Question: What do tax season and the family scrapbook have in common?

Answer: The key to growing your financial planning practice.

During tax season, many of our members met with most, if not all, of their clients.  For some CPAs, this is a hectic period in which they don't have time to put on clean socks, let alone spend extra time schmoozing with their clients.  On the other hand, I know of at least one colleague who makes the time to gather new family photos each year from his tax clients and post them on the bulletin boards around the office.  In fact, any time your clients come to your office is a great opportunity to provide more personal financial planning services.

"Clients don't care what you know until they know you care."

I read this quote in a book early on in my career, and I think it is one of the most important truisms for CPA financial planners.  How do we show our clients that we care?  Some of you have told me that you put off your financial planning services until after tax season.  However, this is an ideal time to put the personal into personal financial planning by exploring your client's life goals.

-- Do you have a list of life goals for each client?

-- Over the next year, which of those goals will be made a priority?

-- What are the financial planning considerations related to each goal over the next year?

These are the issues that we can quickly address, even during a busy tax season.

Perhaps you can ask the following questions to your clients when they come to your office during this tax season:

-- What are your most important non-financial concerns and objectives right now?

-- Is your outlook generally optimistic or pessimistic concerning the future?

-- If your basic lifestyle objectives are met, what is the purpose or goals for your money?

-- What are your avocations, hobbies and activities that you most enjoy, and which ones are the most fulfilling to you?

These are just some of the questions that I have used that have helped me to make a more personal connection with my clients.  I have no doubt that there are many other such questions that you may find are helpful in making that personal connection.  The important thing, however, is making the time to raise these issues and show your clients that you care.

Putting the "P" into personal financial planning might become the most personally satisfying aspect of your practice.

Joel H. Framson, CPA/PFS, CFP, MBT is chair of the Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee of the American Institute of CPAs

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