Advisors spend a lot of time helping clients save for retirement, but one college feels more emphasis is needed on helping people spend during retirement.

The American College of FInancial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa., has developed the Retired Income Certified Planner (RICP) designation to add to give advisors more insight in how to help clients with so-called "decumulation."

David Littell, co-founder and director of the program, says work on the program started a few years ago after he and colleagues decided that, academically speaking, retirement income planning needed more attention.

Working with the New York Life Center for Retirement Income at the American College, they began assembling a video library.

“Advisors told us they need more education," he says. "So we set out to improve the skill set of advisors so that they can improve retirement planning.”

“We wanted to help them with a number of questions: Do you include insurance in a portfolio; what about long-term-care; how do you adjust the portfolio?” he said.

That effort resulted in a three-pronged academic program that, upon successful completion, awards the advisor with the RICP designation. The first class was available in 2012 and first designation awarded the next year. To date, about 2,200 advisors have completed the program and another 10,000 are taking the courses.

All courses are online and draw heavily on videos, as well as texts, and on presentations by experts in retirement income planning, Littell says.

“We anticipated most students would be people who have experience as advisors and wanted to add to their knowledge,” he adds. “We have found that about half have been experienced advisors, but the other half are people new to the profession.”

The program uses 42 outside experts and 10 academics from the college to present the material. The three study blocks are Retirement Income Process, Strategies and Solutions; Sources of Retirement Income and Managing the Retirement Income Plan.

Catherine Allison, a private banker with Wells Fargo in Phoenix, Ariz., is about two-thirds of the way through the course and says she has found it to be a real eye opener.

What appealed to me is that the course is very practical and the quality of the experts it draws on is excellent,” Allison says.

For instance, one block dealt with how an advisor can help a client structure retirement income withdrawals in a most tax advantageous way,” she says. “Unlike traditional withdrawal sequencing, the life of a client’s portfolio can be extended by visiting a taxable and tax-deferred distributions plan annually.

The RICP defines factors and provides solutions to nine risks associated with retirement. This comprehensive list provides for me a holistic platform to help clients embrace retirement and stay comfortably retired. That’s a significant value addition given through our financial team,” she adds.

There also are tax opportunities if a lot of a client’s 401(k) is invested in company stock,” she says. Allison, who works mostly with affluent people, says she wants to have more in-depth conversations with Wells Fargo clients about their retirement and the RICP course will enable her to do that.

The course keeps on evolving, Littell says. “We focused on financial matters at first and now we are broadening it to life planning. Life planning is an area that is impossible to ignore today when advisors have to lead clients through decision making for their retirement,” he says.