Whatever You Do, Help Your Clients
Whether a CPA firm chooses to provide personal financial planning services or not, you can materially enhance the keys to the success of your client’s financial future.
It can be as simple as paying closer attention to the details and going just a little beyond telling them what happened last year. A progressive and caring CPA should always take the opportunity to make sure that their clients are well served across the financial spectrum. For years, many CPAs have told or alerted their clients about gaps in their personal financial lives — yet the same issues emerge year after year. This has helped me to conclude that the incidental advice given to clients about related financial matters is a waste of time unless the CPA closes the gap by delivering the service themselves or making a specific introduction to the appropriate subject matter expert.
If you yourself aren’t providing wealth management services, pay close attention to the signals that a tax preparation engagement can send you. Some simple items such as noting that their 1099s from bank or brokerage accounts are held in joint names scream that there may not be an estate plan in place or that the plan in place is not complete or fully implemented. Most clients with significant assets should consider using trusts to hold title to their financial assets. If you notice the joint title and ask a question or two about their estate plan, you’ll quickly see whether they are in need of help.
Other financial matters that can be discovered through the tax prep process include items such as loss carry-forwards, retirement contributions and family governance. Loss carry-forwards, for example, may indicate a lack of coordination between the investment plan and the tax plan. This is something that may actually be the joint neglect of the investment advisor and the CPA, but don’t worry about who’s to blame. Suggest a solution or introduce a holistic wealth advisor who can coordinate these two moving parts of your clients’ financial life.
Retirement contribution reviews can also originate a deeper discovery discussion. Asking if the client can afford to contribute more, or if a different type of plan would be helpful, is just the start. You can also ask where the money is invested and what the client’s process is for managing these assets. In many cases, you may be surprised to see that there isn’t much thought going into the investment choices being made inside the plan and that an introduction to a qualified investment professional may be in order. Read more on Accounting Today.