When Andrea Millar chose to study accounting, she knew she was signing up for a highly desirable and interesting career.
Senior Technical Manager, PFS
AICPA PFP Division
When Andrea Millar chose to study accounting, she knew she was signing up for a highly desirable and interesting career. What she didn’t know is that she’d also have the chance to affect the lives of hundreds of individuals and their families (including her own!).
After graduation, Andrea landed a job interview at Ernst and Young through someone she knew within the organization. Soon after, she started as a Staff Accountant in Corporate Tax in Washington, D.C. Eh hem, did we mention she networked her way into the door? Ok, just checking.
Outside of work, her family and friends often asked her for advice about their own investments and the tax implications. “They assumed that I’d know the answers because I worked in tax, even though I worked in corporate tax.” In researching answers to their questions, Andrea discovered that she had a passion for personal financial planning, including tax, retirement, estate, investment and insurance planning.
She made a career-changing decision after her father asked her to get up to speed on an investment project. “I remember reading a book about the shared equity agreement that my parents were engaging in that helped me and my siblings put down payments on our homes, provided a sound real estate investment for my parents, and took advantage of tax deductions. The light bulb went off and I knew that I wanted to do long-term planning instead of just showing how these things affected taxes right now.” She had worked her way up to Senior Accountant at Ernst and Young and was ready to take the next step in her career.
Within a few months, Andrea moved to Raleigh and got a job with KPMG working in financial planning. As a Personal Financial Planner, she would spend about half of her time meeting with her clients, getting to know their current financial picture and their goals. She used the rest of her time to work on their financial plans, prepare their individual tax returns, and manage staff.
As a Personal Financial Planner, Andrea loved getting to know her clients. “Not only was I helping them create a financial plan,” she says, “I was helping them make and achieve goals for a life time.” She loved being able to get to know every aspect of her clients’ lives and creating a means of making a difference for each person. “The most fulfilling thing about the job is helping people.”
The variability of financial planning was another motivating factor for Andrea. “Everyone is different, so every plan is different.” Because of the variety of clients she worked with, Andrea got to learn something new every day. And this wasn’t only handy for her clients; her friends and family ended up getting a lot of good advice too. Talk about getting major points with the family.
As an employee of a very large public accounting firm, Andrea enjoyed the flexibility she was offered. “On days with no early meetings, I never started work before 10 a.m.” she says. “Flexibility is number one for me,” she says, and personal financial planning has given her lots of it. She has plenty of time to do what she loves: reading, playing with her dog, Zeus, and going to as many independent film festivals as possible.
Andrea is so passionate about the opportunities available to CPAs in personal financial planning that she took a job with the AICPA to help get more people interested in the specialization and to spread the word about the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential.
Andrea knows that she was lucky to discover so early in her career that she loved personal financial planning. “I want all future CPAs to know that this is a really good career option,” she says.
So you’re wondering: what can I do to get started? Andrea recommends taking courses like estate planning, personal finance, or individual tax to prepare. She adds, “Look into the 5 core areas of PFP (tax, estate, retirement, investment and insurance advice tailored specifically to individuals) and do anything you can to strengthen yourself in those areas.” She also suggests joining an organization or taking courses through the AICPA to learn more about the specialty. And of course, once you begin working, be sure to join the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Division to access a community of like-minded CPAs and resources to keep your skills up to date.
I stop by Starbucks for my morning coffee and read the paper to keep track of current events.
10am: Review a client's financial plan - 2 hours
After I get into the office, I dive into a client’s financial plan. I review the files which include the source documents (such things as brokerage statements, tax returns, insurance policies, wills, trusts, etc.) as well as notes from conversations with the client to ensure that the financial plan properly captures all of the critical elements. I also work on creating a snapshot of the overall picture and an action plan to make it easy for the client to implement the plan.
12pm: Review a client's individual tax return
I review the return to ensure that it properly captures all of the planning we have done with the client throughout the year as well as to make sure that all income and deductions are accurately reflected and in the most tax-efficient manner.
1pm: Meet with staff members about their projects
My staff works with many clients on different parts of the financial plans. I am there to help them learn and to answer any questions as well as to make sure everything is getting done on time and correctly.
2pm: Quick lunch/Prepare for client meetings
After I eat a fast meal, I look over documents for my two client meetings this afternoon.
3pm: Client meeting 1
I meet with my clients (husband and wife) to discuss how they will allocate funds from a sale of a business to starting a new business, setting up a charitable foundation, funding education and retirement and investing the remainder based on future goals.
4pm: Client meeting 2
I meet with another client (husband and wife) to discuss planning based on an influx of funds from a company IPO, a large concentration in company stock options and stock that needed to be diversified and tax ramifications of all of the above.
5pm: Administrative catch-up
As a manager, I’m in charge of billing and timesheets for my employees. Today, I’m catching on the billing and timesheet reviews to make sure that we’re billing our clients correctly.
6pm: Research for clients
After my meetings, I work on researching various issues from client calls and meetings. These can include issues such as converting from a traditional to Roth IRA, ramifications of moving cross country on financial outlook, consequences of selling various investments, etc.
Meet up with some of my professional contacts including an attorney, insurance broker and investment adviser to learn from each other since clients often need a team made up of all of these professionals!
8pm: Playing with Zeus!
Take Zeus to the park to play with other dogs!