Do You Need a Retirement Planner? 5 Times You Might

Laura Shin

If you think saving for retirement is hard, just wait until you get ready to retire.

While it sounds like spending the money you’ve saved might be the easy part, it’s far from it. The confounding factor of not knowing how long you’ll live forces many retirees to walk the tricky line of spending frugally enough to last their lifetime, while not being so overly penny-pinching that they don’t enjoy their retirement.

What makes matters more challenging are the decreasing popularity of pensions, which give pension holders a predictable amount of retirement income, and the rise of retirement plans like 401(k)s, which don’t, and instead may overwhelm retirees with questions like, “What do you want to do with this $500,000 you’ve saved?” or “Which retirement accounts do I draw from and which investments do I sell in order to pay the least in taxes?”

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And now there’s a new type of financial planning professional—the Retirement Income Certified Professional, or RICP, which specializes in this stage of life. But is this a credential you need in a financial planner? We’ll take a closer look.

This new credential was created by The American College of Financial Services. So far 270 people have become RICPs since the first full set of classes ended in May, and 2,900 more people enrolled in the coursework, according to Dave Littell, the RICP retirement income program director at The American College. The college designed it because of demand in the adviser community, he says. (Most of the people who become RICPs are already Certified Financial Planners™ or chartered financial consultants.)

And that’s a key point: While some RICPs are Certified Financial Planners™, many are not. When you seek out your financial planner, one of the most important things is to make sure that your CFP® has enough retirement experience to help you.

“Ask about the planner’s length of experience in working with pre-retirees and retirees, whether that is their primary client target, and what types of recommendations they typically make for those clients,” advises Ellen Derrick, a CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services. “Because of the large dollar amounts that people typically have to invest by then, working with a fee-only planner can also help avoid any bias toward high-commission investments that may or may not be the best idea.”

A good planner, she says, should have a solid knowledge of all types of income investments. “And of course,” she adds. “Personal recommendations are a plus! If you can find someone who has been retired for several years and has been happy with their financial planner, that gives you a great place to start your search.”

Here are five situations in which that expertise may come in handy.

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  • Jim Tso

    While the “retiree market” will expand greatly in the coming years, the new RICP ( Retirement Income Certified Professional) may not truly address the needs of this market if commissioned sales and high-fees are the prime factors in the relationship between the RICP and the prospective client. Retirement planning and implementation are not “rocket sciences” even though many who are making a lucrative living from their clients want them to believe that.
    If motivated individuals would take the time to learn, they could achieve the same results without so called “professional help” which has exceedingly high costs. In fact, the cost savings could make their retirement even better. And there are lots of helpful and low-cost or free information ( like or that is easily available.
    By the way, retirement planning should start with your first job and not at age 55 or older. In my 40 years of helping “retirees”, its their children and grandchildren who should also be implementing their own key retirement plans/actions ( like maxing out their 401k contributions as early as possible and using an aggressive growth asset allocation).