Finding Financial Planning Candidates Among Your Existing Tax Clients
by Ryan Berdnik, CPA, CFP, Mazars USA –
April 27, 2018
The need for financial planning services increases as the population ages. The median age of the nation is now 37.9 years, an increase of approximately 2 percent over the last five years. Over the same period, revenues from financial planning services have increased 56 percent faster than revenues from traditional accounting and auditing services. While nearly everyone is in need of some sort of financial planning service, ideal candidates can be easily identified with information that tax preparers already have.
Just as financial statements tell the story of a business, an individual’s tax return tells more than just taxable income. The source documents used to prepare the return can be used to piece together the taxpayer’s financial environment. This historical data can be used to help clients plan and prepare for future financial obligations. Unfortunately, deadlines during busy season can often cause CPAs to miss this opportunity. Financial planning concerns can easily be reexamined and discussed with the client post tax day. The existing relationship and knowledge of the client’s background gives CPAs a head start in the financial planning process.
Age is one of the most important factors to consider when analyzing the client’s background. Financial planning can begin at all stages of life. The client’s age can be plotted on a figurative timeline along with common estimates used in the industry. Examples include: the average age to attend first year of college is 18, the full retirement age is up to 67, and the average life expectancy is 84.3 for men and 86.6 for women. The client’s age in relation to these estimates can help identify which specific set of financial services, such as education, insurance, investing, retirement or estate planning, will be the most beneficial.
If the taxpayer has a child during the tax year, this has the potential to lead to financial planning services for education and insurance. Assuming the taxpayer plans on their child attending a post-secondary school around age 18, the client can be informed about different education savings vehicles (e.g., 529 plan) and related tax implications. Projections can be used to demonstrate how the future value of contributions is affected by changes in tuition inflation rates, timing of contributions, amount of contributions and after-tax rate of return on contributions. The family may need to consider life insurance policies to supplement income in the event of one wage earner’s death.
Investments and Savings
The ability to save money drives progress toward reaching the financial goals established in the plan. However, there must be income before there can be savings. The individual tax return details the taxpayer’s primary sources of income. Tax returns without any investment activity can raise a red flag in terms of investments for financial planning purposes. It is possible contributions are being made to a tax-deferred retirement account. That information can be found on the client’s W-2, K-1 if a partner, or perhaps an annual statement for nondeductible contributions. Investing and retirement planning services can help clients identify the savings vehicles, timing and amount of contributions necessary to finance their life after work. Health care costs continue to be the largest expense in retirement for most. The client’s goals in retirement may not be possible if they did not save for unexpected medical expenses in addition to cost of living. Similar time value of money calculations can be used to visualize the benefits of early savings.
Estate planning services can be of benefit to those who have not exhausted their financial assets at their time of death. Clients who own a business could also benefit from estate planning services depending on how they wish to transition ownership. Recommendations can be made to achieve the client’s goals once they express their desires for their assets after death.
Because every client is unique, a financial plan needs to be customized around their goals, timeline and ability to save. The CPA may not be aware of the client’s exact goals before beginning the financial planning process, but the information already on hand can help identify potential areas of added value for the client. Once the client’s wishes are clear, the CPA can offer insight and help them achieve their financial goals.
Ryan Berdnik, CPA, CFP, is a senior in the entrepreneurial services group at Mazars USA LLP. He is a member of the NJCPA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.