The Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) is one of three national professional associations whose members sell structured settlements and profess to engage in personal injury settlement planning (herein sometimes “settlement planning”).

As it relates to structured settlements and settlement planning, SSP differs from the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) and the American Association of Settlement Consultants (AASC) in several important respects.

Unlike NSSTA and AASC, which promote structured settlement annuities, SSP encourages product neutrality. Although SSP does not prohibit defense-oriented members, its origin, values and educational philosophy tend to be pro-plaintiff.

In addition to being the first (eponymous) settlement planner association, SSP has created a Registered Settlement Planner (RSP) certification program. SSP is also the only association to have published a set of Settlement Planning Practice Standards (SSP Practice Standards).

Unlike NSSTA and AASC, SSP does not engage in public policy advocacy. SSP, however, encourages its members to join and support NSSTA and AASC. Since SSP was founded in 2000, its educational conferences have gained industry respect. The 2024 SSP Conference, held March 6-8 in Nashville, not only maintained this reputation but arguably raised the bar.

Program Summary

SSP President Paul Isaac, Jr. opened the meeting by listing recent SSP accomplishments and subsequently introduced Rick Bishop and Jack Meligan, two founding SSP members, each of whom offered historic anecdotes and strategic perspectives as SSP approaches its 25th anniversary.

Most of the first day was devoted to industry experts providing settlement planning updates. John Cattie, Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, Jeremy Babener, Matt Meltzer and Joseph Tombs presented on MSP compliance, disability planning, tax strategies, QSFs and avoiding the “double tax” on taxable recoveries. Kate Nachazel added new ideas for marketing to plaintiff attorneys.

Jeremy also discussed The Plaintiff Fund – The Plaintiff Fund – Operated by Help Hope Live – a charitable organization supported by SSP, Independent Life, and an increasing number of settlement planning stakeholders.

Matt recently joined this writer as co-author of the legal textbook “Structured Settlements and Periodic Payment Judgments.

Sudden Money Workshop

SSP dedicated its conference’s second day to a four-hour “Sudden Money Institute Workshop,” featuring Traci Kaas and Susan Bradley. The workshop introduced SSP attendees to the concept and skills of “financial transitionists.”

Most readers know, or know of, Traci – a leading settlement planner and structured settlement consultant who has qualified as a “Certified Financial Transitionist.” Traci also has published a book titled “What You Can Expect When Expecting A Settlement” which the Independent Settlement Expert reviewed in a prior article.

Susan is the Founder of the Sudden Money Institute (SMI), a think tank that created the Certified Financial Transitionist® designation (and the Financial Transitionist® Institute) of which Traci is a graduate.

Not only did Traci and Susan’s workshop complement SSP’s earlier industry expert updates, it introduced, in a training context, “the human side of settlement planning” – a critical component previous industry conferences have largely, if not entirely, overlooked.

To understand what Financial Transitions Planning teaches, what Traci and Susan’s workshop addressed and why these skills are critical for settlement planners, check out this page from the Financial Transitionist Institute website.

Financial Transitions Planning – Thoughts, Challenges, Questions

  1. As settlement planning is described by current SSP Practice Standards, Financial Transitions Planning skills are not only complementary, they appear essential. You can register for core training sessions HERE. SSP members receive a 10% discount if they register before March 22, 2024.
  2. How can Financial Transition Planning skills best be integrated into settlement planning education?
  3. Should Financial Transition Planning also be integrated into the SSP Practice Standards – and if “yes”, how?
  4. Are Financial Transition skills relevant for defense consultants who market themselves as settlement planners – and may never meet with a plaintiff or the plaintiff’s family?
  5. If “yes”, then how do defense consultants define their version of personal injury settlement planning and settlement planning practice standards?

SSP’s New President and “Real Fiduciary Standards

Following its 2024 Annual Conference, the SSP Board of Directors announced the election of Joseph Tombs to succeed Paul Isaac, Jr. as SSP President. Joe has previously served as SSP President and achieved and/or participated in many of SSP’s most important accomplishments to date including development of SSP’s RSP program and Practice Standards.

In a message to SSP members, Joe identified several of his objectives as incoming President, one of which is to re-evaluate the SSP Practice Standards including consideration of SSP adopting “real fiduciary standards.”

The current SSP Practice Standards do not specifically address traditional levels of suitability standards which are – from lowest to highest: 1) suitable; 2) best interest; 3) fiduciary.

Current SSP Practice Standard #9 comes closest stating: “The settlement planner shall recommend appropriate products and services that are consistent with the client’s goals, needs and priorities.” (emphasis added)

The explanation for SSP Practice Standard #9 adds: “The products or services selected to implement the recommendation(s) must be suitable to the client’s financial situation and consistent with the client’s goals, needs and priorities.” (emphasis added)

This writer is not aware of existing legislation or regulatory authority that imposes a “fiduciary duty” on settlement planners who specifically market and sell structured settlements. As one result, settlement planners and structured settlement consultants rarely study or discuss suitability standards proactively. .

The most recent industry discussion of “fiduciary standards” occurred in the context of the Cordero case in which Transamerica and NSSTA rejected Cordero’s claim of an annuity provider’s “fiduciary duty.”

What Joe is proposing for SSP members (“real fiduciary standards”) therefore would appear to represent a new self-imposed practice standard and a challenge to current business practices within the structured settlement and settlement planning markets.


SSP annual conferences continue to feature exceptional speakers who address current industry topics and attract attendees who generally are open to changing their minds in response to new information or new ideas.

In addition to valuable updates, the 2024 conference introduced attendees to Financial Transitions Planning. The SSP Board of Directors elected a new President who wants SSP and its members to adopt “real fiduciary standards.”

Each of these ideas challenges, and arguably would improve, current industry business practices. Some, perhaps many, structured settlement consultants and settlement planners may view these ideas as threats rather than opportunities.

Industry leaders, or would be leaders, who reject these ideas without further study, should consider the words of leadership guru John Maxwell: “[c]hange is inevitable. Growth is optional.”