What Is a Certified Annuity Specialist (CAS)?

A certified annuity specialist (CAS) is a certification indicating expertise in fixed-rate and variable annuities. Individuals with the CAS designation offer clients expert advice in regard to investment opportunities in annuities, which provide a stream of income to those who are nearing or in retirement. The cost of the CAS is $1,365, which includes registration, textbooks, and exams, among other things. 

Key Takeaways

  • The certified annuity specialist (CAS) certifies that someone is an expert in fixed-rate and variable annuities. 
  • The CAS prerequisites include either a bachelor’s degree or 2,000 hours of work experience in financial services. 
  • To receive the CAS designation, individuals must pass a six-module self-study program and pass three exams and a case study administered by FINRA. 
  • The current cost for the CAS designation is $1,365, charged by the Institute of Business & Finance (IBF).

Understanding Certified Annuity Specialist (CAS)

The CAS designation is issued by the Institute of Business & Finance (IBF) through a six-module self-study program and requires 30 hours of continuing education every two years. The course includes three exams and a case study administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). According to FINRA, a candidate must complete the following requirements to obtain the CAS designation:

  • Prerequisite—a bachelor's degree or 2,000 hours of financial services work experience
  • Complete a self-study program of six modules
  • Pass three exams and a case study
  • Complete continuing education requirements of 30 hours every two years

The IBF created the designation in 2006 to focus on building financial advisors’ knowledge of annuities. The certification boosts an individual’s knowledge of fixed and variable annuities, as well as annuity contracts, titling options, living benefits, and litigation issues. 

The IBF calls the course intermediate-to-advanced and can be beneficial for financial advisors, as well as financial planners, bankers, brokers, accountants, or money managers. The course also focuses on portfolio theory, which can be useful for analyzing annuity products. 

Special Considerations 

An annuity contract is a written agreement between an insurance company and a customer outlining each party's obligations in an annuity agreement. Such a document will include the specific details of the contract, such as the structure of the annuity (variable or fixed), any penalties for early withdrawal, spousal and beneficiary provisions—such as a survivor clause and rate of spousal coverage, and more. More broadly, an annuity contract may simply refer to any annuity.

An annuity contract is beneficial to the individual investor in the sense that it legally binds the insurance company to provide a guaranteed periodic payment to the annuitant once the annuitant reaches retirement and requests commencement of payments. Essentially, it guarantees risk-free retirement income.

Annuities can be particularly difficult for consumers to understand. They're not insured by the government and instead backed by the insurance companies who sell them. This means your stream of income is only as good as the company that issues the annuity. Several independent companies, such as A.M. Best and Moody's, provide insurer financial stability ratings and give the public free access to this information.