With the number of people age 65 or older expected to increase from 36.3 million in 2004 to 86.7 million by 2050, more financial planners are specializing in serving the senior market, The New York Times reports. At least four professional groups are now offering certifications in financial gerontology, with many of the programs expanding beyond financial consulting to encompass healthcare services and most of the certificates achievable in only a few days.

Currently, there are an estimated 150 Registered Financial Gerontologists, 260 Certified Retirement Financial Advisers, 3,500 Certified Senior Advisers and 1,000 Chartered Advisers for Senior Living. Other programs offer accreditations called Registered Financial Gerontologist, Certified Retirement Financial Adviser. Only the Chartered Adviser for Senior Living program takes a year to attain.

Regulators are already worried that the proliferation of such certificates could lead to unscrupulous fraudsters tacking on professional-sounding accreditations to their names to take advantage of unsuspecting seniors.

The Securities and Exchange Commission doesn't even regulate the associations giving out these certifications, and thus, "does not endorse any professional designation," said Susan Wyderko, director of the office of investor education at the SEC. Likewise, the Consumer Federation of America, the AARP and even a number of financial planners themselves are also concerned. "There's an opportunity for fraud," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation. Investors should check the background of any financial planner before hiring them by checking them out at the SEC's website, advises Clare Hushbeck, an economist at the AARP.

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.