Today’s clients value knowing what should be done instead of what should’ve been done.
Accountants’ roles are evolving from reviewer to adviser. Clients can leverage their accountant’s expertise beyond tax preparation to include the bigger picture of retirement. Third-party oversight can be highly beneficial to families.
Although the traditional accountant/client relationship has been all about the box – a shoebox, a fill-in-the-tax-form box, or a taxpayer’s mailbox, to name a few – changing times are signaling new and out-of-the-box roles for today’s accountants.
No longer content with tax preparation that focuses on the past, consumers – and especially those seeking to retire – are increasingly looking to their accountants to provide pro-active counsel on how to best prepare for the future.
Accountants who’ve embraced this role are responding, and sometimes leading the conversation, in the following ways:
Education: Rather than concluding the tax return handoff conversation with, “See you next year,” accountants are instead asking questions of their older clients about anticipated retirement dates; whether the client has a plan for the future; or if they even know their projected Social Security income. With additional information, the accountant can help the client resolve or narrow any projected income and expense gaps. For younger clients, a lesson in steady monthly savings and the magic of compound interest could be more appropriate.
Tax management: By reviewing existing assets instead of just a given tax year’s income and deductions, the accountant can steer the client towards income- producing products like an annuity or insurance policy. Many aspiring or current retirees don’t recognize that taxes are the biggest expense in retirement, and that a pro-active approach that resolves tax bracket challenges sooner than later can be highly beneficial.
Beneficiary issues: By routinely asking to review beneficiaries listed on clients’ insurance policies or retirement accounts, accountants can be a line of defense against costly family squabbles. Legacies can be handled as intended, and inheritances can be treated properly. In many instances, beneficiary forms overrule wills and trusts, and by keeping the forms current, conflicts rooted in outdated and unresolved issues are avoided.
Although traditional tax preparers can get the annual job done, clients are finding that today’s accountants with a pro-active heart to help can be the investment of a lifetime.
Syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews top retirement specialists in their field of expertise. This segment features retirement specialist Larry Lerner. Right on the Money is a financial talk show distributed in daily video press releases to over 280 media outlets and social media networks.