Retirement income experts have a new professional designation to brag about.

The American College, a Bryn Mawr, Pa., educational institution that also owns the ChFC designation, says it has awarded 11 students the first-ever Retirement Income Certified Professional designation. To earn the designation students must complete three courses and pass six hours of proctored examinations.

More than 1,000 online students began taking the first of three courses offered for the designation last April, says David Littell, director of the New York Life Center for Retirement Income at American College. “It’s been one of the most successful launches of a new designation in our history,” Littell says. “It’s sort of what’s been missing in the marketplace. There are very few designations that focus on retirement income.”


The designation coursework is based on a 10-step process and it centers on three current approaches to creating retirement income, according to Littell. Among them: 

  • Systematic withdrawal: Clients keep their diversified portfolios and take regular withdrawals.
  • Flooring: In this case, planners create guaranteed income for their clients, often through annuitization or the creation of bond ladders to generate income for a specific period of time.
  • Bucket approach: This approach segments a portfolio into different buckets based on different time periods, assuming a client's needs will change over the years of retirement.

All three approaches are covered in the first course. The two courses go into more depth on aspects of retirement income planning -- including the use of Social Security income, tax efficiency and long-term care insurance, Littell says.
“All three of these methods are being used in the industry,” Littell says. “We are kind of approach-neutral. We are teaching all strategies. In a perfect world, probably a different strategy will work for different clients.”

In polling sponsored by the college, planners have said they lacked a clear approach to retirement income planning, Littell saus.


Courses includes video interviews with experts in different fields. “It’s not just the college faculty, but it’s many of the leaders in the field talking about their expertise,” Littell says.

William Reichenstein, tax expert and professor of finance at Baylor University, addresses tax efficiency in one video, according to Littell. Michael Kitces, of Pinnacle Advisory Group, covers systematic withdrawals, and retirement income expert Wade Pfau, winner of a 2012 FP Influencer Award and a recent addition to the college’s faculty, addresses the flooring approach.

Each course contains about 25 hours of video and uses a 250-page workbook, Littell said; students can work on the material at their own pace. The first students reported spending 40 to 60 hours of study in each of the courses.

By the end of the course, students must demonstrate a mastery of 18 different competencies and be able to write a retirement income plan, he said.

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