Unless you work in the financial world, it can be difficult to keep track of the many acronyms and accreditations flying around. A certified financial planner (CFP®) and a certified public accountant (CPA) both work to organize your finances, but they'll do so in different ways. In general, CPAs will focus more on auditing and tax preparation, while a CFP® will make it easier for you to find long-term investments that work for you. Learn more when to choose one over the other, and when you definitely need to have both to keep track of your assets.
You're Struggling with Your Taxes: Call a CPA
There's a reason why CPAs exist, even with the existence of the EZ forms the government offers. The "simplest" of forms can have a world of implications if they're filled out incorrectly. Plenty of people end up paying far too much in taxes every year because they don't understand how the tax code works and what they'll need to prove if they're audited by the IRS. And because the tax code isn't static, they may be entirely unaware of how one seemingly tiny adjustment can cause a world of headaches. A CPA is trained to not only walk you through the forms but also provide proactive tips on how you can make your tax experience a lot smoother.
Your Portfolio Feels a Little Thin: Call a CFP®
It's never too early to start thinking about where your money should be going. A CFP® can give you the advice you need to develop a long-term plan for growing the disposable income you have now into the sizable nest egg you're going to need later. From stock markets to real estate, a CFP® is going to present viable options for investment based on your particular situation. There are huge rewards that come with making your portfolio more diverse, but there are risks with branching out too much. A CFP® can help you keep the right balance so that you can steadily grow your money over time rather than exposing you to major risks you might not be ready to take.
For Crossover Situations
There's enough overlap with both professions that there will be times when choosing one over the other will still seem unclear. One of the best ways to navigate this problem is to do research on the specific CFPs® and CPAs in your area rather than judging them based on their titles alone. For example, some CPAs will earn a credential called personal financial specialist, which will qualify them to do many of the same things a CFP® does. Some CPAs will concentrate on general tax principals only — meaning they may have zero experience with auditing. Look at the experience the professional has and their chosen fields to make the decision a little less confusing.
Looking Down the Road
While a CPA may be able to go a long way to help you fund the retirement of your dreams, it may make more sense to choose a CFP® in the case of retirement questions. It's generally the CFP® who has the training and the background to give you the tools you need to get the compounded growth you're looking for. On the whole, though, it's not realistic to expect that a single financial professional can expertly prepare your taxes, keep your portfolio in check, and map out your finances. Consider this when seeking out the right person. You may be able to find an accountant that can help you plan your future finances, but it's likely you'll also need a CFP® to give you the specific advice you need for your portfolio. Understanding this and asking the right questions will ensure you get the person you need.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Matheson Financial Partners. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.