What is a certified retirement counselor, and do I need one?

1 min read by Unbiased team Last updated June 14, 2024

Learn about the role of certified retirement counselors (CRCs), their certification process, the services they provide, and how they can help prepare you for financial security in your golden years.


  • CRCs are financial advisors with added qualifications, making them experts in retirement planning. 

  • CRCs pursue their qualifications through the International Foundation for Retirement Education (InFRE). 

  • A CRC offers customized retirement solutions for each client based on their risk tolerance, financial objectives, and timeline. 

  • For expert retirement advice, find an expert financial advisor

What is a certified retirement counselor? 

A certified retirement counselor (CRC) is a financial professional equipped with specialized training and expertise in retirement planning.  

They assist clients with setting and achieving their retirement goals by providing personalized advice and guidance tailored to their unique situations.  

In addition to planning for retirement, they can also assist with managing your retirement income. 

With their extensive knowledge of retirement preparation and income management, certified retirement counselors provide working individuals and those about to retire with the best financial options to take them into their golden years.  

This expertise includes an intense understanding of the different income sources for retirement, like pensions, annuities, and Social Security, and extends to investment planning and budgeting.  

What is the certification process for retirement counselors? 

To become a CRC, InFRE requires candidates to have a bachelor's degree and a minimum of two years of work experience in a retirement-related field in the previous five years.  

Alternatively, individuals with a high school diploma require five years of retirement-related job experience within the last seven years.  

Students must also declare any criminal activity before starting the course and must adhere to the CRC code of ethics. 

The certified retirement counselor certification examination requires candidates to complete 200 multiple-choice questions in four hours.  

The exam covers the following five domains: 

  • Identifying clients' retirement goals, needs, and concerns 

  • Designing retirement strategies within the operational, structural, and regulatory plan environment 

  • Implementing pre- and post-retirement strategies 

  • Evaluating, adjusting, and documenting strategies across different career and retirement stages 

  • Providing training content and programs 

CRC graduates must participate in 15 hours of additional education a year to maintain their certified retirement counselor certification. At least two of those hours in two years must include ethics.  

How can a CRC help you with retirement planning? 

Certified retirement counselors are experts in developing retirement strategies.  

They offer various services to assist individuals in planning and managing their retirement effectively, including: 

  • They develop customized retirement plans crafted to clients' financial objectives, risk tolerance, and timelines. 

  • CRCs provide guidance on investment strategies, asset allocation, and portfolio management to optimize their clients' retirement savings. 

  • They help clients create sustainable income streams during retirement, considering factors such as pensions, Social Security, and withdrawals from their retirement accounts. 

  • CRCs also evaluate and mitigate various risks that could impact clients' retirement security, such as market volatility, inflation, and longevity risk. 

  • They may assist with estate planning. 

  • CRCs can help identify retirement account withdrawal strategies to minimize taxes during your senior years. 

  • Their services can also include budgeting counseling. 

While certified retirement counselors share similarities with other financial advisors, such as a focus on client-centric advice and fiduciary duty, they are distinctly different in their scope of expertise and specialization. CRCs specialize exclusively in retirement planning.  

What are the benefits of working with a CRC? 

Ensuring sufficient income for retirement can be tricky for a layperson with only basic financial skills.  

Working with a certified retirement counselor offers numerous advantages to the average citizen who needs to plan for a secure future when they retire, including: 

  • CRCs create personalized strategies that meet their particular financial goals. 

  • They offer professional investment management to maximize returns. 

  • CRCs cover comprehensive retirement planning, including long-term care and estate planning. 

  • They serve as fiduciaries and must adhere to strict ethical standards to prioritize their client's financial well-being. 

  • Individuals gain confidence in their retirement preparedness due to their CRC's specialized knowledge and training. 

  • CRCs provide ongoing guidance and support throughout the retirement journey, adapting strategies as clients' goals and circumstances evolve. 

How do you find and choose a Certified Retirement Counselor? 

Finding a suitable certified retirement counselor for your financial objectives amongst the throngs of financial advisors in the industry may seem like a difficult task. However, there are ways to cut through the masses. Start by asking family, friends, or colleagues for recommendations for skilled and knowledgeable CRCs. You can also search online directories, professional association listings, or on LinkedIn. 

When choosing a certified retirement counselor, consider the following factors: 

  • Verify that the financial advisor holds the necessary certifications. 

  • Does the CRC have experience working with clients with backgrounds and needs similar to yours? 

  • Make sure the CRC offers services that align with your specific retirement objectives. 

  • Look for fee-only advisors, as their pricing is less likely to eat into your nest egg. 

  • Personal compatibility is also essential, so know what questions to ask the retirement counselor to find someone who understands your values, priorities, and concerns regarding retirement planning. 

Get expert financial advice  

Certified retirement counselors (CRCs) are financial advisors who specialize in retirement planning. They must hold CRC certifications, which means they must pass the rigorous InFRE examination, which focuses intensely on all aspects of retirement strategies. Working with a CRC provides clients with peace of mind as they entrust their retirement income to specialists in the field.  

For a secure retirement, get expert financial advice. Let Unbiased match you with an SEC-regulated financial advisor now.  


Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.