Retirement Planning for Baby Boomers: How CPAs Can Help

financial literacy

The baby boomers are in the midst of a retirement-planning rush. Born between 1946 and 1964, they’re now between the ages of 51 and 69. Most are still active in the workforce and represent a large client base for many CPAs, but many are anticipating retirement, and they’re sure to be looking for additional guidance.

What steps can you take to increase your own financial literacy to provide solid retirement-planning advice to boomers? Here are four steps you can take as a CPA to boost your financial planning work with this key demographic group:

1. Understand your clients.

Baby boomers come from a unique generation and have collectively influenced economic trends their entire lives. They have questioned traditional roles and redefined cultural norms. When it comes to retirement, the same is true. The Population Reference Bureau suggests that baby boomers are likely to delay retirement due to factors such as increased health and life expectancy, decreases in pension and health benefits, and financial setbacks due to the last recession and ongoing market fluctuations. Also, many boomers close to retirement are not downsizing their homes, as has been a general trend for retirees for years. This group is focused on living to the fullest in their golden years, and as an adviser to this group, you need to understand their perspective and priorities. Many boomers have not yet drafted a retirement plan or taken steps to increase their financial literacy. That’s where you come in.

2. Educate yourself.

You may find yourself faced with clients seeking specific expertise that goes beyond your area of focus. That’s why, as part of your continuing professional education (CPE), you should consider expanding your financial literacy in retirement planning. Some useful options include AICPA’s Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certification and their CPA’s Guide To Financial and Estate Planning.

It's also a good idea to anticipate your clients’ specialized concerns and research considerations specific to unique groups. When helping retiring women who have experienced divorce or widowhood, for example, the Women's Institute for Secure Retirement is a great resource. To help ensure that veterans take advantage of all options available to them, consult the Veterans Benefit Administration section of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Whatever your client's situation, be prepared to research their options thoroughly before giving counsel.

3. Communicate with sensitivity.

Remember that retirement planning can be difficult, especially for those who feel underprepared, and you need to take care to understand both the financial realities and the emotional factors in play for your clients. Active listening is a key skill that serves both you and your clients. Your focus should be both on financial literacy and customer service as you guide your clients through a planning process that people often worry about.

4. Educate your clients.

Your advice is an invaluable asset to your clients, but they will also benefit from expanding their own financial literacy. You can assist them by providing them with resources to encourage research, such as the books and websites you’ve found for your own edification and can recommend. In many cases, however, your clients won't have the financial literacy to tackle industry publications. Send those clients to sites like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Fast Answer section, which provides simple and trustworthy explanations of financial concepts and instruments and links for further investigation.

By improving your financial literacy concerning retirement planning, you'll be able to add more value for your clients, strengthen relationships and, potentially, expand your business through referrals. The more you know, the more you will be able to help, and the more you help, the more likely satisfied clients will mention your name to friends, relatives and colleagues in need of the services you provide. 

Want to learn more about trends in the accounting field? Download Robert Half's Salary Guide for Finance and Accounting and check out our other recent research.