Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Public Accountants

I thought I’d talk a bit about what it’s like to be the wife of a Certified Public Accountant.  I keep seeing links via Facebook or Google or whatever about how accountant jobs are amazing, and lucrative, and #2 or #3 on bestest jobs ever!  It offers great pay, great hours, and tons of flexibility!

And then I quit typing because I started trying to remember exactly what the heck those links said.  

But then I got distracted, because, you know, ADHD + Google equals awesomeness, and I found these pictures:

No, Google, that’s not what I meant by “CPA flexible job”… 
although I bet Bean kind of wishes it was like this at his office.
And then, because I could, I googled “sexy accountant”.

And it turns out that sexy accountant is totally a thing people daydream about, but only if the accountant is a girl.  It took me a lot of scrolling before I found this:



And yes, he is pretty sexy, but I don’t know.  I’m no expert, but I don’t think he’s really an accountant.  If counting a giant stack of ones with a pensive look while showing a lot of skin makes you an accountant, then that means I was an accountant when the Bean and I met, and not a cocktail waitress.

Anyways, where was I?

Look, I’m not a CPA.  In fact, I can’t imagine me ever being an accountant, unless someone hired me to deliberately screw over an enemy by haphazardly trashing their books.  If you came to this post because you want to know about the ins and outs of the daily life of a CPA, then Google led you astray.

What I can tell you about is what it’s like to be the wife of a Certified Public Accountant.  I know all about that.

Well, I mean, I think I know all about being a wife of a CPA… I mean, I’m still married. I think? His name is Bean, and he’s… uh… he’s got brown hair?  And maybe his eyes are brown?  I mean, he did come home last night.

Well, I mean, I hope he did.   I definitely remember someone coming home last night, although I can’t tell you exactly what he looked like, since he crawled in after I went to sleep and then dragged himself out of the house before I woke up in the morning.  I hope it wasn’t a weirdo  breaking into my house.

Oh well.  Even if it was a weirdo, the dog didn’t bark at hi,  he didn’t steal the covers or the TV, and he kept my feet warm. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

All joking aside,  I haven’t actually seen the Bean during daylight hours in days… maybe weeks.  I got so lonely for him that I waited up for him the other night, and the two of us sat down to a lovely dinner at a little after 11pm.

And by “lovely dinner” I mean he heated up some top Ramen and I ate a bowl of cereal, because we’re both just so stinking exhausted that the idea of cooking makes us want to cry.

If your spouse is looking into being a CPA, here’s some of the down-to-earth details to help you understand a little more about it.  Also, Bean, yes, I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of the technical details wrong.  I suppose I could ask you to proofread it before I send it out… but it’s busy season, and if I put one more thing on your plate I think you’re going to go postal.

  1. Accounting is split into two fields:  Private vs. Public.  Private accountant people have lovely boring jobs, with lovely boring 9-5 hours.  They max out pay-wise at about $100,000… maybe $125,000 a year?  That’s the super high end of the field, though… usually it pays a lot less.  I have no idea what the starting pay is.  All I know is that they start out paying more than public accounting, but the end game is also a lot less money.

    If you’re looking for info on private accounting, look elsewhere.  This info is all about public accountant CPA.

  2. Public accounting is further broken down into two fields:  Tax vs Audit.  Audit people travel around and, well, audit people.  Tax people mostly stay in their own office and deal with taxes.  Shut up – I know that’s common sense, but I had no idea what accountants actually did when I first started this whole gig.
  3. The Bean is a tax accountant, so all I know about audit accountants are the negatives – mainly, why he didn’t want to become one.  The reason why is simple:  Travel.

    If you are are going into public accounting to get your CPA and work in audit, you’re gonna travel.  It sounds exciting at first, but what “travel” means is, “Hey, get on this plane, and go live in the cheapest hotel room we thought we could get away with, and then go audit this company and hang out with total strangers for 2-3 weeks, pawing around in all their stuff while they kind of resent you…. and then right about the time you start settling in, we’ll let you go home and relax and then you get to go somewhere else and see the inside of another office building in a different city.. hooray!”

    You won’t actually get a chance to sight see, because of the hours.  And speaking of hours…

  4.  Don’t worry – there won’t be any over time unless you really want it.

    Ah, sorry.  I crack myself up.

    Look, I don’t care what the firm you’re looking into is saying. They can claim to care about family all they want… You are going to overtime, and you are going to have lots of it. You are their slaaaaaaave. You will live and breathe that company during busy season… which, technically is only supposed to last 3 or so months out of the year, but for some reason it’s really like 8 or 9 months out of the year.

  5. Salary vs Hourly:  Look.  GO WITH HOURLY.  It’s rare, but there are firms out there who offer it.  GO WITH HOURLY.  Why?  See post above.  Many firms claim they’ll max out at 45 hours a week.  It’s so not true.  But they’ll offer a really nice salary compared to the hourly places… I’m here to tell you the hourly places pay better.
  6. Tax accountants can mostly be divvied up into three fields:  large corp, mid corp, and start-ups. You also have tax guys who individual returns, but that’s kind of a different thing.  I’d tell you more, but it’s super boring to talk about.  There’s a reason I didn’t find any pictures of sexy male accountants, you know?
  7. There are only two busy seasons, and those revolve around the two big deadlines:  March 15th and September 15th.

    The first tax deadline for businesses is March 15th – this is a soft deadline.  Basically, your spouse is gonna work like crazy to try to get everything completed before March 15th, and then somewhere around March 13th they are gonna get really fatalistic and start saying things like, “Oh well.  September, I guess.”  Then they file an extension, and life goes back to normal…. until late July happens, and all of a sudden everyone realizes HOLY CRAP THERE’S LESS THAN TWO MONTHS TO SEPTEMBER 15TH.

    Busy season #1 lasts from about the last week of January through March 17th or so.

    Busy season #2 lasts from about the third week in July through September 16th. There is no extension past September 15th, so just… just try not to be pregnant, or have a newborn, or have anyone die around that time.  It’s super inconvenient to have to face those things by yourself, you know?

  8. I was joking about “only two busy seasons”.  Once your spouse gets done with those deadlines they will be dragged over to help the floundering individual tax accountants.  It doesn’t matter if they’re business tax vs. personal tax (deadline of April 15th) – they’ll get sucked over there anyways.  And once those deadlines are passed there are these things called “provisions”.  I don’t know exactly what a provision is, but roughly translated it means “HAH, you thought busy season was done, but you guys seemed too relaxed so now we’re just going to invent some imaginary deadlines three or four times throughout the year so tha you don’t actually get to relax. Ever.”
  9. Hours:  Even during the slow season the hours are kind of crappy.  It’s like… everyone wants to stand out, and the only way to stand out is to work really long hours.  I get excited when The Bean gets off work at 6pm.  HOLY CRAP.  6?  THAT MEANS HE’LL BE HOME BY 7.  DUDE.  BOYS, COME OVER HERE, I’VE GOT GREAT NEWS!  YOUR DAD’S COMING HOME EARLY!  YOU’RE GONNA SEE HIM FOR AN ENTIRE HOUR BEFORE BED!  I KNOW, I’M EXCITED, TOO!
  10. CPA Test:  In order to get your actual CPA license you have to pass the CPA exam and work for 1 year at an accredited (or whatever) accounting place.  The CPA exam is divided up into four parts, and you have to wait a certain amount of time in between each test.  Only… only they have these magical “black out” months where nobody is allowed to take the exam – and, of course, those are the months where it would be perfect for you to take the exam.

    Anyways, it’s the bane of your existence, because HOORAY! YOU GRADUATED SCHOOL! YOU’RE FINALLY DONE WITH STUDYING…. except you’re not.  In fact, it felt like the CPA exam was more frustrating than any class The Bean ever took, because trying to cram in studying in between deadlines was more stressful for him as well as the family than any midterm and finals he ever had to take during college.  The CPA exam is comparable to the bar exam.  The best way it was described, by someone who took both tests, was that the bar exam’s material is an inch wide and a mile deep, whereas the CPA exam is a mile wide and an inch deep.

  11. Vacations:  If your company lets you, take them in October or November.  December’s also pretty laid back.  So is May, and a little bit of early June.
  12. Labor Day:  The most aptly named holiday ever.  Your spouse will be laboring while everyone else is enjoying a lazy three-day weekend right before school starts.  At least the money’s good?
  13. Valentine’s Day:  That day in the middle of the first busy season where everyone on Facebook either posts a picture of hearts and roses or a funny picture about being single and hating Valentine’s Day.
  14. April 11th:  My wedding anniversary that I will never, ever, ever get to celebrate ever again, because WHAT KIND OF IDIOT GETS MARRIED TO SOMEONE STUDYING TAX ACCOUNTING ON A DATE WHICH OCCURS FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE INDIVIDUAL TAX DEADLINE? I should have gotten married on the 16th, instead of choosing to get married on a Friday because I liked the bristly way “11” looks.  Stupid Becky.
  15. Fixed Assets:  Fixed assets will be the bane of your spouse’s existence.  I’m not even sure what a fixed asset is.  I mean, the Bean has explained them to me before, but I always tune out about three words in and start daydreaming about how pretty Morgan horses are.

    All I know is that businesses never get them right, and if you say the term it sounds like you’re listening.  Seriously, all you have to do is say it with a rising inflection at the end.  Not only do you sound smart, but you sound like you’re paying attention.

    The Bean:  “Somethingsomething, boring, somethingsomething, was gonna be home at five but then waa-waa-trumpet-sound-Charlie-Brown’s-teacher-makes something.

    Me:  “Fixed assets?”

    The Bean:  “YES.  Somethingsomething, fixed assets, somethingsomethingsomething!”

    Me:  “Beer?”

    The Bean:  “I love you.”

    And people say marriage is hard work. Pah.

  16. Firm Fun Days:  This is the firm’s way of deliberately flipping you off and letting you know how much they resent you.  Okay, maybe that’s not REALLY the purpose, but that’s what it feels like.  Did your spouse just spend 97 hours straight with his coworkers to meet the tax deadline? Have you not seen him before 10pm in weeks?  Well, then, in order to celebrate the end of them being gone all the time… the Firm is immediately going to steal them for yet another evening. Because nothing says “thank you” like making you sit at home all night. Alone. AGAIN.
  17. Drinking:  DUDE.  Accountants are partiers.  I’m serious – this isn’t a joke at all.  I mean, you would expect cops, or firemen to get off work and go party hard.. but accountants?  It was just a total shock to me.  I’m not saying they get themselves booby tassels and hats with motorized propellers on top… but it’s definitely more of a drinking culture than I was anticipating.
  18. Money:  The money’s good.  I mean, there’s a reason everyone puts up with all of that stress over something as boring as excel spreadsheets, right?  Here’s the thing, though:  You’re not gonna make money at first.  I know the figure varies, but most places are going to offer you a starting salary between $40 and $45k a year.  I know that sounds like great money, and it is totally awesome money when you’re 23…. but to a person in their 30s with a family and a ton of financial aid debt, it’s not that great.  Plus, if you (the spouse) are planning on working, you need to find a job to accommodate a single parent’s schedule, because that’s essentially what you’re going to be several months out of the year.

    Anyways, eventually you’re going to make money.  You’ll get your yearly raises, and your promotions, and while it’s a slow start at first, after the first few years the money begins to add up fairly quickly.  Still, I think it’s a game the firms play – or rather, gamble at.  Most public accountants drop out before they’ve been there five years.  There’s a high turn-over rate, especially at the 2-3 year mark, where you’re doing the job of someone whose been there much longer, but you’re still making pretty crappy money.  Five years may not seem that long on paper… but it’s a long, long time when you’re dealing with constant stress, lack of sleep, and looming deadlines.

    The thing is, after ten years?  You’re making bank. And by bank, I mean you’re making BANK.  I have no idea what a partner actually makes… but I’d guess (and this is an educated guess) that it’s in the $300-500k a year range?  Of course, you’re not going to make partner just on hard work alone – you have to have great business savvy and really stand out, but still.  I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people who have 10 years experience make $150-200k a year.  That’s not bad for a four year degree.

Anyways, that’s all I can think of right now about being a CPA… or rather, being a CPA’s wife.  And seriously… if you’re a business?  Get your crap together and figure out those fixed asset thingies.
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8 thoughts on “Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Public Accountants

  1. Mugwump wrote:

    “”The Highest-Paid Female CEO in America Was Born Male
    The highest-paid female CEO in America right now is 59-year-old Martine Rothblatt, who was born a male.”

    This is all I know about accounting and I learned it today…on a dog blog. “

    And then I deleted it because I couldn't figure out how to share the darn thing on Facebook without that showing up as the preview text of the post…. only the second after I deleted the comment I figured it out, so anyways. There you go. Deleted comment somewhat restored.

    Like

  2. Alrighty. I'd love to comment on the female CEO thing, but I can't make it sound PC. It's almost like we need another category now, females born male, females born female, so we know where we're at.

    It sounds like you haven't seen the Bean for a while. It will be over soon.

    Like

  3. My friend is going through the process of becoming a CPA as we speak. He passed the exam so I guess that's good.

    As for the business owner end… I apologize because I am definitely one of the people who keeps the CPA away from his family as the deadline looms. I try to have my shit together but… well… I don't even know what fixed assets are so I'm guessing I'm part of the problem…

    Like

  4. I made the mistake of marrying a farmer who also works full time in town, sounds like you still have it worse.
    Can't think of anything better to get distracted by than those beautiful Morgans though.

    Like

  5. Man, we suffer, don't we? Seriously! I mean, I always say, I'd rather have HIM and have him working at his ridiculous career, than not have him at all or have some other man that I don't like as much. I stand by that but after 25 years it's getting weary.

    I know what it's like to not see my husband awake for days on end. So I totally feel your pain. I used to bite down on my jealousy when other mothers in the schoolyard complained that their husbands worked so much and didn't come home until 7 or 8 at night and barely saw the children before bed, and I'd be thinking, “He saw his children awake this week!?”

    But we chose this. Didn't think it would still be this hard or pay the same crappy amount after all these years… (Thanks for nothing, illegal downloading and global recession!) but he's the man I married and I still like him. I am sure I'd still like him if he wasn't making records anymore but here we are.

    Now all I have to do is get my fixed assets together. Accountants are people too!!!

    Like

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