Lynn Northrup

Retiring Boomers Translates to Big Opportunities for CPAs

December 26th, 2013

Changing demographics created by baby boomers represent big opportunities for CPAs. There are 10,000 boomers hitting retirement age each day and they need help in a lot of areas. While financial planning is usually the focus, there is an abundance of practice development opportunities.

Here are some shocking statistics. Over 13% of the population in the United States will be 65 by 2020 and more than 16% will be in excess of 65. By 2030, most baby boomers will have hit their 65th birthday. This means that more than one in five Americans will be 65 or older and about 10 million of them will be over age 85.

Money tops the list of problems since boomers haven’t saved enough to retire and survive through their later years. They also aren’t prepared to deal with declining health. Plus, they may have to contend with elder care either for parents or themselves. Combine these challenges with social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and estate planning there are lots of possibilities for added value business. There are a lot more people with questions, no answers, and the need for guidance.

CPAs can help retirees and elders on a wide range of areas. Typically, seniors turn to attorney’s for guidance which makes sense in many areas. However, CPAs educated on the needs of baby boomers and elders can become valuable and needed advisors to a huge segment of the population.

The first step for CPAs is getting up to speed on the issues. The next step is letting people know how you can help them. In addition to CPE programs there are a lot of resources to gain knowledge about elder issues. A good place to start is by gaining expertise on social security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

One of the opportunities for CPAs to help baby boomers is with basic budgeting and cash management. Boomers try to do their own planning and budgeting when objective input from a CPA would be a better option. Most boomers haven’t planned very well. Many will need to, or want to, pursue a business. Helping these boomers get started on the right foot can translate into added value revenue.

A simple budget spread sheet can be a useful tool for CPAs to assist boomers create an understanding of their situation and develop a plan for the future. Consider all possible income streams such as social security, pensions, plus any other sources of revenue. Expenditures should include housing, travel, medical, automobile, and all living expenses that boomers will incur. Most boomers think expenditures will be reduced in retirement. This often is not the case. A good analysis can become the basis for projecting into the future and providing boomers with guidance on possible options.

The budgeting exercise helps provide an independent sense of reality on retirement finances. Most boomers have lived week to week and haven’t saved for retirement. Now they will need advice on how to make it through their aging years. CPAs are a logical source to provide much needed advice on how these seniors can manage their future.

Having additional knowledge to help seniors gives CPAs an edge in developing an elder practice. Here are some thoughts on how to gain the needed knowledge and information. Take CPE on estate planning tools. This will give you a foundation on the basics of wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. You can use these tools to help these seniors manage their affairs. You need to have signed powers of attorney for business and medical reasons in case these people can’t manage their own affairs. If you are advising boomers on carrying for elder parents, having these documents in place is essential and critical.

Most boomers don’t think about elder care and what it entails. CPAs who understand the complexities of assisted living facilities and nursing homes can provide much needed support to seniors. Take the time to learn about assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other senior housing possibilities. I learned about these issues because of the need to deal with aging parents and in-laws. Usually these areas aren’t addressed in depth until it becomes a necessity.

Many boomers who are suddenly faced with caring for aging parents have lots of questions and need assistance. CPAs can provide useful guidance by being knowledgeable on the various facets of senior housing and care. There are a variety of options for seniors, including ways to keep them in their home as long as possible. By understanding the array of possibilities will put you in position to offer solid guidance.

Most of the questions raised by boomers will be directed to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I think the best way to gain knowledge about them is to visit and take a tour. These organizations will inform you on their billing structure and other financial information. During your tour make an effort to observe the quality of the staff, the rooms, and the food. Another consideration is the capability of the medical staff. Finally, take note of the variety of activities and transportation options available to residents.

When visiting nursing homes it is essential to realize that they provide skilled care which is a big difference from assisted living facilities. Also, determine if they accepts Medicaid since not all of them provide this option. This can become a big issue when elders run out of money and need to be moved. Most assisted living facilities have special areas to care for dementia and Alzheimer residents called memory care units allowing residents to stay until the end.

Gaining knowledge of senior housing facilities can also become a great networking and marketing opportunity as these organizations are happy to know of available resources for their residents. CPAs who understand elder care and associated issues represent a valuable and needed resource.

CPAs who understand the shifting demographics can position themselves to provide significant added value assistance to a segment of the population that needs all the help it can get. While it will take some time to gain the necessary knowledge and market it, I encourage CPAs to step up and fill the need. Seniors need your help.

Health Insurance Deadlines

September 20th, 2013

The Affordable Care Act more commonly called Obama care has some changes kicking effective October 1st that impact both individuals and businesses.

Individuals:

If you have health insurance through an employer the changes will most likely not have any impact on you. However, if you do not have health insurance through an employer, you should check the new government website www.healthcare.gov to determine if one of the insurance exchanges will benefit you.

Business Owners:

If you are a business owner, Obama care requires that you provide notice to your existing employees about the health insurance changes that become effective by October 1st.  This applies to all future employees upon their employment. The law will apply to your business if you have at least one employee and at least $500,000 in annual revenue. You will be required to provide the notice to all employees.

Here is a model notice for employers who offer a health plan to some or all employees:

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithplans.pdf

Here is a model notice for employers who do not offer a health plan:

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithoutplans.pdf

Here is the Department of Labor website link if you need more information:

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/

For individuals, it is important not to miss the open enrollment dates from October 15th to December 7th. I wanted you to be aware of these deadlines and will post more information next week.

Retirement Risk

September 12th, 2013

Boomers are struggling to save for retirement. This is one of the reasons for writing Navigating Retirement and the Challenges of Aging. Here are some facts revealing the hole they have dug. Only 43% of workers between the ages of 45 and 54 have saved more than $50,000. On top of that only 42% over age 55 have accumulated savings greater than $100,000. This means that normal retirement will never be normal. This is the first risk.

The second risk is health. Boomers don’t think they will ever get sick or that their health will deteriorate. Reality tells us that bad things can happen to your health as you age. Combine potential health issues with the lack of saving on top of rising health care costs and you guess it. A disaster!

My book doesn’t have all the answers but it does offer lots of help for Boomers as they face the future. One additional bit of information that emerged from my work is that 15% of retiring Boomers want to start a business of some kind. They know they need to do something because they are facing a new type of life which will take more money than they have saved.

In reality, health is the more important issue because without it, money doesn’t matter. Furthermore, if you don’t have your health it will be tough to work part time or run a business. My message is begin focusing on both health and money. Combine risk management with solid planning and do it as soon as possible and on a regular basis.

The combination of effective planning and monitoring risk is an essential step for entering this new phase of life. I am in the process of providing numerous resource links and advice on how to best accomplish these tasks on my web site.

Elder Care Planning

September 10th, 2013

Before you can develop a meaningful plan for elder care you need to carefully assess each situation. The assessment should begin with opening up the lines of communication with your elders. They may not want to talk about it, but it is essential. Without effective and honest communication there can be no assessment and no plan. Family dynamics are frequently difficult at best. The best approach is to listen carefully to your elder’s thoughts and ideas and with no preconceived notions or ideas. Start with a clean canvas and attempt to come up with viable and workable solutions that best fits their situation. In addition to your elders, the lines of communication need to include other family members because they need to be on board and in agreement with the planning process.

When dealing with older people try and maximize their ability to make choices for as long as possible. This gets to be a fine line and you’ll have to tread carefully. My experience is that you will clearly know when it is time to take over certain responsibilities. Before you can really start to develop an effective plan, you need to make an assessment of your elder’s situation which should include health, money, housing, transportation, and their social network. Your planning should be focused on minimizing crisis situations and reducing confusion. Good planning helps to avoid these situations.

Your initial assessment should include gathering essential information on the support network used by your elder. The list should include the names and phone numbers of the key services and support system that will be needed and utilized. Some things that should be considered include doctors, pharmacy and medications, insurance agent, bank information and contacts, repair services, friends and neighbors, and any one that will be interacting with your elder.

Each person’s situation is unique. I think the planning process needs to start with health and an elder’s ability to take care of their day to day living needs and hygiene in a safe manner. You will want to talk with your elder’s doctor, any therapists, and even their neighbors. This may seem like spying but getting objective input from people who have observed your elder is critical. Knowing and understanding a person’s ability to drive, cook, and maintain living quarters is a must in making an assessment and developing a meaningful plan for them.

The next step after gathering this first set of information is to evaluate housing. Look at the exterior and interior lighting, the existence of stairs and determine if they are safe. Also, check the location of the home relative to shopping or medical services. Is the house in poor repair, cluttered or untidy? Does the home have wheelchair accessibility? Your goal is to evaluate whether or not your elder is truly capable of living in the home that is safe and in maintaining their own individual safety.

This is an excerpt from my book, Navigating Retirement and the Challenges of Aging which covers a complete range of issues facing our aging population. The key is effective planning for elder care and the retirement phase of life.

Five Keys for Planning Your Retirement

September 9th, 2013

There are five key areas that you need to focus on as you plan for your retirement stage of life. A good job of planning in these areas will help assure that your transition to post working life will be easier.

  1. Personal Savings

It is essential to know the amount of your personal savings as you approach retirement. You also should have a program to maximize the amount of savings as every dollar saved helps.

  1. Retirement Savings Plans

Regular employer pension plans are a thing of the past. You should have a 401(k) plan where employers will help contribute to the plan in addition to your contributions. These are tax sheltered programs so please take advantage of them.

  1. Real Estate

Your home isn’t the saving vehicle it used to be. Understand your home value and the amount of mortgage debt against it. If you need to tap into your home equity, do so with great caution. You might want to explore the possibility of securing the equity in your home and downsizing to a less expensive dwelling. Remember, you may not be able to convert your home equity into cash as quickly if you should need it. Also, remember that real estate values can drop rather quickly, so be careful.

  1. Social Security

In the old days Social Security was the main stay for retired people who were no longer able to work. In fact, even today it represents the only source of income for some people. The best advice is to maximize your monthly benefit by delaying Social Security as long as possible. By continuing to work, you may be able to postpone receiving your Social Security benefits after your normal retirement up to age 70 when further delays will have no benefit.

  1. Work

Working past your normal retirement age represents reality for many people. It is essential to realize that age is only an attitude and that you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge which has value. The key is to understand what you want to do, where you want to do it, and develop a plan to utilize your knowledge base. There are a number of options ranging from starting a business to working part time. It all depends on your individual situation.

This fifth key is one of the critical cornerstones of planning for your retirement years. The sooner you start the planning process, the better. In fact, you should include all five of the key steps in your planning and leave no stones unturned.

Seniors Need to Know

August 30th, 2013

There are five key things that seniors need to know as they prepare for their retirement and the later phases of their life. The problem is they may think about these issues but fail to get the help they need as they approach their 65th birthday. My e-book Navigating Retirement and the Challenges of Aging provides these answers:

  1. Money?
  2. What am I going to do and where?
  3. Social Security?
  4. Health Care?
  5. Caring for Elders?

These critical issues need to be addressed well before reaching the age of 65 and should become part of a regular planning effort. Dealing with these issues head on is essential because delaying just makes things more difficult.

Money

Everyone needs to understand where the money will come from and think about what could happen if it isn’t enough. Itemize your assets and liabilities then determine the cash inflows and the cash outflow. It is pretty tough to plan until you get these answers. If you don’t like the answers, you need to come up with a plan on how to make things work.

What and Where

The next question deals with what are you going to do after you stop working. Depending on your retirement vision (or reality), you need to decide where you will live. These are big questions and will require change and adjustments.

Social Security

So you will be eligible for social security. When do you start drawing it and are there ways you can maximize your benefit? Navigating Retirement has an entire chapter devoted to the best strategies for getting the most out of your social security.

Health Care

Maintaining good health as you age is critical and having good health insurance is essential. Medicare kicks in at age 65 and but it doesn’t cover everything. It is essential to register for coverage with Social Security three month before you turn 65. Failure to do so could result in penalties. Navigating Retirement explains what you need to do, when, and health care coverage options. The book also explains typical health issues that seniors encounter.

Caring for Elders

What if suddenly you need to help care for one of your parents, your spouse, or another loved one? This is an area where seniors are not well prepared. However, caring for a loved one can suddenly become a reality. Again, Navigating Retirement provides you with the essential information to address these questions. More and more seniors are coping with the challenge of caring for a loved especially as Alzheimer’s and dementia strike our loved ones.

These are only five of many issues and questions that senior are facing. They need answers and my goal with Navigating Retirement and the Challenges of Aging was to provide them with simple and straight forward guidance.

Aging and Retirement Challenges

October 27th, 2012

Aging and retirement is supposed to be the time to relax and enjoy after the result of years of hard work. Don’t we wish it were that easy? Even if you are one of the lucky ones who planned and saved in addition to having a plush retirement pension, don’t think you’re out of the woods. The best way to deal with these challenges is to create a vision for your retirement.

This process isn’t easy, but it will pay off. Here is what I want you to do. Commit your retirement decision process to writing since it will make you think more clearly and improve your chances for success. Develop a vision of what you want or plan to do in your retirement years.

Here is a checklist of seven things to consider. Begin thinking about each of these questions and it will help you create your unique retirement vision. Start your thinking process and begin the process of creating your vision.

  1. What are your hobbies and what will be your fun activities in retirement?
  2. Will you need to continue working or make a career change?
  3. Where would you like to live (geographically)?
  4. What are your housing requirements?
  5. What is your state of health and are there any issues?
  6. Have you planned your retirement finances?
  7. Have you considered the need to provide eldercare giving?

First, write down answers or thoughts for each of these questions. It will start you to think about things that had not previously entered your mind. Your thoughts will shift and change. These changes are normal. I have provided a decision guide in the appendix, which will help you through the process of developing a good retirement vision.

Having fun in retirement and hobbies should be the easiest part of the vision process. Everyone has dreams about what to do in their leisure time. In some cases, the things you would like to do will take precedent over the things you have been doing. It may be golf, gardening, or travel. Maybe it will be a combination of a number of things. Things you wanted to do but you have put off because of work.

Some people have dreamed about pursuing a hobby when they get to retirement. The difficulty is that dreams and reality don’t always mix. What they imagined things to be turn out to be different. After a person has worked for a long time at his profession, it is tough to turn off the switch. They find that they have a tough time leaving the work routine. This is something to consider in your planning process.

For baby boomers getting ready to retire or change their life, this is an essential step. Going through the process of thinking about the future will pay big dividends. I think these seven steps will help clarify your thinking and planning.

Coaches Can Help

August 4th, 2011

Business and life can be a lonely journey. How often have you thought how nice it would be to have someone to give you advice and support in making tough decisions and keeping your business on the right path? I have given this topic a lot of thought lately. This blog has provided lots of great advice, tips, and ideas over the years.

I teach Accounting and Finance for non-financial managers and an MBA refresher class for the University Alliance and Villanova University. It is really business and guidance in contrast to what many people would characterize as just being a CPA. In addition I write for a top golf sports psychologist who works with PGA touring pros. It boils down to providing advice to high performance individuals and helping them get to the top.

I think my web site offers the same level of guidance. People just don’t realize they can get high performance coaching just by asking. They think CPA and related it to accounting, finance, and taxes. Coaching entails a whole lot more. You can get help with strategy, creating vision, change management, marketing, and operational improvement. In addition, you might need help with organization management or succession planning.

Based on traveling the country and working with and for some of the top professionals and managers in business has provided me with a unique background of skills and knowledge. I can provide financial advice if that is part of the coaching equation, but in addition you have the benefit of access to a trusted business advisor.

Coaching will be our new focus and in the coming weeks and months I will be working to fine tune the delivery model so you have access no matter where you are located. Join me as we make the journey into providing new levels of service and support so you can get to the top of your game.

The Self-Employment Option

November 23rd, 2010

When you can’t find a job, self-employment becomes an option. The big question is what kind of a business should you start? There are lots of choices so you need to really do your homework. One of the big factors is to find something that you truly have a passion for rather than chasing money.

Having your own business gives you an opportunity to do what you have always dreamed about.  I have made this journey and it isn’t easy. The first step is to take time and really think about what you would like to do and where you would like to do it. Taking time to do research possibilities and doing the necessary due diligence is critical.

 There are lots of books and internet resources to guide you. One of the first steps is to carefully evaluate and assess your skills and abilities. This will reveal the possible business options that you could follow. When performing this step you should document all your thought processes. Think about what might be possibilities. This is essential because it gives you a good road map of potential opportunities. Let yourself go and explore all the things that enter your mind without limitations. Noodle, take notes, and create a road map.

 The above analysis should include some of the self assessment steps mentioned in my most recent blog post. Take your transferable skills inventory and link them to potential self-employment opportunities.

 After you start to get some ideas about what businesses are possible, list them down on paper. This is when you really need to dig in and do your homework. Some things to consider include:

  • Am I qualified to do this work?
  • What is the cost to start this business?
  • What resources do I have to commit to the business?
  • What is the competition?
  • How successful is the competition?
  • Will I need help to run the business and can I get the help I need?
  • Can I run the business from my home?
  • Who can I talk to about starting this business?
  • Do I need a business coach or advisor?

These questions represent only the surface of things you need to know about your new potential enterprise.

 Before you actually launch your new business, take time to develop a good business plan together with appropriate projections and an estimate of cash flows. Just doing a spread sheet isn’t good enough. The business plan should contain a detail written statement of your vision and business mission. You’ll need to set objectives and craft a strategy to achieve them. In line with all of these plans include the type of structure for your business. Should you incorporate, create a LLC, a partnership, or operate as a sole proprietor? What business systems will you need including accounting systems? Don’t try to do all this stuff yourself. Spend the time and money to get a trusted advisor to assist you. This can save you a lot time in the long run.

 One of the big questions to answer is can I pull this off and do I have enough money, time, and the skills to do it? This is where an advisor to help guide you through the process can really payoff. Objective advice here can save you invaluable time and money.

 Lots of people have done it and done it successfully. This blog post won’t answer all your questions, but will give you things to think about. There are many possibilities and you need to explore to find what can work best for you.

Starting a New Business

November 16th, 2010

Where do you start the process of figuring out how to start a new business? The best place to start is with you.  A good reference is Richard Bolles’ book What Color is My Parachute. While this is a book on how to find a job, it contains lots of self-assessment tools and resources you can use to evaluate what business might be right for you.

 This is interesting stuff as I am getting ready to start my new e-book series on the self-employed entrepreneur. Haven’t settled on the title yet, but that sounds catchy and provides the gist of the book.

 Aside from taking different tests on your personality and skill preferences, a careful self assessment is essential. Everyone thinks they understand who they are and what they’re best at doing, but it really needs to extend beyond. The Parachute book uses the flower exercise to guide you through the process. It is a great way to examine yourself and learn more about you. Bolles says that “the reason most job-hunters fail to land their dream job isn’t because they don’t understand the job market. It’s because they don’t understand themselves.”

 The flower exercise has seven steps but the middle of the diagram deals with your favorite skills. I’m going to give you enough information to start you thinking about the process and you’ll need to take it from there. You need to determine what you know how to do and what you do best. Are you good at working with people, dealing with information, or working with things?  Start with these three categories and begin drilling down.

 Some additional considerations might include:

  • Working with your hands
  • Using your body
  • Using words
  • Using your senses
  • Working with numbers
  • Utilizing your intuition
  • Using logic or analytical thinking
  • Maybe it’s using creativity and artistic skills

These ideas will give you some things to think about and consider. I encourage you to take the time to explore these possibilities. It is a good way to unlock your passion and find out what you really would like to do and can be good at.

 Testing is another option. One of the most well known tools is the Myers-Briggs evaluation. There is an online test based on this methodology you can take free of charge. It never hurts to get more insight and knowledge that can take you in the right direction.

While these efforts aren’t going to specifically tell you exactly what business or type of business you should launch, it will give you information that can guide you in the right directions. Later this week I’ll do a post that explores the possibilities on what types of businesses might be possible for unemployed people. For now, I think you’ve got plenty of material and ideas to keep you busy.