The Road to Riches for CPAs

March 2015 -

And the next two months are prime to start

Here's the story.

I was taking Metro North home a few nights ago and looking out the window at yet another winter wonderland (or, should I say, winter disruption; this will be over soon enough, one hopes). With me was my Kindle, where my favorite technology magazine awaited, and my monthly print version of the CPA Journal.

You will be pleased (or perhaps surprised) to know that I made the true professional decision and looked over the CPA Journal. I guess deep down, I am a bit of a CPA geek, since I have continued perusing professional publications ever since getting my license in the '70s. Part of the reason is because I really do want to keep up with the burning issues in the profession and part is because of personal interest, which leads me to this missive.

In the February 2015 issue of the CPA Journal is an article titled CPAs' Growing Role in Estate Planning that I really liked. However, in my opinion, that title is a misnomer, as our value is much more about tax and financial planning, as well as the vastly expanded ability of CPA firms to offer additional services.

My focus here is strictly on financial planning, as that is the road to riches, in my opinion.

Why do I feel that way?

Well...are you or your clients worried about any of these?

  1. Having enough money for retirement - the statistics are quite scary, with the average household having less than $100k in savings.
  2. How to fund your children's increasingly expensive college education. 
  3. If your parents are living, what are their long-term housing and medical needs, and how you will be involved.
  4. Having enough, or any, life insurance - I can tell you from direct knowledge that the vast majority of professionals I know don't. Not sure if that is a fear of mortality issue, a dislike of the insurance industry, or just pure procrastination, but for a family with children, it's not wise.

I am sure that the answer to the question of whether these things worry your clients is "yes" and that they desperately need your wise counsel. And guess what - you do not have to be an expert. It certainly helps to have a good baseline knowledge but, worst case, it's easy enough to partner up with a fee-paid financial planner, as an example, to fill in technical gaps. If I may editorialize as well: Don't be that guy who tells his clients "just buy term and invest the difference." Maybe that's true and maybe not, but it is a gross simplification of a very complicated financial product. Bring in an expert.

This is prime time for you and your individual tax clients, and the executives of your business clients. As you nail down how their businesses performed for the past year and how all of their personal investments and financial plans come together for their 1040s, you have a blueprint for some robust conversations that will undoubtedly result in new business. A few simple client questions or suggestions will open the door.

  1. Suggest: Let's make a date to get together after tax season to talk about your personal and/or business future planning.
  2. At that meeting, ask:
    1. How did your 2014 go, both for your business and personally?
    2. What was better or worse than expected?
    3. Is there anything in particular of concern for you in 2015 and beyond?

If the answer to C is "nothing much," bring up retirement, college, elder care, etc.

If I were younger (truth be told, a lot younger!), I would get my CFP and any and all related financial planning credentials, and start a boutique high-net-worth and financial planning practice. For now, I will stick to advising my CPA clients on the best ideas and practices for growth, profitability and succession.

If you would like to discuss this or any other issues related to your practice or career, please don't hesitate to contact me. My direct line is (212) 490-9700. Or email me at  Absolute confidentiality always assured.

Robert Fligel

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