Is "Senior Specialist" a Legitimate Designation? Should I Trust It?
There has been a recent trend of investment fraud targeting older investors.
Scam artists will advertise free meals to entice seniors to listen to
their sales pitches and will use designations that imply that they specialize
in helping older investors. Per NASAA, more and more investment professionals,
insurance agents, and other individuals are using misleading titles. These
designations may sound impressive, but they are nothing more than a marketing
device. Once trust is built, it is easier for fraudsters to take advantage
of older investors.
While there are some organizations that give a “senior specialist”
designation after someone has met strict requirements, there are others
that freely give it away. You should not put your trust in someone solely
based on this title. Some investment representatives target senior investors
and will pressure them to put their money in
unsuitable investments. These salespeople will hold “free lunch” seminars
and engage in high-pressure sales. Unfortunately, they are often focused
more on their own agenda and fail to look out for what is best for their
senior clients. If you are considering investing your money with someone
who is using a senior specialist designation, you should do some homework
first. Call your state securities regulator and research the Financial
Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck to learn more about
the investment representative.
Designations Translate into Profit for Financial Professionals
There is a reason why so many financial professionals use designations.
They recognize that these titles conjure up trust and authority in the
eyes of their clients. Seniors have been especially prone to the abuse
that accompanies professional designations. A study by the FINRA from
2007 discovered that 46 percent of older investors were more likely to
take financial advice from someone who was using a professional designation.
The List of Professional Designations Is Long
FINRA has reported that there are at least 95 professional designations
for financial advisers. The Wall Street Journal apparently found at least
115 other financial credentials not tracked by FINRA. Keep in mind that
FINRA does not allow brokerage firms and brokers registered with the agency,
to reference "nonexistent or self-conferred degrees or designations."
In addition, these brokerage firms and brokers are prohibited from referencing
designations in a misleading way.
Despite the high number of financial credentials being used in the industry,
there are some that are more established and stringent than others. Among
these designations are:
- Certified Financial Planner
- Chartered Financial Analyst
- Certified Public Accountant
Other designations, such as Certified Retirement Financial Adviser, are
not as difficult to obtain.
What You Need to Know About “Senior Specialist” Designations:
- Don’t trust a financial professional solely on his or her title.
There are some organizations that have strict requirements for obtaining
a “senior specialist” designation, but there are also organizations
that freely give this title. It is best to check out an investment professional
by calling a state securities regulator or viewing the Financial Industry
- Someone who uses a title that implies specialized expertise in working
with seniors and aggressively markets might not be looking out for your
best interests. These tactics often lead to unsuitable investments, causing
investors to lose money.
Want to know more? Do not hesitate to get in touch with the professionals
from Meyer Wilson.