508 posts categorized "Guest Blogger" Feed

Social security benefits hacked: A cautionary tale

Social Security hackIf you or your clients are at or nearing retirement age, you need to know that hackers are targeting social security accounts. I found out the hard way. My career as a CPA Personal Financial Specialist was devoted to advising individuals and families on their most important financial goals, including tax, retirement, estate, risk management, investment and retirement planning. After decades of helping my clients navigate and manage these important decisions, imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the mail shortly after my 67th birthday congratulating me on initiating my Social Security benefits. The trouble was, although I had entered the glory years of retirement, I had not yet applied for Social Security benefits, opting to wait until age 70 to receive my benefits. Further digging uncovered the unfortunate fact that a thief had received $19,236 of my benefits. I was dumbfounded.

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Personal financial satisfaction extends record run…but for how long?

Americans are experiencing unprecedented levels of personal financial satisfaction, the highest in the 24-year history of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi). After seven consecutive quarters on the rise and a second quarter in a row setting at an all-time record, the average Americans’ personal financial satisfaction has been steadily picking up steam. With financial satisfaction climbing to new highs, some can’t help but wonder when this rise will end.

First, some background. The PFSi is a quarterly economic indicator that measures the financial standing of the average American. It’s calculated as the difference between two sub-indexes: The Personal Financial Pleasure Index, which measures the growth of assets and opportunities, and the Personal Financial Pain Index, which calculates the loss of assets and opportunities. The Pleasure Index is made up of four factors, the largest contributor being the PFS 750 Market index. The Pain Index is also comprised of four factors, with the largest contributor being personal taxes. Most recently, the Pleasure Index (69.2) greatly outweighed the Pain Index (42.3) bringing the PFSi to a positive reading of 26.9, the highest reading since 1994.
 


AICPA Q4 PFSi

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Busy season cheat sheet: 8 considerations to make it easier

Busy season finish lineTime is always a precious commodity during tax season, but especially so this year. On top of starting to prepare 2017 tax year returns, CPAs are working to figure out exactly how the tax reform law affects clients.

Before you start pulling your hair out, take a deep breath and remember the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “This too shall pass.” Then, check out the AICPA resources that not only make preparation a bit more convenient, but will also help you impress your clients by answering their questions before they even ask them.

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Take a timeout: 9 do’s and don’ts for a good work break

Take a breakYour neck and back ache from hunching over your desk. Your eyes burn from staring at a monitor. You don’t want to stop because the clock is not your friend today. Yet stopping can, in fact, make the clock your friend. 

Taking a break on the busiest of days (and, of course, this is the busiest of seasons for tax CPAs) can be hard to do. I get it – while working on a deadline, I hyper focus and hate to put myself on pause. But I make myself do it because I know from experience that it will ultimately lead to greater productivity.

You don’t have to take my word for it, science says the same thing. Consultants monitored people’s productivity using an application called DeskTime and found that the best performers worked for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Not too surprising, considering that scientists have learned that our brains are better at solving complex problems when given a chance to relax. Think of that “aha” moment that comes to you when you’re in the shower or picking up dry cleaning. 

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5 items you need in your firm’s owners’ agreement

OwnershipWhat’s in your owners’ agreement? I recommend creating these critical documents when the firm is first formed and updating them as needed. An effective agreement can enhance decision-making and productivity, and it’s also the foundation for a successful changeover to new internal ownership. Even in a merger or acquisition, the decisions set forth in an owners’ agreement can set the stage for a smoother and more rewarding transition. Here are some significant issues that should be addressed in any agreement.

Firm governance. When you establish policies on who will run the organization and how it will be run, it can enhance efficiency and profitability. No matter how independently each partner may handle his or her work, there are many advantages to having common agreement on some key issues, such as:

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5 things I wish I knew when selecting an ERP system

ERPAccounting professionals in the not-for-profit sector wear many hats. We often have the blessing and curse of selecting and implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. If you have undertaken this herculean effort before, you’ll probably never forget the education you gained throughout the experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, there are some things you should consider to help your not-for-profit or your not-for-profit clients avoid mistakes. Here are five key lessons I learned when selecting an ERP system for my organization.

  1. You get what you ask for. It’s important to be specific about what you want to do and how you want to do it so you can find out if vendors can accommodate your needs. If the business requirements you specify are too generic, you may be surprised to discover significant gaps in the system’s capabilities too late in the game. For example, saying you need the ability to make electronic payments may be too generic. Instead, indicate that you need the ability to automate batches of electronic payments via EFT and wire. In this example, the added clarity ensures the system can not only make electronic payments but also process them via EFT, and that payments may be initiated through automatic batches rather than manually, one by one.

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3 things more important than tax reform in 2018

Your phone’s already ringing. Clients want to know how the new tax law will impact them. This is understandable, but don’t Small firm prioritiesworry if you aren’t ready to answer their questions just yet It’s a big law and the IRS has yet to provide even the most basic guidance. For most businesses, taxes aren’t the first thing to look at in 2018—in fact, taxes probably shouldn’t be your clients’ second or even third priority. During your client meetings consider tackling these other issues that haven’t made the 6 o’clock news.

  1. Everybody needs to fully reevaluate their accounting.

To start with, after two years of delays, US GAAP is undergoing its biggest changes in decades with implementation of FASB’s new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards. Aside from the high-profile changes for software providers, virtually every business in America that reports under US GAAP will see significant changes to their accounting for revenue recognition. Most of these businesses have leases to look at too.

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What’s the price tag on your college football team?

FootballThe stage is set. Who will be crowned the 2018 College Football National Champion tonight? Georgia and Alabama, the teams left standing in the playoffs, will face off to decide. The game is expected to draw a huge viewing audience. Last year’s title game between Clemson and Alabama – the Crimson Tide is back for a third straight year – pulled in more than 26 million viewers.

It’s no secret college football is big business. There’s been a long-time debate about whether student-athletes should get some of the profits (this blog post won’t go down that road). But how do you put a price tag on a team?

Having fans throughout the country focused on top-ranked teams during the season can really boost a university’s brand. A winning football program can lead to a university’s higher student enrollment, better alumni engagement, more scholarships, high-profile donors and increased visitor spending in the community on gamedays.

So, which college football program has the highest net worth? According to a 2017 analysis, Ohio State. The program has a $1.5 billion value, a 50% jump just from the previous year. The increase perhaps because of the Buckeyes’ 2015 national championship win. Texas and Oklahoma trail Ohio State valued at $1.2 and $1 billion, respectively.

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Why you shouldn’t make a New Year’s resolution

ResolutionsEach year, millions of Americans lose an average of 20 pounds and learn a new language within a few months of making their New Year’s resolutions.

Wait, what? That’s not actually true. I can tell you what really happens: Every January 2, a slew of people show up at my gym and hog the treadmills. It is rather frustrating. Luckily, I know they’ll be gone in a few weeks. That’s because they are part of the 80% of Americans who abandon their resolutions by the second week of February.

There has to be a better way. What if instead, we set goals throughout the year, rather than all at once when the clock strikes midnight? We would be less likely to feel overwhelmed by our commitment to training for a marathon and writing a novel, so we’d have a better chance of getting something done. After doing some research, I found a few other tips to achieve those goals you set.

Be specific. Begin by writing down exactly what you want. We’d all like to be more successful or more fulfilled, but what exactly does that mean to you? Let’s say you’d like to raise your professional visibility. There are a number of ways you can do it, including getting further training that can make you more valuable to clients or your employers or becoming more involved in professional or community organizations. And remember this isn’t a once-a-year activity, since it’s good to set new goals as circumstances change and new opportunities pop up.

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4 tips for not-for-profit accounting staff

We know the feeling. You already have a lot on your plate. And now there are significant changes coming down the pike in the form of Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) accounting standards updates and tax reform. If you find yourself hoping the nonprofit accounting environment will settle down in 2018, you’re not alone. But alas, we’re here to help. Consider these tips:

Start at the top.

Having a well-run not-for-profit board is important for making sure strategic objectives are met even as changes occur. If you have open seats, be sure you select new board members carefully. Identify a diverse range of skills and experience that you’re looking for when recruiting board members. These may include finance, information technology, human resources, marketing, fundraising or law. For more advice, check out these governance and management FAQs and this blog post on 5 tips for an effective not-for-profit board.

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Bitcoin may burst. You still need to learn about it.

Bitcoin 2On December 19, 2017, Bitcoin was trading at just over $17,700 – an increase of more than 34,000,000% over its 2011 price of $0.05. Almost all this exponential growth has been in 2017, which has people asking if Bitcoin is a bubble.

My opinion? Yes. It has many of the classic signs.

Bitcoin’s value has increased dramatically in a short time, attracting novice investors. Its valuation is extremely difficult since it’s not backed by anything tangible like gold or silver. Lastly, as an investment, Bitcoin doesn’t pay interest or dividends. To make money, investors will have to sell their Bitcoins. For these reasons, I think the Bitcoin bubble will burst eventually. I’m just not sure what the triggering event will be or when it will happen, but it will happen.

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5 cookie recipes for the best holiday ever

Happy Bake Cookies Day! Yes, there is an entire day dedicated to baking cookies, and it conveniently happens to fall close to the winter holidays. So, if you’d like to celebrate what is, in my humble opinion, the best holiday ever, or if you’re just looking for a way to fill your time away from the office, warm your heart (and your oven) with one of these cookie recipes crowdsourced from Association employees.

Hungarian Butter Cookies

Hungarian butter cookies
This one is a family recipe from Communications Manager Alexis Rothberg. I can confirm that Alexis’s dessert skills are top notch, so this one is bound to be a winner.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Credit losses: A new scope

BB8

If you have put off reviewing the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) new Credit Loss standard since its effective date is “in a galaxy far, far away,” you are not alone.

This is the largest accounting standard change affecting depository institutions (and other industries) within the last 40 years, so it can be intimidating for management to get started. Plus, the amount of flexibility and professional judgement allowed within the standard itself has caused confusion and fear, making it hard even to begin.

Do not give into your fear. “Fear is the path to the Dark Side.” Instead, read below to digest the new standard piecemeal, and to understand what it does and doesn’t say. Then you will have the tools needed to take the steps to implement it. 

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Procrastinators beware, the nonprofit audit is not the place to drag your feet 

NFP cartoon 1

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7 key steps to master revenue recognition implementation

Deadline loomingStandard setters have made game-changing revisions to revenue recognition standards, and the effective date for implementation is fast-approaching. The new standard replaces the existing transaction- and industry-specific revenue approach with a principles-based approach. Is your organization ready for this shift?

The new standard was originally issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board as Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (the International Accounting Standards Board has also issued guidance with the same name), and several clarifying amendments have since been issued. The guidance affects all entities—public, private and not-for-profit—that have contracts with customers. The standard’s original effective date was postponed because of the complexity involved.

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5 easy strategies to help your candidates pass the CPA Exam

CPA Exam prepAs a recently licensed CPA, the long study hours, time commitment and life balancing I did to prepare for the Uniform CPA Examination is still fresh in my mind. After reading the Journal of Accountancy article in which members shared their personal exam experiences, I started thinking back to my own journey as a candidate.  

I can remember the moment I finally received the results of my last exam section. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and, of course, pride. My commitment to accounting had paid off. But one thing that stands out to me is when I prepared for the exam, I focused on a few strategies for success. 

I know your firm’s CPA candidates will each have their own way to tackle the exam. But as someone who has been through the experience, I think it’s helpful for you to share your knowledge and personal experience. Don’t hesitate to talk about what worked and what didn’t. Let them know you understand what they’re facing.

So, where to start? Ask your candidates a basic question: “What’s your exam strategy?” If you get the long, awkward pause, here are five quick tips to share:

  1. Understand the candidate requirements

For anyone pursuing the CPA, this is where it all starts. The exam process requires quite a few steps, so it’s best to know the lay of the land ahead of time. My journey began with a seminar hosted by the New Jersey Society of CPAs. I learned all about what I needed to do, what the requirements were and which exam partners I needed to turn to for guidance. The key is doing your homework before you jump into testing.

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Preparing for busy season after natural disasters

WildfiresYour clients are counting on you to be up-to-date on the latest in tax. This means keeping them informed on how major storms, floods, and wildfires could affect their returns.

We saw the hurricane headlines, and they were shocking. Three major storms stood out for their ferocity and damage. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma killed more than 100 in the United States and caused more than $150 billion in property damage. Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria. The island lost all power and nearly all cell service. In some places, these services have yet to be restored.

And it wasn’t just hurricane season that was unusually active. Wildfire season has been one of the worst on record. Almost 9 million acres have burned in wildfires across the western states.

And the year isn’t over just yet.

In November, TEC Chair Annette Nellen, CPA, CGMA, spoke on this topic and offered advice at the National Tax Conference in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the key considerations she shared to get you and your clients ready for busy season.

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4 financial benefits of single audit specialization

Focus on audit specializationCan a small firm thrive by building a niche within a highly specialized audit area? My firm, Clausell & Associates, P.C., in Decatur, Georgia, has found the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Our 10-person firm opened in 1987, three years after Congress passed the Single Audit Act. This landmark legislation standardized audit requirements for states, local governments and Indian tribal governments that receive and use federal financial assistance. Our firm’s founders saw an opportunity to establish themselves in this new and growing niche. Today, single audits make up about 60 percent of our practice, so the original decision to specialize in single audits was a great move for our firm. 

For practitioners thinking that specializing may limit their practice, don’t worry. Over the years, our single audit expertise has helped to set us apart in the marketplace and drive our growth. Here are some of the rewards that we have found through single audit specialization. 

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4 good reasons to go to that networking event

NetworkingWe are all busy. When we aren’t at work we’re juggling a long list of priorities, including spending time with family and friends, partaking in hobbies or running errands that can’t be put off any longer. You will notice, nowhere in that list is attending networking events.  But that shouldn’t be the case.

Here’s a story that might inspire you to slap on a smile, put on a nice outfit, and go to that networking event—even if you’d rather sit on the couch catching up on This Is Us.  When one CPA, Heather Zundel, moved from Las Vegas to Albuquerque, she joined her state society and started showing up at their events. Along the way, she formed strong relationships that helped her feel rooted in her new community.  This involvement led to leadership opportunities as well, such as becoming the youngest woman to chair her state CPA society’s board of directors.

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Secret Santa 101: Brush up on gift exchange game rules

Secret Santa

The office tree has been trimmed, the halls have been decked and everyone is scrambling to get all of their end-of-year work done. But before you can leave the office for the holidays and officially begin the festivities, there’s one thing left to do: the office gift exchange.

More budget-friendly than your typical office party, a gift swap get-together might be the way to go. Consider these three gift giving games for your small firm’s holiday celebration. They will make everyone feel jolly and turn a potentially ho-hum gathering into a ho-ho-holiday team bonding experience.

Game: White Elephant  

How to Play: Have you ever looked at a gift someone just received with envy because you wished it had been given to you instead? With White Elephant—also known as Pirate Santa, Yankee Swap and Dirty Santa—you’re in luck. That coveted gift can be all yours.

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The Form 990: Not-for-profits, you can run, but you can’t hide

 

990 1

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You asked, we delivered. A more flexible attestation standard.

SlinkyWe heard from members. Their clients want them to perform procedures and report in a format similar to an agreed-upon procedures (AUP) engagement, with more flexibility. To be responsive to the needs of our members and the public, the AICPA Accounting and Review Services Committee (ARSC), got together with the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) and developed a new proposed standard, Selected Procedures. If adopted, it will address several practice issues that CPAs are experiencing today and result in a standard that is in the public interest.

Development of the procedures

In an AUP engagement:

  • The CPA performs procedures that are established by specified parties.
  • The specified parties are responsible for the sufficiency of the procedures for their purposes.
  • The engagement letter is required to include agreement on the procedures.
  • In circumstances where the procedures evolve or are modified over the course of the engagement, the CPA is required to amend the engagement letter to reflect the modified procedures.
  • The practitioner’s report is restricted to the use of those parties that established and agreed on the sufficiency of the procedures

In practice, many CPAs find that the specified parties are unable or unwilling to develop the procedures needed.

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Your new, blockchain supported job

You’ve probably heard that blockchain technology is going to disrupt accounting. (If you read AICPA newsletters or accounting news articles or attend our conferences, you have definitely heard this.)

But do you still find yourself wondering exactly how it is going to do that? Look no further. We’ve compiled 4 big ways your job could change because of the blockchain.

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Personal financial satisfaction hits record high - what’s in it for me?

Personal finances are like fingerprints, everyone is unique. With the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi) at an all-time high, you may be wondering what it means for you.

Let’s start with some background. The PFSi is a quarterly economic indicator that measures the financial standing of the average American. It’s calculated as the difference between two sub-indexes: The Personal Financial Pleasure Index, which measures the growth of assets and opportunities, and the Personal Financial Pain Index, which calculates the loss of assets and opportunities. Most recently, the Pleasure Index (68.1) greatly outweighed the Pain Index (42.1), bringing the PFSi to a positive reading of 25.9, the highest reading since 1994.

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6 factors to choose the right basis of accounting for your not-for-profit

AccountingCash, accrual, modified cash or tax—which basis of accounting is best for your not-for-profit? It’s an important decision, so you should consider your options carefully. Management, stakeholders, board members, current and potential grantors, donors and creditors all rely on your financial statements to gain an understanding of your organization’s financial health.

Not-for-profit organizations have several options when choosing a basis of accounting. Here are brief descriptions of your choices:

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5 ways to make the most of your small office space

Small office spaceDo you hit your daily step count just walking around the office looking for a quiet place to call a client? Or do you move files off the chair by your desk so you can talk with a co-worker? There are benefits to working in a small office space, like the camaraderie our office developed eating lunch in the combination kitchen/library/conference room, and any challenges can be offset with some adjustments. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of your limited office space.

  1. Ask before you act:

Is your office a good place for valuable impromptu meetings? Does your staff feel it’s easy to concentrate? Does the lighting throughout your office allow for a good work experience? Is technology easily accessible? The best way to find out is by asking, either in an informal meeting or via a survey. Your plans to get the best use of limited office space won’t work if you don’t solve the problems that prevent staff from doing their best.

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5 tips for an effective not-for-profit board

Board of directorsSurvey says, gaps in not-for-profit board performance fundamentally impact the success of the organization. Problems range from lack of true engagement by board members to their failure to fulfill important fiduciary duties. Do these sound familiar?  Don’t worry. We are here to help you resolve these issues and set your board up to be as efficient as ever.

To avoid these shortcomings, consider the following best practices:

  • Set clear expectations up front. Do your incoming board members have a thorough understanding of what is expected of them? And do they understand what meeting those expectations will involve? Have they met key players and learned about relevant policies and procedures? We recommend developing a comprehensive onboarding process that clearly defines board responsibilities, including the details they need to know to hit the ground running.

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Don’t overlook this important subject with clients

HealthWe’ve all heard the phrase, “Your health is your wealth.” Why then are so many advisers hesitant to talk to their clients about it? Health intersects the planning you provide in many ways, yet practitioners rarely go there. The result is missed opportunities and incomplete planning.

A client of mine suffered a major heart attack and stroke at age 65. In the aftermath, he and his wife resolved to spend his remaining years traveling and gifting the wealth they had amassed. On the surface, their reaction sounded like a generous, intentional plan. Unfortunately, they hadn’t considered that his life expectancy was quite a bit longer than they assumed, even after the scare. In that time, the term insurance he was certain would cover his wife’s living expenses after he was gone would expire.

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If you’re hacked, what’s your cybersecurity liability?

Cybersecurity liabilityCybersecurity attacks are inevitable. That’s the unfortunate reality. In fact, in a special report, Cybersecurity Ventures projects cybercrime’s global cost will reach $6 trillion by 2021. Now more than ever, organizations and accounting firms of all sizes need to be vigilant about protecting data and responding to threats.

What’s your liability?

That’s a big question we hear from firms regardless of whether or not they’ve been attacked. There are actually no uniform federal laws on business cybersecurity. But there is a patchwork of state rules. Under certain state laws, CPAs can face liability for cybersecurity breaches that expose personal information. Most states have rules for handling breach notifications and for what remediation measures need to be taken. Breach requirements depend on where the client resides – not where your firm is located. We encourage you to learn the dynamic requirements of states that apply to you.

Meanwhile, federal circuit courts are split as to what constitutes sufficient standing to sue in cyber breach cases. Some courts hold that companies may be liable for damages if client or employee data is stolen, even if the theft causes no harm; instead, it’s sufficient to merely allege that the information was compromised. This broad interpretation will only further increase the risk of cyber liability claims.

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Beyond tax: Extending your success

Financial planningAs we near the end of October, tax practitioners across the profession collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Another tax season is in the books, and CPAs find themselves ready for a vacation or a change to their tax-centric practices.

We’ve been there, craving balance as another tax deadline passes. In our search for an alternative, we discovered a complement to our tax skills that has reenergized our careers and opened new opportunities for our clients and practice.

If you find yourself in need of more than just a vacation after October 15, here are a few things we’ve learned as we’ve recently transitioned our careers from tax compliance to advising clients on all aspects of their financial lives, including estate planning, retirement planning and beyond.

The benefits to your practice and clients are vast.

If you’ve been in practice for a while, you probably have a roster that includes many long-time clients. Over the years, clients may have approached you for your thoughts on their plans for retirement or the best way to plan their child’s education. If you’ve had these kinds of conversations, you’ve been doing personal financial planning (PFP) without even realizing it. By formalizing your PFP services, clients will benefit from your holistic understanding of their full financial picture, and you’ll improve both your practice and lifestyle by:

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The road to retirement starts here

Older couple riding a bikeWhen it comes to saving for retirement, there is no one-size-fits-all plan. Each American has a unique and fluid situation, impacted by a variety of factors. Fortunately, CPA financial planners are well-versed in the different aspects that go into a tailoring a retirement plan that best fits their client’s needs.

I sat down with Leonard Wright, CPA/PFS and member of the AICPA Personal Financial Specialist Credential Committee, to learn some best practices for starting a retirement plan that helps maximize enjoyment during your golden years.

Jonathan Lynch: A recent survey found that less than half of non-retired Americans are confident they will reach their retirement goals. With all the uncertainty surrounding retirement -- where should someone without a plan begin?

Leonard Wright: Before bringing numbers and calculations into retirement planning, simply think about where you want to be when you reach that stage of your life. Ask yourself how you envision enjoying your retirement years. Define exactly what your desired lifestyle will entail. Will you downsize your residence? Do you plan on travelling? Would you consider working part-time? And perhaps most importantly, what age would you like to retire?

Once you have a clear vision in mind, you can start building the plan to make it a reality.

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Money, Money, Money: CPAs’ Salaries Revealed

SalariesIt’s good to be curious, no matter what your cat tells you. CPAs are known for seeking out high-quality information and always wanting to know more. However, when it comes to salaries, EVERYONE is curious. How do you measure up? If you choose one field over another, how will it impact your earning potential? Now, we’ve made that information available at your fingertips.

This week, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants announced the results of its 2017 salary survey of U.S. CPAs. Nearly 5,600 people responded, answering questions about current salaries, salary expectations, skills and training. A couple key numbers:

  • $119,000: National average annual CPA salary (without bonus)
  • 81%: Percentage of CPAs expecting a raise in 2018

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AICPA Finds Accounting Enrollments Remain High

Trends Cover 2017The AICPA recently released the 2017 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (Trends report). The report found that the total number of accounting undergraduate and graduate enrollments remains at the record levels seen in the 2014-2015 academic year, totaling more than 250,000 enrollments.  This was driven primarily by an all-time high in undergraduate enrollments. On the demand side, hiring of new accounting graduates has slowed compared to previous years.

This year we saw a shift in the mix of bachelor’s versus master’s enrollments. Projected master’s enrollments have returned to pre-2014 levels, while undergraduate enrollments remained high. The last several Trends reports found a sharp rise in the number of master’s enrollments and graduates. The higher numbers previously reported may be attributed to a surge in both traditional students and those changing careers earning their master’s in accounting. The CPA profession is known to have significantly lower rates of unemployment than the broader economy, particularly during economic downturns.  In my experience as an educator, economic turmoil is a strong motivator for people to seek out the stability that a career in accounting provides.

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One Easy Way to Enhance Your Strategic Planning

DominoesIdentifying and responding to risk is a challenging job, since new threats are constantly emerging and old ones can change or unexpectedly reappear. When the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) released its comprehensive Enterprise Risk Management: Integrated Framework in 2004, it provided a valuable tool for dealing with organizational threats. In the ensuing years, organizational approaches to risk have advanced and matured, and the nature of risk has steadily evolved.

In response, COSO has released an updated framework to better address the current environment. The new document, Enterprise Risk Management: Integrating with Strategy and Performance, is focused on ensuring that enterprise risk management (ERM) is not simply an agenda item, but something that’s embedded in an organization’s strategic decision making. The new framework is intended to drive changes in setting and implementing organizational strategy in several ways.

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4 Tips for Your New Nonprofit Liquidity Disclosure

ChessAlthough financial professionals serving not-for-profit organizations still have time to prepare for implementation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB’s) new not-for-profit financial reporting standard, it’s important to consider and discuss the impacts of the new guidance with board members.

In June, we published a blog post answering common questions related to implementing the new liquidity disclosures required under the recently-issued not-for-profit financial reporting standard. This post discusses steps for making that implementation process smooth and effective. 

The new standard requires not-for-profits to provide both qualitative and quantitative information about liquidity and availability of resources as follows:

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Don’t Be a One-Hit Wonder

ConcertSafety in shrimp

The first time I heard What’s Up? by 4 Non Blondes, I was elbow-deep in a bucket of raw shrimp. It was a month before I started high school, and I’d been slaving away all summer fileting fish and peeling shrimp in the sweltering kitchen of a local seaside crab shack. It was a thankless job that left my hands both stinging and stinking.

And I loved it.

There was safety in it, I was good at it, and people left me alone – likely because I spent most of my days covered in mullet guts. Regardless, it was just me, my work, and a tiny portable radio that sat atop a nearby refrigerator, softly coughing out Top 40 drivel. But then, it happened. From amid all the pop fluff arose the anti-pop voice of Linda Perry, the 4 Non Blondes frontwoman. She seamlessly went back and forth from a deep, brooding register to an eerily pleasing meadowlark warble.

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9 Facts That Can Make or Break Your Firm’s Future

Grow your practiceThe rules of engagement for business are changing. Today’s world is complex, evolving, extremely high-tech, and fast. Whether you’re a small, one-person shop or a partner at a large or global firm, you’re probably aware that your most valuable current (and potential) clients are unwittingly converting business as we knew it into business-on-the-fly. And they’re bringing new methods that can also prove beneficial to the CPA.

Our societal landscape is significantly different than it was just a decade ago. There are new faces, new modes of interacting, and technology has inarguably and almost completely taken over. Is there a way to sustain and strengthen your practice in this ever-evolving world? Absolutely. In fact, now is an incredibly opportune time for your firm, especially considering the statistics.

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Why Pets Make the Best Coworkers

Peaches - Julia MorrissMy dog Peaches, a cuddly beagle mix, is the love of my life. As with most pet owners, I spend a lot of time with my dog and miss her when I’m not at home. The days that I telecommute are often the highlight of my week because I can relish her company all day. Having a dog at home is beneficial in many ways:  I stand up and walk around more often, get outside for fresh air a few times a day and feel less stressed because I can give Peaches regular snuggles.

One of the benefits of being a CPA sole practitioner, or working for a firm that utilizes virtual offices, is that you can often work from home, allowing you to be with your pets all day. Some CPA firms even allow employees to bring their dogs to the office.

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Financial Statement Changes: 5 Steps for Nonprofit Boards

NFP boardAs accounting and finance professionals, we’ve been talking about the coming changes to not-for-profit financial statements for some time now. But many others haven’t heard about the changes, including some not-for-profit board members. Board members are responsible for oversight of the financial reporting process, and as such, they’ll want to take an active role during implementation of the new guidance.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities: Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, was issued in August 2016. The standard applies to all not-for-profits and is effective for years beginning after December 15, 2017. Early adoption is permitted.

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The Next Generation: Empowering Future Firm Leaders

Leadership 2“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy

Who represents your future? What’s your professional legacy? How do you know whom to trust with your business when you retire?

Most firm owners know the future of their business relies on the strength of their successors—the individuals most capable of growing and maintaining both client relationships and the service teams within the firm itself. What’s less understood is HOW to identify, nurture and promote the best and brightest candidates in practical terms. What can firm founders and owners do to ensure they’re selecting and preparing the right people to carry on their firms as eventual partners and even owners themselves?

The first task is to recognize the rising stars within your firm. These people are the strongest innovators, always looking for new opportunities to expand client services and grow the business. They’re the ones who naturally lead, and embrace opportunity to build strong teams within their professional circle. And they’re never afraid to assume more responsibility—for not only the daily workings of the firm, but also for the long-term prospects of the business—which includes being personally invested in both client relationships and the firm’s reputation. But once you’ve identified these potential stars, how do you invest in them?

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8 Ways Reading Can Help You Get Ahead at the Office

BookReading is good for your career. Don’t believe me? Think of all the successful people who make reading a priority – Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerburg, to name a few. And they aren’t just reading Facebook updates, emails and tweets. They are committing time to reading actual books.

Why does reading a book matter? The benefits are plentiful and aren’t just limited to reading non-fiction. One important way reading helps your career is by helping you develop empathy. When you connect with a character and begin to understand their feelings and emotions, you are increasing your empathy. You gain valuable exposure to other perspectives, which can help you better relate to your coworkers and clients.

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Are You Overlooking Prospective Clients?

Millennial clientsThere is a huge opportunity that most practitioners are ignoring, or worse, dismissing: an untapped client base.

This population doesn’t fit the profile of the typical client. They aren’t in their early 60s, near retirement and don’t fit the typical client profile. They haven’t worked and earned and leaned on you to help them make it to the retirement “finish line,” where they’ll begin to really enjoy the fruits of their labor. In fact, perhaps to the chagrin or confusion of their baby boomer parents, they’re quite different.

As you may have guessed, I’m talking about millennials. Before you tune out, consider the following:

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The Firm of the Future: Building Value by Evolving

Firm of the futureWhen starting an accounting practice, it’s important to think about the long-term value of the firm. True forward thinkers might even ponder what their end game looks like; is their goal to merge with another firm or sell their firm? To be succeeded by a partner or family member? In real-world terms, that means thinking about inventive and even unconventional opportunities to expand services beyond the realm of tax preparation, auditing and advice with the goal of appealing to the broadest possible client base. In a world where insurance companies, stock brokers, banks and even franchises like H&R Block are expanding client services to include planning for retirement, education or even simply, how to manage cash flow to maximize financial security, no firm can afford to neglect these areas of their clients’ lives. Competition is becoming too intense.

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Rethink Your Nonprofit’s Chart of Accounts, Part II

NFP Chart of accountsLast month we published the first installment of a two-part series discussing implementation of the new not-for-profit financial reporting model, as viewed through the lens of the entity’s chart of accounts. 

By now, you likely have taken some steps to prepare for implementation of the new not-for-profit financial statement presentation standard:

  • Read through the standard. 
  • Attended training to understand the forthcoming changes. 
  • Had auditor/client discussions regarding the impact on audit timing and planning. 
  • Selected team members to lead implementation of the new standard. 
  • Decided whether to early-adopt. 

When you’re ready to dig in further, the chart of accounts is a smart place to go. The standard will affect several financial statement line items, so it’s important for not-for-profits to create a plan to adjust their chart of accounts during 2017 or 2018.

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11 Things to Know About Gen Z Workers

Gen ZJust when you thought you were beginning to understand Millennials, it’s time to prepare for Gen Z to enter the workforce and they’re very different from their predecessors. Born between 1994-2010, this generation is known by many names—Post-Millennials, iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, Homeland Generation and Gen Z. Just like the generations before them, the characteristics of Gen Z are shaped by parenting trends, historical events and technology.

Gen Z are the children of Gen X, a cohort that was thought to be skeptical and perhaps even cynical in their youth as they came of age post-Watergate and post-Vietnam. Yet, Gen X has grown up to be balanced and healthy despite facing the strains of the Great Recession of 2008. As parents, Gen X have been concerned about raising their children in a safe environment, which has led Gen Z to be more cautious than previous generations. Other major influences shaping their development and world views include the Great Recession, the War on Terror, the first African American president and the legalization of gay marriage. But, probably the most significant factor is the advent of the smartphone.

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Providing Assurance Services in an IA World

Intelligent automationPart I – Control Principles

Intelligent automation (IA) is getting the attention of finance teams, operational environment leaders, and shared service center executives across the world. Not to mention, it makes regular appearances in most major business periodicals.   

Think IBM’s Watson – IA covers all technologies from robotic process automation to artificial intelligence. It is a set of technologies that enables accountants and process owners to configure a software robot to execute, manage, control and audit process tasks. It analyzes data required to manage business and reports on business operations to an experience-based, decision-making software robot.

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Getting Ready for Assurance Has Its Benefits

Cyber

 

In recent months, sweeping global cyberattacks have taken thousands of businesses offline, compromising valuable data and blocking access to critical services and information assets. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: cybersecurity is a business imperative with direct implications for overall company value. Prior to this spring, and without a common language or benchmark for cybersecurity, how do you quantify and communicate your cybersecurity risk in a meaningful way?

Enter the AICPA’s cybersecurity risk management reporting framework. Unveiled in April, the framework is intended to standardize the way organizations define their cybersecurity objectives and report against those standards in a format that works for all stakeholders.

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6 Planning Ideas for Advising Entrepreneurs

Advising entrepreneursIf you work with entrepreneurs or small business owners, you likely have an appreciation of their vision, determination and work ethic.  You may also have run into some common hurdles that can derail their finances.  By focusing on the following planning considerations, CPAs and advisers serving entrepreneurs can keep their clients’ business and personal finances on track.

Choose an appropriate business form

Helping entrepreneurs evaluate key tax and nontax factors when selecting a business entity is not only important to the business’ financial success, but also the owner’s.

Should they operate as an S or C corporation, partnership, limited liability company or sole proprietorship? What are the classes of ownership, special allocations, basis, liability, elections and distributions for each structure and the impact of these factors on the owner? Navigating these complex decisions is crucial to getting their business off on the right foot. If you are an AICPA Personal Financial Planning Section member or CPA/PFS credential holder, see Chapter 18 of The Adviser’s Guide to Financial and Estate Planning for a comprehensive overview of entity selection.

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How Relaxation Can Improve Concentration

RelaxIt’s not surprising that National Relaxation Day (Aug. 15) is observed in the thick of summer because, for many, ideal relaxation involves lounging on a tropical beach and just feeling away from it all. For me, however, snowboarding is a great way to relax. When I’m carving down a beautiful snow-covered mountain, I’m able to allow my concerns to drift off into the background. From these two examples, it’s plain to see that perceptions of what constitutes relaxation vary.

Relaxation does not inherently require us to be inactive or unplugged from our normal routine. Perhaps you make room in your weekly schedule to take a morning run, practice yoga or spend some time in your garden. These activities may be great when we can engage in them, but how can we find other ways to help us relax the rest of the time, which is most often spent at work? One way to find some space and peace, no matter where we are, is through the practice of mindfulness.

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4 Things You Need to Know About Gender Equality

Women in professionFor decades, women and men have been entering the accounting profession in equal numbers. As a result, you might reasonably assume that women are now at or near parity with men at the leadership level. However, that assumption would be wrong. Only 24% of CPA firm partners are women, according to AICPA statistics. Another recent study found that only 17% of audit partners are women. If these qualified professionals aren’t reaching the top levels, firms are clearly missing out on a lot of talent.

The AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee’s (WIEC) CPA Firm Gender Survey, first distributed in 2015, is designed to identify trends in women’s leadership over time. It informs practical solutions for firms that want to make the most of their talent and prevent the loss of leadership potential. The results provide a unique spotlight on trends related to diversity in leadership and suggest solutions on how best to address them. As we launch the second iteration of the survey this year, I’m reminded of a few of the many valuable insights that the last survey revealed, along with some of the questions firms might want to ask themselves in light of those findings. The lessons learned—and the value and perspective they can offer to CPA firms—underscore the benefits of participating in the survey. Outlined below are a few key takeaways from the inaugural CPA Firm Gender Survey.

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