Financial Literacy Feed

financial literacy

The AICPA and its members continue to be at the forefront of the financial literacy movement with free programs, resources and thousands of CPAs across all 50 states volunteering to help Americans with their financial understanding.










In the News: CPAs Provide Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Summer

Dollar-chaiseSummer was always thought of as the time for sunny days at the beach, BBQs and bonfires. But these days most American adults equate summer with financial anxiety, according to a recent telephone survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Poll.

According to the survey, about 6 in 10 U.S. adults (59 percent) said their financial tension during the summer matches or exceeds the stress they feel during the year-end holiday season. The AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission has been reaching consumers with tips to help them alleviate the stress of summer by making smart financial decisions.

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Money Matters for Mothers and Daughters Alike

Triumphant-womanThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. While many mothers may be treated to flowers and breakfast in bed, it’s also a day to celebrate the strength that comes with being a mother. But sometimes, that strength can waiver when it comes to finances. 

"Be Prepared, Not Scared" is what I have been telling my clients for years. This is especially important for female clients. According to a 2012-13 Prudential Research Study on the financial experience and behaviors among women, only 22 percent of women feel “very well equipped” to make wise financial decisions. A likely reason for this is that, in male-female relationships, most often the “chore” of planning is handled by the husband. My goal is to change that. While most of my married clients are men, we push to get wives involved at the earliest point in their personal financial planning engagement.

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Crowdfunding Isn’t Like Shopping Retail

In our last blog post on crowdfunding, Charles Landes, CPA took a deep look at equity crowdfunding, specifically how the Securities and Exchange Commission rules are shaping up as required by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012. However, equity crowdfunding is not typically one’s first introduction to this new funding approach. Many are first introduced to crowdfunding through one of the various crowdfunding platforms that exist, such as Kickstarter. If you are not familiar with crowdfunding through a platform like Kickstarter, the concept is relatively simple. A person or company comes up with an idea, determines the cost to create this idea and sets a funding due date. Projects also feature rewards based on the contribution, for instance, backers may receive a T-shirt or the actual product they are supporting. If the project fails to meet its finance goal by the set date, then the project is not funded.

Backers have funded all types of projects, from virtual reality systems, like Oculus Rift (which was recently acquired by Facebook), to dream cars, like a DeLorean Hovercraft. Other projects have gone on to win an Oscar and be featured at the Cannes Film Festival. However, not every project makes it. What happens when a funded project fails to deliver on its promise?

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Volunteer This Financial Capability Month

April is National Financial Capability Month, an annual event designed to help Americans improve their understanding of finances. As a CPA, you can significantly increase its value and impact, and help ensure the month is more than just a reminder to consumers to save and spend wisely. When you get involved, you can:

  • Help Americans build their financial understanding and capabilities
  • Strengthen and advance the CPA profession
  • Give young CPAs an opportunity to develop leadership skills
  • Volunteer and build your network at the same time

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March Money Madness

Pig - BasketballWhile many CPAs are in the depths of tax season right now, sports fans are entering the height of the college basketball season: March Madness. Even the most lackadaisical college basketball fan can’t help but get into the spirit. It also can be a prime time for overspending, whether buying rounds of drinks while watching the game at the bar or participating in the office pool. Although the NCAA tournament may be a one-and-done system, CPAs know all too well that this is not the case with personal finances.

The commonsense financial approach to events like March Madness are usually your typical stick to a budget, think before you spend, etc. But often no matter how many “tips to save money” you put out there, consumers are still drawn in by the pressures of friends, family and the media. While the individual consumer may know all the tips and tricks and understand the impact their decisions will make, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and it doesn’t mean they’ll do it. So how do we, as professionals in the finance community, combat this? How do we change the thinking of Americans to one be focused on financial wellbeing?

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Emotions at Play: To Spend or Save?

Whether we like it or not, emotion plays a part in almost everything we do; from making a move at the end of a date to hitting the snooze in the morning before work. Emotion is that little bug in your ear that can sway your decision making, no matter how logical you may try to be. That’s why strong emotions, such as love, can make you feel so crazy. 

Pig - Love 2I’ve worked on the Feed the Pig campaign for several years, and as a member of its target audience I know firsthand that emotional spending is a common struggle for my peers. This is especially true when it comes to holidays, like today, Valentine’s Day, when Americans feel compelled to spend that extra dollar to show someone that we care, no matter how unnecessary and unrealistic it may be.

A few weeks ago, we sat down with National Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA/PFS, and Clare Levison, CPA, for a Facebook chat with consumers about finances and the role that emotions often play in our decisions. Here are a few of the top Q&As from the event:


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Celebrating a Life of Service

MLK-Day-of-Service“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day commemorating the extraordinary work and sacrifice of an incredible man; a day when people across the country strive to answer King’s question by coming together to serve their neighbors and communities. King is best known for his dedication to the advancement of civil rights, and, in his later years, poverty eradication and economic justice.

The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative, asking Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.

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In the News: CPAs Providing Financial Guidance for 2014


In a recent post I detailed a number of articles highlighting tax tips provided by AICPA staff and members that individuals can use to save themselves money when they file their 2013 returns.

As the calendar flips to 2014 (the year of the polar vortex), AICPA members and staff have been providing guidance on how to ‘recover’ from holiday spending, save more in 2014, and outlining tax changes that may impact consumers.

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Being THAT Guy

“When she said ‘I just paid off my student loans,’ I thought, WOW how did she do that. It makes you think what’s important and what’s not.”

“I like the positive role model thing.  I want to be this guy.”

These quotes are just a small sampling of feedback from the Feed the Pig’s target audience (25-34 year olds) after viewing the campaign’s newest PSAs during focus groups held earlier this year. Each TV spot highlights both the positive financial behavior—buying a home, saving in a 401(k) and paying off student loans—of one young adult or couple paralleled with the spending habits of their peers, who simply cannot believe there’s any money left over at the end of the month to save. (View all the new PSAs on the new Feed the Pig website.)

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In the News: AICPA to Congress: Consolidate Small Business Retirement Plans

The AICPA is gearing up for our Fall Meeting of Council, which begins Oct. 20 in Los Angeles. Be sure to follow @AICPA_JofA and @AICPANews on Twitter and subscribe to the AICPA’s Press Center RSS feed to keep up with all the news and information coming out of the meeting.

In the meantime, I’ve highlighted a few recent accounting articles in the news that you may missed over the last week.

US-capitolAccounting Today covered the recent written testimony that the AICPA submitted for the record of the House Small Business Committee’s hearing on retirement savings for small employers. In the testimony Jeffrey A. Porter, AICPA Tax Executive Committee chairman, suggested several ways to simplify the complexity of the retirement planning universe.

“When a small business grows and begins to explore options for establishing a retirement plan, the alternatives, and the various rules, can become overwhelming,” he wrote in his testimony.

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Have You Hugged Your CPA Today?

Young-CPAsMore than sixty-five million Americans are serving as volunteer caregivers for vulnerable loved ones – and as baby-boomers step into senior status, that number will rise. Caregiving for someone with a disability, lengthy illness or aging issues is challenging enough, but adding money concerns to the mix can create a massive strain on individuals and families. Caregivers find themselves thrust into roles they are poorly suited to maintain. Juggling medical, relationship and job-related matters can often pale in the face of the financial pressures of caring for someone who is chronically ill or disabled. 

The key is sustainability – and in order to manage the massive bills, extra costs and nuances of the tax code, I have found that I require the help of a trained professional, specifically a CPA.

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Vets Need Our Help: Now

Military-savingsThroughout history, our returning veterans have always faced challenges. However, recent reports have troubled me, showing that returning vets are facing more challenges than ever before.

According to a March 2013 study published by the Institutes of Medicine at the request of Congress, almost half of the 2.2 million troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan report difficulties on their return home.

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It’s Not About the Money

table of foodAfter recently being reintroduced to the reality of my student loans and how slowly I was chipping away at them—oy, the interest—I came to the conclusion that it was time for a budget revamp. I sat down, mapped everything out and determined the only solution was to relive my college days and go on the all Ramen noodle diet. While I usually pride myself on being a “frugal foodie,” the thought of hot noodles during the hot summer was not appealing, no matter how many variations I could make. Luckily, I travelled down to Philadelphia the following weekend and was reintroduced to the beauty of fresh farmers’ stand produce through a visit to the Italian market.

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The Moans and Groans of Student Loans

When I graduated from college I thought I had all my finances under control. Sure I had some student loan debt, but I had been able to get through four years with only the equivalent of one year’s worth of expenses and tuition in debt; compared to those with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, I felt pretty good. Then I entered the “real world” and everything changed. I’ve been out of school four years now, paying the optimal monthly payment on my loans every month, and I’ve barely made a dent. Student-loan-debt-2

As a student applying for loans, I assumed that as long as I made my monthly payments I would see the number go down, plain and simple. I figured that those high school teachers I had that were still paying down their loans in their 40s must have put off payments or took out enormous loans; why else would it take that long? As the reality of the situation sunk in, and I realized the impact of this magical “interest rate,” my student loan debt suddenly felt much heavier. And I’m not alone. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA by Harris Interactive, only 39% of respondents fully understood the burden student loan debt would have on the future, and a whopping 75% have made a personal or financial sacrifice because of monthly student loan payments, like postponing getting married, having children, buying a house and saving for retirement.

This spring I proudly watched my little brother graduate from college, but as I looked out at the sea of graduates, my mind couldn’t help but think of the immense amount of student debt that lay before many of them. Lucky for my brother, working at the AICPA and with our members has given me access to a treasure-trove of tips and information for managing and paying down student loan debt. Here are a few basics that I passed along to him from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.

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In the News: 4 Helpful Quotes from CPAs

Cpa-quote (3)I read so many great quotes from CPAs every day and have such a limited space to summarize them on the blog– it can get to be a bit frustrating.  As I began drafting my bi-weekly ‘In the News’ post, I decided to switch things up this week.

I present to you four helpful quotes from CPAs. Hey – everyone can use a little help now and then.

As Kelli Grant reports in MarketWatch, going to summer camp may be a rite of passage for children, but for parents, it seems more like an initiation into the woes of tuition payments.

What parents might not know is that camp expenses can translate into a tax break.

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Student Debt Delays Spending, Saving and Marriage [INFOGRAPHIC]

According to a new survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Interactive, only 39% fully understood the burden student loan debt would place on the future and 60% have at least some regret over the choice of education financing.  Furthermore, 75% have made a personal or financial sacrifice--such as delaying a home purchase and postponing marriage and children--because of monthly student loan payments. The press release includes tips for parents and students on both saving for college and managing loan payments. The below 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy infographic, Realities & Regrets of Student Debt, highlights the findings.  

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In the News: Americans are Feeling the Effects of Money Stress

Money-stressFor many Americans money stress brought on by lighter paychecks this year is affecting more than their wallets — it’s taking a toll on their waistlines, friendships and the amount of sleep they get. That’s according to results of a new survey fielded for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive in recognition of National Financial Capability Month.

The telephone survey, conducted between March 14 and March 17, asked 1,011 U.S. adults to name all the ways financial stress is affecting their lives. Of those who rate their financial stress “very” or “somewhat high,” almost half, 47 percent, said they are sleeping less; 43 percent said they have less patience with friends or are seeing them less often and 31 percent are eating more junk food or gaining weight.

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Why I’m a Financial Literacy Volunteer

VolunteerTeaching financial literacy continues to be one of the most gratifying activities of my career.  Although it requires a portion of my already limited time, the rewards (tangible and intangible) are tremendous. Following are the reasons I think public service via financial education is important to us as individual CPAs as well as to our profession.

The Need is Great

Financial education is not taught in our public schools and our economic/financial environment continues to become increasingly complex. Many people do not have the basic information they need to make financial decisions and they don’t know whom to trust. There are large segments of our population who need the professional, objective advice that CPAs can give, but who cannot afford the fees: teenagers and college students, the elderly and middle/low income adults, to name a few.  

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CPA Profession Flexes Its Financial Muscles This April

April is Financial Literacy Month! This annual event is centered on improving Americans’ understanding of financial principles and practices. During this time every year, the AICPA and state CPA societies bolster financial literacy efforts with added events and resources.
Even with the craziness of tax season, it is amazing to see the dedication of CPAs across the country. Here is just a sampling of the various financial literacy events taking place this month.
 Pig - Super
The Texas Society of CPAs is encouraging families to participate in their 30 Days of Personal Finance. They’ve posted 30 tips for each day of the month, ranging from creative savings ideas to budgeting tips.
The New Mexico Society of CPAs will speak on financial literacy at an Albuquerque middle school on April 22. Three CPA volunteers and a NMSCPA staff member presented at the event last year, and it was so successful for the school that they have decided to make it an annual event! You can see pictures from last year’s event on their Facebook page. This year they will be giving away Feed the Pig and 360 promotional materials to kids and parents, in addition to raffling off copies of Save Wisely, Spend Happily; a copy of the book is also being donated to the school’s library.

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In the News: For the Love of Money

Money talkThose wilted flowers and almost empty boxes of chocolates can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day was last week. According to some estimates, as many as 200,000 couples across the United States choose this date to become engaged. Congrats to all the lovebirds out there!

But before these happy couples tie the knot, they’ll need to make sure they’re on the same page when it comes to their finances – otherwise, problems will likely arise. 

A timely Chicago Tribune article on this topic cited an AICPA survey showing that 27 percent of couples married or living together said money issues were likely to lead to an argument. In fact, money issues are more likely to cause an argument than topics on children, chores or work.

Tracy Stewart of the AICPA’s National Financial Literacy Commission stresses that a primary reason behind these types of arguments is a lack of communication.

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Fitness Showdown: Financial v. Physical

It seems like every time I turn on the TV or open a magazine, there’s some new fitness miracle, whether it’s equipment, classes, cleanses or clothing. And, of course, they all come with a price, usually not within the typical young adult budget. While fitness is important for people in all age groups, it seems to be taking on a whole new import with Generations X and Y. Gym memberships or fitness classes are now a staple in the standard budget, and eating organic seems like a no-brainer trade-off for the higher cost. All of this is well and good from a health standpoint, and in the long run will ideally lead to fewer health care costs down the road, but there’s something big missing from the average American’s budget: saving.
12882-311-SWSH Launch-Infographic-Money Secrets_r9 - CROPPED 2

I’ve been saving since before I knew what the term saving meant; I had some wonderful relatives who knew how much I would appreciate savings bonds down the road. When I started working at the age of 16, the saving continued, with me socking away every paycheck apart from the money I needed for gas. Even when I started my first job out of college, I still found saving easy, and didn’t understand why people just didn’t “get it.”

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I Love You, I Spend a Lot [INFOGRAPHIC]

It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing at least one story about money. Saving, spending, debt, budgeting…the topic of finances is everywhere, except, however, in the homes of consumers. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA to promote the new consumer book Save Wisely, Spend Happily, only 14% of Americans identify financial problems as something they would feel comfortable discussing. What’s more, 28% say they have no one to ask for financial advice. When it comes to family and finances, shouldn’t loved ones be allies?

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Spreading Financial Well-Being

Financial-well-beingIn my professional travels I meet individuals from all over who know about the AICPA’s financial literacy programs and use our resources in many creative ways.  While some are CPAs, the majority is not, and yet each is equally committed to improving the financial well-being of their loved ones, friends and communities.  If I had a dollar for every time someone sang “Feeeeed the PIG!” to me after seeing our campaign promotional items on a conference display table, I just might have enough money to pay off my student loans.  (I never get tired of this serenade!)

Here are some of the many ways these free resources are being used:

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Wrap Up of AICPA Fall 2012 Governing Council Meeting - Day 1

The first day of the fall meeting of the AICPA governing Council kicked off on Sunday. Follow the "read more" link for a look at the day through the eyes of social media. (If you're viewing this post through our email subscription, depending on your email client, you may need to click through to read the story.)

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In the News: AICPA Financial Literacy Survey Featured on the Today Show

Yesterday, Al Roker and Jean Chatzky of the Today Show discussed the issue of kids and allowance, citing the results of AICPA’s recent survey with Harris Interactive on the subject.

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Back to Saving

Back to schoolOver the past few weeks, kids across the country packed their backpacks and headed off to start the new school year. I still remember the mix of excitement and apprehension I felt as I laced up my new sneakers for the first day—they were the “special” annual back-to-school purchase in our family. The preparation for school may vary between households, but it can be agreed that every parent wants to set their children up to succeed. While there are many factors that may be out of a
parent’s control, teaching kids good financial habits, like saving, can give them the best opportunity for a financially stable future.

To help kick off the school year, Feed the Pig hosted a live Q&A on Kids and Money, with National CPA Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA and Clare Levison, CPA. Here are a few of the top questions and answers.

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In the News: Making Allowance a Teachable Moment

360 Degrees of Financial LiteracyWhen I reflect upon my childhood, I fondly recall my elementary school days at P.S. 116 in Manhattan. Despite enjoying school, my favorite time of the year was when I would proudly present my parents with my final report card of the school year. The reasons for this were two-fold: like most kids, I always looked forward to my summer vacation, and I knew that if I got good grades my parents would reward me with a gift of my choice (usually a Nintendo game).

As I turns out, I wasn’t the only kid being compensated for doing well in school. According to a recently released AICPA survey on how parents treat the subject of money with their children, 48 percent of parents say that they pay their kids for getting good grades. As CNN Money noted, the survey showed that the going rate for an ‘A’ is $16.60, which makes me think my parents were getting off easy back in the day.

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In the News: Leave that Savings Alone

A article titled “Four Ways to Avoid Dipping Into Your Savings Account” quoted Kelley Long, a Chicago CPA, personal finance coach, and member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. In the article, Long provides prudent advice on how to keep the money currently in your savings account right where it is. She suggests savers don't get an ATM card or sign-up for Internet account access - because it provides the user with hassle free access to their savings. For more savings tips, please visit 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, a free program of the nation’s CPAs to help American’s understand their personal finances through every life stage.

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Books, Exams and What I Owe

Financial literacy pig studyingHeading off to college can be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, especially if it’s your first time living away from home. I still remember the thrill of living with no parents for the first time. That thrill soon wore off when it was time to pay the bills—between books, groceries and my tuition, I didn’t understand how I was supposed to handle it all on my own. Fortunately, student loans showed up to save the day, sort of.

Although student loans made school financially possible, the reality of the debt I was accruing was completely off my radar while I was in school, as it is for many college students. Even with the post-graduation repayment grace period it was still difficult to pull together my loan payments the first few years; I was even one of the lucky ones who found a job the summer after graduation. In today’s economy, and with today’s unemployment rates, it’s a stretch to think that all graduates will find jobs within six months, let alone be on their feet enough to begin repaying their debt. Now, millions of college graduates may see their payments jump.

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Shine a Light on What Taxes You Pay

Total Tax Insights Calculator

Every year, politicians, economists, tax practitioners and others talk about making changes to our federal and state tax systems. Some of the proposed changes are more fundamental – the adoption of a consumption tax, for example. Other proposals, on the other hand, call for varying degrees of modification to the existing system, such as adding or expanding tax incentives to encourage savings, modernizing the international tax rules, or making procedural changes to improve compliance.

In a presidential election year, and at a time when our country faces unprecedented levels of debt and extraordinary amounts of governmental-operating deficits, taxes will continue to be one of the most pressing issues for public discourse. Have you heard any of the candidates mention the “T” word lately? We all know, however, that talking about taxes in this environment takes a lot of political courage.

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Friends, Family and Finances

Feed the pig loveRelationships and finances can be very tricky; whether between parents and children, roommates or spouses. In fact, financial matters are the most common source of discord among American couples, prompting an average of three arguments per month, according to a survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Interactive.

More than half of adults, 55 percent, who are married or living with a partner said they do not set aside time on a regular basis to talk about financial issues. This leaves them at a huge disadvantage. It’s important for all parties involved to be aware and understand where their money is going.

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4 Tips to Stay in the Loop on your Finances

The loopI recently read a blog post that talked about ‘the loop,’ which is essentially the browsing cycle we go through on the internet. This caused me to reflect upon my own habits on the web when I’m home relaxing in front of the computer. I found out that I have a regular routine of scanning the news, checking for any new sports information, seeing what my friends had for breakfast on social media and ensuring any emails are responded to promptly. I do this two or three times on an average night and as many as a dozen times on the weekends (please don’t judge me).

However, I’ve recently made it a point to expand the loop at least once daily to include checking my bank account and recent credit card spending, as well as my 401(k) and investment portfolio. Because as Jordan Amin, CPA, chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission puts it, “the first rule of personal finance is be informed.”

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Are Your Employees Financially Fit?

Financial literacyAs in past years and with previous presidents, President Obama proclaimed this April as National Financial Capability Month.  Financial capability, referred more frequently to financial literacy, means possessing the financial skills and knowledge required to confidently make smart decisions on a variety of financial matters.  One can fairly assume that CPAs possess these necessary skills, but what about your non-CPA colleagues and co-workers?  This month, the findings of several annual surveys are released which highlight the current state of American’s finances, and based on some of this year’s results the financial capability of the average American worker is unfortunately low. 

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Tax Season: An Opportunity for Financial Literacy Lessons

Financial literacy pig doing taxes

The end of tax season is fast approaching, and CPAs everywhere are no doubt looking forward to the end of their busiest time of the year. Although I bashfully admit that my returns still have yet to be filed, I see this time of year as a prime opportunity for me to take a good look at my finances. Sure I keep the typical year-round budget, and do my best keep my finances in check, but there are always places for improvement. Since joining team AICPA, I have realized, more than ever, that year-round tax planning can truly help prepare you for life changes, while staying on track to achieve financial goals.

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In the News: Accounting Graduates Earn 20% More than Average

multi ethnic graduation studentsThe National Association of Colleges and Employers recently released the findings of their latest Job Outlook survey, which contained good news for current accounting students as well as recent accounting graduates. According to the survey, accounting majors who graduated in 2011 earned an average starting salary of $50,500, up 3.7 percent from the previous year and roughly 20 percent more than the average starting salary of all graduates. This increase isn’t an anomaly, according to Andrea Koncz of NACE, who told that "entry-level accounting and finance jobs tend to see steady growth from year to year."

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12 Things You Need to Know About Benjamin Bankes

In light of the new Feed the Pig PSAs, we asked the star of the PSAs, Benjamin Bankes, our twelve light-hearted questions. These are just for fun and to gain some insight to what makes him tick.

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Feed the Pig: Great Time to Save Money [INFOGRAPHIC]

The AICPA, in partnership with the Ad Council, launched the next phase of its award-winning Feed the Pig campaign with the release of new public service advertisements.  The new PSAs promote the key message: “Put away a few bucks. Feel like a million bucks.” In connection with the new PSAs, they also created this excellent infographic highlighting tips on saving money. even picked it up. Click on the image to enlarge.

Feed the Pig: Saving Money Infographic

In the News: Easy Steps to Save $1,000

Mackey McNeillDo you happen to be one of the many people who has resolved to make saving money a priority this year? Do you also find yourself in the category of those who feel they cannot even save $25 a week?  If so, Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS, a former member of the AICPA’s National Financial Literacy Commission, has offered some actionable tips to help you painlessly save $1,000 this year in an article appearing on

McNeill suggests finding your largest discretionary expense and challenging yourself to spend 5% less. For example, if you spend $400 a month at the grocery store, make it your goal to reduce that figure to $380. The 5% challenge works because it doesn’t feel like a huge sacrifice, but $20 over the course of a month translates to a cool $240 a year (full disclosure: I was a math minor).

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10 Minutes to Understanding Our Nation’s Fiscal Health

If you’ve watched the news, picked up a paper (or read one on your electronic device) or listened to the radio in the past year, you’ve probably heard about America’s debt, its bond rating and political gridlock.

Instead of telling you what fiscal challenges our country is facing, I think it’s better if you understand them for yourself. Today, I’m encouraging each of you to spend a few minutes taking a short quiz that will test how well you understand the financial matters being discussed in Washington, D.C.

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In the News: Saving Money is Top New Year’s Resolution

Hello and Happy New Year to my Insightful readers! I hope the holiday season was full of joy and left you rested, relaxed and most importantly, ready to tackle the year ahead.

The AICPA will be launching a number of exciting initiatives this year and I’m looking forward to getting the news out and continuing to share interesting articles about the profession that you may not have caught. As always, if you happen to see something that makes you stop and say ‘this is important news CPAs should really be aware of it’ – please send it my way and I’ll consider it for inclusion.

Every January many Americans resolve to make beneficial changes to their life. They may decide to start exercising, to spend more quality time with family and friends or to, finally once and for all, get organized. A recent survey conducted by the AICPA and Ad Council has found that, for young adults, saving money in 2012 is at the top of their priority list. The survey was released to coincide with the launch of a new PSA on behalf of the national Feed the Pig financial literacy campaign, which helps 25- to 34-year-olds take control of their finances and make saving a priority. 

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Finding Financial Peace During the Holidays

Savings StockingThis time of year always goes by the fastest--it feels like just yesterday I was carving pumpkins and now I’m counting down the remaining shopping days until Christmas. This time of year also can be the most difficult for sticking to a budget established months ago. Even with the economy still struggling, total spending over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend reached a record $52.4 billion, up 16% from $45 billion last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation released the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Holiday indulgence is impossible to avoid, but peace and understanding may be the best gift you can give to others and yourself.

Teaching children financial lessons is important throughout the year, and the holidays present a perfect opportunity for learning. A friend of mine told me about how her parents used to give each child a set amount of money—about ten dollars—to spend on gifts for everyone. She said that it taught them to carefully think through how much they wanted to spend on each person for whom they wanted to buy a gift; it also made them think through their gift recipient list. This simple exercise incorporated the basic concepts of prioritizing and budgeting.

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In the News: Financial Literacy, Social Media

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving holiday and has safely emerged from their tryptophan induced coma. It’s been a busy few weeks for AICPA and the profession, with lots of interesting news coming out. I’m particularly thankful (see what I did there?) to be able to spotlight a couple of my colleagues on the Communications Team who were mentioned in the media recently.

WLIFE award LogoMelora Heavey, AICPA senior manager – communications (and AICPA Insights blogger) spoke to Fox Business about some of the ways that companies are taking steps to develop a more financially literate workforce – which serves to benefit both the employees and the organization itself. “Companies are trying to manage insurance costs, and having a workforce that has a thorough knowledge of their benefits and options help them to do this,” says Heavey. How prevalent are these programs? A study by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 30% of organizations surveyed  offered one-on-one financial/investment advice, 24% offered in-group or classroom advice and 22% offered online advice. Companies interested in implementing financial education programs for their own employees can find free resources at, the website for the Workplace Leaders in Financial Education Awards, a program co-sponsored by the AICPA and SHRM.

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Creating a Brighter Future for the Nation’s Children

Piggy bank teaching savingsThe Jump$tart National Educator’s Conference brought together K-12 personal finance public and private school teachers from 46 states in Washington, DC, this weekend.  The annual event highlights tools, resources, information and support for teaching personal finance in the classroom and includes networking and peer-to-peer sessions, as well as workshops and roundtables on advocacy, curricula and personal development.  As the AICPA’s representative on the Jump$tart Board of Directors, I was fortunate to attend this conference, share the AICPA’s financial literacy resources and learn more about the successes and challenges these educators face.

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The Savings Balancing Act

Average spending per householdThey say necessity is the mother of all invention. And if that’s true, there may be some bright spots in this dour economy of ours.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offered insight last week into the amount of money households are spending. Last year, average expenditures dropped 2 percent, on the heels of a 2.8 percent decline in 2009. No surprise there. Consumers are in no mood to spend.

Dig into the numbers a bit deeper and you’ll see some interesting changes in how they’re spending. Expenditures on vehicle maintenance, for instance, rose 7 percent, while spending on vehicle finance charges dropped 14 percent. At the same time, public transportation expenses increased 3 percent. This could suggest, at least in part, that consumers are holding onto their current vehicles longer and exploring other, cheaper options for travel to offset higher fuel costs.

Both are smart moves from a personal financial perspective—especially if those behaviors stick.

But make no mistake, the continued overall decline in spending also highlights a real challenge. Consumers account for about two-thirds of economic activity. When they rein in spending, the ripple effects can be extensive, as evidenced by the current unemployment rate and other challenges we’re facing.  

Consumers need to save to protect their financial futures.  How do they balance that goal with our economy’s need for stimulation that spending brings? A recent Federal Reserve report (page 7) offered this statistic: Each one percentage-point increase in the savings rate is associated with a decrease in spending nationally of $100 billion. So what message should we be sending to consumers? In an economy with rising prices and declining spending, how do we help stimulate the economy while still encouraging saving? What advice do you give your clients and family?

Cheryl Gravis Reynolds, Director of Communications, Advertising and Brand Management, American Institute of CPAs. Cheryl oversees executive, member, international and state society communications as well as advertising and brand management and social media strategy. She also leads the CPA profession's award-winning financial literacy campaigns, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, and Feed the Pig, a public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council.  

CPAs to the Rescue

 As Hurricane Irene spun her way up the East Coast, the spotlight brightened on disaster planning.

And on CPAs.

CPAs have long been leaders on emergency preparation. Members of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning section a few years ago partnered with the American Red Cross and the National Endowment for Financial Education to produce guides to help consumers prepare for and recover from disasters. You can see the expertise included in these guides and the insight of our members on display throughout the media when natural disasters occur.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, for instance, CPA financial planners Michael Eisenberg and Mitchell Freedman were quoted in this Wall Street Journal story: Insurance, Records Are Key In Storm's Wake.  Eric Rigby, a CPA financial planner in New Orleans, was interviewed live on the Weather Channel about disaster preparation.

The PCPS Section today is hosting a webinar, “Disaster Losses: From Start to Finish,” to empower AICPA members with information to help clients during a disaster. Louisiana practitioner Jerry Schreiber, who has presented numerous seminars on disaster loss, will cover topics including:

  • The emotional toll on clients
  • Accumulating the information to document a loss
  • Reporting the loss on the tax return.

The free webinar will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT today. Be sure to register and reserve your space.

Be sure to check out other disaster planning and recovery resources available from the AICPA, including the guides and checklists from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. It is powerful information that you can use with clients or in your communities to demonstrate the value that CPAs deliver every day.

Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, Sr Technical Manager - PFP, American Institute of CPAs. Andrea leads the AICPA Personal Financial Division. Her responsibilities include working with the PFP Executive and PFS Credential committees to drive the advocacy, education and other initiatives on behalf of the 7,500 AICPA members who specialize in providing estate, retirement, tax, investment and insurance advice to their individual clients.

Tips for a Financially Fit Fall

Teaching Financial LiteracyMany would agree that a significant amount of what we learn is learned at home. In fact, almost 50  percent of those who closely monitor their finances say that they learned about personal finance from their parents or at home. Yet, only 34 percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and 93 percent of parents with teenagers report worrying that their children might make financial mistakes, such as overspending or living beyond their means. While awareness of the need for greater financial education has grown in recent years, there is still work to be done.

Here are some tips to share with your family and clients to strengthen their financial understanding.

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In the News: Women to Watch, Financial Literacy, CPE

A recent AccountingWEB article spotlights the Women to Watch Program, an effort of the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, which will be honoring women who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession and to the development of women. Candidates are nominated by their peers and firm. Award winners will be honored at events sponsored by their CPA societies. "The women who are selected for the Women to Watch awards have made some outstanding or unique contribution to the profession. They have been successful in integrating their personal and professional lives. They are more visible because of the awards. They become role models. They prove it can be done," added Yasmine El-Ramly of the AICPA.

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What's Your Financially Fit Story?

In honor of its 125th anniversary in 2012, the AICPA will publish a book, tentatively titled Raising Financially Fit Families, to help families better understand their finances with lessons from the experts: CPAs. Be a part of this unique publication by submitting an essay highlighting a personal or professional experience you had in on helping others, whether a family member or client, build a brighter financial future.

CPAs’ stories and lessons about savings, planning for big-picture purchases, paying for college and teaching children healthy and life-long money habits will be the centerpiece of the AICPA’s first foray into the consumer book market. Raising Financially Fit Families will be edited by New York Times best-selling author and National CPA Financial Literacy Commission member Sharon Lechter, CPA, whose books include Three Feet from Gold and Rich Dad Poor Dad as well as the newly released Outwitting the Devil. Each selected submission will include the author’s name, company or firm and state CPA society. Visit for more information, sample essays and details on how to submit an essay for Raising Financially Fit Families.

Melora C. Heavey, AICPA Staff.Melora manages the CPA profession’s volunteer effort, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, and the award-winning public service campaign, Feed the Pig.  She serves as the staff liaison to the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, the leadership body and primary spokespeople for 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.

In the News: Financial Literacy, Mobility, CPA Exam

Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS

The Times Daily in Alabama spoke with Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS, and member of AICPA’s Financial Literacy Commission, about preparing college students to handle the responsibility of managing their own money. Without an understanding of the impact of their decisions, young adults can easily fall victim to overwhelming credit card debt and get behind on their student loan payments. McNeill says that one of the best ways to avoid that outcome is to begin teaching children about money long before they leave for college. “Our patterns about money are set before college, so if your kids are savers or spenders, you'll know before then; however, that doesn't mean you can't become better aware of the behavior and make difference choices,” she said.

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In the News: Financial Literacy, Mortgage Interest

Jimmy Williamson, CPA

Jimmy Williamson, CPA, and member of the AICPA’s financial literacy commission spoke to the Contra Costa Times for an article about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, designed as a one-stop place for consumers to file complaints about financial products, is currently only handling credit card complaints. “Like any new federal agency it takes time for it to get its wheels rolling," said Williamson. “It's designed to help consumers make better financial decisions, if they are borrowing money for a home, if they are getting a credit card, those kinds of things. It's designed to improve transparency.”

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