Help Your Clients Maximize
Their Social Security Benefits

Earn your RSSA Credential &
Become a Social Security Expert

Become an RSSA

Become an Expert – Earn Your RSSA Credential &
Maximize Your Clients' Social Security

Your clients need Social Security answers.
Become their trusted Social Security expert.
What You'll Get as an RSSA

Includes Everything You Need to Know about Social Security

  • Strategies to maximize Social Security benefits
  • RSSA Roadmap software to generate client reports
  • Practice tools and forms
  • Video case studies
  • Pass the RSSA Final Exam
  • Receive your RSSA Credential Certificate

Social Security Expertise,
the Next New Trend for
Financial Professionals

Differentiate your practice and attract new clients
with Social Security expertise.
Download White Paper

The RSSA Program

5 Self-Study Courses
Which Earn CPE Credits

The program includes everything you need to know to earn your RSSA credential and capitalize on this opportunity.

Most retirees are confused and misinformed about the topic of Social Security, and many are seeking expert advice. As professionals working in the tax and financial services, many of you may be getting questions from your clients about their Social Security benefits.

This 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, 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 common rules and strategies necessary to optimize Social Security benefits through the comparison of best versus worst claiming decisions.

Licensed professionals who are confident in their understanding and knowledge about Social Security will quickly become the "go-to" resource, not only in their own organization, but community wide. Social Security expertise builds trust and adds value for existing clients and is a topic that easily attracts prospects.

We are proud to be partnering with Devin Carroll to enhance the education offered to its members. Devin is an RSSA and financial planner who is obsessed with studying and understanding the complexities of Social Security. Devin founded Social Security Intelligence to demystify this retirement program for others so they can confidently choose the best strategies to maximize their benefits. When he's not creating content to help the masses better navigate the Social Security system, Devin works with financial and retirement planning clients at his firm, Carroll Advisory Group.

We have included specific "deep-dive" videos of Devin's on certain topics in the modules. We hope these add context and help simplify some of the more complex Social Security rules. Please watch the videos and be prepared for questions on the module exams that may pertain to the topics Devin presents.

Upon successful completion of this module, participants will be able to:
Choose the most commonly used terms and acronyms using the Social Security definitions learned in the course.
Recognize important Social Security program historical facts and changes to the program.
Recall the funding mechanisms of Social Security, including the maximum taxable earnings amounts.
Specify which family members are eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on a worker's earnings when given the family's information.
Calculate a client's PIA given their AIME.
Choose the Full Retirement Age (FRA) for a retiree given their birth year.
Select the correct amount of annual decrease or increase in Social Security benefits for retirees who claim prior to their FRA 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.
Recall how quarters of coverage are calculated and the number required to qualify for Social Security benefits.
Calculate how much individual family members may collect in Social Security benefits based on the Family Maximum Benefit rules.
Estimate the Family Maximum Benefit for a given case example.

Delivery Method

QAS Self-Study

Program Level

Basic

Advance Preparation

None

Program Prerequisites

None

Fields of Study

Specialized Knowledge

The Social Security income 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. Additionally, every year more retirees see their Social Security benefits subject to federal income tax, due to the taxation threshold limits that have not been adjusted for inflation since their initial inception in 1983 and 1994. This critical fact makes the timing of collecting benefits and withdrawal of funds from taxable retirement and other investment accounts an even more complicated decision for retirees.

This module begins by covering the most common advanced topic - pensions. The two pension-related rules, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), will be discussed in detail.

Chapter 2 focuses on the federal income taxation of Social Security benefits - the history of that taxation, the method of determining if and 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.

Chapter 3 addresses Social Security disability, including the general rules, eligibility criteria, application and determination details, family disability benefits, and benefits for disabled children. Like Social Security retirement benefits, disability rules are highly personal for each case and to be eligible a worker must meet both work and medical requirements.

Chapter 4 includes an introduction to Medicare, the eligibility requirements, a description of Medicare benefits, Medigap (or supplemental insurance) overview, and the Medicare application process.

Some of the topics covered in this module may not come up in every client case, but must be understood to provide accurate, in-depth advice when offering Social Security and retirement income planning services to a broad base of clients and prospects. This module prepares you for the more complex benefit types and related topics. Next, we'll investigate the complex interplay of Social Security income retirement account and other investment fund withdrawals, and taxation as you move on to the next module.

Upon successful completion of this module, participants will be able to:
Determine the financial impact of the Windfall Elimination Provision on an individual's retirement benefit given the case details.
Calculate the Government Pension Offset reduction on spousal and survivor benefits for specific case examples.
Recall the differences between covered and non-covered pensions.
Choose the correct definition of combined (provisional) income.
Recall the two different combined income thresholds for single and married taxpayers and the portion of their Social Security income than may be subject to taxation.
Select the two amounts of Social Security benefits subject to taxation and the years those laws were enacted.
Define the two eligibility requirements for Social Security disability insurance.
Name the five steps in the process used to determine a worker's eligibility to receive disability benefits.
State the four Medicare parts and the different types of care and services each part covers.
Choose the eligibility criteria for Medicare Part A.
Select the correct way that Medicare Part B premiums are calculated.
Recall the benefits provided by Medicare Part C and Part D.

Delivery Method

QAS Self-Study

Program Level

Basic

Advance Preparation

None

Program Prerequisites

Module I

Fields of Study

Specialized Knowledge

Taxes

Planning to retire requires a major shift from years of working and accumulating wealth to suddenly relying on that nest egg and other sources of income for the retirement years. Recognizing the value of making a smart Social Security income election decision in the context of all other retirement finances is just the start of analyzing cash flow throughout retirement years.

Chapter 1 starts out with retirement planning 101, then continues on with a discussion of the retirement planning team, retirement income streams, and how Social Security is the foundation of retirement plans. The elements of retirement planning are described, including gathering, reviewing, and assessing all retirement financial information, income, assets, and expenses. A discussion of lifestyle, goals, expectations, needs versus wants, and other retirement topics is critical to understanding a retiree's complete retirement financial picture. Clients should also be encouraged to evaluate their tax liability, medical and insurance needs, legal documents, and legacy planning prior to reaching retirement age. This module provides a system and process to guide clients on setting goals that will allow them to achieve the retirement they desire.

Often retirees are surprised to discover their Social Security income may be taxed. The impact of this taxation can play a role in the longevity and stability of their portfolios. Chapter 2 addresses the taxation of retirement income and the importance of Social Security income taxation management in the context of overall retirement planning.

Chapter 3 will provide case studies that illustrate the tax implications from making the interrelated decisions of maximizing or optimizing Social Security income and the sequence of withdrawals from retirement accounts and other funds. Social Security maximization may not be the best strategy when accounting for taxation and the types of retirement funds providing income. Initial software results are often just the starting point for discussions with clients about income gaps, referrals to other professionals, legacy planning, and more.

Chapter 4 concludes with a discussion about the future of Social Security. Misinformation about the program's history of changes, current funding sources, projected solvency, and solutions available to keep the program fully funded are common. Being educated on this topic and sharing your knowledge with others is vital.

Upon successful completion of this module, participants will be able to:
Choose the common retirement planning terms and acronyms used in the course.
Select the reason(s) why Social Security income planning is the "foundation" of a retirement financial plan.
Differentiate between the funds in a retirement planning "stool" versus a retirement planning "pyramid".
Recognize how consideration and inclusion of Social Security taxation and income planning in a comprehensive retirement plan can increase the longevity of portfolios.
Determine features to consider when choosing a software to help with Social Security claiming decisions.
Recognize the difference between optimization and maximization of Social Security benefits.
Identify client information needed to evaluate Social Security and retirement financial information to optimize net after-tax income for retirees.
Recall how the timing of claiming Social Security benefits and the sequence of retirement account and other asset withdrawals can impact retirement finances.
Determine for given retirement planning case studies the impact that claiming Social Security at certain ages can have on total taxable income and taxation of benefits.
Choose the reason(s) that the Social Security program is in danger of not being able to fund 100% of benefits in the 2030's.
Recognize possible future adjustments to the Social Security program that will help the trust fund to remain solvent.

Delivery Method

QAS Self-Study

Program Level

Basic

Advance Preparation

None

Program Prerequisites

Module I-II

Fields of Study

Specialized Knowledge

Taxes

Working with clients to analyze their optimal Social Security claiming decisions can be approached in a very systematic way. The process itself is straight-forward, following a detailed set of steps and requiring specific software inputs.

The value you provide is the detailed knowledge of Social Security rules and claiming nuances to know the correct questions to ask your clients and guide them in their decision. Making sure that a client's personal past, current, and future circumstances are considered will guarantee that you are working towards their optimal claiming decision. Whether you will be offering this service as a stand-alone analysis and report or including it in the larger retirement financial planning service you offer clients, the desired result is the same - helping them to make an optimal claiming decision to guarantee they receive all they are entitled to.

Chapter 1 covers the Social Security income planning environment, what the current and future market is for this service, and how any upcoming proposed changes to the Social Security program will impact the need. Opportunities for building and incorporating Social Security services into an existing business are discussed.

Chapter 2 is an introduction to working with clients including assessing their needs and gathering the critical information needed for the Social Security analysis. The Social Security claiming decision can lead to an examination of other retirement finances, providing an analyst with further opportunities to work with clients on their retirement financial plans and grow their business. Chapter 2 concludes with a discussion about of presenting and explaining the analysis and report to clients.

Chapter 3 describes and specifically addresses the unique opportunity to help self-employed business owner clients who are nearing retirement. Sections include explanations of the major business structures, self-employment taxes, earnings and deductions, and how net earnings are determined and reported.

Chapter 4 introduces a unique service opportunity, the Self-Employed Tax and Retirement Analysis (SETARA). This analysis is Social Security based and provides comparisons of alternative projected client incomes and the resulting effect on their lifetime benefits and amount of self-employed tax contributions. A detailed client case is presented to show potential savings and resulting additional income.

Upon successful completion of this module, participants will be able to:
Identify factors contributing to the need for Social Security income planning advice.
Choose the best source of information and assistance with individual Social Security claiming decisions.
Select the impacts on the need for expert Social Security advice that result from changes to the Social Security program.
Specify the information needed to analyze a client's most optimal Social Security claiming age.
Recall the information provided to clients with a Social Security income planning analysis.
Recognize the opportunities available to practice and highlight Social Security expertise and skills when working with pre-retirees to analyze their optimal claiming age(s).
Identify the main types of business structures and specifics that differentiate them from each other.
Choose the components and amounts for self-employment tax.
Recognize the details about determining and reporting net self-employment income.
Specify the purpose of a Self-Employed Tax and Retirement Analysis (SETARA).
Select the main reason a SETARA requires the advice of a tax professional.
Calculate for a specific client SETARA, what the net increase will be between a lower lifetime amount of Social Security and the savings gained by lower self-employment taxes during remaining years of earnings.

Delivery Method

QAS Self-Study

Program Level

Basic

Advance Preparation

None

Program Prerequisites

Module I-III

Fields of Study

Communications & Marketing

Specialized Knowledge

In addition to providing education and CE credits on the topic of Social Security, the RSSA Program is designed to train you to use state-of-the-art Social Security software to analyze client cases. Should you become a Registered Social Security Analyst (RSSA), you may wish to use your expertise on the topic to offer Social Security income planning services to workers approaching retirement.

In this module, you will learn to use the sophisticated, cloud-based analytical software program RSSA Roadmap. We will begin with a software walkthrough case study. It guides you step-by-step through the process of entering client data, running a case, and analyzing the results. You will then be ready to apply the knowledge you learned in the previous modules to analyze real-world Social Security client cases using this software. This module training is only an introduction to the capabilities of this software and continued real case analyses are needed to become proficient with its use.

The RSSA Roadmap software gives you the ability to examine three optional claiming age strategies with each report. You can also easily go back into the software and choose any other claiming age strategies that you would like to provide for your clients, or that they request.

As you know, for each person, the month and year that they file and start collecting Social Security results in a different benefit amount. There are, therefore, thousands of possible collection strategies to examine. It is only due to this type of software that we can provide our clients with the precise, numerical options to help them make the decision of when it is best for them to claim their benefits.

As you transition from advisor to analyst, this software program will enable you to help your clients collect tens of thousands of dollars more over their lifetime by making the right filing choices. You will be able to easily enter your clients' data, including uploading their Social Security earnings history that will be provided by the client and taken directly from the Social Security Administration website.

The RSSA Roadmap software generates client-customized reports that you can personalize with your business contact information. The reports include your client information inputs, PIA calculations, claiming options with filing sequences, color-coded lifetime, annual and monthly benefit charts and tables for each family member, and detailed notes with explanations. Side-by-side report comparisons between the different Social Security claiming ages options provide you with the ability to clearly show clients the amount of income they will receive by using each option.

Although the software strives to provide the maximum lifetime income for each client case, it is often not financially feasible for retirees to follow that particular claiming strategy. Many workers must claim earlier than the maximum claiming ages and strategy recommendations. You provide value to your clients by explaining the results and reviewing the precise numerical comparisons between alternative claiming ages and strategies so that they may make the most optimal claiming decision for their situation.

You will be introduced to each of the six clients with their specific case explanations, the client information forms they have filled out, and their earnings records. Follow the instructions in the case explanation document to analyze each client's claiming options using the software. For each of the six Social Security case examples, you will produce one or more reports that you will download, rename, and save to your computer. Many of the chapter review and exam questions will be based on the results in these reports.

The case in Chapter 1 walks through a fairly typical case with a married couple who have some future earnings expected before retiring. This case is an introduction to the software, so the inputs and outputs are explained in great detail.

Your client in Chapter 2 is a single man, Pete Walker. He was never married and has no children. He is 60 and plans to work through the end of 2030. He'd like to learn how his benefits will look at various filing ages so he can plan ahead for the next several years.

In Chapter 3 you will meet a widowed woman, Maria Rodriguez. She is interested in learning when she can file for survivor benefits and how they may impact her own retirement benefits.

Chapter 4 presents the case of a divorced woman, Anna Chen. She was married for over 20 years and has been divorced now for 17 years. She turned 62 last year and is interested in knowing her filing options. She is surprised to learn that she may also be eligible to collect an ex-spousal benefit.

Chapter 5 introduces the couple, Jake and Sue Hill. Jake is receiving a non-covered pension in addition to the Social Security benefits he will collect. This case highlights the changes to Jake's Social Security benefit due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

The example in Chapter 6 illustrates the case of a married couple, Brad and Carrie Meadows, who have a disabled adult child Chris. Determining the best Social Security claiming dates and strategies for couples involves analyzing thousands of possible claiming ages. In this case, it is even more complex since their son is also eligible for benefits when they start collecting their retirement benefits.

Upon successful completion of this module, participants will be able to:
Differentiate the specific amounts of retirement, spousal, child and survivor benefits that are included in the net annual benefits for family software cases.
Recognize why maximized lifetime filing dates/ages may not be the same as maximized monthly and annual filing dates/ages for a specific client software case.
Identify the maximized lifetime benefit filing dates for specific client software cases.
Determine the difference in lifetime benefit amounts between the maximized and other optional filing ages for a married couple Social Security software case.
Select the difference in maximized lifetime benefits for a couple case compared to the option of them both filing at FRA.
Choose from the PIA calculation table what the correct indexed earnings are for specific clients' past years earnings.
Estimate the difference in amount of survivor benefits for a couple's case depending on the filing date/age option they choose.
Recall why the earnings deduction occurs for certain client cases.
Specify why certain past earnings are or are not included in a client's PIA calculation.
Recognize the increase in PIA for a client based on their future projected earnings.
Select the reason(s) a divorced individual is eligible to collect ex-spousal and survivor benefits.
Identify the information needed to analyze a client's best Social Security claiming strategy.

Delivery Method

QAS Self-Study

Program Level

Basic

Advance Preparation

None

Program Prerequisites

Module I-IV

Fields of Study

Computer Software & Applications

Specialized Knowledge

The training curriculum meets QAS requirements and is accepted for self-study in all states for CPAs by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (15.5 CPE credits), for Enrolled Agents and PTIN holders by the Internal Revenue Service (10 CE credits), and for CFPs by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (8.5 CE credits). See the CPE Credit Requirements page for sponsor information.

About the Association

The mission of the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts, Ltd. (NARSSA) is to provide financial professionals and advisors with an educational online platform to acquire the knowledge and skills, obtain a professional credential that demonstrates their competency, and provide professionals with the resources and technology they need to better serve clients that seek advice on issues related to Social Security and Medicare.
Professional Continuing Education Sponsorships
National Registry of CPE Sponsors QAS IRS Approved Continuing Education Provider CFP