Investor Protection Guide: Misleading Senior Designations

Financial advisors may be designated “senior specialists” in order to imply a certain level of training and expertise regarding issues of importance to senior citizens. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports that there are currently more than 50 such “senior designations” or “titles” being used by financial advisors, which is “extremely confusing” for consumers. A full copy of the CFPB report can be read here. However, the training these advisors receive is often nothing more than marketing and selling techniques targeting the elderly. Senior specialists commonly target senior investors through seminars (often so-called “free lunch seminars”) where the specialist reviews seniors’ assets, including securities portfolios. Typically, the specialist recommends liquidating securities positions and using the proceeds to purchase complex and risky financial products that are unsuitable for senior investors. While some senior designations are legitimate and require extensive educational training, many are relatively meaningless. Accordingly, investors should check with their state or federal securities regulators to determine whether the investment professionals they have been dealing with are properly licensed and if there are any disciplinary actions or complaints on the record.

For more information, see:

  • North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA): http://www.nasaa.org/1999/misleading-senior-designations/
    NASSA’s headline on warning investors to carefully check credentials of “Senior Specialists.”
  • Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/professionaleducation/07/seniors.asp
    Investopedia discusses the various senior designations that financial advisors use to bolster their credentials, and why they are often misleading.
  • Forbes:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/04/25/watch-out-for-senior-specialist-financial-advisers/
    Forbes discusses why senior designations are misleading for senior citizens and how to protect yourself from being duped.
  • AAPR:
    http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/ppi/cons-prot/i40-senior.pdf
    AARP discusses why senior designations are misleading and what can be done to prevent their abuse.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201304_CFPB_OlderAmericans_Report.pdf
    The CFPB released a report on April 18, 2013.