ICFE eNEWS #09-03 - February 18th 2009
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Professional Designations: Marketing Value with Senior Adults

By Lyn R. Link, CeM, CSA, CHECMS

Let's face it. As a professional trying to demonstrate integrity and devotion to your senior clients by going that extra step to gain one or more professional designations, it is highly unlikely that they will understand what all those letters behind your name really mean.

After all, a count of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) professional designation database indicates 89 different designations. These are just the number of designations for financial professionals and, according to FINRA, are not inclusive of all financially-related designations.

When you include all the designations for other professions such as medical, legal, real estate, and geriatrics, it becomes overwhelming, confusing, and unreasonable to expect a senior adult to understand and appreciate the distinctions.

Along with the vast number of designations senior adults are being bombarded with today, unscrupulous individuals are using professional designations as a way to gain their trust and to scam them out of money.

So, should you just give up on gaining a designation? Absolutely not!

Those who have completed a course, passed an exam, and have met qualifications to earn a professional designation are likely to be more competent and provide better service, on average, than those who haven't.

Typically, businesses will make referrals to professionals holding a designation, not because it guarantees quality of service but because it increases the probability they will provide quality of service.

Although it's true that the public may not understand what the letters behind your name mean, their perception, especially among senior adults, of professionals with a designation is increased.

In the absence of knowledge necessary to make an informed decision, we all rely upon clues to help us. One such clue is the appearance of authority, whether real or perceived. Professional designations convey the appearance of authority, and that's what makes them more powerful in affecting a consumer's decision.

A professional designation sets you apart from the competition and often indicates a higher level of competence and standard of professionalism.

Professionals with a designation gain a real competitive edge over their competition by receiving an increased number of referrals, opening doors of opportunity, and having greater influence with their clients.

Proof of the increased earning power a designation can bring may be found in a 2008 survey by the National Association of Realtors' (NAR). According to NAR, brokers and agents with at least one designation earned $67,900, while those without a designation earned only $33,200. This survey concludes that a professional designation doubles your income.

Professionals who work with senior adults are increasingly finding it a necessityto demonstrate knowledge about reverse mortgages. Reverse mortgages continue to grow in popularity year after year. This continued growth is primarily due to economic hardships being experienced by senior adults and a growing aging population.

Reverse mortgages enable homeowners 62 and older to borrow a portion of the equity in their home with no repayment for as long as they live in their home.

Funds from a reverse mortgage are being used by seniors in many ways such as to buy a home, pay for long-term care, make an investment, provide liquidity for an estate, pay off an existing mortgage or other debts, and fill the gaps in retirement income.

Professionals who gain a reverse mortgage designation further distinguish themselves from their competition. After all, professionals may hold their industry's recognized designation, but how many have also earned a reverse mortgage designation?

Having a reverse mortgage designation can attract new clients. This is especially true as seniors turn to professionals for help with ways to secure their retirement.

Lyn R. Link, CeM, CSA, CHECMS is the founder and president of the National Reverse Mortgage Education Center (NRMEC), and has been actively involved in the reverse mortgage industry for over 20 years. NRMEC provides educational Resources for professionals who service the senior adult market. For additional information on the benefits of a reverse mortgage professional designation, visit NRMEC.org

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation).  The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. 
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.

The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org).  CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed.  In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.

The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much.  ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.

Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org.  Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G,  a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.

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