Millennials – Don’t Make These 5 Money Mistakes

By Fergus Cleaver

If you’re a millennial, you’re probably sick of hearing about what’s wrong with you. Who wouldn’t be? You’ve been accused of everything from laziness to job hopping, none of which is true.

Millennials do have one bad tendency that will impact the rest of their lives, however, and that’s making mistakes with their money. If you’re a millennial and managing your money isn’t on your radar, it’s time to take control. Your future depends on it. Here’s what to avoid:

  1. Not knowing what comes in and what goes out. You probably have no idea how much you spend as opposed to how much you bring in. Sit down and list your monthly expenses. Include rent or mortgage, cable, gym memberships, utilities, loan and credit card payments. Total them up and subtract from the amount you bring home every month. That’s what you have left over for groceries, eating out, gas and other expenses.
  2. No set priorities. If you have student loans and/or credit card debt and are only paying the minimum every month, you’ll never pay them off. Paying off debt has to become a top priority.
  3. No budget, no way, no how. Do you know how much you spend on coffee, eating out and other nonessential fare? Take a week and track your spending. Isn’t it amazing how quickly money passes through your fingertips? You know how much money you have after bills, you’re aware of your debts and now you know how much you spend frivolously.

“It’s time to sit down and come up a budget. Eat out once a month instead of once a week and make paying off debt a top priority.” – Fergus Cleaver

  1. No retirement or emergency savings. You’re probably asking how you can save money and pay off debt at the same time. Rest assured, you can do it. There are simple ways to save money for both emergencies and retirement. For example, many workplaces offer retirement plans, sometimes offering matching contributions. If your employer offers a retirement plan, take advantage of it. Also take advantage of interest bearing savings accounts. Set up automatic transfers to make sure a little money goes into your savings account each payday. It’ll add up quicker than you think.
  2. Addicted to debt. You have a student loan. You have credit cards you don’t hesitate to use. Debt is a way of life. But you can break free. Put the credit cards away. Pay off balances. If you do use a credit card, pay the entire balance off each month.

Final tip: Never spend more money than you make and save as much as you can. That’s the key to long-term financial security.

Fergus Cleaver is a shareholder in Cleaver Partners, an international accounting firm based in Auckland, New Zealand.

5 Accounting Secrets Every Business Owner Must Know

By Fergus Cleaver

It’s no secret that part of the reason you started your own business was to spend your time doing what you love.

Of course, you can’t live on love. Your business has to be profitable as well. Being profitable sometimes means you have to do the boring stuff, too. And one of the most boring, at least by reputation, is staying on top of the books.

If you’re like a lot of entrepreneurs, you save the business accounting chores until last – if you get to them at all. You know better, of course. If you don’t stay on top of the money coming in and going out, your business is in danger of collapse.

Follow these five tips to take control of your business finances.

  1. Think like an accountant. How does an accountant think? An accountant asks questions. An accountant weighs risks.

“Accountants analyze, ask  “what if” questions and engage in critical thinking. It’s not about want here, it’s about facts.” – Fergus Cleaver

The great thing is that once you’ve trained your brain to think like an accountant, it becomes second nature.

  1. Double-entry bookkeeping is the way to go. If you’ve looked at the books and wondered where all the money’s gone, you’re doing it all wrong. Sure you made a big sale. But how much money has gone out the door to suppliers, contractors and employees?

A successful business is based on an intricate balancing act – it brings in more money than it spends. The only way to get a clear picture is by using a double-entry bookkeeping system. Double-entry is also a great tool for detecting accounting errors.

  1. Develop a budget and stick with it. A budget not only helps you stay on track, it keeps you from making those impulse purchases that so often cut into cash flow. If you don’t have the money in the budget for something, don’t buy it.
  2. Put money aside for emergencies, taxes and future expenses. Don’t think in terms of “if” an emergency happens, but “when.” A vital piece of equipment will break down. There’ll always be an expense you didn’t plan for. If you already have money put aside, you won’t be scrambling when it happens. You’ll also need money for taxes and future expenses, such as computer upgrades.
  3. Establish an invoice policy and enforce it. Your invoice is sent, that’s money in the bank, right? Wrong! How many overdue and outstanding invoices are out there? Sending invoices is great, but if customers aren’t paying, what good are they? Establish policies beforehand and take action if payments are late. For example, you may establish a 30-day pay policy and assess late fees for late payments. Policies should be clearly stated in writing on each invoice. Don’t hesitate to call late payers as well. It’s your money. You can’t afford to let it slide.

 

Fergus Cleaver is a shareholder in Cleaver Partners, an international accounting firm based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Organize Your Personal Finances With These 7 Accounting Tricks

By Fergus Cleaver

Whether you’re just starting out on the road to financial independence, getting ready to hang up your hat and retire, or somewhere in the middle, your personal finances could probably use some polishing.

You don’t need to hire an accountant for that—but you could stand to bone up on some of the tips and tricks that accountants follow with their own clients. (Hey, who said advice wasn’t free?) Start with these seven.

1. Spend Less Than You Earn

This is the golden rule of personal finance. As any accountant will tell you, spending more than you earn is unsustainable by definition.

That doesn’t mean curbing your spending is easy, of course. The world is full of financial temptation, from big-ticket splurges like first-class upgrades to drip-drip-drip money pits like lattes and takeout lunches.

One easy and painless way to control your spending is to set budgets for the spending categories that give you the most trouble. For instance, if you’re prone to eating out when your cupboards are fully stocked at home, set a strict weekly restaurant spending budget. If you occasionally catch the online shopping bug, load your Amazon gift card with a predetermined amount at the beginning of the month and stop spending once it’s gone.

2. Keep Your Receipts

Document, document, document. It sounds like a pain, but keeping even the smallest receipts can help you avoid big financial problems down the line, from overcharges by shady vendors to identity theft that threatens to drag down your credit score or drain your bank account.

You can avoid drowning in receipt paper by accepting emailed receipts whenever possible—lots of vendors now offer this option, and more follow every day. And you don’t have to save your receipts in perpetuity; once you receive your bank account or credit card statement and verify that each purchase is accurate, you can safely discard them.

3. Be Tax-Efficient

Everyone needs to pay their fair share of taxes—but only their fair share.

Tax law is complicated and jurisdiction-specific; what applies in one part of the world is irrelevant in another. That said, for most consumers, tax efficiency starts with maximizing contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts and spreading out windfalls (such as stock sales) to minimize tax obligations in any given year. Other tax-efficiency strategies apply to smaller groups—for instance, international travelers who make large purchases overseas should always apply for VAT rebates from their host governments.

4. Set Aside Funds for a Rainy Day

Do you have an emergency fund? You need one. A sudden medical emergency, or job loss, or unexpected home expense—any of these things can completely upend your personal finances and require months or years of sacrifice to redress.

The ideal emergency fund is sufficient to replace at least six months’ income. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get there; try to set aside 2–5 percent of your income each month until you hit your goal.

5. Prepare for the Unexpected

An emergency fund can help with unexpected big-ticket expenses, but what about truly catastrophic events, like the loss of your car or home? That’s what insurance is for.

As a general rule of thumb, every major asset (including your life) needs insurance protection. Though insurance premiums certainly eat into your disposable income, that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a valuable fallback that hopefully you’ll never need to use.

6. Seek Out Extra Income Sources

No, this tip isn’t about papering over disappointing figures with “creative accounting.” It’s about legitimately increasing your personal revenue—and, ultimately, the financial resources at your disposal—by seeking out sources of extra income.

Everyone has underutilized talents. Everyone. And, thanks to the internet, everyone with a broadband connection can monetize those talents. Whether you’re an aspiring graphic designer (99Designs), video producer (Upwork), or craftsperson (Etsy), you can find a paying outlet for your creativity. The hardest part is getting started; after that, you simply need to let your passion guide you.

7. Embrace Transparency

By and large, accountants are serious professionals who fastidiously adhere to solemn ethical codes and complex financial regulations. Regrettably, the guild has a less-than-pristine reputation thanks to a (very small) handful of bad apples who make unsavoury headlines with their periodic misconduct.

Any accountant worth his or her salt (not to mention his or her practice license) will tell you that transparency is to be prized above all else—not just when it’s legally required, but because it’s the right thing to do, and because it’s very often the antidote for conflict and uncertainty.

In the private sphere, financial transparency means being open and honest with those closest to you: your spouse or partner, children, close relatives. Money doesn’t have to dominate your private conversations, but you should absolutely follow some basic ground rules of disclosure. And, to avoid losing sight of goals and progress in the mess of other obligations you no doubt have, schedule regular check-ins with your partners in financial planning.

Are you ready to organize your personal finances?

Small-Business Owner? Align Your Exit Strategy & Retirement Plan

By Fergus Cleaver

Sooner or later, every small-business owner needs to look to the exit.

Exit strategies come in myriad forms. Though plenty of die-hard entrepreneurs work until they keel over at their desks, most look forward to stepping aside at some point. That might be through a succession plan that leaves the next generation in charge, a private sale to a competitor or investor group, an IPO, or another form of disentanglement.

Unfortunately, business owners all too often underestimate the sheer complexity of exit planning. An orderly exit involves lots of moving parts—and it needs to start way earlier than you might think.

Ask advice of any entrepreneur who’s successfully (and profitably) moved on from their business entirely, or exited day-to-day management responsibilities with confidence, and they’ll give you a straightforward, terrifying nugget: You need to start planning for your eventual exit as soon as you take the reins.

That doesn’t mean you need to devote hours of each workday to exit or succession planning. Early on, you don’t need to give it much conscious thought at all. But you do need to approach your management responsibilities from the perspective of maximizing the value of your investment. After all, that’s what your business is—an investment built with brains, brawn and sweat.

The more value you create, the more profitable your exit will be, and the more you’ll enjoy whatever comes next—whether that’s launching a new business or living a well-deserved life of leisure.

Let’s take a look at five easy ways to align your exit strategy with your personal retirement plan…before it’s too late.

1. Cultivate Interests & Hobbies Outside Your Business

Business owners sometimes struggle to find meaning outside their 9-to-5 (or, let’s face it, 5-to-9) activities. When you work tirelessly to build a successful enterprise, it’s only natural to bind up your personal identity with your company’s.

In the very long run, however, seeing yourself as merely an extension, outgrowth, or vessel of your company is deeply detrimental to your emotional health and well-being. No matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you’re so much more: a loving partner, a doting parent, an active competitor, a caring friend, a fun-loving free spirit.

Embrace those other aspects of your identity. Cultivate them. And find pursuits that you can keep up long after you step away from the business you’ve built. Your life will be richer, happier, and likely longer if you do.

2. Set Up Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts

Okay, back down to earth.

Just as many business owners have trouble seeing themselves as separate and apart from their enterprises, many wrongfully assume that their businesses are part and parcel with their retirement plans. Why sock away extra cash when you can reinvest it in your company, boost its value, and harvest a handsome payday when it comes time to sell?

This logic seems sound, but it’s not always the best course of action. Assuming that your business will sell for what you think it’s worth is a dangerous game. This is especially true for closely held enterprises in sleepy niches. Look at your tax-advantaged retirement account as a rainy day fund: While it would be better if you didn’t need it, the alternative—learning too late that your nest egg isn’t as big as you thought it would be—is worse.

3. Live Frugally & Set Aside Plenty of Cash for the Long Term

Following on point number two: No matter how profitable your company is at the moment, times can change. By living well within your means and setting aside funds on a regular basis, you’ll be better prepared for the unexpected. And if the unexpected fails to materialize? Then you’ll have plenty to live on after your exit.

4. Identify High Performers Within Your Organization

Unless your exit plans involve liquidating your business’s assets and shutting its doors for good, you need to make sure it’s in a position to thrive after you’re gone. That means identifying high performers within your organization, then grooming them for executive-level responsibility over time. It’s never too early to start thinking about this part of the transition, as some aspects of corporate management are best learned through experience.

5. Get a Mentor

Freaked out by the thought of preparing your business for your exit—or the act of stepping down itself? Talk to someone who’s been there before. If you belong to any industry associations or local business booster groups, you’ll surely find fellow members who’ve retired or exited. If not, retain a trusted exit planning consultant to help you through the process. As with identifying high performers and potential successors, it’s never too early to seek out professional or experience-based advice on this point.

Are you ready for what comes next?

Fergus Cleaver – Partner at Cleaver Partners, Auckland

Fergus Cleaver is a New Zealand-based accountant with more than a decade of Fergus Cleaverexperience in the field. He is a shareholder in Auckland-based Cleaver Partners and an effective advocate for dozens of clients, including some of New Zealand’s top corporate names.

Cleaver grew up on New Zealand’s North Island. He attended the University of Auckland, where he majored in business and minored in economics. He then moved halfway across the world to British Columbia, Canada, to study graduate-level economics at Simon Fraser University. He attended Simon Fraser for a year on a partial scholarship, immersing himself in Canadian culture and embracing the rigorous study of economics. Cleaver also improved his skiing skills on the slopes near the university, which he calls “some of the finest in the world.”

Upon returning to New Zealand, Fergus Cleaver accepted an entry-level position with his family’s accounting firm. In that first pivotal role, he put the reams of knowledge he’d absorbed in undergraduate and graduate study to work in the service of a diverse roster of clients. He credits the experience as an invaluable practical introduction to the oftentimes theoretical world of accounting and business financing.

“I applied myself at university and feel that I received a first-rate education, but nothing can prepare you for the reality of serving clients like actually serving clients,” says Cleaver. “With no disrespect to my outstanding instructors, I learned more during my first year on the job than in the half-decade I spent earning my degrees.”

Cleaver’s dedication to his craft paid off in 2013, when he became an equity partner at Cleaver Partners.

“By virtue of New Zealand’s modest size, our larger clients must do business internationally,” says Cleaver. “And that means we must have a robust understanding of the complex and fluid issues affecting companies that operate in a variety of environments around the world.”

Cleaver and his team see themselves less as buttoned-up accountants than as guides for clients overwhelmed by or unfamiliar with the expectations and requirements of the business world. Over the years, Cleaver has honed an approachable style that earns plaudits from fellow accountants. His plain-English explanations help clients understand what’s at stake in accounting and finance decisions that can seem inconsequential or even irrelevant—and his clients clearly benefit from his approach.

“When you explain these complicated or, frankly, boring concepts to clients in a way that they can truly understand, their eyes light up and you can tell they ‘get it,’” says Cleaver. “For me, that’s the most satisfying thing about what I do.”

During his time at Cleaver Partners, Fergus Cleaver has cultivated a vast array of accounting specialties. His core client services include:

  • Bookkeeping: Custom-tailored bookkeeping and accounting services for clients needing annual and periodic accounts for appraisal, cash flow, tax and other purposes.
  • Business financing: Customized business financing for clients at every stage of the growth cycle, regardless of industry or macroeconomic conditions.
  • Budgeting and financial forecasting: Incisive financial projections for a range of scenarios, all in the aim of maximizing budgeting flexibility and illuminating the potential outcomes of various business decisions.
  • Tax services: Cleaver provides clients with sound advice regarding taxation and tax preparation, with the ultimate aim of minimizing clients’ tax obligations within the constraints of national and international law.

Cleaver’s wide range of business advisory services also includes matters that indirectly impact business accounting, including management consulting and succession planning. Cleaver provides these services to New Zealand-based businesses in a diverse lineup of industries, including contracting and construction, travel agencies, trades, professional services, hospitality firms, freight and logistics companies, legal services providers and marketing and advertising companies.

When Cleaver is not putting in extra time at the office, which he admits happens far too frequently, he can be found traveling with his family, skiing his favorite slopes and advocating for sustainable development practices in New Zealand and across the world.

Fergus Cleaver is also active in the Auckland charity circuit. He gives generously to a number of causes dear to his heart, including local arts and culture organizations, children’s protection groups, social justice organizations for native peoples, disaster and humanitarian relief, animal welfare, poverty alleviation, science and technology investment and more. In addition to direct financial support, he provides accounting help and other financial services on a pro bono basis, and is always seeking new charitable endeavors to which to donate his time and skills.

These 4 Trends Are Changing Accounting (Even If No One Knows It Yet)

By Fergus Cleaver

Like death and taxes, accounting is one of those things that just…is. (To be fair, accounting does intimately involve at least one of those things.)

Seriously: It’s only a small exaggeration to say that the field of accounting is one of the few human professions that always was, always is and probably always will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s incapable of reinventing itself.

In point of fact, accounting has seen more changes this decade than at any point in living memory. While it’s never safe to chance at predicting the future, it’s nevertheless fair to bet that these changes will continue—and maybe accelerate—in the coming years. That could have major ramifications for younger accountants, students contemplating accounting careers and children not yet old enough to know what they want to do with their lives, other than be astronauts.

Most important, the changes rocking the world of accounting will affect the millions of practitioners currently in the prime of their careers—too young to retire, for sure, but (feeling) too set in their ways to adapt to radical change.

For all those affected by the changes rocking the world of accounting, and those interested for whatever obscure reason, these are the four crucial accounting trends you need to understand now.

1. Accounting Now Lives in the Cloud

Modern accounting is built on the back of an increasingly powerful, increasingly intelligent (e.g., HubDoc) set of cloud software solutions. This is a tremendous time-saver for human accountants, and a potentially game-changing value for small-business owners set on going the DIY route.

2. Business Software Leverages Built-In Accounting Functions

Even as basic accounting functions are digitizing and moving into the cloud, the accounting landscape is becoming ever more diffuse. Case in point: the proliferation of “light accounting” capabilities in dozens of business software programs (most based in the cloud) whose primary or secondary functions have nothing to do with accounting. Look for more of this going forward.

3. Mergers & Acquisitions Will Dominate Corporate Accounting

After a brutal downturn in the wake of the global financial crisis, M&A activity has picked back up in a big way. As accelerating technological change drives consolidation in virtually every industry, this looks to be a secular trend. And that’s big news for young people looking for reliable work in corporate accounting, which has seen its share of lean years.

4. The Gig Economy Is Here to Stay

The gig economy is important for two big reasons. One, as its practitioners grow more ambitious and successful, they need more accounting help than ever. Two, accountants themselves can take advantage of a growing set of lucrative opportunities to work as consultants or hired guns, stringing together full-time-equivalent incomes on the back of high-value, task-based work. The Uber of accounting has yet to be invented, but it’s probably not far off.

Economics Is Boring, But You Should Major in It Anyway: 5 Reasons

By Fergus Cleaver

Picture an economics major. What do you see?

Please, don’t hold back.

Let’s face it—the discipline of economics is not exactly the paragon of cool. Its practitioners are nerdy, and proudly so. “Flashy” is a foreign concept to them.

Do they care? Nah. They’ve got the last laugh.

Turns out, economics is actually a pretty great field to be in. Sure, not every economics major will grow up to be a celebrity central banker or the head of a big Wall Street firm. But economists—and, yes, economics graduates can call themselves economists—enjoy an unusual, uncanny perspective on the world. When it comes to finance and business, they’re like sharks swimming in a millpond filled with minnows. (The rest of us non-economists are the minnows.)

So, even if they don’t make millions, economists tend to come out on top—or, to borrow a phrase, ensure that the odds are ever in their favor. Here are five concrete reasons to ditch your current career plan and become an economics major.

1. It’s Great for Aspiring MBAs

Surprise, surprise: Economics is one of the most popular majors for aspiring MBAs. (Which, in turn, is one of the most popular graduate degrees for people who aspire to join the global 1 percent.) By the transitive property of majors, economics is a not-quite-sure ticket to the top of the, er, economic heap.

2. It Teaches You How the World Actually Works, Not How It Should Work

Economics is real. It’s not always right, and it’s wracked with more differences of opinion than you can shake a stick at, but it’s nevertheless based in time-tested theories backed by empirical data. Not every major can claim to offer such a coherent theory of reality.

3. It’s a Concrete Application for Mathematics

Are you good at math? (Or even just passable?) Economics is a great outlet for your passion. As an economics major, you can expect to use advanced calculus and statistics to illuminate opaque financial concepts.

4. It Teaches the Value of Goods and Services

Ever wonder how much something is really worth? Economics doesn’t quite give you a master cheat sheet for buying and selling everything under the sun, but it’s apt to boost your confidence in your ability to tell good deals from bad.

5. It’s More Than Just Numbers

Economics does involve some tricky math. But it’s not all zeros and ones here. Economics majors encounter a slew of softer disciplines too: sociology, psychology, anthropology. It’s often said that economics majors are better rounded upon entering the workforce than finance, accounting or business majors. It’s not hard to see why.

Not Everyone Can Major in Economics

Not everyone can major in economics—there aren’t enough economics professors, bless their hearts, to go around. Nor should everyone major in economics. If you’re not a fan of crunching numbers and peering into the muddied depths of economies large and small, you’re likely to burn out on the discipline before long. So, if your interest is piqued by any of these five concrete reasons to get into economics, by all means investigate further. Just don’t dive in head-first until you’ve checked your depth.

Investing for Retirement? 5 Things to Do

By Fergus Cleaver

Who doesn’t dream of retiring early? Anyone who tells you they’d pass up the chance to cut ties with the workaday world while still in their prime probably has a bridge to sell you. (Come to think of it, maybe that’s their retirement strategy!)

The sad truth is that financial reality usually intervenes with our best-laid early retirement plans. Unless you’re fortunate enough to win the lottery, invest in the next unicorn startup, or find yourself in one of the very few careers that virtually guarantees independent wealth, you’re not likely to earn enough to quit your 9-to-5 and spend the rest of your days splurging.

But comfortable, reasonably early retirement is within reach for the vast majority of middle class wage-earners and salaried workers. And there’s really no secret sauce. What separates those who live out their golden years in prosperous comfort and those who toil away until they’re too old to make it any longer is a pedestrian combination of discipline, advance planning, smart (but not brilliant) financial decisions and a knack for avoiding common retirement investment mistakes.

Not sure where to start? Follow these five tips to start your retirement investing journey off on the right foot.

1. Know What You Need

How do you know how much you need to retire? That’s a very complicated question best discussed with your financial adviser. Generally speaking, you want your post-retirement lifestyle to approximate your pre-retirement lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you need to replace your peak income, as you can make up the difference by downsizing your life or cashing out your retirement account over time. But you can’t go into retirement without a sizable nest egg to draw on over what’s (statistically) likely to be two to three decades.

2. Scrimp, Then Scrimp Some More

Here’s a revolutionary concept: Don’t spend more than you earn. Actually, spend a lot less than you earn. Simple.

3. Don’t Try to Knock It Out of the Park

Those legendary stock picks? They’re legendary for a reason. Stick to safe, boring investments—index funds, annuities, bonds and the like. You simply don’t have the time or expertise to craft a get-rich-quick investing strategy, no matter how alluring it appears.

4. Hustle on the Side

When in doubt, increase your income. Whether that means tapping a little-known skill in the wide world of digital talent marketplaces, or buying an investment property that earns consistent rental income, is for you (and your financial adviser) to decide. Just remember: A little extra money never hurt anyone.

5. Stay Out of Debt

Not all debt is created equal. No one’s saying you shouldn’t finance the purchase of your forever home, but if you’re serious about maximizing your earning and saving power, you need to avoid the sort of “junk debt” that can derail your financial plan faster than you ever thought possible.

For starters, avoid payday loans, which serve virtually no positive purpose. And, unless you have a very good reason for racking up credit card debt, avoid that too. Even a modest credit card balance can needlessly accrue hundreds of dollars in interest charges each year—money that won’t flow into your retirement account.

This Is What the Future of Accounting & Bookkeeping Looks Like

Accounting isn’t exactly a compelling discipline. Essential to the smooth functioning of the global economy, yes. The stuff of fanboy and fangirl dreams? No.

Accountants like the fact that their industry has, until recently, been relatively insulated from the winds of technology-driven change. They might not be known for their passion or innovative approach to business, but they do enjoy enviable job security. Every business owner needs accounting services, no matter how large or small their enterprise.

First, the good news. Accountants won’t be obsolete anytime soon. For the foreseeable future, the global business community will need the expertise and insight of seasoned, human accountants and bookkeeping professionals.

“Many small-business owners believe that they can effectively replicate the services of an accountant on their own, either in their spare time or through the efforts of a generalist office assistant,” says Fergus Cleaver, a seasoned accounting professional and shareholder in New Zealand-based Cleaver Partners. “This suggests that the field of accounting actually has room to grow. Despite its age and visibility as a discipline, many businesses that require professional accounting services have yet to retain them.”

Now, the bad news: The fields themselves may have room to grow, but the processes of accounting and bookkeeping can’t outrun the accelerating march of history any longer. These disciplines have already changed considerably during the past decade—slowly at first, and lately with redoubled urgency. Over the next 10 years, they’re likely to change even more dramatically, and that change won’t necessarily be kind to the talented professionals who presently make their living as accountants and bookkeepers.

Here’s a look at what’s coming down the line for these fields—and what aspiring financial professionals can do to prepare.

Better Mobile Capabilities

On-the-go accounting? It’s coming, at least according to the experts.

“[The] cloud and mobile devices…will continue to help further integrate technology into all aspects of a CPA’s daily duties,” David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, CGMA, told the Journal of Accountancy. “We refer to this as pervasive computing.”

Cieslak’s “pervasive computing” will allow accountants to perform rote and high-value tasks alike from virtually anywhere—setting automated reports in motion from the back seat of a taxi, for instance, or running money-saving analytic programs from a beach halfway around the world.

Improved Analytics

Speaking of analytics: Accountants have long been data nerds, but they’ve only recently had the powerful algorithms and analytic tools to support deep, illuminating dives into the raft of financial data they deal with every day. New, technology-driven analytic tools allow accounting professionals to be more efficient with their time, effectively duplicating themselves while teasing out data-driven insights with greater efficacy.

Thanks to 21st-century analytics, every accountant is a miniature CPU—a human-machine hybrid who adds tremendous value to the organizations he or she serves.

Opportunities for Experienced Accountants to Tackle Higher-Value Work

Greater value means greater opportunity. As automated software steps up to handle more and more of the rote bookkeeping work that once occupied significant chunks of accounting professionals’ valued time, experienced accountants will have more opportunities to step into more valuable—and more interesting—roles.

Even as entry-level accounting work dries up, controllerships and plum consulting gigs are likely to proliferate, giving ambitious professionals ample opportunity to design firms’ financial architecture, best practices and financial analytics.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to work in this field,” says Cleaver. “Innovation has opened up new, once-unimaginable opportunities for aspiring financial professionals.”

Full-Service Payroll

Bookkeeper 360 reports on an exciting, long-overdue trend in the stodgy world of bookkeeping: full-service payroll.

The post singles out Gusto, a feature-rich automated bookkeeping platform, for its intuitive, labor-saving approach to financial drudgery: “This platform allows for automated pay runs and employee onboarding with data syncing directly to the Xero cloud in live time…[t]his automated feature instantly saves the small business owner from the hassles that come with payroll complexities and other compliance matters.”

Gusto isn’t the only online accounting and bookkeeping platform investing in more robust, feature-rich, convenient payroll applications. What was once a time-consuming and monotonous endeavor will increasingly be a straightforward, if not necessarily fun, exercise—that is, for accountants and bookkeepers willing to cede some responsibility to automated, technology-driven platforms that can organize payroll more efficiently and effectively than humans can.

Unruly Digital Footprints

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution has changed the workplace for the better—mostly. When employees take their devices home with them and freely commingle personal and professional activities on the same hard drive, they expose themselves and their employers to myriad security risks. When those employees store and access sensitive financial information on their devices, the risks increase many-fold.

This is a crucial consideration for accounting professionals charged with keeping their clients (or employers’) financial houses in order. Though accountants can’t be expected to become cybersecurity experts, they can take a simple, proactive step: implementing remote-wipe policies that allow lost or stolen devices’ hard drives to be erased from afar as soon as the loss or theft is discovered.

Don’t Fear the Unknown

Economic dislocation is the defining challenge of our time. It’s now inarguable that the profound changes of the past decade or two are not simply academic shifts best hashed out by eggheads in ivory towers. Collectively, and for better or worse, these changes threaten to undermine the economic status quo that has defined Western life since World War II. They shape our politics, threaten public health and foment social instability. We’re right to worry about what could—and, undoubtedly, will—be.

But that’s not an admonition to fear the future. Everyone with a stake in continued progress, from the accountants who keep international companies’ books in order to the artists who comment on the human condition, is a stakeholder now. Together, we can rise to the present challenge and shape a future of which we can all be proud. And, whatever that future lacks in density of human accountants, it can surely make up with a surfeit of creatives.