A side-by-side comparison of two commonly confused professions
Most people engage in some degree of financial planning on their own — budgeting, saving and managing their cash flow. However, more complex areas of personal finance, like investment and tax-reduction strategy, may call for a professional’s help.
While both financial planners and accountants can help build a financially successful future, there are a few important differences between these two professionals. As such, one person may need a financial planner, while another may need an accountant. Some people may need both.
Let’s take a look at the roles of these two financial experts, their certification requirements, and who commonly hires these professionals. This breakdown should help you decide which is right for you.
Accountants are experts in bookkeeping and the tax rules and regulations set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Their main objective is to summarize and analyze financial transactions to create financial reports. These reports may be for internal review or to be submitted to government agencies, like the IRS, for tax-reporting purposes.
In addition to tax needs, these experts are often hired to help people, businesses or companies with audits and financial forecasts. Possessing advanced math acumen, being detail-oriented, and understanding federal and state tax laws, accountants can ensure your financial transactions and taxes are legally accurate.
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) have many certification requirements. CPAs must first have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and two years of public accounting experience. Then, they need to pass the Uniform CPA exam and complete continuing education requirements.
Business owners, real estate investors, or people with high salaries or many income streams often need the specialized skills of an accountant. Accountants can help individuals strategize and review options for reducing their tax burden and can help optimize deductions. Accountants can help business owners track their transactions as well as prepare financial statements and tax returns. Furthermore, they can help business owners analyze tax impacts of sales, buyouts, mergers and acquisitions.
Financial planners have a very wide range of expertise and skills. Using a holistic and comprehensive approach, financial planners frequently help individuals or families with personal finance, investments, legacy and estate planning. Financial planners often help their clients to maximize their retirement savings through custom investment strategies, creating a cash flow that will reduce liabilities and increase assets. Many financial planners help their clients build, maintain and grow their wealth.
Some financial planners are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS® (CFPs). These professionals need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and they must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). They will need to take required courses and pass the rigorous CFP board exam, and complete continuing education requirements.
Because financial planners are so versatile, individuals and families can benefit from working with one in many ways. Those seeking expert advice on investing, retirement planning, saving for education expenses and gifting to children or charitable causes can benefit from a financial planner. Financial planners can also help to analyze insurance needs (life insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, etc.), and create an estate plan. You should expect an ongoing relationship with a financial planner, as your needs and goals will grow and change.
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At Trust Point, you don’t have to choose between professionals. Our financial planning service includes comprehensive, impartial advice from our CFPs® and access to our team of professionals. Our attorneys, CPAs, Personal Financial Specialists and other experts work together to help you reach your financial and personal goals. No matter what financial support you need, the professionals at Trust Point are here to help. Click here to get started.