What’s after that? | Accounting Today

The last of the baby boomers will reach retirement age in 2030. (When — and whether — they will actually retire is a different question entirely, particularly in the accounting profession, but for now, let’s focus on that cutoff.) That’s eight years away , so it may seem like it’s not worth worrying about, but given that the accelerated rate at which boomers retired over 2020 may well have played a big role in the Great Resignation, it’s worth thinking about the potential implications.

To start, for firms that have mandatory retirement ages, it will mean losing a big chunk of their partners and leaders (or changing their rules) — and even those firms that don’t have mandatory retirement will face major losses in their top ranks. It will also mean the sale, closure or scaling back of the significant number of small and solo practices that are owned by boomers (though not all of them, by any measure, as many accountants love their work and are happy to continue doing it well into their golden years — particularly if they can’t sell their practice).

Many of these dynamics will also be playing out among your clients, which means you may find your current roster thinning out as they retire or sell their businesses, and newer, younger leadership arises. The next 10 years should be boom times for firms offering services around exit planning, succession planning and retirement planning.

But what about after that?

There are two points here: First, within a decade, the profession and the country will see the conclusion of an demographic shift. Boomers’ ongoing retirements will have massive implications for accounting firm leadership, their reaching the threshold ages will have massive implications for Social Security and Medicare, and their drawing down on their retirement savings will have massive implications for markets. Smart accountants will start making their own plans for this, and start advising their clients about it, too.

There’s a second, broader point, though — one I think is more important — and that’s the value of always asking, “What happens after that?”

We tend to think more about the run-up to a major milestone or event than we do about the aftermath — paying more attention to the merger announcement than to the long period of integration it presages; diving deep into the hiring process but skimping on onboarding and long-term retention; worrying about saving for retirement but not planning how we’ll handle our finances afterward. An example from close to home involves the recent implementation of the (relatively) new leasing standards: A common complaint that many companies put a whole lot of effort into getting compliant — but then forgot about the need to build systems and processes to help them stay compliant.

This kind of aftermath planning is often overlooked, but is potentially enormously valuable, creating an opportunity for you and your firm to get ahead of the curve, both in terms of delivering value to clients and ensuring your own success. Preparing for what comes after what comes next represents the kind of next-level thinking that should be at the core of the accounting profession’s move to a focus on advisory services.

Opportunities to deploy this kind of thinking are legion, ranging from the purely local, like your or your clients’ next merger, product or service launch, or leadership transition, to the nationwide, like the upcoming midterm elections, the Securities and Exchange Commission release of its climate-related disclosure rules, or the 2025 sunsetting of many of the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Remember, everyone knows it’s important to prepare for the future — but very few people are preparing for the future after that.

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