To the average person the professions of accounting and financial planning may seem very similar or even the same. After all, both have to do with handling money and ensuring that an individual or business stays solvent and doesn’t go broke. But while financial planners are generally concerned with wealth preservation and growth, accountants are generally more focused on accurately accounting for all of an individual’s or corporation’s incoming earnings, outgoing expenses, and tax liabilities. But, despite the difference in focus, many CPAs are now looking to break into the financial planning market.
A recent article by U.S. News and World Report acknowledges that the job descriptions of certified public accountants and financial planners have a lot in common, and that this commonality is allowing CPAs to make the natural transition into picking up financial planning business as well.
Both certified financial planners and certified public accountants have their individual set of requirements and tests they must comply with in order to become and remain licensed. But during tax season, when millions of Americans consult with accountants for advice on their taxes, many certified public accountants find that their clients are also interested in receiving financial planning advice.
According to the report, one of the best ways for a client to determine whether or not their accountant would also serve as a competent financial planner is to ask them if they have attained the Personal Financial Specialist designation. This designation is only available to certified public accountants that have taken the additional classwork necessary, and have passed the certification exam.
Additionally, it is important to verify that an accountant who offers you financial planning services has access to a wide variety of financial products, which would be expected of any CPA who takes their financial planning role seriously. Finally, ask about how you will be billed for the accountant’s financial planning services. While many accountants bill by the hour, financial planners usually have far more varied billing practices.