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What do clients want and need?
In the 1980s, personal financial planning was touted as the future growth area for CPA firms. What some didn't realize was how much depends on marketing. PFP is a crowded field there are so many players CPAs must position themselves properly to succeed. In the 1990s, opportunities remain.
* The United States is on the verge of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in its history. Almost $5 trillion will change hands over the next 20 years, with nearly $1 trillion to be transferred by the end of the decade.
* U.S. households with $1 million or more in investable assets hold $4.3 trillion in assets. Estimates indicate that less than one-half of these assets are professionally managed.
* Changes outside the accounting profession mean CPAs must scramble harder for a smaller piece of the pie. The advent of personal computers with software that lets small businesses keep their own books cut practice revenue for some firms. Legislation changed tax practices dramatically; yearend tax planning became a thing of the past for most clients.
* Overall concern about personal finances is surprisingly high. Changes in tax policy, baby boomers' heightened awareness of retirement issues, the volatility of investment markets and an increasingly elderly population who fear estate taxes will greatly reduce the amount of assets they can pass to their children have spurred consumer interest in the financial planning process.
The American Institute of CPAs personal financial planning division sponsored a study to enable it to better understand what clients needed, expected and valued in CPA financial planners. The goal, according to PFP division director Phyllis Bernstein, was to gain insights that would allow the AICPA and its members to promote CPAs to key target groups as the "premier financial planning advisers" and for CPAs themselves to learn how to deliver services that clients would value. (The sidebar on pages 52--53 reports on another survey of how consumers perceive CPA--financial planners.)
The research was done in two …