Consultant Hours
  • Mon - Fri: 5:00 AM - 9:00 PM PT
  • Sat - Sun: 5:00 AM - 5:30 PM PT

Glossary of Senior Financial Advisor Industry Terms

Finding the right senior financial advisor can take some time, but it’s an effort that will pay off in peace of mind for you and security for your nest egg. Before trusting anyone with your retirement funds, take the time to get familiar with these terms—and feel free to ask prospective planners as many questions as you need to.


Some, but not all, senior financial planning certifications are accredited by a respected body such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Accredited programs tend to require more training, continuing education, and tougher testing.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

A financial advisor who has met the educational requirements of the nonprofit CFP Board, passed the exam, and follows the organization’s code of ethics. The CFP program is accredited by the NCCA.

Certified Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The federal bureau responsible for consumer education and industry enforcement of rules for financial service providers. This includes information for seniors about financial planning, a public database of complaints filed against service providers, and a complaint submission form.

Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)

CIMAs are financial planners who have taken the Investment Management Consultants Association course, passed qualifying and certification exams, and follow the IMCA’s code of conduct. The CIMA designation is accredited by ANSI.

Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)

CPAs are accountants who may also offer tax-planning and investment-planning services. They have passed the U.S. Uniform CPA Examination and met the education requirements for certification. CPA certification is overseen by the American Institute of CPAs.

Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC)

A financial-planning certification awarded by the International Foundation for Retirement Education and accredited by the NCCA. CRCs must meet education and experience guidelines, pass the INRE’s exam, and follow the group’s continuing education requirements.

Certified Retirement Financial Advisor (CRFA)

The CRFA designation is awarded to qualified financial professionals who pass tests in 6 fields of retirement-planning knowledge. The CRFA program is run by the Society of Certified Retirement Financial Advisors and accredited by the NCCA.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)

CSA professionals are certified by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors for their knowledge of an array of senior-care issues, including the social, physical, and financial aspects of growing older. Because the CSA program is multidisciplinary, not all CSAs are also financial planners. The certification is accredited by the NCCA.

Commission-based planning

Financial-planning services in which the planner earns a commission for selling a particular product or investment. See also fee-based planning and hourly-rate planning.

Estate planning

Legal and financial preparation for the transfer of one’s assets to heirs or selected charities after death, usually done in a way that minimizes taxes and maximizes the amount passed on.

Fee-based planning

Financial planning services which are paid for yearly, as a percentage of the client’s assets under management. See also commission-based planning and hourly-rate planning.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

A non-governmental regulatory agency that educates investors, enforces investment market regulations, and disciplines non-compliant firms. FINRA’s BrokerCheck and ScamMeter tools can help seniors find qualified investment planners and avoid unscrupulous operators.

Hourly-rate planning

Financial planning services for which the client pays a set hourly rate. See also fee-based planning and commission-based planning.

Investor Protection Trust (IPT)

A national nonprofit investor education group. The IPT offers several programs related to senior financial planning, including the Campaign for Safe and Wise Investing, in conjunction with the AARP, and the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program.

Senior financial advisor

A general term used to describe retirement and investment planners who work with seniors. Because qualifications and specialties vary among planners, seniors and their families should request proof of the advisor’s Series 65 investment certification along with any other accredited designations. See also entries under Certified above.

Click here to return to the previous page.