DEFINITION of Retirement Planner

A retirement planner is a practicing professional who helps individuals prepare a retirement plan. A retirement planner identifies sources of income, estimates expenses, implements a savings program and helps manage assets. Estimating future cash flows and assets is also a central part of a retirement planner's work. He or she may use a web-based calculator or software program that will predict future cash flows and assets based on the data entered.

BREAKING DOWN Retirement Planner

Although most retirement planners deal with the financial aspects of planning for retirement, some planners also deal with the non-financial aspects, including how to spend one's time in retirement, where to live and when to quit work, to name just a few.

Today, retirement planners rely heavily on online tools and retirement-planning software, but, like any kind of forecast, the information produced is only as good as the data used. The plan created by a retirement planner is in no way a complete predictor of retirement spending or income needs, but it is a good starting point.

Retirement Planner Credentials

Anyone can call themselves a retirement planner, which is why it's wise for consumers to look for credentials and references before hiring one. Here are three major credentials worth considering:

Retirement Income Certified Professional designation is offered by the American College of Financial Services.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is bound by rigorous requirements set by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). There are four parts to the initial CFP certification; education, examination, experience and ethics. A CFP candidate will need to put in up to 1,000 hours to complete the required coursework and the exam. The CFP applicant must have a minimum education level of a bachelor’s degree and coursework in financial planning. 

The prestigious investing credential of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is issued by the internationally recognized CFA Institute. The CFA is especially important in the areas of investment research and portfolio management. Similar to the CFP, there are rigorous educational, experience, and examination requirements for the CFA. “To become a regular member of CFA Institute you will need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution or have equivalent education or work experience,” according to the website. The CFA holder must also have 48 months of related professional work experience in an investment related field. The most challenging aspects of obtaining the CFA certification are the three required examinations. Each are six hours and must be taken over several years. The CFA examination tests topics from these disciplines: accounting, economics, ethics, finance and mathematics. 

The Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) is credentialed by the highly regarded American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This professional is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with additional expertise in all aspects of financial and wealth management. The PFS studies estate planning, retirement planning, investing, insurance and additional areas of personal financial planning. This designation also requires three years of work experience, rigorous continuing professional education, and high ethical standards. Similar to the prior high level certifications, the PFS must pass an exam.