Do I need a bookkeeper, an accountant or someone else???
March 6, 2013 1:18 PM   Subscribe

I have come to the conclusion that I am bad with money, and I need help. The question is, who can provide me with the help I need. I've researched various professions online and have a hard time telling who would best suit my needs: a bookkeeper, an accountant, a financial counselor, a daily money manager, someone else entirely?? More than one of these??

Here's a little about my situation: I have a small business and, of course, my own household to run. For the small business end of things, I would like someone to:

Keep records of what my clients owe and whether they have paid me
Provide invoices to my clients upon client request
Make sure my bills are paid on time every time
Make sure my business bank account does not overdraft
Estimate how much I need to set aside for taxes and help me set it aside
Help me file and pay my taxes
Tell me whether putting myself on my own payroll is a good idea, and help me do it if that's what I should do
Review financial documents, balance accounts, check for errors and alert me to things I need to know about
Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls

For the personal side of things, I would like someone to:

Make sure my bills get paid on time all the time/avoid late fees and overdraft fees
Help me budget and save for retirement, vacations, car repairs, vet bills, computer replacements and emergencies
Make sure that parking tickets get paid before accruing late fees
Budgeting
Help me develop a plan for paying down debt
Help me make sure that my car gets registered on time annually
Review financial documents, balance accounts, check for errors and alert me to things I need to know about
Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls

I have tried doing this on my own for years, with moderate success. I have tried lots of different software programs (Quicken, MoneyDance, YNAB, Mint). I have set things up on automatic bill pay. But inevitably, something falls through the cracks and causes me a great deal of stress. I don't want to be completely absent from the process. Ideally, someone else would manage most of this and sit down with me once a month to show me what they've done, ask and answer questions and make suggestions for what to do next.

I know that there are people out there who find this kind of thing easy or even fun. I am not one of them. I am good at my job, but bad with anything having to do numbers, spreadsheets and filing cabinets. So, who can help me with this stuff? A bookkeeper, an accountant, a daily money manager?? Does anyone have suggestions for specific people?? I live in the Bay Area.

Thanks for your help!
posted by buddylove to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Keep records of what my clients owe and whether they have paid me
Provide invoices to my clients upon client request
Make sure my bills are paid on time every time
Make sure my business bank account does not overdraft
Estimate how much I need to set aside for taxes and help me set it aside
Help me file and pay my taxes
Tell me whether putting myself on my own payroll is a good idea, and help me do it if that's what I should do
Review financial documents, balance accounts, check for errors and alert me to things I need to know about
Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls
For this you can get a bookkeeper who is also a CPA. You don't need to hire them full-time; they just need to come in once in a while to make sure all the numbers add up, and then do your taxes once a year. The worse you are about keeping track, the more often they need to come in (you're paying them by the hour, so the more tangled the mess is, the more time they need to spend untangling it.) Do you have anything like Quickbooks still set up? It can handle most of that and the bookkeeper can set it up for you. They will probably insist on it, in fact.
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2013


I've never used Quickbooks. I used paper and pen and then spreadsheets. I don't really need anyone to help me with old transactions, just everything moving forward. Thanks for your answer!
posted by buddylove at 1:25 PM on March 6, 2013


Any thoughts about the personal side of things?
posted by buddylove at 1:27 PM on March 6, 2013


No one person is going to meet all those needs. I'm a CPA, and some small amount of what you want is something I'd do, but most of the business side can and should be done by a bookkeeper, who does that job better and at a much lower rate.

A local CPA firm may have non-CPA bookkeepers on staff, so that they can provide all of the financial services you need using different people at appropriate rates. And they should be able to refer you to someone to help you with the personal issues. You can begin your search with the California Society of CPAs (calcpa.org). Keep in mind that while larger firms offer more services, their prices are usually much higher, as well.

Some bookkeepers are also sophisticated enough to handle your tax return. If you can find a bookkeeper who is also an EA (Enrolled Agent, or someone who's also qualified to represent clients before the IRS), you'll likely get the business side fully covered by that. You would still need someone else to make sure that your personal bills get paid, however.
posted by anapestic at 1:55 PM on March 6, 2013


Also, which part of what I've listed needs to be handled by an accountant? It seems that bookkeepers are generally more affordable than CPAs.
posted by buddylove at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2013


You can hire a bookkeeper, a lot of self employed ones work by the hour and would come in for how ever many hours a week you need or take the info to their office to do depending on what you prefer. They would then arrange for your CPA to do the parts they can't handle. I am a bookkeeper, though trained and worked in Australia from my experience a bookkeeper could handle pretty much all of that except for a few areas such as

Help me file and pay my taxes
Tell me whether putting myself on my own payroll is a good idea, and help me do it if that's what I should do
Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls
Budgeting


and even then they could help with areas of that suggesting ways to save money and getting your tax paperwork organised for your accountant etc.

If you have an accountant all ready they can probably suggest a bookkeeper or may even have in house services. Be prepared to get what you pay for.

You say you have record keeping systems in place, but you might want to look at some basic accounting software as it can automate a lot of things and make missing payments etc a lot more difficult and as most bookkeepers are used to using the software it would make data entry etc faster and more efficient as well as you can pull up a wide range of reports which would make tracking your money easier.

If your business is large enough, you might also then be able to look at getting someone in to do the data entry side (or even have someone on staff already do it or do it yourself) and then the bookkeeper can just come in and do reconciliations, bill payments etc.
posted by wwax at 2:19 PM on March 6, 2013


As a former bookkeeper I'd recommend a good bookkeeper to come in once per week or month (depending on volume) to do the following:
- Keep records of what my clients owe and whether they have paid me
- Provide invoices to my clients upon client request
- Make sure my bills are paid on time every time
- Make sure my business bank account does not overdraft
- ...and help me set it aside
- Make sure my bills get paid on time all the time/avoid late fees and overdraft fees
- Make sure that parking tickets get paid before accruing late fees
- Help me make sure that my car gets registered on time annually
- (and some of this) Review financial documents, balance accounts, check for errors and alert me to things I need to know about

Then I'd hire a CPA to sit down 2-3 times per year to do the following (more at the beginning to get things set up and then basically bow out and just do taxes once everything is running smoothly):
- Estimate how much I need to set aside for taxes
- Help me file and pay my taxes
- Tell me whether putting myself on my own payroll is a good idea, and help me do it if that's what I should do
- (and some of this) Review financial documents, balance accounts, check for errors and alert me to things I need to know about
- Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls
- Budgeting

And I'd visit a financial planner/adviser for these things (your CPA may be able to help with most of this as well depending on their strengths), once set up you really only have to visit 1-2 times per year for maintenance and updates:
- Help me budget and save for retirement, vacations, car repairs, vet bills, computer replacements and emergencies
- Review financial documents, and alert me to things I need to know about
- Help me find ways to save money/avoid financial pitfalls
- Budgeting
- Help me develop a plan for paying down debt

The reason I suggest separate bookkeeper and accountant is two-fold
1. CPAs are more expensive and you really need a bookkeeper coming in and doing data entry/billing/reconciliations/etc. more often.
2. It is always a huge help to have more than one set of eyes looking at these things.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:39 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't be afraid to ask your bookkeeper to handle business and personal bookkeeping. (At least I felt like) You are paying me by the hour I don't really care if I am paying the office's electric bill or your house's electric bill.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:40 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might want to contact a temp agency, specifically one like AccountTemps and see what they have to offer. I have no idea how their hourly prices compare to an independent freelancer, but if you are at the end of your rope and have no idea how to find people, it may help to talk to the folks who place people like you need. At the very least, you might get a good idea of what kind of worker(s) you need and how much it would cost through that agency, then you could use that info to see what's out there on your own.
posted by CathyG at 9:50 AM on March 7, 2013


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