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What is a CPA Financial Planner?

  • Published on Aug 28, 2019
  • by Ryan Firth

Traditionally, when one was considering a career in public accounting there were two options: audit or tax. You either performed some form of attest work or you did tax compliance work.

Today, being a CPA can mean more than performing audits or doing tax compliance work. Indeed, in section 901.256. “Work Experience Requirements” of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy’s act, effective September 1, 2015, it recognizes that “providing a service or advice involving accounting, attest services, management or financial advisory or consulting services, tax services, or other services the board considers appropriate for an accountant” may, at the board’s discretion, count toward the experience requirement in order to receive a CPA license in the state of Texas for first-time licensees.

One fast-growing line of work for CPAs is personal financial planning. Personal financial planning entails working with clients on their personal finances on topics such as estate planning, investment planning, insurance, and risk management, retirement planning, and tax planning. According to PayScale, professionals with an accounting degree earn more on average than any other business school major and professionals who engage in personal financial planning (a.k.a., financial advising) report the highest levels of job meaningfulness.

Here’s an interesting fact about CPAs: they are the only regulated financial planners. CPAs have been trusted financial advisers to clients for well over 100 years. A founding principle of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct is “always acting in the best interest of the client.” Additionally, all CPAs who are members of the AICPA and who practice personal financial planning are held to “Statement on Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services (SSPFPS).” The SSPFPS provides a framework for CPAs who provide personal financial planning (PFP) services. In particular, it gives CPAs guidance on:

  • General professional responsibilities
  • Responsibilities of members in PFP engagements
  • Planning the PFP engagement
  • Obtaining and analyzing information
  • Developing and communicating recommendations
  • Implementation engagements
  • Monitoring and updating engagements
  • Working with other service providers
  • Using advice provided by other service providers

CPAs with a strong background in individual and small business taxation who are personable and good listeners typically excel as CPA financial planners. CPAs with an audit and/or accounting background are well-positioned to excel as financial planners, too, but may want to focus on gaining more exposure to tax-related topics through continuing professional education and/or hands-on tax compliance experience. Those CPAs who wish to further distinguish themselves as CPA financial planners should consider obtaining the AICPA’s Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation, or other comparable designation.

The accounting profession is changing. It’s not just about audit or tax anymore. Careers in personal financial planning are growing and will continue to grow over the coming years. Being a CPA financial planner can be one of the most gratifying careers one can pursue in the fields of accounting or finance.

If you’d like to learn more about a career as a CPA financial planner, please join us at the TXCPA Houston office on Thursday, September 19th at 4:00 p.m. for a panel discussion on careers in financial planning, presented by TXCPA Houston’s Personal Financial Planning Committee. Registration and event details are available on Or, email cspencer@ for more information.

This is an article from TXCPA Houston's Online Magazine called the Forum. Read the full magazine here

Ryan Firth is the founder and president of Mercer Street Personal Financial Services, an independent Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) firm based in Houston, Texas. Mercer Street serves small business owners, young professionals, and growing families in the wealth-building phase of their lives. Find us @MercerStreetCo.