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When CPAs fall in love … with other CPAs

Whether they work together or in separate firms, here’s how these couples make it work.
By Cheryl Meyer

During busy season, what could be better for a CPA than to have a significant other who knows just what they're going through because … they're also an accountant! We asked nine CPA couples to describe how they met, how (in some cases) they work together, and what advice they would give to new CPA duos starting out. 

Hope Igdalsky, CPA, and Alan Igdalsky, CPA, began dating in December 1979, when they were both employed at an accounting firm in Connecticut. Just one month later, Alan proposed. Hope was hesitant, noting they hadn't dated long and were just starting busy season. So Alan asked, "Would you give me an extension?" Four months later, following the April 15 tax deadline, he tried again, and this time Hope said yes. They were married in August 1980. Today, they run Igdalsky & Company, a public accounting firm in Manchester, Conn., founded in 1989. Hope is the managing and tax partner, and Alan is the accounting services partner. Hope's advice: "Respect each other's territory. You can't both be the expert on everything. That's the key thing that makes it work."

Hope Igdalsky, CPA, and Alan Igdalsky, CPA
Hope Igdalsky, CPA, and Alan Igdalsky, CPA

David Johnston, CPA, and Ann-Margaret Johnston, CPA, married in 1999, following what she describes as a "romantic" proposal: He took her to dinner at an Atlanta restaurant and had the waiter bring out the engagement ring in a chocolate dessert. In 1994, Ann-Margaret started her own firm, Johnston & Associates, in Cumming, Ga., while David was working in the retirement property industry. In 2000, he founded his own company, Beacon Communities Inc., a senior housing management group where he is currently the CEO. The two work in the same building and share a conference room and firm administrator. "She helped me so much to get my business started," he said. Ann-Margaret, an avid poker player, is also the author of How to Turn Your Poker Playing Into a Business: Knowing What to Deduct to Improve Your Odds With the IRS. Her advice to CPA couples regarding their personal lives: "Make sure you are on the same page about everything financially."

David Johnston, CPA, and Ann-Margaret Johnston, CPA
David Johnston, CPA, and Ann-Margaret Johnston, CPA

Barbara Merritt, CPA, and Stephen Merritt, CPA, along with their 60-pound English bulldog, Louis, run Stephen Merritt CPA PC in Virginia Beach, Va. Barbara and Stephen met at an accounting firm in 1982 and tied the knot 11 years later. They founded their own firm in 1995. "The thing that has made it work over time is that we actually like each other," Stephen noted. "And conceptually we're pretty much on the same page. She may take the left fork and I take the right fork, but both forks are going to the same location." Barbara runs the day-to-day operations, and Stephen is the face of the firm, meeting with clients (though she often does that, too). Stephen buys flowers for his wife four to five times a year, he said. Barbara's simple advice: "Laugh a lot."

Barbara Merritt, CPA, and Stephen Merritt, CPA
Barbara Merritt, CPA, and Stephen Merritt, CPA

Erik Wurtenberger, CPA, and Angela Wurtenberger, CPA, both live-music lovers, met at a public accounting firm and married in 2014. Erik proposed on April Fools' Day, when the couple were about to attend a Cincinnati Reds opening day baseball game. As they walked to a bar to meet friends before the game, Wurtenberger pretended to trip and break his ankle. When Angela, who goes by "Angie," tried to help him, he got down on one knee and proposed. "It's very Erik, as he's a big joker," she said. Angie is a senior manager, tax services, at Brixey & Meyer in the Cincinnati area, and Erik works as a manager at Barnes Dennig & Co. Ltd. in nearby Crestview Hills, Ky. They prefer to work independently, even if it means spending less time together during busy season. Erik's advice for on-the-go CPA couples: "Definitely use your time off. Get your work done, and if you have time off, take it."

Erik Wurtenberger, CPA, and Angela Wurtenberger, CPA
Erik Wurtenberger, CPA, and Angela Wurtenberger, CPA

Iver Kessler, CPA (inactive), and Lexy Kessler, CPA, CGMA, once colleagues at Aronson LLC in Rockville, Md., went on their first busy season date in January 1987, and it was a "classic CPA love story," Iver said. They kept their romance under wraps until Iver sent flowers to Lexy at the office after she passed the CPA Exam. Six months later, he proposed in historic Annapolis, and in June 1988 they got married with co-workers and partners in attendance. Iver currently works as an area vice president of finance for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in the Washington, D.C., area, and Lexy is a partner at Aronson. They have two children, 25 and 28, one of whom is an accountant. Lexy's advice to CPA couples: "Don't always talk about work."

Iver Kessler, CPA (inactive), and Lexy Kessler, CPA, CGMA
Iver Kessler, CPA (inactive), and Lexy Kessler, CPA, CGMA

Tina Angelo, CPA, and Ben Angelo, CPA, met in 2005, when Tina was working as an assistant at a Lafayette, Ind., accounting firm that Ben, then a recent college graduate, wanted to join. Tina recommended against hiring him, since he had to ask his mother to borrow the car for the interview, but fortunately Ben got the job. A couple years later, despite that rocky introduction, they were married. Today, they own Angelo & Angelo Accounting, a small tax firm in Lafayette run primarily by Tina. Ben, who has a Ph.D. in accounting, is an assistant professor of accounting at Ball State University. Together, they have four children ranging in age from 7 to 13, and they value the flexibility of their work lives and different schedules. Ben's advice: "Respect each other professionally and love each other personally. And be supportive of the other person to pursue the opportunities that they want to pursue."

Tina Angelo, CPA, and Ben Angelo, CPA
Tina Angelo, CPA, and Ben Angelo, CPA

Sandy Ricci, CPA, and Jamie Ricci, CPA, set the bar high for other CPA couples. The happy pair will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this spring with a trip to Costa Rica. They met at New Mexico State University in 1969 when Jamie was a senior and Sandy was a sophomore. Once Jamie graduated, they moved back to his home state. "I had every intention of leaving New Mexico and going back to Florida where my immediate family lived," Jamie said. "I just thought it would be a good idea if she came with me." They wed in 1970 and 10 years later moved to Albuquerque, where they started their own public accounting practice, Ricci & Company LLC, eventually purchasing a second firm to bolster their client list. People warned them not to work together as husband and wife, but the duo ignored the naysayers. "He's the best partner I've ever had," Sandy said. The pair recently sold their practice and moved to Odessa, Fla., to enjoy their retirement. Jamie's advice: "Trust your instincts. Even if the world doesn't agree with you, do what you want to do, because you may not have an opportunity to revisit that path."

Sandy Ricci, CPA, and Jamie Ricci, CPA
Sandy Ricci, CPA, and Jamie Ricci, CPA

Jennifer Wall, CPA, and Chris Wall, CPA, were high school sweethearts, sort of. They went to different schools, but met at church in their small Georgia town. They dated each other for eight years while pursuing college (both graduated from Georgia Southwestern State University) and accounting goals, and they married in 1997. "We didn't start out in college to be CPAs, but it fits our personalities," Jennifer said. After holding various jobs over the years, the couple decided to set up shop in their hometown of Americus, Ga. Chris manages their practice, Wall & Wall CPA LLC, Jennifer markets the business, and both of them work with clients. Chris's advice: "If you're going to go the route of owning an accounting firm together, make sure you have a strong marriage and are willing to work hard."

Gerald "Dean" Mills, CPA, and Clara Mills, CPA, wed 39 years ago, when neither of them was a CPA. It was "just plain luck" that they worked at the same public accounting firm, said Dean about meeting Clara, who became his life and business partner. They pursued their schooling and passed the CPA Exam, and in 1991 founded their own practice, Mills & Mills Inc., in Grove, Okla. "During tax season we worked extremely long hours, and therefore we each understood the necessity," Clara noted. The couple recently sold the firm but are still working part time for the new owners. And their car license plates still read DEBIT and DEBIT2. Dean's advice for CPA couples who work together: "Try to leave your work at the office and not take it home. Do stuff together that's not accounting."

— Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.

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