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Course Review: HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs

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Course Review: HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs

I finished HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs in April and I wanted to share my review of the course. Sorry for the late review, I was in the mist of returning from a deployment. This was the third course I completed from The American College of Financial Services ChFC/CFP program. 

> HS 300 Course Review
> HS 311 Course Review

If you’re unsure why I am doing a review, I recommend reading my first post regarding my pathway to becoming a Financial Planner.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs

According to the American College website, the course focuses on individual retirement planning and selecting the right retirement plan for a business. The topics covered include:

  • Qualified plans, SEPs, SIMPLEs and 403(b) plans
  • Nonqualified deferred compensation plans
  • Practical knowledge needed for choosing the best retirement plan, especially for the small business, and designing a plan that will meet a client’s needs
  • Individual retirement planning including IRAs and Roth IRAs, Social Security benefits, saving for retirement and planning for retirement plan distributions

The book consisted of twenty-five chapters as of the 14th edition. This course took me way longer to complete than planned due to COVID-19. I initially planned to complete the course in 8-10 weeks but testing centers were closed due to the coronavirus.

Review

The HS 326 course was very thorough explaining individual and business retirement needs and plans. I ended up failing the final exam on my first try. I took a 4 week hiatus from studying due to testing centers being closed and thought I could quickly review the material before testing – so ya, I was wrong and performed poorly. I quickly dove back into the material and was able to pass on my second try. Yay!

Retirement Planning

What made this course so difficult was the many retirement plans and the subtle differences between them. When I say subtle – I mean very subtle – some plans were mutants, having multiple components of five other retirement plans. For me, memorizing the differences proved challenging. Each plan had various contribution and distribution limits not just for the employees or individuals, but also for employers.

Some of the things I learned:

  • setting up qualified plans or other tax-advantaged retirement plans for corporations and other for-profit business entities
  • setting up retirement programs for nonprofit organizations
  • designing retirement programs that meet the owner-employee’s tax and savings objectives
  • modifying existing retirement programs to maximize tax-shelter potential, either by changing the existing plan or by instituting multiple plans
  • supplementing existing retirement programs with 401(k) plans
  • updating existing 401(k) and other plans to conform with changing organizational needs
  • updating existing plans to conform with legislative changes
  • advising clients about investment strategies that are appropriate for retirement programs
  • selling investment products that are appropriate for retirement programs
  • planning for the purchase of life insurance in tax-sheltered plans
  • setting up nonqualified plans for executives
  • selling IRAs and Roth IRAs to clients
  • planning for a client’s retirement
  • planning for the best disposition of a client’s retirement benefits 

This course not only highlighted the complexity involved in retirement planning, but the importance of learning each plan’s nuances.   

Final Thoughts

This course opened my eyes to retirement planning and its intricacies. With such a vast array of retirement plans and programs available, a financial planner has the opportunity to meet every client’s need. Even clients with unique situations, programs can be adapted to meet their personal or business requirements. This course provided me a slew of tools and resources to serve future clients.   

I high;y recommend the program! As a servicemember remember, they do offer full-ride scholarships and are always looking for applicants.

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