ENGAGE emcee: Why inflation could cause retirement U-turns

Hosted by Neil Amato

Jill Schlesinger, a CBS News business analyst, author, and podcast host, built her brand as a purveyor of financial advice in part through radio call-in shows. She's a seasoned speaker on all things money and the guest on this episode of the Journal of Accountancy podcast. Schlesinger is slated to be an emcee at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE in June in Las Vegas, where she looks forward to hearing more about how accounting and finance professionals are adapting to "accelerants" related to the economy and office work.

Schlesinger also explains more about how inflation may keep some people working or send some retirees back to work.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Why Schlesinger says that she never took the CPA exam.
  • What is "fascinating" to Schlesinger about attending ENGAGE.
  • Why she describes the previous two years as "a deep freeze."
  • The topic most commonly asked of financial planners.
  • One anecdote related to the topic of geography-based pay.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at


Neil Amato: This is the Journal of Accountancy podcast, I'm your host, Neil Amato. The income tax deadline for individual filers has come and gone. It's safe to officially say it's conference season. This episode features a conversation with a name and voice you may know to talk about a major event for accounting and finance professionals. Stick around for that, coming up after this word from our sponsor.

Amato: Welcome back to the Journal of Accountancy podcast for this segment am pleased to be joined by Jill Schlesinger, who will be emceeing at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE in June in Las Vegas.

Jill, a brief description of you is CBS News business analyst, author, and speaker. But there's certainly, I'm sure, more to you than just that. Tell listeners first a little bit about yourself.

Jill Schlesinger: Lover of CPAs, hashtag love the CPAs. Is that good?

Amato: Yeah.

Schlesinger: You have to cozy up to your crowd. I was a financial planner, investment adviser, and I did that for a number of years. I'm a certified financial planner because as I always joke to my friends who are CPAs, I would not want to have to take the CPA exam because it's way too hard.

Really, my roots are in trading, I was a derivatives trader on the floor of the Commodities Exchange in New York in the late '80s and early '90s. So I'm a little bit of a math head. I was not a great trader, I was an adequate trader and really liked the idea of giving financial advice.

I was a part of a very teeny-tiny team in New England that grew a small financial planning and investment management firm, worked there and did that for 14 years. One of the ways that we grew the firm was that we hosted a radio show and also I did a lot of television and then started doing that more and more nationally.

After selling the company, I transitioned to this third career. Trader, investment adviser, and then moved into a third career of, as my dearly departed father used to like to say, media maven. Someone who just talks about stuff, breaks things down.

Frankly, my special sauce is that I am able to communicate complicated concepts to masses, and that's what I do. I do that on television, I do that on radio, I do that on podcasts, I do that in my writing.

Amato: We will hit on that podcast here in a little bit. Also, even though we're not recording video, I guess your description would be "dog mom," because I can see you on the screen.

Schlesinger: Correct. I'm a very proud parent of two Norwich Terriers. I will not regale you of my children's great accomplishments, but they are something special.

Amato: That's great. Your exposure to ENGAGE, last year was your first time at the event. What has it taught you about the modern finance professional?

Schlesinger: That's a great question because I think that, first of all, it was such a very strange time because we were inside and outside of the COVID bubble in a weird way. Almost everybody was vaccinated, but we didn't know a lot about what we didn't know.

I think what was fascinating to me was, how many different kinds of people show up to the event. Sometimes what I have always experienced when I used to do these things when I was a financial planner as an attendee, is that you're always surprised at where you learn an interesting lesson.

I think that that's what's great about the accounting profession, is that there's a lot of different kinds of people who come to this conference. You have so many options from which to choose, dipping your toe into different practice areas, of course.

But also getting maybe some practice management issues that you think are important to you. Things that you can really bring home to your office, whether it's a three-person, family-run office or it's a 3,000-person organization.

I really think what's cool is the number of things that I learned about different aspects of the financial world. Everyone has a different lens through which they're viewing the changes. We're in such a strange time when you think about the last two years and you think of all the accelerants to economic trends and office trends, I think we're all coming out of something that is akin to kind of coming out of this deep freeze, and we're at different stages of that, whether it's our businesses or personally.

Amato: I actually talked about the concept of that deep freeze with another guest on another podcast in our channels. She's a London-based author and London Business School professor. That's interesting that you said that as well.

Now you have your own podcast that we mentioned. It's about finance-related topics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the title of the podcast is Jill on Money?

Schlesinger: I have two podcasts. Because I can't get enough of me. I mean, it really just actually show you what an idiot I am. I love audio work and you and I are talking, we see each other, but I love the spoken word.

As I said, when I was a financial adviser, I used call-in radio to help grow a business. That's essentially what we used, and it worked beautifully. I was really taken by the idea of what kind of relationship you can create with somebody through spoken word.

That's essentially what has happened in the podcast universe. It's radio on demand for all intents and purposes. I have a podcast, it's called Jill on Money that has morphed over the years.

We started it back, I think in 2017, I started my radio show in 2011 for CBS, which is also called Jill on Money. We started the Jill on Money podcasts in 2017. Interestingly, we would have guests and a general podcast format.

Twice a week, we drop it, we have interesting guests. I got access to a lot of great people because I was at CBS and I could really snag people who were coming in through the broadcast. It was great.

But March of 2020 rolled around and all of a sudden my email inbox was just exploding. People were freaking out, and they needed help. We moved the podcast to a seven-day-a-week podcast where we are generally answering people's questions directly and we had already figured out how our technology could incorporate that.

The Jill on Money podcast is essentially a 10- or 15-minute daily podcast where we answer people's financial questions. Then, yes, sure I'll have a guest, if there's a friend of mine who is launching a new podcast or there's a good author that's in the house.

Yes, we'll do it, but it's really about people, and I learned so much from that podcast. I learned about people's journeys. I understand what they're interested in. It's been great. Then CBS wanted me to do a separate additional podcast called Eye on Money.

Two podcasts, one radio show, and that's just about enough Jill for anybody.

Amato: Well, certainly your episode topics are some of those questions that I know are ones that a lot of people are thinking about. The what to do with an old 401(k)? Or when can I retire? What I'm wondering is, what are some of the issues that are "around the corner" for finance professionals that maybe they need to be thinking about as, I'm going to get this question at some point, but there maybe not the common questions they're thinking of?

Schlesinger: I mean, listen, the most commonly asked question is around retirement. I think that people like us are asked all the time about retirement. Importantly, I think the financial planning profession has evolved around this, that this is not about numbers, and I hear so much about what COVID has done to individuals to make them rethink what it is they want in their lives.

I think that is a critical issue, that people are coming out of this with a very different sense of what they want their next thing to be, and retirement — yeah, sure, there are people who want to kick back and say, I've been working for 35 years, that's fine.

But an interesting thing about this bout of inflation. I think there's a lot of people who are like, "My God, I may not have as much money as I actually thought." I think that's sneaking up on people, especially people over the age of 55.

We're starting to see 55-year-olds and older flowing back into the labor force. I think that's an important thing. But most importantly, I guess that everyone is trying to wonder, hey, what is going to happen with this tax code?

We're unlikely to see these low tax rates for the next 40 years. How can I prepare for that? What do I need to think about? How do I need to prepare for a world where my returns may not look like they've looked in the last 30 years, for the next 30 years?

I think those are the kinds of questions that people are thinking about. I think from small business to medium-size business owners, they're really feeling like they cannot compete with their dominant, larger competitors and they're trying to figure out ways that they have a value proposition that keeps their employees tethered to them and also allows them to grow a business in an environment that's really hyper-focused on growth and dominance of an industry. I think that's become something that I'm hearing a lot from the small and medium-size business folks out there.

Amato: Yeah, the inflation thing is definitely something to watch and definitely something that's been fresh on the minds of everyone. We've talked about last year's ENGAGE. Other than maybe less COVID anxiety, what are you looking forward to, related to the 2022 version of ENGAGE?

Schlesinger: Well, I think this is a real interesting turning point. I think that we're now looking at a workforce that has shifted pretty dramatically and I'm interested in hearing from people about how they are attracting and retaining talent.

I'm interested in hearing stories. I just interviewed a guy who runs an HR firm, who said that he is no longer seeing geographic difference in pay. That instead of saying, well, we're going to hire someone in Baltimore rather than New York City because it will cost us less.

Now what local businesses in those areas are saying is we'll pay the exact same that you're making in New York, but you can live here and it's far cheaper to live here. Trying to really understand what people are encountering with their workforce.

Because, look, I talk to financial firms a lot. I am a New York City-based person, I'm very connected to Wall Street. There seems to be a real divide between what the C-suite wants, which is we want everyone back to work, and what workers are demanding, which is we don't want to go back to the way it was; that wasn't so good for us. Especially women and people of color, who were saying they really saw their careers thrive amid the pandemic. And that there's a schism right now. I'm interested to see how that plays out.

Amato: Jill, anything you'd like to add in closing? I've loved the conversation.

Schlesinger: I am looking forward to it. I cut out an article recently from The Wall Street Journal about fun things to do in Las Vegas. Because last year I was a little bit of a hermit and scared because I have a 98-year-old mother-in-law and an 83-year-old mother. I didn't want to get sick around them.

This year is the year where I hope to get beyond my room. Looking forward to the speakers, I happen to know Carla Harris from Morgan Stanley. My partner worked with her for many years.

I'm really looking forward. She's a dynamic, phenomenal speaker and I think that people are really going to dig the programming. I'm looking forward to it.

Amato: Very good to know. Certainly you know your audience, you said hashtag, I love CPAs. We appreciate having you on and look forward to hearing and seeing you at ENGAGE. Thank you very much.

Schlesinger: Thanks for having me. I'm really looking forward to seeing you all at the event. It'd be great.

Amato: Again, that was Jill Schlesinger. Thanks again to Jill for her time. On this episode's Journal of Accountancy page, we will have a link to ENGAGE 2022. Thanks to those of you who have given us a rating recently; we enjoy the feedback.

Thank you for listening to Journal of Accountancy podcast.