Retirement Income Planning Credentials Demystified

I just saw a story that the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) would be putting out a new retirement income designation called the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP). And this made me think of my RMA credential  – and I wondered if anyone noticed or cared what it meant.

I do know that some people care because they ask me about “MSIM” and “RMA” at the end of my name. Those of you reading this can get the scoop on my bio page but it still might not help people navigate the alphabet soup of retirement designations.

Photo From Flickr via “godwind

First let me say this upfront – most of these ancillary designations are more professional “interests” in my opinion than a “certification.” For example, my “RMA” credential, stands for Retirement Management Analyst. And even though I studied a curriculum and took an exam, this credential reflects more my interest in the area of retirement income planning and my desire to be open and creative about the process than anything else (again my opinion).

My “MSIM” credential on the other hand, reflects the extremely focused, and intense 17 month Masters degree I earned in Investment Management from BU and reflects my intense interest and dedication to investment analysis. Other credentials such as CFP, CFA, CPA  -all require longer and more intense study periods too and a difficult exam. But these are the book knowledge.

RMA is more like a specialty – I want to help people develop secure retirement incomes so I pursued this credential and am a member of the issuing organization – RIIA > the Retirement Income Industry Association which is an association of financial professionals, financial companies, financial product developers, academics, journalists and researchers in the field of retirement income planning.  It is an awesome collection of intellectual and practical talent.

Certification Is Not the Destination

I don’t know what the RICP designation is going to do for professionals, but I know in my situation that the RMA credential alone would not make me an expert in income planning. And that’s what consumers need to know – it shows an area of interest, and a general level of education beyond basic financial planning in this area (retirement income); but it is really the dedication of the practitioner that makes the RMA education useful to the planner AND to the client.

Next time you visit a financial professional, ask them why they have the credentials that they do, and ask them how involved they are in their field of specialty. You want someone that goes well beyond the basics learned in any credential and a specialty in the area you need or has someone on their team that handles that specialty.


In summary, know that some credentials reflect an intense course in all of the basics, some a short but focused study of a particular area, and some reflect an interest in a certain type of clientele. And know that some courses and exams are easy and some are very difficult. But what really matters is competence, interest and pursuit of continual knowledge beyond the credential, in the area(s) you need planning in.

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