Now That You Are A Financial Expert–What Next?

I wrote in a previous blog how as a CPA you are the default personal financial planning expert in your office.  Once you get comfortable answering the occasional question from your coworkers about why they should invest in the company 401(k) plan to get the company match or how, unless they are the CEO or CFO, they probably won’t have to pay any taxes when they sell their house, you may be ready to move to the next level.

The AICPA launched its 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy campaign over five years ago and it has provided the public great information to help educate them on a variety of financial topics from insurance to buying a house to paying for college education to planning for retirement.  The public website can be found at www.360financialliteracy.org (or at www.valueyourmoney.org with a Texas bent for my colleagues in the TSCPA).  This is a great website to share with your coworkers, but maybe you want to do even more.

One thing you could do is hold a lunch and learn, but, besides being scary presenting to that many people, it would be a lot of work to put together a presentation.  The AICPA is here to help.  We can’t make your nerves go away, but we can reduce the work load by supplying you with ready to go financial literacy presentations which can be found here. You have to be an AICPA member to access this site, but if you are, it will supply you with ready to go presentations set up by life stage just like the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website.  These presentations can be especially effective in smaller companies and locations that don’t have access to big corporate training programs. 

In addition to providing a valuable service to your fellow employees you can also use the presentation as an opportunity to enhance your skills.  And that is even easier to do when the audience is eager to learn which is always the case with financial literacy presentations; so check out the website and see if there is a presentation that might be especially relevant to your co-workers.  You might also want to check with the HR department (or whoever is in charge of such things) to make sure you do the right things to make it clear the company is not offering specific financial advice.  This really isn’t an issue with the AICPA presentations, but it’s better to make sure you clear the program with the right people up front.

Finally, there is one more site I want to mention to you that you can share with your co-workers. Total Tax Insights  is the most recent addition to the AICPA family to financial literacy tools.  It is a calculator that will show you the total tax – federal, state and local – that you pay in a year.  It goes way beyond income tax and includes things like property tax, tax on your phone bill, tax on the gas you purchase, even the tax on that glass of wine you will enjoy this evening.  The tool is customized to calculate the tax based on where you live across the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S.  The most important thing it does is peal back the layers of complexity and transparently show the facts.  What you or your co-workers do with those facts is up to you, but at least with the AICPA’s help, everyone can now get to the real facts as a place to start the debate.

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August 2012 AICPA Board Meeting

As I near the end of my 3 year term on the AICPA Board of Directors, I embarked on my last Journey to New York, but as fate would have it there were a few bumps in the road – or in this case storms in the air.  I had planned to come in Tuesday evening to get to the hotel, get a good night’s rest and start my final day of committee meetings refreshed, but that was not to be.  All flights into New York were cancelled and I got to get up at 3:30 in the morning to make a 6:00am flight.  My friends like to give me a hard time about “having” to go to New York and put up with the glamour of the travel and hotels.  All I will say is that nothing seems vary glamorous at four in the morning.

Like any Chairman of an Audit committee, I had a close working relationship with the Chief Audit Executive of the AICPA.  So when the AICPA CAE resigned to take a step up the career ladder with another employer I was happy for her while feeling a loss at the same time.  As Audit Committee Chairman I also realized that I would have a roll to play in selecting the next CAE for the AICPA.  Like many of you I found myself of two minds on this “opportunity.”  Frankly, I did not relish having to add yet one more thing to my never ending list of “To Dos, “ but I must admit that many Audit Committee Chairman never get the opportunity to replace a CAE and I thought this will be a great experience that I can learn from and use again in the future.  The good news is that the AICPA had done a great job of recruiting and retaining talent and the best candidate for the job came from inside the AICPA.  Audrey Foster is the new CAE for the AICPA and I am looking forward to working with her over the next couple of months until my term as Chairman ends. 

At the Board meeting itself we continued to discuss a number of issues that have both immediate and long-term impact on the profession including potential standards for personal financial planning services, developments in governmental financial reporting, implications of the changing Health Care industry for the profession, integrated and sustainability reporting and the impact of European developments on the profession.

One of the many points of pride I have about the profession is our efforts to support people in the communities we live in.  The AICPA saw a way to help our members in those efforts when it launched the 360 degrees of financial literacy effort several years ago.  One outgrowth of those efforts was working with the Ad Council on a series of Ads staring Benjamin Banks.  The Financial Literacy ads staring Benjamin Banks are now the most placed ads from the ad council leading 60 other efforts including Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime dog.  Its always fun to be number 1, but it’s even sweeter when it is for something so important as the financial health our your friends and neighbors.

I have truly enjoyed my service on the AICPA Board of Directors and as I roll-off the Board I am looking forward to new challenges as I continue to be involved in this fantastic profession.