So you need the help of a finance professional. But what help?
Finance is a big world. Lots of types of finance professionals and experts exist to help you figure out your finances. Happy Bookkeeping is a firm of bookkeeping experts, but what does that mean?
Accountant aka Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Accountants do more than file taxes, although many specialize in that job. They may be the most well-known type of finance professional for their work with taxes, though. Accountants and bookkeepers work with the same data: all the financial transactions of a business or individual. An accountant’s job is to analyze that data and provide expert advice and feedback on what they see. It’s an interpretive, analytical, and judgment-based job that helps people meet their financial goals.
Quite a few types of accountants are out there, including managerial accountants, forensic accountants, tax accountants, auditors, cost accountants, government accountants, project accountants, investment accountants, and staff accountants.
A good accountant will have the CPA credential. This means they have taken accounting coursework, done an internship, and passed the CPA exam for their state.
An attorney, or lawyer, can often work in finance and is sometimes your best bet for financial help. Types of finance attorneys include real estate lawyers, estate planners for wills and powers of attorney, tax attorneys, and of course corporate attorneys. Corporate attorneys specialize in business setup, business annual filings, and many types of contracts and negotiations. Tax attorneys can often represent people in front of the IRS in matters of tax law.
Finding an attorney is often a matter of getting a recommendation from friends or family,. You can also search your State Board of Accountancy website – many have directories to check certifications.
Bookkeepers record all the financial transactions of a business or individual, manage all the various financial business accounts, and maintain the accounting systems. Bookkeepers also often process payroll, file W-2 and 1099 reports at the end of the year, help with estimated taxes, and provide internal reports drawn from the transactions they process. Some bookkeepers have expanded their roles and also work as tax preparers, financial coaches, and may even provide some non-CPA accounting services.
In companies, bookkeepers often deal with one aspect of bookkeeping. This might be payroll, accounts payable or receivable, costing, project management and other specialized roles. If you’re looking for an independent bookkeeper, find a “full-charge bookkeeper” like Happy Bookkeeping who can perform all of those roles.
As with other types of financial professionals, bookkeepers may specialize in certain industries (such as restaurants or professionals). Happy Bookkeping, for example, specializes in entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
Financial coaches will help you achieve goals in your financial life, but not the same way that a financial planner might. A coach will look at your income sources, your spending habits, your big picture finances, your goals, and work with you on achieving those goals. A financial coach is a bit like having a financial therapist. If you’ve struggled to figure out how you never manage to pay off debt or save for retirement, maybe a coach is for you. Maybe you want to figure out how you can reorganize your finances to start a business. One way to find one is through the National Financial Educators Council.
This professional is one with educational and exam requirements like the CPA. If you’re looking, make sure to hire someone with the right qualifications – a CFP, or Certified Financial Planner. CFPs handle the broad overview of a person’s finances and advise them about how to reach their goals. Some times of life that you might consult a CFP include starting a family, starting a business, or planning for retirement. They might advise you regarding taxes or your estate. You can sometimes find a financial planner through your bank, or you can search the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors website.
Everyone needs some type of insurance, from auto to home to health. Insurance agents specialize in comparing insurance for you and getting you the best types and rates on the market.
Don’t confuse this one with a financial planner, though they often use the same generic “financial advisor” description. This finance professional manages investments specifically, and is sometimes called a wealth advisor. Typically these professionals specialize in large investment accounts of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Not all are “fiduciaries,” meaning they must act with your best interests in mind. Find one that has the Registered Investment Advisor title, which you can look for or verify on the Securities and Exchange Commission website.