Proceeding into retirement

By Anita Dennis

Will you be ready to retire when the time comes? CPAs who have retired offer advice on how to lay the groundwork for a satisfying future.

Don't let work get in the way of planning. It's important to avoid getting so caught up in work that you fail to focus on your future, advised Bob Goldfarb, CPA/PFS, CGMA, who retired after merging his firm, Janover LLC, based in New York City and Garden City, N.Y. "Decide what you want and be set to start once you retire," he advised.

Manage the transition at work. Jim Blake, the former vice president/treasurer and CFO at The Morey Organization in Wildwood, N.J., focused on helping his successor get settled. During Blake's last year, "at first, he worked with me and got the lay of the land," said Blake, a CPA with inactive status. In the final six months, he said, "I told him to move into my office and take over. I was available for counsel and advice."

Follow your passions. The day after he retired as CFO of Global Impact, an Alexandria, Va.-based not-for-profit, Stan Berman, CPA, CGMA, opened his own dream business: offering CFO-level services to small charities that needed that level of expertise but on a limited and low-cost basis. "I didn't want a career's worth of experience to just disappear," he said.

Give back. CPAs can remain active in their communities while enjoying their newfound freedom. "My associates told me I'd be pulling my hair out in retirement," Blake said. But after relocating, he immediately was elected to the board of his homeowners' association and enjoys the chance to pick and choose his commitments.

Make sure you're financially ready. CPAs should follow the same advice they offer to clients about ensuring retirement income security. "It's a myth that expenses will go down significantly in retirement," said Larry Lioz, CPA, a former tax partner and administrative partner-in-charge of the tax department at Margolin, Winer & Evens LLP, based in the New York City area. With that in mind, "be sure you have enough to live comfortably the way you've lived in the past."

Be prepared for the unexpected. As Blake observed, "You won't know how you'll feel about retirement until you do it. Your preconceived ideas may not work." After his firm's merger, Goldfarb had planned to remain with the new firm as a principal, a role that would give him management responsibility but not ownership. "It was exactly what I wanted," he said. But his wife became ill, and he found that he needed to take time off and ultimately retire sooner than he anticipated.

Consider staying connected to the profession. Many accountants choose to remain connected to professional organizations in retirement. Lioz, Goldfarb, and Berman have maintained their CPA license and AICPA membership. "The CPE requirement to maintain my license gives me a good excuse to get together with my CPA colleagues and helps me keep up with what is going on in our profession," Lioz said. 

Editor's note: A version of this article originally appeared in CPA Insider on Oct. 21, 2019.

— By Anita Dennis, a New Jersey-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, a JofA senior editor, at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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