A few years ago, Marc Kiner, a retired accountant from Cincinnati, and Jim Blair, a 35-year veteran of the Social Security Administration, teamed up to offer Social Security consulting services to consumers. By 2013, their fledging partnership had blossomed into a national Social Security training program for financial advisers, insurance agents and CPAs.
Beginning in 2013, they launched the National Social Security Association and began offering in-person and online classes. I plan to take their all-day online seminar on March 22. I'm not sure one day is enough to qualify anyone as a Social Security expert, but I'll let you know what I think about the training program when I'm done.
During a webcast this week, Mr. Kiner and Mr. Blair enumerated the reasons financial professionals need to learn about Social Security and Medicare as a way to distinguish themselves from the competition.
“Demographics alone suggest that understanding Social Security is important,” Mr. Kiner said. “We are getting older and our clients are getting older, too.”
Mr. Blair suggested that one of the biggest mistakes clients make is thinking Social Security employees are going to help them choose the best claiming option to maximize their lifetime benefits.
“Social Security always encourages people to take benefits as soon as they are able,” said the former SSA employee. “The agency recognizes that the earlier people apply for benefits, the less it will have to pay them.”
The one-day training session covers the nuts and bolts of Social Security rules, advance claiming strategies and touches on Medicare and disability rules. After the training session, participants take an online test administered by National Underwriter Co. and if they score 75 or higher, are awarded NSSA certification.
In-person courses qualify for eight hours of continue education credits for CPAs and CFPs nationwide and for insurance agents in 47 states, Mr. Kiner said. The online course costs $595, but does not qualify for CE credits.
Discounts are available through NSSA's marketing partner ClientFirst Financial.
So far, 450 financial professional have completed the training course. The duo said they hope to certify 5,000 participants by year end.
Denise Grace, owner of the Grace Financial Group in the Detroit area, is a past seminar participant. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about Social Security,” she said during the ClientFirst webcast this week. Now she says she regularly offers Social Security planning seminars as a way of attracting new clients to her retirement income practice.
“I explain to participants how maximizing Social Security claiming strategies, proper asset placement and tax-efficient withdrawal all work together,” she said. “I always ask the audience if any of them have a written Social Security claiming plan from their financial adviser or whoever manages their money,” she added. “No one ever raises their hand.”
Social Security claiming strategies can be a great introduction to prospective clients. And if you're not talking to your clients about Social Security, some other adviser might.