Does anyone remember those personal finance classes we took in school? The ones where the teacher explained the importance of balancing a checkbook or the power of compound interest? Oh, that’s right. Those classes did not exist.
Luckily, we can rely on financial experts to guide us in the realm of personal finance. Some even have fancy titles such as Chartered Financial Analyst or Certified Public Accountant. They have all the answers, right?
Well, as a fellow CPA, I’m here to share some of those trade secrets and to pop the bubble on what they teach us.
What being a licensed CPA has taught me about personal finance.
My first business school class on finance sparked something deep inside me. Within the next 12 months, I had picked up a biography of Warren Buffett and started reading anything and everything relating to finance, economics, and of course, accounting. Accounting is what I ended up focusing on and, after college, I took the tests to become a licensed CPA.
Becoming a CPA is no easy task. Depending on the difficulty of the exam, the pass rates range between 45% and 55%. There are four exams altogether, so there are many nights and early mornings spent studying.
There is a lot of studying required. A lot of dry business knowledge that needs to be absorbed.
Despite the amount of material we covered, the topic of personal finance never came up.
We never had to study the impact credit scores have on mortgage rates, or how saving 11% of our income instead of 10% of our income translated to retiring two years earlier.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of interest accruals, but I did it from a corporate or partnership perspective.
Becoming a CPA taught me how to view my personal finances as a business.
I now seek a higher profit each quarter and I ignore the market valuation of my stock price, otherwise known as, my net worth.
By optimizing my budget, I’m able to build assets while reducing liabilities. I can identify leaks in my structure and reorganize my cash flows to be tax-efficient.
Plus, it helps to not take things too personally. When I slip up and make a big purchase, let’s say a nice bottle of Whiskey,I can allocate that to the cost of doing business.
Becoming a CPA also helped me see how society automatically assumes someone in my position would be good with personal finance.
Society today views people in my profession as being good with money. I find that ridiculous since I know my fair share of CPAs who are still living paycheck to paycheck.
With the way our society is structured today, we often view people as “rich and successful” based on their display of shiny toys or career choices. Luckily, books such as The Millionaire Next Door, teach us millionaires are more often driving used cars than the imported luxury models.
Being aware of this has helped me to identify true experts when it comes to financial advice. The truth is, having letters representing credentials behind your name does not guarantee you have my best interest at heart.
I continue to learn about personal finance from books and blogs because my professional career isn’t teaching me anything.
After all, if we spend 2,000 hours a year earning money, shouldn’t we spend a few minutes each week learning how to manage that money?