Can you afford that: CPA tips for planning a big purchase
As a business owner, you work hard so you and your family can have the best things in life. The success of your business directly affects your personal spending. It also means that there’s a lot to consider before making a large purchase. “Can I afford this?” is one of the most common questions CWA Financial Planner Angie Svitak is asked by clients.
Angie encourages clients to look at their entire financial situation – both personal and professional. So, when discussions of a new car or boat, vacations or vacation homes, a swimming pool or even buying new technology for the office come up, Angie makes sure her clients understand the ramifications of a big purchase.
“In many cases we’re more than financial planners, we like to think of ourselves as life coaches,” she said. “It can be hard to talk about finances and how major decisions impact the entire family. Having a neutral third-party familiar with your situation is helpful when looking at all the different pieces and how everything fits together.”
Your financial planner doesn’t want to rain on your parade, but they should ask the hard questions to ensure a big purchase won’t leave you financially exposed. Angie recommends taking a thorough look at your financial situation if planning for a big purchase in the new year.
1. Revisit your financial plan. We advise clients to apply the 50/30/20 rule to personal budgets. That’s 20% savings, 30% taxes and 50% in living expenses (including entertainment). Assuming you set aside enough for taxes and savings, then anything left over after living expenses should be fair game (within reason of course).
2. Are you and your partner on the same page? For a financial plan to succeed, spouses must have the same priorities. If one of you are more debt-adverse or have different savings goals this could be a frustrating conversation. This is another place where having an unbiased party on your team can help to work on a plan that meets both of your goals.
3. Is your financial plan still current? Are you behind the 8-ball on retirement planning or exceeding your savings goals? What are your priorities today compared to the last time you looked at your financial plan? Your saving allocations could be very different two years ago as they are today. The new year is a perfect time to reevaluate where you are today and where you want to be in the future.
4. What about financial stability? Are you a new business owner and worried about large purchases? Are you running an established practice and think you can afford that once in a lifetime vacation? Or, are you preparing for retirement with cash flow changing in the near future? When thinking about dreams and goals, you should consider everything from the cost of living to assets and retirement expenses. It’s important to set realistic expectations.
Once you have a clear grasp on your financial situation, take a look at how a big purchase will affect your future. Here are some things to consider:
1. Evaluate the initial and lifetime costs of the purchase. Many items cost more than just the sticker price. For example, a pool may cost $80,000 to install, and another $5,000 annually for maintenance and accessories. Margaritas and flamingo float not included!
2. Consider life events. Is your daughter planning a wedding or do you need to move dad into a retirement community in the near future? If a major life event is looming, living expenses might increase over the next few years.
3. Let’s talk priorities. If you make this purchase today, will it mean you retire five years later than planned? If you install that new pool, will your kids be able to attend the college of their choice? What are the ramifications of the purchase and are you comfortable with that impact?
Still unsure about spending the money? Angie often finds there are actions doctors can take to free up more money.
1. Are you claiming all of your deductions? We can help you determine if the purchase can be categorized as a business expense, home improvement deduction or other ways expenses could be tax deductible.
2. Make your practice more profitable. Could you optimize a process in your practice that will produce more income? Are you charging appropriate fees? Are you investing in advertising that will drive the right mix of patients? There is almost always something you can adjust in your practice to increase income.
“I want all my clients to have a long-term perspective of their situation and it’s my goal to help them find consistency, so cash flow is predictable. We try to avoid surprises by planning throughout the year,” Angie added. “When you know what to expect on a monthly and annual basis, you have the knowledge to make an informed decision you can feel good about.”
If a major purchase is on your agenda for the year, we recommend you schedule a complimentary review of your financial situation. We’re here to take a professional, unbiased look at your finances and plan for that big purchase of your dreams. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or cainwatters.com/contact.