How to Earn the RSSA Credential
1. Apply Online
The RSSA application process is straightforward. In addition to providing basic contact information, a resume or bio is required. Linking to your LinkedIn page may suffice.
The Registered Social Security Analyst credential is an elite designation. It is reserved for a select group of capable professionals. While anyone can apply to take RSSA’s official Social Security course, motivated, individuals who are proficient at math and experienced with sales, marketing and/or financial matters can be helpful in building a successful career and business as a RSSA.
2. Take Course
The RSSA Social Security Course Curriculum is comprised of five self-study modules. These modules provide a comprehensive understanding of Social Security rules.
The training requires about 15-25 hours of study. The modules are designed so that you can take them at your own pace. At the conclusion of each self-study module, there is a 40 question, multiple-choice test that can be taken based on your schedule. To pass each module test, you must answer at least 30 questions correctly. Help is available from RSSA headquarters should you need it. After completing the five-module tests, you are eligible to take the RSSA Competency Final Exam.
3. Pass the Exam
The RSSA Competency Final Exam is the final step to prove your Social Security knowledge. The exam takes 4 hours, is proctored by a live person, and is given once a month online.
The Final Exam has two parts. Part I asks 80 multiple-choice questions. Part II includes a case study where you will use financial software to generate what-if scenarios for maximizing a client’s Social Security benefits (you will be provided access to this software and are taught how to use it in the fifth module of the program.)
4. Receive Support
As a Registered Social Security Analyst, you’ll receive the marketing support to build your practice as part of the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts (NARSSA).
Your inclusion in this exclusive association provides you with access to a myriad of benefits including marketing materials, videos, marketing support, even connections to financial professionals in your area. Learn more about the benefits on the What You’ll Get page.
Here's What You'll Learn
The RSSA Course Curriculum includes five comprehensive self-study modules. The online educational platform provides you with a solid knowledge of Social Security and Medicare rules including the following:
- Strategies to maximize Social Security benefits
- Windfall elimination provision
- Spousal benefits
- Government pension offset
- Social Security Optimization Software training
- Survivor and disability benefits
- Delayed retirement benefits
- Medicare Part A and Part B
Module I. Social Security Basics
This first module will provide you with detailed basic Social Security information that pertains to all retirees, including a history of the Social Security program, how funding works and how benefits are calculated, descriptions of benefits available for married, single, divorced and widowed retirees, and critical information to consider when evaluating the election claiming decision. Case examples will be used to illustrate the most commonly used rules and strategies needed to optimize Social Security benefits through the comparison of best versus worst claiming decisions.
- Learning Objectives
- Identify the effect of life expectancy on lifetime Social Security income amounts and survivor benefits using a given couples’ case example.
- Specify the steps used to calculate a retiree’s social security benefits.
- Select the correct amount of annual decrease or increase in Social Security benefits for retirees who claim prior to their full retirement age or after that date.
- Identify the current year earnings test income limits and the amount of Social Security benefits to be withheld given a retiree’s age and earnings.
- Recognize the rules and requirements for retirees to collect spousal and survivor benefits.
- Specify the factors that determine eligibility for domestic partners to collect Social Security under the spousal rules.
Module II: Social Security Advanced Topics
The topics covered in this module allow you to provide accurate, in-depth advice when offering Social Security advice to a broad base of clients. The Social Security claiming decision is often more complex for retirees who have special situations such as minor children, a dependent parent, a disabled adult child, or a pension from non-covered employment. Module II covers family maximum benefits, factors that make the benefit claiming decision so important for women, and the two pension related rules. You’ll also learn about how much of a retiree’s Social Security income will be taxed and case studies illustrating the need for education and retirement planning to include and manage this taxation. You’ll learn about Social Security disability, including the general rules, eligibility criteria, and family disability benefits. Module II concludes with a discussion of the future of the Social Security program.
- Learning Objectives
- Specify which family members are eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on a worker’s earnings.
- Calculate how much individual family members may collect in Social Security
- benefits based on the Family Maximum Benefit rules.
- Understand the combined income thresholds for single and married taxpayers and the portion of their Social Security income that may be subject to taxation.
- Understand the steps used to determine eligibility to receive disability benefits.
- Identify the factors that support the need for women to fully understand their Social Security benefits and claiming choices.
- Recognize possible future adjustments to the Social Security program that will help the trust fund to remain solvent.
Module III: Bridging to Retirement Planning
Planning to retire requires a major shift, from years of working and accumulating wealth to relying on that nest egg and other sources of income for the retirement years. This module teaches you to make smart Social Security decisions in the context of other retirement finances. You’ll learn about the elements of retirement planning such as gathering, reviewing and assessing all retirement financial information, income, assets and expenses, as well as understanding your clients’ lifestyle, goals, expectations. You’ll learn a process to guide clients on setting goals that takes into account their tax liability, medical, insurance, legal and legacy planning that will allow them to achieve the retirement they desire. You’ll learn about the importance of Social Security tax management in the context of overall retirement planning and see case studies that illustrate the tax implications. And because Social Security and Medicare are very interconnected, you’ll also get an introduction to Medicare, eligibility requirements, benefits, what Medigap, or supplemental insurance plans, are available, and the Medicare application process.
- Learning Objectives
- Differentiate between the funds in a retirement planning “stool” versus a retirement planning “pyramid.”
- Recognize how Social Security taxation and income planning in a comprehensive retirement plan can increase the longevity of portfolios.
- Recognize the difference between optimization and maximization of Social Security benefits.
- Understand how the timing of claiming Social Security benefits and the sequence of the retirement account and other asset withdrawals can impact retirement finances.
- Determine the impact that claiming Social Security at certain ages can have on total taxable income and taxation of benefits.
- Understand the four Medicare parts, eligibility and work requirements, and benefits, and how premiums are calculated.
Module IV: Marketing Social Security Income Planning Services
In this module, you will learn how to become a trusted advisor on Social Security and how to market your services. We’ll look at the current Social Security advisory environment and retirees’ need for Social Security planning services. We will address questions you may have about offering this service, and how changes to the Social security program can provide a marketing opportunity for you. We’ll discuss the value of this expertise, what education is needed for you to become confidently knowledgeable and conversant on the subject, and further resources that will help keep you current. We’ll explore how to market a service-based business, and the power of social networking, including referrals from satisfied clients in growing your business. We include suggestions on offering your services, the team of other professionals that can help you succeed, recommendations of both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) marketing niches if you want to specialize, and further advertising tips that can accelerate your new business growth.
- Learning Objectives
- Understand the need for Social Security income planning advice.
- Learn the answers to the most frequently asked questions about providing Social Security income planning services.
- Understand the educational resources available to Social Security income planning experts.
- Identify the characteristics of a “trusted advisor” who offers expert advice on a topic.
- Select the attributes of social networking that make it such a powerful marketing tool.
- Choose the professionals who would be valuable team members to work with.
- Understand the specific Social Security claiming niches available for working with groups of retirees.
- Learn cost-effective advertising tips for service businesses.
Module V: Social Security Software Case Studies
The knowledge you learned in the first four modules will be applied to real-world case studies. In this final module, you will learn to use cloud-based software to examine various “What-If” strategies based on different claiming ages and see side-by-side comparisons that allows you to show clients the difference in amounts of lifetime, annual, and survivor income benefits. You’ll also be introduced to sample people who have special Social Security claiming cases including:
Mark Hamill, who is single and will be receiving a non-covered pension in addition to his Social Security benefits. This case highlights the changes to Mark’s Social Security benefit due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).
Robert and Sarah Marsh, a married couple, who have an adult disabled son Greg. Their case is complex since their son is also eligible for benefits when they start collecting their retirement benefits.
Julie Woods, a single woman who was married for over 20 years and has been divorced for about ten years. This case involves an ex-spousal benefit.
Thomas, a self-employed attorney has the option to take his compensation as a salary or as a distribution from the company. At age 60, he is wondering how these options will affect his Social Security benefits and survivor benefits for his wife.
- Learning Objectives
- Recognize the reason(s) estimating maximum life expectancy is important when deciding which age to start claiming Social Security benefits.
- Recall how collecting a non-covered pension can affect a retiree’s Social • Security retirement, spousal, and survivor benefits.
- Select the Social Security rule(s) that determine if an adult disabled child is eligible for Social Security benefits.
- Choose the requirement(s) that divorced retirees must meet to be eligible to collect an ex-spousal benefit.
- Recognize the conditions that a retiree must meet to be eligible to use the “restricted application” claiming strategy.
- Estimate the difference in lifetime benefit amounts between the maximized and the default alternative filing age for married and divorced couples.
- Recognize the Social Security claiming factors that a self-employed owner and sole shareholder of a corporation must consider.
Training and Credential Costs
- 1. Social Security Education Program $1,500
- 2. Registration for National RSSA Competency Exam
- - Pros: $350
- - Non-pros: $500
- 3. NARSSA Membership
- - Associate members: $179/year
- - Registered members:
- - - Pros: $479/year
- - - Non-pros: $2,500/year