A National Social Security Advisor (NSSA) is an individual who has finished the certificate program for the designation, which was created by the National Social Security Association in 2013. The NSSA certificate indicates that the holder has completed the relevant coursework on Social Security and can serve as a reliable source of knowledge about the retirement program.

Here are the details on the NSSA certification, what an NSSA does and why you may want one.

What are the qualifications for a National Social Security Advisor?

A National Social Security Advisor must meet the following qualifications in order to earn the designation:

  • Advisors must attend a day-long class on Social Security, in one of three formats: live in-class instruction, live web-based instruction or taped on-demand instruction.
  • Advisors must pass a closed-book online exam with at least 70 percent correct.

After they’ve earned the certificate, advisors can use the NSSA abbreviation after their name. Advisors must renew the certificate along with completing eight hours of continuing education every two years, at a cost of $395 (as of November 2023) or $1,000 for a lifetime certificate.

Certified financial planners (CFPs), certified public accountants and insurance agents can use the NSSA program’s live in-class instruction to satisfy their continuing education requirements.

Despite its name, the NSSA certificate is not sponsored or endorsed by the federal government.

What can an NSSA do?

The NSSA designation can help potential clients identify advisors who specialize in issues related to Social Security and who have passed the NSSA certification process. An NSSA can help clients plan how to best use the retirement program by:

Navigating Social Security can be a complex process if you’re trying to maximize your benefits from the program. With multiple ways to earn benefits, consumers may not know the best way to claim what they’re entitled to. An NSSA can help them get the most from the program.

Do you need an advisor with the NSSA credential?

The NSSA credential demonstrates specialized expertise in the subject of Social Security, so it can be beneficial if this area is a particular concern for clients. However, clients typically need more than specialized expertise in this area and find a broad-ranging approach to retirement planning to be a better fit for their needs. So, the NSSA designation can be a part of a good advisor’s range of expertise but probably should not be the extent of that expertise.

Other professional credentials such as the CFP also provide education and training in Social Security and related retirement planning, as well as charging participants to act as fiduciaries to their clients. Other options could include an advisor who has completed the coursework to earn the chartered financial consultant (ChFC) designation.

More broadly, those focused specifically on retirement should search out a retirement financial advisor, who can focus on this specific and complex planning area. If you’re looking for a financial advisor, here are six tips for finding the right one, including the key things to watch for.

Bankrate’s AdvisorMatch can connect you to a trusted advisor to help you achieve your goals.

Bottom line

Advisors with the NSSA credential show that they have specialized expertise in dealing with issues surrounding Social Security. This emphasis may prove beneficial for you, though other designations such as CFPs also offer training for this and other retirement planning issues.