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Financial Planning Checklist

Financial Planning Checklist

Once you’ve finished with your tax planning for the year, and your return is safely on its way to the IRS, you’re at an excellent point for a quick financial check-up. Your tax return is handy, as a quick snapshot of your financial situation and the figures are recent and accurate. Take a few minutes to consider these questions:

1. Have you determined your short- and long-term financial goals?

Have you consistently reviewed and updated them for any changes?

2. Are you saving and investing sufficient sums to fund your short- and long-term goals?

By defining goals that are time and dollar specific, you can regularly assess if you are on track to reach them.

3. Are you making the best use of tax-deferred savings plans, such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and Keoghs?

Are you contributing the maximum you can? Did you make plan investment choices consistent with your investment time frame and risk tolerance? Alternatively, are you satisfied that you have worked out the most appropriate way to take withdrawals for both yourself and your designated beneficiaries, with a careful balancing of income tax and estate tax considerations?

4. If you are an employee, are you getting the optimum from your employee benefits?

Do you understand and use any flexible spending accounts that you may be eligible for? Have you developed a strategy for exercising your employer stock options and using any deferred compensation plans?

5. If you are concerned about paying for a child’s education, are you saving and spending in the most appropriate ways?

Are you using tax-deferred savings, tax-favored loans, and tax credits? Are you striking an appropriate balance between saving in the child’s name (either outright or in trusts) and saving in your own accounts?

6. Do you have an “emergency fund?”

Many experts recommend that you have the equivalent of three to six month’s take-home pay in an account where you can get at it quickly. An emergency fund gives you cash to weather a squall or two without having to disturb your investment portfolio or sell off any other assets.

7. Have you checked the asset allocation of your portfolio lately?

Run-ups and downturns in the market can each disrupt the allocation of your investments, leaving you with more or less in any one asset class than you consider optimal. Should you be thinking about tax-free or taxable fixed income securities, based on your marginal tax rate and risk tolerance?

8. Do you have adequate insurance?

If you die unexpectedly do you have enough life insurance to protect your family? What about disability insurance if you or your spouse couldn’t work for an extended period of time? Most people have auto insurance is required by law and most homeowners also are required to have adequate homeowner’s insurance, but did you know that it’s just as important to have insurance to protect the contents of your home even if you rent it?

9. Do you have all of the necessary legal documents in place?

Is your will up-to-date? How about your estate plan? Trusts for you and/or your spouse and other heirs? A living will or other health care directives? A durable power of attorney for managing your assets if you can’t? Have you told family members or trusted friends where they can find these documents?

10. Is your credit under good control?

Is the interest rate on your mortgage the best you can do, or should you be applying for a lower rate? Should you be shopping for a credit card with a lower interest rate, or perhaps for a home equity loan?

11. Are you maximizing your cash flow through income tax strategies?

How are you funding charitable contributions — with cash or securities? Do you prepay itemized deductions to accelerate the tax benefit?

12. If you own your own business, do you have a plan for smoothly passing on that business to family members or trusted employees?

Are you aware of and planning for any income and related estate taxes? Are you making optimum use of insurance to safeguard your transition plans?

13. Have there been significant changes in your family this year?

Births, deaths, graduations, engagements, and the beginning and ending of marriages can all have multifaceted effects on your financial plans. Consider their effect on your own situation. You may want to start a college fund for a new baby, or make a plan for investing assets you’ve inherited, or make provision for your daughter’s wedding next summer. On the other hand, if you have recently divorced, you will want to review the beneficiary designations on your insurance policies and retirement plans.

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  • What Is A Virtual CFO & How Can It Transform My Business?
    • a. A Virtual CFO can be a much-needed sounding board, coach, and guide. Outsourced Virtual CFO is generally not just one person, but an experienced team of professionals providing a full-stack Accounting and Finance Department at a fraction of the cost that it would otherwise cost a business to hire even just one full-time CFO internally. The right virtual CFO service team, such as the one at Perpetual CPA, can deliver timely, detailed, comprehensive financial reporting, interpret the financial data, prioritize recommendations, give expert guidance on how to execute those recommendations, and ultimately give a better path to business success.
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    • a. A growing number of small businesses are opting to outsource services such as IT, human resources, or accounting. The benefit of a Virtual Accounting Department is that the company can reduce or increase services to accommodate current business needs. Because the service provider has multiple clients they can absorb fluctuations in workflow more easily than the average small/medium business can on its own.

      b. A Virtual Accounting Department can integrate with a company’s own accounting department to create a blended solution or provide a full-stack accounting department, including Accounting Staff, Manager, Controller, and Virtual CFO. By using a Virtual Accounting Department Small business owners don’t have to worry about hiring, training, figuring out compensation, and payroll compliance for the internal accounting team. Also as the business grows and new and more complex accounting and tax issues come up, the outsourced Virtual Accounting Department can provide all the needed expertise to facilitate continued business success.
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    • a. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) do a lot more than just crunch numbers and prepare taxes. They provide valuable expertise and strategies to help businesses and individuals achieve their business and financial goals. A CPA firm can help small businesses with management financial reporting, tax compliance, strategic business advice, and much more. Firms like Perpetual CPA, that specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses achieve growth, can also provide Virtual CFO services, that help the business owners have the foresight into the short-term future cashflows and be able to more successfully navigate their business performance.
  • What are the best strategies for small business growth?
    • a. A business growth strategy is, simply, a plan of how a business gets from where it is today to where it wants to be in the future.

      b. Some of the questions to consider when coming up with a growth strategy are:
      i. Where will the business get new customers from?
      ii. How will the business expand into new markets?
      iii. What new products could the business offer?

      c. In reality, what happens with many small businesses, is that they generally achieve a specific level of business activity or sales and then the business growth trend flattens. In those cases, working with a firm like Perpetual CPA, which provides Virtual CFO services, can help small businesses avoid stagnation. Virtual CFO services, aside from providing timely accounting and tax reporting, can also provide valuable insight into the current performance of the business, as well as, foresight into the future cash flows for the business. Perpetual CPA Virtual CFO team helps small businesses interpret their financial information and come up with business strategies to help improve business performance and achieve growth.
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    • a. A risk management plan helps a business develop a detailed strategy to deal with certain risks that are particularly important for the businesses’ success.

      b. For many small and medium-sized businesses, the easiest way to develop and implement a business risk management plan is to work with a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA. Large corporations invest a lot of resources and time into managing risk, which is a material factor that allows those large corporations to continue to generate billions of dollars in revenue every year. Small businesses, however, almost never manage any business risks, which is the major reason that over half of all the small businesses do not survive for more than 5 years. Generally, small business owners are not experienced corporate business professionals and lack the needed business knowledge, yet they often have to wear many hats while trying to get their businesses off the ground. In those situations, a CPA firm such as Perpetual CPA, can help small businesses better manage tax compliance risks, cash flow, internal controls, business administration, financial reporting, and much more.
  • What is Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO? / How do Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO services work?
    • a. When small businesses start spinning wheels, it is a good time to consider hiring a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA, which can provide both Strategic Advice and Virtual CFO services.

      b. As a strategic advisor, the CPA firm will work with business management to improve the effectiveness and profitability of the business. They will look holistically at the business and find ways to operate the business more efficiently, increase customers through additional or improved marketing or improve customer touchpoints and service.

      c. As a Virtual CFO, the CPA firm is like a part-time version of a traditional CFO or Chief Financial Officer plus a full Accounting support team. They perform the tasks that in a larger organization would be performed by the CFO, Controller, and Accounting Staff such as preparing and overseeing the budget process, identifying and analyzing current and future trends, and developing strategies for the business growth.
  • How can timely financial visibility and management reporting help with better business decisions and growth?
    • a. A simple way to a successful business is to prioritize the timely financial visibility and management reporting as it means:
      i. Timely financial information and analysis are essential for making informed decisions, evaluating your company’s results, improving financial performance, and ensuring you are on the path to meet your strategic goals.
      ii. Management reporting is a source of business intelligence that helps business leaders make more accurate, data-driven decisions. But, these reports are most useful if they are available timely and the management receives proper interpretation of the business financial information.

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