Repeat after me:
I do not have to know everything.
I can ask for help.
Sometimes, getting support is the strongest, bravest thing to do.
We all need support from financial professionals. Because, truth be told, we can’t all be experts in everything!
Yes, yes — I’m all for empowering yourself with financial literacy, know-how, and savvy. But when the timing’s right, adding someone to your financial support team is hugely empowering!
But here’s the rub: there are so many different kinds of financial professionals out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Bookkeepers, accountants, financial planners … what do all of these people do, anyway? And how do you know if you need one (or the other, or other?).
If you don’t know all this already — please don’t feel bad. Most of us don’t — I certainly didn’t, until a few years ago! But now, I know these roles like the back of my hand, and demystifying it for you is (no joke!) one of my favorite things.
(Don’t worry. This won’t hurt a bit.)
Simply read these simple definitions, for now. See what jumps out at you. Notice your bodily (and emotional and mental) responses, as you read.
Bookkeepers track all of those numbers for you: income, expenses, savings, credit cards expenses, investments, etc. They set up a system for you (Quicken or QuickBooks), create categories, and track and organize all the ins and outs and sideways: on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
And then … they produce these wonderful reports for you: Income and Expense Reports; current year vs. previous year reports; projected vs. actual reports — oh, my! With everything all nice and neat and reconciled. And you gaze up at your bookkeeper, with a tear of relief in your eye, and say, Thank you, I love you! (Truly: this monthly support is just wonderful!)
Keep in mind: bookkeepers can have all different levels of experience, training, and rates. Some simply set up your systems and run reports — but others will sit down with you, review your numbers, and help you plan a bit. So, some charge $20 an hour; others charge $70 an hour.
You may choose to do your own bookkeeping — forever, or for a short time. Or … maybe you’re happy as a clam doing your personal bookkeeping, but would like some support for your business bookkeeping. I think any of these options is fabulous!
I did all of my own bookkeeping for 12 years, and it was a priceless education about money and business. But then, I turned it over to my bookkeeper Jess a few years ago — and I love that she does all that tracking for me! It’s all about finding the right timing, for you.
Let’s say you’ve decided you want to do your own books — but you’re tired of pulling your hair out trying to learn Quicken or Quickbooks. Did you know you can hire a bookkeeping trainer, to help you with this? It’s true! And it’s so empowering.
Just the other day, someone in our Art of Money community shared that she hired a bookkeeping trainer back in January to help her learn QuickBooks. Now, almost 9 months later, she feels clear and confident in tracking her own finances — plus, when she gets stuck, she can pick up the phone and get the help she needs. Oh, yes!
Bookkeeping Trainers can charge anywhere between $50 and $175 per hour, depending on their level of expertise.
The Ultimate Guide to Working with a Bookkeeper (Or Not!)
Just Pick One: Choosing a Bookkeeping System (for you DIY’ers!)
Accountants are the people who are thrilled to no end when you show up with all of your numbers and data all neat and organized (thanks to your Bookkeeper — even if that’s yourself!).
Then, accountants typically ask you some additional questions, and take all of that data and file your taxes for you. They study accounting rules and tax law, and keep up on all of its rules (which change slightly, each year). Some accountants are even hip to the laws that will change in the next few years, so you’re really covered! Seriously: these folks live and breathe and love tax law. (Imagine that!)
I think it’s wonderful to meet with an accountant a few times a year. Not only do they file your taxes for you, they can help you with your tax strategy as well. Should your business be a Sole Proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp? Some specialize in business consulting, others specialize in real estate or other areas.
Whatever their specialty, accountants take all of that great data you have from your bookkeeping and find as many legal tax deductions as possible, so you’re paying the right amount of taxes — not too much, not too little.
By the way: last year, Forest and I renamed our “Taxes” category “Community Contribution.” It feels so much better to us this way!
More on this: 20 Questions for Your Accountant that will Save Your Tushy
While all of the financial professionals on this list may offer a smidgen of emotional support, most of them aren’t trained for this. Financial therapists are the exception. We go deep with you, into all that emotional “money stuff”: your money stories, strengths, challenges, patterns, shadow issues, relationship issues, family of origin issues, and on and on.
Some financial therapists work with individuals, couples, or both. Some of us also adore the practical aspects of working with money, and teach about money practices, choosing a tracking system and money maps (or budgets) along with the deeper work, healing, forgiveness, and re-telling of your money stories.
Finding new patterns is key when working with a financial therapist. It can be so healing to have a caring, objective, wise person witness and hold you as you go through those deep, scary places with your money relationship.
Please Note: inancial Therapy is still a relatively new field. I have been using the term for almost 15 years now but this was before it was a “field”. So, if you are looking for this type of support, I suggest you open your search to include Money Coaches and Financial Coaches as they do similar work just by a different title.
Always take a look at the person’s background, speciality and experience. Some of us come from Psychotherapy backgrounds and some come from Accounting or Financial Planning backgrounds. It’s very important that you find a well-matched person based on skill set, personality and experience. Do your research.
Financial Coach/Money Coach
These wonderful creatures love creating budgets — or, as I like to call them, Money Maps. They sit down with you, and dig into those numbers, and line them up with your values, dreams, and goals. They help you decide: what do I want to spend on each category each month, how much should I save, what pace should I pay down my debt, and what can I put towards an investment? Which categories are negotiable, and which are absolute musts? And how do I dance within this plan, over the next several years? You come up with these answers — the financial coach guides you.
You can find a Financial Coach that specializes in personal, or business finances — or both; others specialize in working with women, creative entrepreneurs, couples, etc.
Financial coaches are fabulous at creating shorter-term goals and plans: for the next six months, year, or even five years. So, in a way, they’re a sort of precursor to a financial planner (who thinks more long-term).
Please Note: Always take a look at the person’s background, speciality and experience. Some of us come from Psychotherapy backgrounds and some come from Accounting or Financial Planning backgrounds. It’s very important that you find a well-matched person based on skill set, personality and experience. Do your research.
(Also known as: Financial Advisors.)
These folks specialize in investments and long-term visioning. Thinking about retirement planning, long-term savings, paying for your toddler’s college? This is who you want. They love thinking about the big picture, and where you can be in 5, 10, 20, 30, or even 50 years.
Many will help you choose the right investments. Should you invest in the stock market? If so, where? How about real estate? Gold vs. solar power? Does your investment need to be aligned with your values? know many of you in this community are committed to SRI (Socially Responsible Investing). Is so, make sure you find a financial planner who will honor the investment values you hold, and will work within the parameters that matter so deeply to you.
If you inherited money from your family, you may have inherited a family financial planner along with it. For some people, this works beautifully — and for others, they reach a point where they need to find their own financial planner, who better understands their values.
At some point, you may also add to your team an Estate Planner, an Insurance pro, and/or an Attorney. For today, I just want to name these folks — the full description of their roles is for another day, another article. (Baby steps, baby steps, my dear community!)
The key takeaway here: there are a number of people you can draft onto your financial support team, to help you in precisely the way you need it, right now. And, as your situation and needs shift over the years, it’s wonderful to add players to your team (or, in some cases, subtract them).
That’s a lot of information! If you’re feeling at all overwhelmed, checked out, anxious, or irritated — deep breath. Time for a Body Check-In.
Here’s a handy reframe for any of you feeling overwhelmed by all of these roles: just look at all the beautiful support available to you, out there!
We cover so much of this material in The Art of Money: my year-long money school. I made sure to add fabulous guest teachers from each of these categories, because it’s so helpful and important to learn from them!
Remember: you do not have to implement all of this at once. You will fine-tune and grow and evolve your financial support team your entire life. At some point, you may want to have each of these roles filled on your own financial support team. You might want to start with one, and add another each year (or every few years). Go at your own pace and honor where you’re at, financially, logistically, and emotionally.
This is your journey to navigate and define. You’re the captain of this ship and crew! Give yourself the gift of a few moments to feel into the right timing, the right alignment, the right fit for you, right now.
Is one of these roles tugging at your sleeve, begging to be filled?
Is this your moment to get some kind of help? What kind?
Are you ready right now?
Do you want this role filled by the end of this year?
Or do you know it’s best to wait ‘till next year for this?
Keep checking in with yourself around your financial support team. Each year, assess your financial support team: add new folks, let go of others, or find someone who’s a better fit for you and your values, right now. Give yourself the gift of time, loving attention, and baby steps. Feel into the right timing, the right alignment, for you — right now.