, may be obtained with little time, effort and experience, explains the SEC.

Titles and licenses are not the same. Just because someone claims to be a certified mutual fund investment counselor doesn’t necessarily mean that they passed an exam or received a license from a governing body. Financial professionals that are registered as a broker-dealer or investment advisor have obtained registrations and licenses granted by federal or state regulatory authorities.

If you’re unfamiliar with your financial advisor’s credentials, you may be getting someone who is qualified to do more than you require. Or, you may hire someone with a narrow band of knowledge when what you need is help with various issues—investments, estate planning and taxes, for example. Find help for understanding financial designations and check out your broker on two official websites (see sidebar).

Sorting Through Different Titles

The leading school of thought is that the safest advice is from an advisor who is a fiduciary—someone legally required to place your interests first. Only registered investment advisors are held to this standard, and that typically includes financial planners who charge a fee. Brokers and advisors who work for commissions must generally assure only that an investment is suitable (“Can you trust your financial adviser?” Money, CNN .

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority lists hundreds of possible designations, while Investopediaprovides the more traditional titles that financial professionals have used for decades.
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): This is the most widely recognized credential in the financial planning industry, perceived as providing an unbiased approach to financial planning. Its certification requirements are rigorous, necessitating five courses covering insurance, estate, retirement, education, taxes, investment planning, ethics and the financial planning process. Candidates must pass a board exam, have at least three years of professional experience and hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): This is the oldest and most established financial credential widely recognized as the definitive credential of tax expertise. To sit for the two-day exam, candidates must take 150 semester hours of undergraduate-level courses and hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): The life insurance industry originally created these designations. The two designations have the same requirements, except the ChFC tends to embrace general financial planning issues as opposed to the CLU, which focuses more closely on life insurance and its laws and regulations.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): This is considered to be one of the most difficult and prestigious credentials in the financial industry, at least in terms of investment management. The academic requirements for this designation are second only to those for CPAs. Many portfolio managers or analysts have this designation. Newer titles, which often have less rigorous academic requirements, include the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) and Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC). One exception is the Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA), which covers much of the same material as the CFA curriculum in its coursework but is considerably more flexible in terms of administration. Notable financial certifications to look for include CFP, Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) and Chartered Investment Councilor (CIC).
Some certifications focus on a particular group, such as the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, which is designed to help professionals already working with older adults enhance their knowledge of the aging process. There is an expectation that those who obtain the CSA certification already have the appropriate education, training, licenses and certifications to practice in their professions.

Questions to Ask

Experts offer a list of precautions to ensure that your financial advisor offers the services you want and has the appropriate background for what you need.

Financial designation: If a financial professional tells you that he or she has a certain professional title, find out who awarded the title. Ask about training, ethical and other requirements. Determine whether or not a course was required and if the person passed a test. Did the designation necessitate a certain level of work experience or education? Are refresher courses required to maintain the designation? How can you verify the advisor’s standing with the professional organization?

Payment: Make sure you understand how the advisor is being compensated for investment advice or transactions, whether commissions or a fee, as well as the underlying costs of the investments. Do not be afraid to ask the investment advisor the amount of his fees.

Investment options: Find out if the advisor can suggest investments or if he must choose from a certain portfolio of funds. If the advisor is recommending one investment, an insurance product, for example, you may be getting a sales pitch, not advice. If the advisor keeps trying to sell you a financial service that generates a commission regardless of how well it suits you, she is probably not looking out for your long-term interests.

Level of service: Make sure your advisor gives you information on a regular basis, not just when he wants to sell something, and alerts you if new developments are going to affect your investments. At the same time, your advisor should be willing to take the time to explain any new investments or how the economy is affecting your portfolio. If she is unwilling or unable to explain, that should be a warning sign.

“Can you trust your financial adviser?” Money, CNN
“Confusing World of Financial Designations,” Ryan Wilson, Certified Senior Advisors
“Designations: What They Are and What They Mean,” CSA Journal 55
“Do You Trust Your Financial Advisor?” Huffington Post
“A Guide To Financial Designations,” Investopedia
“Investor trust fragile, aligned interests valued highly,” CFA Institute & Edelman Investor Trust Study

To read more from this article, visit

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors