I really feel that CPAs should be looking at providing financial planning services, and it can be whatever you want to call it. We call it financial planning services only because in our community I believe we understand what that means, but why do I feel they should be offering it? Your clients are asking the questions, and you are probably answering some of those questions now that would be considered financial planning. When should I retire? Can I retire? How much Social Security should I receive, or can I receive? What’s the best way to take it? Am I invested the right way? Do I have a good savings to be able to do what I’m doing? Am I contributing the full amount to the 401(k) plan that I can contribute? Is there anything I can be doing for my children to help them save? Your clients are asking you these questions. I’m sure they’re asking you these questions, and you are likely answering them. You are doing financial planning, whatever you’d like to call it. Call it whatever you like to call it, but believe me, two things: Your clients need it. Your clients don’t understand these things; they’re not financial people. That’s why they came to you in the first place. They are not numbers people; that’s number one.
Number two is you can charge for these services. Stop thinking you are giving this away for free. You are charging for preparation of a tax return. The fact that you don’t hand them a piece of paper to sign, or you don’t hand them a finished product which you could do if you want to do a formal plan, but if you are not handing them something, you’re giving them advice that took you years and years to learn. Why give that away for free? The other part being with advanced technology, and this is number three I didn’t even mention three before, but with advanced technology, a lot of the things, like even in financial planning, the preparation of the financial plan itself, the preparation of a tax return itself, computers are going to be doing that. No matter what we think about that, within 10 years computers will be doing those things. Where is our value? Our value is being able to disseminate all the information that people get. Can people do all this themselves? Sure, they could, if they got all the time to look through the internet and find all these things. Our job is to take all that information, boil it down to what’s important for each of those people, and that’s where our value will be. Computer intelligence in 10 years won’t be able to do that. Maybe someday it will. I believe anyone out there today it’s not going to happen to that extent. So your knowledge, your ability to reason around all these facts is where your value is and that’s what you are going to be able to charge for and not necessarily the preparation of return or the preparation of that financial plan.