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What the Personal Financial Planning Body of Knowledge Means for You

Shutterstock_431851066Early in 2016, I heard tax icon Sid Kess speak about how important it is for CPAs to understand what housing alternatives our clients might need to consider as they grow older. I thought, well that’s an interesting aspect of our work that I hadn’t considered, and began to educate myself about the options and opportunities in the communities I serve.

That advice couldn’t have come too soon: within a month, my dad began expressing concerns about taking care of his home and asked to look at some local housing alternatives. While I had made myself aware of a few, I quickly realized there are so many choices that I didn’t have time to explore them all. Unfortunately, my father’s health declined rapidly and we had to move him three times: from his home to senior living; from senior living to a nursing home; and from the nursing home to hospice care where he passed away.

What this really brought home is that the work we do as CPAs is not cut and dried, and goes beyond what many people envision when they think of our profession. It’s probably also more than many budding CPAs—and those long in the profession—think we do. But the fact is that we must continue to deepen our knowledge and expertise as our clients’ needs expand and grow.

What is the PFP Body of Knowledge?

To assist CPAs who are providing their clients with high-quality services in the areas of estate, tax, retirement, risk management, and investment planning, the AICPA provides educational tools and resources. This includes the Body of Knowledge (BOK), which is a scope of technical information CPA financial planners should know in order to provide thorough advice in these areas. The BOK represents the highest standard of competency and professionalism.

Why is this Important?

For CPAs who seek growth in their practices, and to serve their clients in a holistic manner that puts their interests first, offering these services is critical. In fact, the demand for personal financial planning services is expected to increase twice as fast as accounting and auditing services through 2019. One way that many CPAs have chosen to formalize their experience and education in this area is to obtain the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation, which is an opportunity available only to CPAs.

What is new?

There are several key updates to the new BOK which emphasize the integrated nature of personal financial planning services, including shifting tax planning from a standalone section to integration throughout all twelve service areas. Furthermore, each major topic within the BOK has been updated with a sub-topic labeled “Integration with Other Areas of Personal Financial Planning.” These updates underscore the importance of considering the impact that changes in one area can have in other parts of a client’s financial plan.

Also, prominence and additional clarity were added in several areas that are increasingly prevalent in today’s planning environment: 

  • Elder, Special Needs, and Chronic Illness Planning
  • Closely-held Business Planning
  • Education Planning
  • Client Relationship Building

What Should CPAs Do Next?

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the new BOK whether you are new to the profession, considering taking the PFS exam, or are already a credentialed Personal Financial Specialist.

We are very proud and excited about the added value it will bring. Serving clients with a competent and integrated approach has brought me great satisfaction and personal fulfillment. I hope it will do the same for you.

For those just starting the journey in personal financial planning, the AICPA has also published a textbook, The Essentials of Personal Financial Planning. The textbook is part of a university initiative to reach out to the next generation of CPAs and Personal Financial Specialists and is essential information that will eventually lead professionals in this area to the improved BOK.

Susan M. Tillery, CPA/PFS, President and CEO, Paraklete® Financial, Inc. Paraklete Financial provides integrated fee-for-service financial planning without asset management or product sales. Susan is the Chair of the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Credential Committee and also serves on the Board for The National Center for Stewardship and Generosity. She has over 30 years of experience and co-authored The Essentials of Personal Financial Planning.

Personal Financial Planner image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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