What Is a 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. They may use a web-based calculator or software program that will predict future cash flows and assets based on the data entered.

Key Takeaways

  • 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.
  • Retirement planners often use web-based calculators or software programs that forecast future cash flows and asset values.

Understanding Retirement Planners

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 type 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.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The Retirement Income Certified Professional designation is offered by the American College of Financial Services. At the same time, a 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
  • 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.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

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.

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 is six hours and are typically taken over several years. The CFA examination tests topics from these disciplines: accounting, economics, ethics, finance, and mathematics.  

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

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 two 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.