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.