Having a solid understanding of Social Security’s benefits
and the available optimization strategies is quickly becoming
a requirement for retirement advisors. Increased media
coverage ensures clients will have a better appreciation
of their benefits’ value and they will expect their advisors
to know how to maximize their benefit. Not having that
knowledge — or worse, trying to fake it — is likely to
backfire and cost the advisor business. RA
There’s obviously a need for and interest in Social Security planning, but the question of how retirement advisors
should integrate it into their businesses still persists.
Steven Stanganelli, CFP, CRPC with Clear View Wealth
Advisors, LLC in Amesbury, Massachusetts, first started
focusing more deeply on Social Security in late 2011. He
used a variety of learning methods, including reading
websites, magazine articles and attending presentations
at local professional organizations. He also began working with the Social Security Timing® software.
Stanganelli decided to offer Social Security planning
as a standalone option. His website describes the service
and includes sample reports so visitors can see what they
will receive from the service.
It’s essentially a two-and-a half-
hour session for a cost of $500,
he explains. Participants receive
a report illustrating the impact
of various filing strategies and
outlining the steps required to
implement a strategy. “So, it’s
not just a graph and a chart
that shows if you claim now
you make more,” he says. “It’s
actual bullet points to say if you
go to Social Security ask them
about this, tell them you want this, you want to use
these specific words.”
Pricing the service is a “work in progress,” he admits.
The predominantly middle market he serves is reluctant
to pay fees out-of-pocket so he is still seeking the right
price point that allows him to offer the service profitably
but also appeals to value-conscious buyers.
Social Security planning is a door-opener, he agrees,
and he can point to cases in which that service brought
in new clients. He’s also considering working with
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Social Security 567.
This service presents Social Security education seminars
nationally by working with local presenters, including
financial advisors. Social Security 567 books the location,
handles event promotion and the online reservations for
the no-cost seminars, an arrangement that can help free
up the advisor’s time from the administrative chores.
Although Stanganelli has not yet presented a program
through the service, his goal is to offer at least one
seminar monthly from February through May and then
bimonthly after that.
The increased focus on Social Security optimization has
led to more professional education options for advisors.
Some programs, such as the American College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP) program,
include extensive material on Social Security. Other
organizations like the Corporation for Social Security
Claiming Strategies in Plainville, Massachusetts, and the
National Social Security Advisors (NSSA) certification
program from Sharonville, Ohio-based Premier Social
Security Consulting, LLC, focus solely on Social Security.
Premier Social Security Consulting started operat-
ing in January 2010 when Marc Kiner, CPA, teamed
with Jim Blair, a 35-year Social Security administration
veteran. The initial business plan
was to provide benefits consult-
ing for individuals and they still
do about 30 consultations each
month. In January 2013, the
company launched the NSSA
certification program for which
Blair and Kiner serve as instruc-
The training covers both
basic and advanced topics and
is available on-demand online,
via webinar and in the class-
room. The basic material is aimed at advisors who have
little or no knowledge of Social Security: who qualifies
for benefits, eligibility, benefit amount calculations and
so on. Advanced material covers more in-depth plan-
ning strategies, including case studies and a discussion
of software. Program participants who complete the
requisite training can take the NSSA certification exam.
So far about 1,200 advisors have attended training and
850 have earned the certificate since its inception, says
Kiner. Costs range from $350 to $795, depending on the
instructional method and whether or not the participant