Six hundred bucks won’t pull people out of debt, but their accountants could help steer them in the right direction. Accountants know which of their clients are receiving stimulus packages from the government—some of whom have not yet received them because of the schedule for paper checks based on individual Social Security numbers, the last of which won’t go out until July. These people likely don’t need advice on how to spend or save that money. Most of them have probably already decided. What they might need is advice on how to budget their checkbooks throughout the year, however. Interestingly enough, the clients who aren’t receiving the stimulus because their gross incomes exceeded the limit may need the most help of all. An article in The New York Times this past weekend talked about some of the hardships high-net worth individuals, especially those with families, are undergoing in the slumping economy. When someone who is worth $8 million complains that he can no longer afford to take monthly trips on his private jet, it might spark us to pick up our tiny fiddles. But when that person’s net worth was $20 million the previous year, it’s a big deal, and some of them are worried about the effect such a loss will have on their family lives. Some people who don’t earn that much to begin with started making smart decisions, like driving less to spend less money on gas, bringing brown-bag lunches from home instead of eating out at work and even, gasp, clipping coupons. More wealthy people might need some advice on how to be frugal (some reportedly started getting haircuts every eight weeks instead of six or claiming they wanted to be brunette to save money on $350 highlights). They aren’t likely to ask for the help, according to the Times’ article, at least not from their friends. But they are willing to discuss their monetary concerns with those who are privy to such information anyway, including their shrinks and, yes, their accountants. One woman I know who works for a New York firm is tasked with helping such clients get a handle on out-of-control spending. She actually had to ask one client to put her on the phone with the salesperson at a jewelry store to stop her from purchasing a luxury item she could no longer afford. That’s an extreme example, but the point is that client recognized she needed help budgeting and the firm was willing to offer such a service to her. Now that tax season is over and things have slowed down a bit, it might behoove accountants to take a look at their client roster and determine who might benefit from additional financial advisory services. If paying their accountants a few extra bucks could help them save a few thousand, they may be interested. And there’s no rule saying firms have to charge for such services, either. It doesn’t take much time to put together a checklist of money-saving tips, especially if they package it with suggestions on how those clients can pay less in taxes next year. It makes those firms look like they care about their clients beyond the once-a-year service they provide, and might entice some of those clients to come back more frequently and stimulate their firms in return.
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