Senior-Specific Designations

The use of professional designations has long been a concern of both state and federal regulators. However, with more emphasis placed on the protection of seniors, regulators are focusing on the use of senior-specific designations to curb misleading and fraudulent marketing practices. Use of senior designations by an advisor or producer could imply that the professional has special knowledge of financial matters relating to seniors that do not, in fact, exist.

Remember, it is generally not permissible to use designations that:

  • Target seniors
  • Are earned through courses where the majority of coursework is focused on sales, marketing or prospecting strategies
  • Have lapsed, been revoked, or were never obtained
  • Are self-conferred and thus, do not exist (i.e., certified retirement coach, 401(k) specialist)
  • Have not been conferred by an accredited institution

NOTE: For information regarding professional designations, including whether or not they have been conferred by an accredited institution, please view the Professional Designations List here. This list is non-exhaustive and is not meant to provide approved or disapproved designations, but rather to provide detail on any designations you may consider employing in your marketing material.

Washington has helpful guidelines when determining whether a, “combination of words, or an acronym…constitutes a certification or professional designation indicating or implying that a person has special skill, knowledge, experience or qualifications in advising or servicing seniors.”[1]

Ask yourself the following questions:[2]

  • Does the designation contain the word(s) “senior,” “retirement,” “elder,” or similar in combination with “certified,” “registered,” “chartered,” “advisor,” “specialist,” “consultant,” “planner,” or similar?

If so,

  • Could the phrase imply to a consumer that you possess special skill, knowledge, experience or qualifications in working with seniors?

If you’re unsure whether a designation you are using or are considering using may be scrutinized by regulators should a complaint arise, it’s a safe bet to assume it will be. For more information, check out this article to learn what the repercussions can be for using designations that target seniors.

[1] WAC 284-17-605.

[2] Id. at 605(5).

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