521 posts categorized "Guest Blogger" Feed

Think sustainability’s unsustainable? Think again.

IStock-614011264As a CPA, you build strong relationships with your small business clients, so you’re not surprised when one of your clients, who is running a startup, asks for a meeting to talk about her goals for the coming year and beyond. She is looking to enable growth by attracting new investors, to continue recruiting quality talent and to differentiate the company in the marketplace by giving it a competitive edge going forward. You want to help, but where do you start?

Rethinking the business  

While such goals can sometimes seem daunting, you know that there are simple steps she can take to improve her chances of achieving all three: Make changes that ensure her company is operating in a sustainable manner. There are some direct results of embracing greater sustainability. These include fostering innovation, driving financial performance and improving risk management, according to a Harvard Business Review article. Other benefits include improved brand image, greater appeal to employees and investors and increased ability to comply with regulations. 

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Your life. Your terms: Four steps to reducing stress and reclaiming your life.

Shutterstock_603744017Life is stressful, there’s no doubt about it. But you have the choice to maintain a different perspective, instead of letting stress overtake you every day. Here are four steps to reduce stress and live a well-balanced life:

Step one: Get clear on your purpose

Living life on your own terms requires clarity of purpose. Do you know what matters to you most, and why?  Consider the life wheel. There are eight buckets on the wheel: family, work, money, personal growth, health and wellness, spirituality, community and living environment. You must decide which three or four are most important to you, and why. Time is limited, which means you can’t weight all life areas equally. When you know your “what” and your “why,” you’ve got power—the power to dial up the time and energy for what matters most, and the power to pull back on what doesn’t.

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5 tips to help small business clients prevent cyberfraud

Shutterstock_1017233524Imagine you’re at work on a typical Monday morning. Suddenly, an email from the CEO hits your inbox. It’s marked ‘urgent,’ so you open it right away. She needs you to wire $15,000 to one of your regular vendors ASAP. You make the wire transfer, and head to the break room to refill your coffee. There’s just one problem – that email wasn’t really from your CEO. And that bank account where you sent the funds? That’s not your vendor’s account. You just sent thousands of dollars to a cyber criminal. Uh oh.

It’s a scheme called executive impersonation, a type of business email compromise (BEC) scheme mentioned in an SEC alert issued last month. Unlike a typical scam email, which may have poor grammar or overly suspicious requests, BEC scams are convincing because the criminals spend time figuring out the corporate culture and common phrases and terms used by employees. CPAs should take note, because scammers could try to perpetrate a similar fraud against their small business clients.

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Licensure under fire in the states

GettyImages-159754158A powerful narrative is taking shape across the country that could define the future of licensure. State legislators are coming together to challenge the necessity and value of occupational licensing. 

So far, there have been no direct challenges to whether CPAs should be licensed. However, there’s a national anti-licensure legislative strategy that does not distinguish between occupations and learned professions such as CPAs.

The changing legislative environment means we risk losing licensure as a means to protect the public. That would mean no licensed architects, no licensed engineers and no licensed CPAs. We’ve spent decades ensuring that only qualified and educated professionals can hold out as CPAs. Clients trust CPAs to act as their fiduciaries because they know the profession is well regulated.

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Americans’ financial satisfaction reaches new high—can you feel it?

Shutterstock_1071491411For the fifth quarter in a row, the typical American’s personal financial satisfaction reached an all-time high, according to the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi). A record number of job openings, along with the stock market’s bullish performance though Q3 (Oct 1) - despite volatility - boosted Americans’ financial positions. With all these positive records, you may be wondering what it means for you.

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Tax identity theft: A horror story

Shutterstock_676365463Halloween used to scare me. I was sure that monsters — specifically zombies — were out to get me. But I’m not afraid anymore because I faced down a nameless ghoul who did more actual harm to me than any imaginary monster could ever do.

It all started one fateful day when an identity thief used my name, Social Security number and birth date to file a fraudulent tax return, netting the fraudster a $4,000 refund. While it was an excellent payday for the thief, it was the start of some major headaches for me.

By the time I found out what happened, I was on the hook for more than $14,900 (including supposed unpaid taxes, penalties and interest). Fresh out of grad school with high student loan debt, rent and health insurance payments, I was completely unprepared to weather this storm.

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Are you the analytical type? A cool, new path is emerging.

 

Shutterstock_606046391As a CPA or CGMA, you excel at getting into the weeds. Whether it’s a reporting discrepancy or buried tax provision, you will find it. More importantly, you know how to arrange those weeds to form a bouquet that helps your client.

Now, with software spouting numbers on everything from revenue and sales to “likes” and clicks, a new business opportunity is opening up, one that lets you use that great analytical mind to serve clients who desperately need help with getting a grip on all that data.

“CPAs are ideally positioned to be able to step in and do that type of work.” said Dan Griffiths, CPA, Strategy and Leadership partner at Tanner LLC. Griffiths ought to know. In addition to Tanner’s tax and audit practices, the firm has stretched its accounting arms to carry a range of specialty consulting services such as strategic planning, cybersecurity and, now, data analytics.

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4 strategies to capture the growing Hispanic market

Herrera_J_6560As CPAs, we’re always interested in numbers, so let me share an interesting statistic: The United States Census Bureau has projected that  groups now considered ethnic minorities will make up the majority of the population by 2042 with Hispanics being the second largest racial or ethnic group and second fastest growing.

According to market research by Nielsen, there are about 57 million Hispanics in the U.S., or 18 percent of the population, making them an important demographic to any business – including CPA firms. Is your firm ready to engage with these potential clients and staff? There are a few insights that can help CPA firms connect with this burgeoning business and talent market.  

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5 cybersecurity frameworks accountants should know about

Shutterstock_797485732You’ve seen all the news stories: Cyberattacks are happening almost daily, and they can have devastating consequences. You know you need to protect your organization’s data. But where do you even start?

A cybersecurity framework can guide you in the right direction. These frameworks help you design a cybersecurity risk and controls process that is right for your organization. Whether you’re interested in helping set up your own organization’s cyber program, or you’re interested in providing assurance on other organizations’ cybersecurity systems, you should be familiar with different cybersecurity frameworks and what types of companies they’re best for. I’ve listed a few common ones you should know about below.

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Yellow Book meets yellow cake and all sorts of delicious changes

Shutterstock_145838096While I’m not a good baker, when I talk to CPAs who are new to the governmental auditing area and need to understand what the “Yellow Book” is, I often explain using the analogy of a multi-layered cake. The bottom layer of the cake is the AICPA auditing standards, which are the basis for most Yellow Book audits. The second layer of the cake (let’s make it a yellow layer!) adds standards issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), known as the “Yellow Book” or Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) that build upon the AICPA rules. Finally, if your client gets federal funds, there may be a third layer of the cake that consists of compliance auditing requirements.

The big news for auditors right now is that the GAO has issued a 2018 revision to the Yellow Book which will change the ingredients for the middle layer of the cake. If you audit federal, state or local governments, or not-for-profits, whose audits are subject to the Yellow Book, you should begin updating your recipe card so your cake turns out right. 

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Life lessons learned while training for the IRONMAN® triathlon

158_d-2439838-DIGITAL_H...On August 19, 2018, I checked something off my bucket list: I completed the IRONMAN® Mont-Tremblant triathlon – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. I wasn’t particularly fast — it took 15 hours and 40 minutes to finish — but it was an amazing day in beautiful Quebec, Canada, that I will never forget.

As an adult, I developed a love of running to help stay active and reduce stress. When I turned 40, I got into triathlons to mix it up a bit. For many years, I wasn’t very athletic. So it was pretty shocking to many that I had undertaken such an intense activity.

Now, having run countless miles, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned while training and running. I find they cross over into my everyday business life.

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Technically, your planning practice could be better

Shutterstock_304478969Is there even a day that passes anymore in which you don’t read, hear or watch a story about the wonders of technology? New apps, new computer systems and entirely new technologies are emerging and being put into practice at dizzying speeds. Cutting through the noise and knowing which technologies are best for your planning practice can be complicated, but ignoring the value technology can add to your practice carries a heavy price in lost efficiency and opportunity.

Are you still driving a manual?

Spreadsheets used to be the go-to tech for organizing and assessing a client’s finances and your resulting financial plan. Handy but labor-intensive, spreadsheets were and are prone to errors and omissions. Other old-school trappings like physical copies of client’s financial data, wills or healthcare directives presented other problems related to security, inaccessibility or loss of the paperwork due to disaster or misplacement.

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4 tips to make a case for a reduced work schedule

Shutterstock_1006953598According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are part of the work force. Just like many working parents, I struggled trying to balance the demands of work and home life. That’s why working on a reduced schedule for part of my career was so beneficial.

When I had my first child in 1986, I was a manager in the tax department at Deloitte Tax LLP in Detroit. Through the flexibility options available, I returned from maternity leave and began working a 60 percent schedule. I even rose to a leadership position doing so. The experience was so valuable. It allowed me to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, while also giving me the opportunity to build my career. Here are some tips for talking to your employer about a flexible schedule and maintaining professional success:

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So, your tax clients say their daughter got into Harvard...

Shutterstock_534602335Your clients are ecstatic. Their daughter just got accepted to an Ivy League college. But they’re also worried because that top tier school is expensive. Concern doubles when they think about their 15-year-old son who just started at a private high school. He’ll be looking at colleges soon, too.

Many parents feel financial pressure when it comes to their children’s education. That’s not surprising considering that in 2016, the yearly estimated average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board was $16,757 at public institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions and $23,776 at private, for-profit institutions. 

What can you as a tax practitioner do to prepare your clients for this financial milestone? Below, you’ll find four suggested talking points to put your clients’ minds at ease.

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Help disaster survivors -- not scam artists

FraudIt’s a familiar cycle. Disasters like Hurricanes Florence and Michael strike, and the airwaves are inundated with news of people displaced and homes destroyed. And shortly afterwards, you’ll see friends and colleagues ‘sharing’ on social media that they’ve contributed money towards relief efforts on crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and encouraging others to give what they can.

For many people, their sense of compassion kicks in and they are compelled to do what they can to help – which often means making a financial donation. In fact, charitable giving in the United States soared to a record $410.02 billion in 2017 according to Charity Navigator.

But CPAs who specialize in financial fraud detection and prevention warn that you should think twice before clicking that DONATE NOW button. Fraudsters often take advantage of people’s good will and look to rip them off as they try to help those in need.

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Planning, valuation could have saved Franklin’s heirs $20mil

ArethaAretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” passed away last month in her birthplace of Detroit after six decades reigning the music industry. The first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ms. Franklin leaves behind legendary hits and performances and a legacy many entertainers only dream of achieving. What she didn’t leave behind, however, is a will.

Without a will in place, it’s now up to the state of Michigan to determine how her reported, yet unconfirmed, $80 million net worth is divided among her four children. And that amount could rise as her estate is valued. In hindsight, with some tax and financial planning, and a quality valuation—even just a few months ago—Ms. Franklin’s beneficiaries could have saved more than $27M in estate taxes.

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Are you ‘more dumber’ than your smartphone?

Dumber than your smart phoneChances are, you love your smartphone.

No. I mean: You really love your smartphone.

MRI studies show that when we hold our smartphones, we almost feel as though they’re holding us back. Our brains produce a veritable love potion of chemicals – namely dopamine and oxytocin, the same chemicals released during cuddling. I guess that makes sense. Our smartphones, after all, make great partners. They keep us updated on the weather, the news, the stock market. They advise us where to go for dinner, how to get there, and (thanks to social media apps) whom we should invite – even if we end up ignoring that person the entire time by catching up on emails or playing Fortnite Mobile. Smartphones and other devices typically don’t argue with us, and – provided they’re well charged – they’re there for us when we need them.

Is it a surprise, then, that we’re sacrificing our personal relationships for our relationships with devices? And in doing so, we’re also sacrificing something else: our humanness. As technologies get smarter, we become more reliant, which can actually chip away at our own intelligence.

Take what happened on September 6, 2012:

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Beyond robotics: How AI can help improve the audit process

Shutterstock_664115017The CPA profession has been hearing a lot about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a software technology that can help auditors sift through structured data. But RPA can only do so much. Abigail Zhang, a PhD student in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Rutgers Business School, explains why auditors should also consider Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).

What is IPA?

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) includes:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Cognitive Computing (CC)
  • Other technologies

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Calling all tax CPAs: help quality reviews take center stage

GettyImages-494755316Data breaches happen daily. We see it in the news, and we hear it from our clients. Clients trust us with their private information including Social Security numbers, paystubs, birthdays and other data valuable to identity thieves.

We need to maintain security and provide the best service for our clients. To do this, we must observe two things: integrity and adherence to the quality of services we deliver. And both require obedience to specific standards of behavior.

In the case of quality, there are many ways to prove we’re adhering to standards. Reviews of our work are one. But doing so can raise significant concerns for practitioners, particularly when it comes to logistics.

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Taming your to-do list

Shutterstock_1135852721“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~Peter Drucker

Two things trip up most leaders’ attempts at managing their time. The first is the fact that the best systems and best intentions quickly run into dynamics in the real world: You’ll get interrupted, there will be an unforeseen obstacle or crisis, you’ll go through motivation and energy ups and downs, and so much more. Translating your intentions into practice often fails through small compromises you feel you must make in your day to day activities. The second is that most principles in time management focus on how you spend your time, but that philosophy just puts you on a “hamster wheel” that doesn’t move you forward. It isn’t about how you SPEND your time, it’s about how you INVEST your time.

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5 podcasts for your summer road trip

Shutterstock_407042977Taking a family road trip is one of the rites of passage that we all go through during summer. The kids have their iPads and books, the dog has his bone, and that just leaves the adults to find ways to make the long hours go faster. You can either click the radio buttons a thousand times to find a station remotely tolerable, you can listen to the kids fight about who is touching who, or you can find an alternative.

Enter the podcast

A podcast is a great way to make the miles fly by. Of the more than 550,000 podcasts you can listen to, you’ll find educational, entertaining, or just plain random content. Did you know that there is a 51% chance that a flipped coin will land on the side that was facing up when it was flipped? A fun fact and I learned it from a podcast!

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I jumpstarted my productivity in 15 minutes – and you can, too!

ReadingIt was early January 2014. The Kansan plains were covered in a crunchy layer of frozen grass, the overcast sky giving little indication that the ice would soon melt. Staff at Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Lloyd – a small accounting firm – were eager to step in from the cold to start their day. But this day would start differently than others. No one opened their laptop. No one phoned clients. No one crunched numbers. Instead, everyone, from partner to administrative assistant, had their heads down in a nonfiction book of their choice. They read uninterrupted, untethered from technology, for 15 minutes. You see, this firm had taken the first step in a journey that would evolve from an experiment into a successful on-the-clock reading program. And that reading program would evolve them too. 

Admittedly, The First 15 reading program took some time to get off the ground because, although everyone agreed to the merits of reading, no one had time for it. That’s when Chet Buchman, managing partner and eventual architect of the reading program, suggested paying for people to read on the clock. “You can’t control what people have going on at home…but you do have the ability to influence what happens when they’re on the clock.” 

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Is hiring a CPA worth it in 2018?

GettyImages-863565040When people hear I’m a CPA who specializes in tax, the question invariably comes up — what do I think about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (also known as “tax reform”)? I’m not one to talk about politics, so to be neutral, I say “it’s certainly an exciting time to be a CPA in tax.” No question, many of the provisions of tax reform bring added complexity to areas of the law that were not simple to begin with. 

Some individuals will continue to feel comfortable using tax preparation software, but there are circumstances where “you don’t know what you don’t know,” requiring you to call in the help of a CPA. A great CPA can provide much more value than just the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your forms are correct. They can provide planning and tax advisory services, consultation, business and international accounting, forensic accounting, business valuation and more. 

Read on to learn four reasons why it’s worth hiring a CPA.  

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8 tips to help recent grads establish financial independence

Shutterstock_309048455School's out for summer! And, for some, school is out for good. In honor of America declaring its independence, here are 8 tips from the American Institute of CPAs' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to help recent college grads declare their own FINANCIAL independence now and for the future:

1. Have a plan to repay student loan debt. While paying off significant debt takes time, establishing and sticking to a plan will put you on a good path toward your financial independence. The AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has free resources to help create a plan to reach your financial goals.

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An insider's look at avoiding ethical violations

GettyImages-590617706Ethical dilemmas can occur at any time during the career of a tax practitioner. Sometimes, the practitioner doesn’t even know they did anything wrong. As a former IRS Office of Professional Responsibility attorney, cases just like that would come across my desk.

A vast majority of these cases came from simple misunderstandings of ethical responsibilities — practitioners were not aware they were violating Circular 230 or the practitioner just had a bad day and made a one-time mistake. Review these stories and learn a little more about how easy ethical violations can happen if you aren’t paying close attention. (Note: details have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved).

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7 risks small businesses need to consider

Shutterstock_481198423Except for an expanding waistline, what could be risky about ice cream? Ask the small business owners overseeing an ice cream shop on the boardwalk that caters to summertime beach crowds. They’re a small, family-run business and their main revenue is generated in the months of June, July and August. The income from those months must sustain them through the slower months. What happens if they aren’t prepared for an event that affects their shop? Will their business survive? That’s where you come in.

Risk, schmisk?

Risk is a relative term to your clients. Some risks are minor and easily handled in the moment; for example, an employee fails to show up to work. Other risks pose an existential threat to the business, such as an accident, natural disaster or fire.

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4 tips to smart budgeting for new graduates

Shutterstock_690887317What if you put together a budget but forgot about income taxes that would be deducted from each paycheck? That’s what happened to me when I graduated from college, so I can tell you: It would be a disaster! My first paycheck was a huge shock, since I was taking home much less than I had expected. But incorporating a few easy budgeting tips can help set you up for a path to prosperity and avert potential disasters.

Start early. Right after graduation, create a budget before committing to long-term expenses – like rent – so you start with a clean slate. The largest part of any budget will likely be housing costs. A good rule of thumb is that they should not add up to more than 30% of your salary. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, your total rent should be no more than $15,000 a year, or $1,250 a month. If you live in a high rent area, then 30% may not be realistic for an entry-level salary – which means you may have to scrimp on other items or find roommates.

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4 ways to jumpstart the career you really want

GettyImages-180409192Some career paths move in a straight line. Others take twists and turns. Opportunities sometimes crop up when we least expect them, and we have to weigh the pros and cons to determine our next steps. If you were asked ten years ago to accurately describe your career path over the next decade, could you? I know I couldn’t.

I started my career at a large firm in audit and now I’m on an entirely different path that I would have never predicted. The winding road that led me to where I am today was built upon a series of experiences and intentional decisions along the way. Could your career course use more direction? Here are some tips to get on track, based on my own personal experiences throughout my career:

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Public vs. Private Blockchains: What CPAs should know

GettyImages-917325314The word “blockchain” has been tossed around as if all blockchains are the same. Real-time access to information, increased transparency and encryption are standard benefits of any blockchain. However, there are two different types of blockchains: public and private, both of which are important for CPAs to understand so you can decide which option is better for your organization or firm.

Public blockchains

The idea of a public blockchain is what most people think is, and what technology purists would consider, the “real blockchain.” Completely decentralized and open to any individual or institution to join (known as members in blockchain parlance), the most well-known example of a public blockchain is the one that runs Bitcoin.

While a purely public option does include many of the benefits associated with blockchain technology, these same attributes can make implementing a blockchain less than ideal for business purposes. By allowing anyone and everyone to join a public blockchain, the approval and consensus process can take too long for it to be it useful for the volume of daily transactions. And depending on how data is approved, the electrical cost can be too expensive for practical use, considering the sheer volume of information processed by most organizations.

 

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5 TV shows to teach your kids about business

Shutterstock_702291805Entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer founded Me & the Bees Lemonade when she was just four years old. At age 12, Mikaila won funding from Shark Tank investor Daymond John. Now 13, her product line is available at Whole Foods Market stores. Mikaila represents a growing movement of young entrepreneurs throughout the country.

Children are watching their entrepreneurial parents every day and they’re picking up on best practices. Kids are much further ahead in their understanding of the business world than what we, as parents, realize.

You can help your kids get involved and start thinking about business. Here are five TV shows you can watch with your young children this summer. All shows are age appropriate and have an element of excitement to get your child’s business ideas flowing:

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4 best practices for working from home

IStock_59008810_XXLARGEI’m more relaxed than I used to be. Some days you’ll find me working after midnight. Others I’m cranking out emails at 5 a.m. This year I’ve made it to all but one of my kids’ daytime events. I exercise more, too. If any of this sounds familiar, you might work from home like I do.

From a tech perspective, most professionals can do their jobs from home. But there’s far more to working from home than technology. If you work from home, are considering working from home or manage employees who work from home, I hope the following suggestions help you set up a strong work-from-home strategy.

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Needed now: female financial planners

GettyImages-748335013Mind-blowing. That is the word that pops in my head whenever I see the statistics on women needing financial planning and the corresponding number of women planners available to provide those services. The numbers tell a story that needs a new ending:    

  • Women age 65 and older are three times more likely than men to be widowed, and 46% of women over 75 live alone.
  • 55% of women between 25 and 34 prefer working with female financial advisors.
  • Women represent only 15.7% of the financial planning industry
  • Only one third of women surveyed by Prudential in 2015 said they were either on track or ahead in their retirement plan.

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College grads: How to save for retirement when you can barely pay your rent

RetirementGraduated from college. ✓

Got a good job. ✓

Started saving for retirement. WHAT?!

I know what you‘re likely thinking: “I have plenty of time to save! Why would I start now?” I get it, the idea of saving for anything, let alone your distant retirement years, seems crazy. You’re not alone. You might be shocked to hear that only 46% of non-retired Americans believe they will reach their retirement goals and 20% don’t believe they ever will.

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Post-busy season spring cleaning tips

Spring cleaningAs another busy season fades away, you have likely started seeing the email auto-responses and vacation pics on social media of colleagues who are finally getting some much-needed rest. Following the bulging work weeks, tax law changes, phone calls from clients and other demands put upon CPAs during spring, a vacation is well-deserved.

However, you should be wary of setting cruise control while coasting through the summer downtime.  Although it’s easy to do and often ideal, sailing into the active fall season without some spring cleaning at your firm is not a good idea. Taking time to address any obstacles that your firm faced during busy season will generate major benefits down the line.

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Give feedback that feeds performance

Listening
As a training and leadership development consultant for accounting firms, I’ve found that providing feedback is one of the top challenges for management. When it’s done well and promptly, giving performance feedback can yield huge benefits – more productivity, better relationships, and more loyal, engaged employees. However, providing consistent, timely and honest feedback is something many managers struggle with.

The performance review is a prime example of inconsistency in how many supervisors provide feedback. In written reviews managers often address issues that they’ve avoided in face-to-face discussions. By the time the employee reads the review, they feel blindsided. Without a dialogue, how can they share their perspective? How can they fix a problem they never knew existed? This pattern applies to many, if  not all, other industries, to the point that major companies such as General Electric are scrapping annual reviews altogether.

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Offbeat vacation ideas for the adventurous CPA

TravelBusy season is officially over.

You’ve been powering through all season. Returns are in, and extensions are filed. And most importantly, your clients are happy because you’re a powerhouse CPA. Now that you have free time on your calendar, it’s time to take your superhero-self on vacation.

Deciding where to go on vacation can be challenging, which is no surprise, considering many Americans spend up to 10% of their household income on vacations every year.

That means your vacation should be memorable and offer experiences and sights you’ve never encountered — perhaps because you didn’t even know they were there.

Take a gander at these offbeat vacation ideas to get your creative mind going and help you prepare for your best post-busy season yet.

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7 tips to have an influence on future standards

StandardsStandards are amended, and new ones are issued. But did you know that it is possible to express your opinion—and even make a difference—in the standard-setting process? If you’ve never done so before, here are some tips based on my own experience.

Your opinions are welcome! Standard setters actively solicit comments – not only from those who are directly impacted by the exposure draft but also from any other interested parties. They do read and carefully consider all comments submitted.

The explanatory memorandum is a helpful guide. With any exposure draft, you’ll want to understand the key issues and what they mean. Exposure drafts generally come with explanatory memoranda that offer a quick introduction to the proposed standard. It can tell you, among other things, the key issues addressed and changes proposed. Many explanatory memoranda include questions to consider when drafting your response.

 

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Send the right message without saying a word

Body languageSend the right message

Actionable Professional Body Language Tips

Do you remember the last time that someone changed your mind at work? What did the person say that convinced you to change your thoughts? Was it the words they said or how they said it to you?

In professional settings, the nonverbal messages people process consciously and subconsciously change the way they perceive messages. Are you a person that conveys positive and powerful non-verbal cues in your interactions with others? Body language plays a crucial role in how people respond to your words and retain the information you transmit.

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How to take the stress out of debt

Infographic_Millennial_Debt_AICPA (002)If you’re like most Americans, you probably have debt. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a recent telephone survey of 1,004 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs, nearly three-quarters of Americans are living with debt driven by factors like everyday expenses, a lack of income, mortgage costs and student loans. More concerning is the number of Americans whose debt is making them anxious, keeping them up at night and causing problems in their relationships.

I sat down with Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, to talk about how financial planning can help Americans whose lives are negatively impacted by debt.

Jonathan Lynch: For many Americans, living with debt is a mental as well as financial burden. In fact, because of their debt, three-in-ten Americans admit to stressing about everyday financial decisions. For those who feel overwhelmed by their debt, what steps would you suggest they take to take back control?

Dr. Sean Stein Smith: The first thing to realize is that if you are worrying about debt, you are not alone, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter how much money you make – there are steps you can take to get back in control.

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6 guilt-free food ideas for busy season

Farmers marketSnacks continually rank near the top of everyone’s favorite workplace perks. Having food available in the office during busy season is an even bigger plus. Celebrate World Health Day by offering healthy alternatives, because worrying about gaining weight or blowing up unhealthy indicators like blood pressure and LDL cholesterol is stress we just don’t need right now!

Consider these tips for serving healthy snacks in your office this busy season:

  1. Set up a snack box. Build your own snack box using a serving tray with drawer organizers or a large basket. You can pick these up at a neighborhood retailer or order them online. If you’re short on time, vendors such as Naturebox and Snack Box Pros (also available from Office Depot and Sam’s Club) offer pre-assembled healthy snack boxes or allow you to build your own from their menu (see healthy snack tips below for help with selections).

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The one game changing skill you should focus on for success

Competitve intelligenceWhy is it that some people rise to higher levels of success than others? Is it simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? Or are some people born with certain qualities that make them more capable of success than others? When comparing star performers with average ones, a consistent unique strength does emerge, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, education or natural-born talents. The “it factor” these super stars possess is called emotional intelligence (EQ). Recent studies show 90% of high performers at work are also high in EQ. Additionally, people with high EQ make about $29,000 more per year on average than those considered to be low in EQ. The great news is this game-changing skill can be learned by anyone willing to focus.

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One topic investors agree is critical to decision making

Water leafCape Town’s Day Zero has been postponed—for now. That’s the term being used to describe the impending extreme water crisis in my native South Africa. I’ve seen how it affects the people who live there, as they scramble to hold off what seems inevitable. My friends in Cape Town only shower twice a week and save their shower water to water their gardens. Local pools around the city are empty, hotels can’t wash linens as often as in the past and the agriculture sector has been hit.  The severe water shortage threatens employment, tax revenues and municipal credit ratings. The trickle down (a term that has never been so literal) reaches business owners and investors as they consider the rising costs of a resource they once took for granted.

 

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Introducing our newest heroes: “The (CP)A-Team”

CPA TeamPop culture seems to be obsessed with the 1980s.

Remakes of popular blockbuster hits are now the norm for movie-goers. From “RoboCop” to “21 Jump Street” to “Footloose,” today’s entertainment is all about nostalgia.

So, it’s no surprise that television’s favorite action drama, the “A-Team,” would make a comeback. Updated for 2018, the reboot is coming to prime time. And this time, the fearsome foursome is taking on the single greatest threat to our security: cybercriminals.

Airing at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on your television or tablet is America’s newest special task force: “The (CP)A-Team.” Each half-hour episode features the all-CPA unit as they travel the world detecting and responding to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Cyberattacks are on the rise. Personal information is swapped for pennies on the dark web. Ransomware is lurking in the shadows of your desktop. And one team perseveres against it all to expose cyberthieves and other scoundrels.

In 2002, this crack team of auditors met on the job. Fresh out of college and stepping into the vast world of accounting, they found in each other a bond that nothing could shake. Once they graced the cubicles of Metro Zero, New York City’s finest financial institution. Today, they survive as practitioners with a purpose: protecting millions from the loss of sensitive personal and corporate information.

Jane “Caesar” Jones is a master of disguise. She is most commonly seen portraying beauty school dropout “Mrs. Bentley,” a salon owner who uses weak passwords and unsecured wifi devices as part of a ploy to entice small-time hackers. As the leader of the group, it was Caesar’s idea to go rogue after discovering Metro Zero shared client data. Now on the run, she and her team aim to level the playing field and repair the damage done.

Nick “N.N.” (Negative Nelly) Nichols is the muscle for the (CP)A-Team. N.N. is always in a bad mood but is the first on the scene when things get hairy. Armed with only a laptop and personal hot-spot, N.N. attacks hackers before they can reach your server. A reformed hacker, his secret past is known to only Caesar.

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7 things every nonprofit should know about restricted assets

Restricted cashYour nonprofit is on a mission. Like any other business, your work requires careful accounting and financial reporting. Unlike other businesses, your not-for-profit organization has special requirements on the use and reporting of restricted assets.

As an auditor specializing in the nonprofit sector, I get a lot of client questions about restricted assets. The following are some of the most common issues we encounter and tips for dealing with them.

  1. Fundraisers can create unintended restrictions. Donors like to support programs and projects near and dear to their heart. Your fundraising staff is skilled at designing heartfelt appeals. If you’re not careful, overly specific fundraising language can create restrictions that limit your ability to operate. Keep your accounting staff looped into the fundraising communications planning and approval process to avoid problems down the road. When in doubt, run it by your auditor.
  2. “Restricted cash” may include more than you think. Many nonprofits present cash and cash equivalents that have restrictions in multiple line items on their statements of financial position. In some cases, these line items are labeled something other than “restricted cash” or “restricted cash equivalents.” 

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Blockchain could be your solution to spreadsheet fatigue

Block chain 2Over 25 million Americans are still dealing with repairing airbags from one of the largest series of recalls in U.S. history. Car owners are waiting months for repairs – and many are unable to drive their cars while they wait for them to be fixed. Talk about inconvenient, expensive and frustrating.

Now imagine if airbag recalls didn’t have to be such a mess. Blockchain offers an intriguing solution.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system that can be put to work managing our supply chains. Think of a big spreadsheet or Google doc that you use to record every transaction in a supply chain – from manufacturer to end user. Now imagine that every supplier, manufacturer and seller in the chain has access to that spreadsheet at the same time as you and is updating it with verified information in real time. Except, unlike a Google doc, you can’t retroactively alter information on the blockchain – making it extra secure.

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Lead with inspired authenticity: chuck the checklist and find your why

Paper cranes leadershipHave you ever made your own “leadership skills checklist”? If you have, it probably included things like “active listening,” “decisiveness,” “delegation,” and “motivation,” to name a few. As accountants, we love to create checklists that can get us to a well-defined outcome – so why would we treat our efforts to become great leaders any other way?

The thing is, if we are only checking off skills on a list, are we really developing into the best leader we can be?

I believe the answer is a resounding NO!

To become the best leader we can be, we have to get past our skills checklist and dig into who we are and what drives us. If we can stop worrying about checking off skills and instead focus on our true purpose, we can lead our teams with authenticity and inspiration.

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Nonprofit risk management 101

JengaNonprofit organizations are, by definition, on a mission. In pursuit of their missions, they may engage in risk-reward scenarios that for-profit businesses can’t afford to tackle. To further their cause, many nonprofit leaders accomplish more with less funding than seems possible. Unfortunately, limited resources create risk exposures. This may lead nonprofit management and boards to believe they can’t afford a risk management program. But they can’t afford not to.

Public trust is foundational to nonprofit organizations’ sustainability. Left unmanaged, risks can result in all sorts of losses: donors, employees, members, patrons and grants. Often, it’s not until a critical event occurs that risk management moves up the priority list.

In our experience (although risk management can seem overwhelming — especially for smaller organizations), it’s worth the time and resources.

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How your organization handles personal data is about to change

GDPRIf your organization or client handles personal data of any person residing in the European Union—even if the organization itself isn’t located there—pay attention. The way you store and manage that data may need to change significantly.

Enforcement of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was ratified in 2016, will go into effect May 25, 2018. The GDPR was created to allow individuals to have greater control over their personal data and provide consistency across the EU member countries when it comes to data privacy rules. According to EUGDPR.org, personal data is defined as “any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’ that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information or a computer IP address.”

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4 new opportunities blockchain could create for auditors

Blockchain 2In case you haven’t heard, blockchain technology has the potential to change the auditing profession. A new whitepaper co-authored by the American Institute of CPAs details what opportunities could emerge for auditors.

Not sure what blockchain is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a digital, distributed ledger that contains every transaction since its creation. Once transactions are entered, they can’t be changed or deleted. Every user on a blockchain has an identical version of the ledger, and all copies are updated automatically when a new transaction occurs. Each entry refers back to the previous entry across all versions, creating a “chain” of information.

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3 myths about tax extensions

Tax extensionSometimes filing a tax extension can be a benefit to your clients, but only if they are clear on what an extension means —and what it doesn’t mean.

If you’re a tax CPA, you’ve probably come across a client who chose not to file an extension because they misunderstood how it would affect them. On the other hand, maybe a client was happy to go on extension but for the wrong reasons.  

Below are three myths that your clients may have about extensions that you can proactively dispel.

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