“Is It Too Early to Start Saving for Retirement?”

I was a teenager when Congress created the Individual Retirement Account, and as soon as I had my first summer job, my father advised me to open an IRA.  You can imagine my reaction; I didn’t yet have a full-time job, and my father was talking about retirement!  However, my father managed to persuade me by teaching me the Rule of 72 (72 ÷interest rate = number of years in which an investment will double).  At a time of double-digit interest rates, I imagined I would retire with more than enough in savings if I continued to maximize my IRA contributions.

Circumstances changed.  Interest rates fell; they’ve been below 10% for almost 30 years and hovering slightly above zero since 2009. In addition, the annual maximum IRA contribution did not keep up with inflation (in the first 25 years of the IRA’s existence, the maximum contribution was increased only once, in 1982, from $1,500 to $2,000).  Yet, despite my increasing reliance on employer-sponsored retirement plans to help me meet my retirement goals, investing in my IRAs has remained an integral part of my retirement planning, particularly now that I have added a Roth IRA to the mix.

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Help Wanted

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, CPA.com,website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for CPA.com and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.

It’s no secret that staffing a CPA firm with truly qualified candidates has been a challenge for quite some time.   As I describe our recruiting troubles to others, they inevitably comment, “It should be no problem with the unemployment rates we have been experiencing.”  Not so.  The common concerns within our industry circles have always been the same: candidates need to possess accounting skills as well as common sense, organizational skills, attention to details, ability to close the loop, and a commitment to quality service.   Quite a package!  And for digital CPA firms, it is getting more complicated.

The digital CPA firm requires an additional skill set to the standard package.  Our next recruitment ad will say to candidates, “We want you if you have the following:”

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“My financial statements are always late!”

This is the number one complaint we hear from clients who reach out to us for services.  About a year ago we started working with a new client.  He reached out to us for our CFO services to help him understand whether his organization’s accounting work was too much for the one-person accounting department he had set up.  What we discovered was exactly what we find in most organizations for whom we do this type of assessment.  Borrowing the format from David Letterman’s “Late Show,” I have listed below the top 5 reasons we see for financial statements delivered late:

  1. Paving the cow paths.  The processes being used on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis get the work done, but are not the most efficient.  This is very typical with organizations that, at one point, had multiple staff members in their accounting department and consolidated those responsibilities to fewer employees or even one full-time person.  This is most common when the remaining person is also new to the organization.  For lack of understanding or fear of making a mistake, they continue following the same processes since they don’t have the time to question, think, and implement a more time-efficient way to perform the same task.

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Keeping the Focus on the Mission

This blog was originally published on the Standards for Excellence Institute® website, for which Maribel is a peer reviewer. As a peer reviewer, she evaluates an organization’s application for compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

You start with the mission – Point A.  This is your intent. You want to achieve the objectives – Point B, which is stated in your mission.  This is your goal.  You then create your annual report, which is a way of showcasing your accomplishments.  The fundamental message of this report is demonstrate how well you’ve connected the dots.  So why did your annual report miss point B?

Many organizations report on accomplishments that do not address their stated mission, or there is no clear and logical connection between their intent and their achievements.  Some organizations measure activities instead of results. I suspect that many find themselves confronted with having to report their accomplishments, and at the time, come up with the best available data that somehow measures what they’ve done.  This is a last-minute exercise at displaying such a vital aspect of your organization. I view this as a lack of proper planning at the time you set your mission and improper mapping of those essential points that align your intent with your accomplishments.

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