Getting a proper grip of our finances may seem like the holy grail to many of us. A lot of people manage their finances like a treadmill, a continuous cycle of earning and spending. Too many people are burdened with debt with little or no funds set aside for emergencies or retirement.
Acquiring sound financial knowledge takes time. It takes commitment and a solid understanding of your financial situation. Taking the proper steps to get your finances organized and learning better ways of money management may feel like swimming against the current. We may get swept away or drowned. However, if we have someone to guide us, we would learn how to navigate the currents to get to our destination
When it comes to financial management, one of the professionals that can help you out your finances in the right shape is a Certified Public Accountant. CPA holders are licensed accountants that have undergone rigorous training in their field. Whether it has to do with saving money, preparing and filing your taxes, seeking investment advice, or planning for your retirement, a CPA fits the bill. As such, the CPA holder offers you a variety of options much more than your regular accountant.
However, though a CPA can help put your finances in order, this does not mean that you run along with anyone that flashes a CPA certification in your face. Just the way you would size up a car to know if it meets your specifications or when you conduct due diligence before investing in an asset, the same rigour applies when searching for a CPA.
Here are some tips which can guide you when looking for a certified public accountant
Step 1: Clarify your financial goals
Before you go searching, you need to clarify your financial goals and what you intend to achieve by hiring a CPA. Ask yourself: Why do I need to hire a CPA? Is it to file your taxes? Get tax returns as much as possible? Manage payroll for your small business? Assist with IRS audits or plan your retirement? Clarifying your goals narrows down your search parameters and makes you know what exactly you are looking for. It also helps you have a long-term perspective of your financial goals.
Step 2: Make a list
Make a list of CPAs that are available in your area. This can be done by searching the IRS directory to find a CPA near you. Alternatively, you can check the online directory of your state’s CPA chapter. You can ask people within your social circle for referrals. Try to get feedback from clients they have worked with. Most CPAs have a niche where they specialize in, so pay attention to choosing the one that suits your purpose.
Step 3: Conduct background checks
The importance of having a background check stems from the fact that a CPA would know more of your business than you. You are inviting someone into one of the most secretive and sensitive aspects of your life – your finances. As such, you need to look out for someone you can trust and whose personal objectives are aligned with yours.
After penciling down your list of potential candidates, you conduct due diligence by having their backgrounds checked. This implies verifying their credentials and work history and trying to speak with former employers and clients to have a better idea of the accountant. Also check online to see reviews and feedback from previous clients. Though this method is not completely exhaustive, repetitive negative reviews or complaints are a red flag.
Step 4: Make a final draft
Background checks help you sift the wheat from the chaff. It also enables you to identify a CPA that appeals to you and can assist you to achieve your financial objectives. The number of potential candidates that make your final draft depends on time, resources and availability. The key thing is that anyone that makes the final draft has the potential to offer you the value you need.
Step 5: Set up an interview
Though we are living in a digital age where you can communicate with people several miles away by just clicking your phone, nothing beats face to face interaction. Several attributes and mannerisms can be uncovered by just holding a simple conversation.
Apart from technical competency and credentials, you would also take into account other factors such as charisma or empathy. You would want to choose a CPA that perfectly understands your financial needs and aligns his expertise to suit those needs.
Having an interview also presents an opportunity to clarify certain issues which can’t be confirmed through reviews, background checks and referrals. Issues such as divorce, inheritance, tax filings or saving for your kid’s college education are better hashed out in person than over the phone or video.
Also, a face-to-face conversation gives you the opportunity to weigh the interviewee’s personality, thought pattern and approach to life. These attributes can not be known by reading one’s credentials.
Step 6: Compare and contrast
After finalizing the interview process and collating all the information you need, it is time to compare and contrast your candidates. The basis of comparison depends on your financial needs and goals. However, it is available to have a scorecard or list of attributes you are looking out for so that you can evaluate your candidates. You can use parameters such as availability, billing rates, years of experience, ability to help you reach your financial goals, specialty, or unique benefits, as factors to evaluate the right CPA for you. Also, be mindful of behavioral attributes of the CPA. How easy is it to work with them? Are they considerate? How committed are they in helping me achieve my financial goals are some questions which should drive your final decision.
Step 7: Choose
Finally, having done a thorough and rigorous job, be confident with your decision and take the bold step! Contact your preferred candidate and book an appointment. Finalize issues pertaining remuneration, job scope and other employee responsibilities and benefits. Because most people see their accountants as a business partner for life, make sure that the person you are choosing is someone you feel comfortable with.
Even though we need professionals such as certified public accountants to make sense of our finances, you should take into consideration that the buck stops at your table. You are responsible for any decision taken pertaining to your finances and taxes. As such, though it is good to hire a CPA, always cross-check all documents, verify investment advice and ask questions when in doubt.
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