Author Topic: Mid40s Looking for a Viable Career Change - Possibly Accounting, Tax, Finance?  (Read 1643 times)

WorkingStiffABC

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Hi All--

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your guidance. Apologies if not in the right section.

I'm a mid 40s female with a bachelor's degree from a long time ago in theater (totally non-related liberal arts). I had previously taken several accounting, business, and tech courses at the local junior college but had stopped when work became a lot (60-80 hours a week) or had been told that I'd need an advanced degree that had a really high debt burden (At least 60K for a 1 year MAcc).

Work currently in residential Real Estate as an admin/ops role (I'm licensed but do not enjoy in person sales) and been with the same company for close to 10 years. They have transitioned me to an inside sales role where I am on call about 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Grateful to have a job in this economy but really not feeling fulfilled and being passed over for other roles.

Been trying to break into commercial real estate as I'm more analytical (and rather introverted) but I'm hitting brick walls as analysts tend to be younger guys (in their 20s) with finance backgrounds. Came away from another interview pretty discouraged. I'm networking and building my excel skills but thinking about broadening my career horizons.

I make about 75K a year in a HCOL area (SoCal). Expenses are about 35K year. I have no debt and a NW of about 450K. About 70% of this is in retirement funds and the rest is a cash cushion so I can either buy RE (on the next dip if I can move to a MCOL area) or transition careers. I have no dependents. My SO is moving to the Phoenix area for a new job.

I'm doing my best to stick with it and want to keep learning while working but know that this will slow me down.

- Was wondering if you all had any guidance about switching careers later in life to accounting, tax, or finance?

- Is there a Mustachian or inexpensive path for getting any degrees/certs/experience needed?

- Any chance that as an older person that I could get into a mid-tier firm or smaller firm (Big4 is a dream that I am guessing has passed me by due to age and no experience) and build a more fulfilling career?

I am not afraid of hard work and giving it my all. Again, grateful for your guidance!

Joel

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Older people can get into public accounting, if they want to. Itís just a pretty awful lifestyle where you work and travel a lot.

If you have an interest in accounting, you donít have to go into public accounting and it can be a very rewarding career.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2020, 02:38:16 PM by Joel »

missundecided

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I'm almost 40 and I'm back in school to switch to accounting.  I also had the same reservations about my age, but I was offered a summer internship at three different Big 4s, so it IS possible! Granted, I'm in a different market than you, but I wanted to give you hope if that is what are interested in pursuing!

WorkingStiffABC

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Thank you both for responding!

@Joel It sounds like you have worked in the field. Which segments did you cover?

@missundecided Thank you! Definitely feeling a bit more hopeful! Can you share a bit more about your journey? Are you pursuing a second bachelor's, MAcc, or MST? Bricks and mortar or online? Grateful for any guidance!

missundecided

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I'm doing a post-bacc certificate program at a state university. I got as many accounting prereqs as I could at a community college. The CPA in my state doesn't require a degree in accounting, just a certain number of credit hours total and specific courses in order to be eligible to sit.

Also, during recruiting season, it came up that I wasn't really too much of an outlier in terms of my age, career change status, etc. Sure, most of the recruitees are young enough to be my children, but it seems I was the one making a big deal out of it more than anyone else. I haven't done my internship yet, so we'll see about the actual experience, but it definitely didn't hurt getting my foot in the door.

Full transparency: One B4 I interviewed with, I did bring up that my age and experience was actually an asset when asked why I should be selected over other applicants.... Did NOT move onto the next round for that company. Who knows if that response was what killed my chances, but it's  not like my resume hid my non-whippersnapperness.

Joel

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I started my career in big 4 audit, earned my CPA, and have been in private industry for awhile. You can get tremendous experience in public accounting, but the lifestyle is not easy. I used to travel over half the year where I was gone all week long. Once youíve been an in-charge / senior for a year or two though, you are very marketing and itís really easy to pivot into an 8-5 role that pays a lot better and has much better balance.

With 3-4 years in public accounting, you should be able to pretty easily get a role in the 90-100k range in the SoCal area... if not more. Once you have a few years in private, thereís some more upside if you are willing to change jobs a couple times. I would say you could pretty easily reach 150k plus within 10 years of starting your accounting career. In some situations, your age and other experience may be seen as valuable and will help catapult you more quickly in private.

WorkingStiffABC

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Thank you both for your time in replying! @Joel @missundecided

As I am reviewing the forums and googling, I came across WGU (Western Governor's University) that appears to have a BSBA -- which looks like their accounting undergrad track that people are completing rapidly potentially in a year or less for about $3300 a 6 month semester.

WGU also has a MAcc that is about $4400 a term that looks like it can be completed in a year.

Both appear to be fully online, include books and a CPA prep course (Wiley).

There are some negatives in that the grades are based upon a pass/fail system rather than a GPA and there doesn't appear to be any way to participate in any recruiting.

Do you think that this could be a good route to transition? (Most other online MAcc degrees seem to be in the 30K range and don't offer much in the way of recruiting either.)

mozar

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How many credits do you have left to fulfill the cpa credits? In my state you don't have to have a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting. But you do have to have a bachelor's degree worth of credits, plus 30 credits in business/accounting.
It wouldn't be worth it to get an actual degree if you just have a few credits left before you can sit for the test. You can take the rest of the classes at the junior college or online.

Your junior college probably has better recruiting options than anything online.
Passing the test is more important than anything else and you shouldn't have any problems applying to and getting jobs once you have passed.

Check out the AICPA website for your state.

Also you can buy a cpa prep course directly from Wiley.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2020, 03:47:19 PM by mozar »

Joel

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With those purely online programs, my biggest concern would be the schools connections to local CPA firms. My college had accounting organization (beta alpha psi) that was well connected with all the local firms and has exclusive recruiting events and would meet with each firm every semester. That opportunity is worth a lot. Also be aware that hiring typically happens during the fall before your spring graduation to start the next fall.

john c

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As I mentioned in another thread, I got into accounting and became a CPA at age 39, starting my own firm a few years later. 

Tax is a great field, and wide open to new talent.  Like a lot of things, it's probably a 10 year process of learning to do tax, then starting or buying a firm, and then getting it to the point where you can support yourself.  The interesting thing about tax and small CPA firms is that they make pretty much the same wherever you are in the US.  You could move to a MCOL or LCOL area and and charge $200-$400 for a tax return, and it would cost the same or only a little more in SoCal.  Your higher costs in SoCal will eat up any premium you end up charging.

To skip the whole CPA process, get an EA and focus on tax.  Since you're in CA, take a look at the online tax prep classes at Foothill College.  The four class series prepares you the EA exam.  It's a junior college, so the classes are cheap.

In order to get experience, work at H&R Block for a season or two.  Once you really know how to knock out a tax return, you can get a job in a CPA firm doing taxes for $30-$50 an hour.  Start building up your practice.  It's really the best side hustle out there.

MadBikePoet

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Do you like helping people?
Are you a good listener?
Have a passion for solving financial puzzles and thinking outside the box?

If you answered yes to these questions, consider financial coaching. No degrees, no certs, low startup costs. My initial startup costs were about $300, and I was immediately profitable. I'm not making a ton of money. I was already FIREd for 2 years before I started my business, but FCs do make $80K+ (provided they hustle) :)

Easy to prototype this as a side hustle. Start with friends and family for free. I can provide some resources if this idea intrigues you.

sixwings

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Big 4 is definitely not out of the picture for someone making a career change. They hire more experienced people all the time. I used to be in a big 4 and was very involved in recruitment. It was definitely not a negative to bring past experiences to the table. I have a friend who made a career change from being a software engineer to big 4 in tax. He became a senior manager in 5 years and was a partner by 7, which is a very fast track for big 4 tax in my market (partner was usually 11-15 years, but it all depends on the book of business). He credits a lot of his previous experience with his ability to move up quickly. He didn't get sucked into a lot of the BS that less experienced people get stuck on, was able to make connections with clients easier, etc.

My advice if you really want big 4 is to get really good grades and network like crazy with big 4 employees. Attend all recruiting functions as much as possible, make good connections, etc. One thing that really stood out was that most people would tend to gravitate toward the oldest partner at networking events and they would have crowds of 10 people all asking the same Q about what they liked while the lower level staff would be having 1:1 conversations or standing around by themselves. Go talk to them, if you make a good connection with them they will go to bat for you, they will coach you through the process, they will review your resume, tell you what the firm looks for in a hire, etc. The partner wont remember you or care. At my office we actually had a system where we would enter peoples names into a database and rate them 1-5 and give comments. This was then used for interview decisions. People who were rated highly would get interviews, people who weren't in the database needed to have a really damn good resume and grades, and people rated poorly would not get interviewed. Partners never entered anything into that database, it was all the 1-5 years staff that did it.

shicky

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Do you like helping people?
Are you a good listener?
Have a passion for solving financial puzzles and thinking outside the box?

If you answered yes to these questions, consider financial coaching. No degrees, no certs, low startup costs. My initial startup costs were about $300, and I was immediately profitable. I'm not making a ton of money. I was already FIREd for 2 years before I started my business, but FCs do make $80K+ (provided they hustle) :)

Easy to prototype this as a side hustle. Start with friends and family for free. I can provide some resources if this idea intrigues you.

I'd be interested in resources if you wouldn't mind?

WorkingStiffABC

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Thank you all so much for replying. Definitely giving me a lot of food for thought! :)

Yes, I do tend to be a good listener, enjoy helping people, and working through puzzles. In my current role, I am a bit like an air traffic controller, except not with anything likes planes, freight, etc. @MadBikePoet If you might share those resources, I'd be curious.

I will have to look at my transcripts as it has been a while. I believe that I had stopped taking accounting courses previous in intermediate accounting, which I had found very interesting. Since posting this, I have been on Udemy refreshing myself with some of their basic accounting as well as working on brushing up on my excel skills.

It does seem that I have missed the registration dates for Foothill College (CA)for their online accounting program. If I move to Arizona, I may be in a holding pattern for in-state residency before I can apply at ASU. It appears that they have a good accounting program as well as a MAcc or MTax track. (Thanks @Joel for pointing out that I should really consider the opportunity cost of recruiting!)

@sixwings Thank you for weighing in on some specific strategies for in-person networking. I will definitely keep that in mind once I am able to attend an in person recruiting event!

@john c Thank you so much for mentioning the idea of the EA as well as the concept of buying an existing business to scale. Definitely been looking at BizBuySell to start getting some ideas. Likely would be best after I'd get significant experience.

I am so VERY grateful for this awesome community of Mustachians that are willing to share their experiences, strength, and hope! You really brought a smile to my face and great hope for my future! :)

BlueHouse

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What are you doing to improve your excel skills? 
Excel is one of the most useful skills I have and it has opened many many doors for me.  It tends to be extremely useful if you are already in the business and suddenly can be the excel expert for others. 
You have an enormous quantity of data available to you from the sales of homes and tax records, etc.  Have you considered taking some of that data and performing analytics on it for your office?  It will help your skills and maybe let you create your dream job in your own environment. 

I routinely take data from tax assessment databases, turn it into pivot tables, then review where taxes are increasing, etc.   It's not my job, I just do it for my own info.  I'm sure you could find something interesting to analyze.


CNM

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Another option is bookkeeping.  Usually an associate's in bookkeeping from a community college is all that is needed.  Yes, you will not be a public accountant or CPA (unless you have enough credit hours, varies state by state). As a bookkeeper, you can work at an accounting firm, open you own practice, or work in an accounting department of a larger business.  Much lower barrier to entry than CPA but still similar.
Another option is becoming a tax preparer.  Also easier than CPA, check your state for requirements. 

WorkingStiffABC

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Happy Friday All!

@BlueHouse To improve my excel skills, I am working through a series of online Udemy classes by Chris Dutton (Maven Analytics) and Justin Kivel (covers Commercial Real Estate CRE modeling) as well as YouTube's ExcelIsFun corporate finance classes. I may also work through the Adventures in CRE series as well, if I have enough time! It is a good idea to then look at publicly available data to get a project going!

@CNM Thanks for the suggestion, yes--I am investigating all options. It seems that the bookkeeping into EA route could open some initial doors and be a start on this path!


Joel

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Iím a big fan of Jeff Lenningís Excel University subscription time strengthen your excel skills. If you really want to get advanced, take the courses on power pivot by Ron Collie and power query by Mynda Tracy that he offers.

MadBikePoet

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@WorkingStiffABC

Check out:
https://www.financialcoachesnetwork.com/

They have some great resources. They also run a FB group I am on if you do the FB thing.

john c

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While you have likely missed the three part series in EA preparation at Foothill College, there are other classes you can take that will prepare you for a switch to accounting. 

The first is Actg 64A for learning QuickBooks

Second is Actg 64B for learning Excel

Third is Actg 67, which is the first course in tax preparation.  Getting this will qualify you for CTEC license.  It's a bare bones starte.

Then take the Actg 68 series, which may run in lock step (ie, Actg 68A starts in fall, 68B in Winter, and 68C in Spring).  But I recommend taking Actg 67 first.  Actg 68 will prep you for the EA exam.  It's pretty dry, so having done a season or two of tax prep will help make this a bit easier.

Also, get a part time evening/weekends job at H&R Block next January and start doing tax returns.  I have no idea what they pay, but the real benefit is the opportunity to do 100 or more tax returns.  You'll learn a lot.  Once you can handle the notes on a K-1 or a PTP, then you're ready to start working on your own.

In looking at practices to buy, check out Accounting Practice Sales.  If in CA, look at Business Brokerage Incorporated.  This is where most firms are listed, along with a couple of smaller players.

BeanCounter

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@WorkingStiffABC

Check out:
https://www.financialcoachesnetwork.com/

They have some great resources. They also run a FB group I am on if you do the FB thing.

I'm a CPA who just FIREd after a 20 year career. (I ended up in FP&A for health insurance and hospitals but that's a story for another time). I think you've been given great advice on this thread, but the above is bullshit. If you think you might really want to be a financial advisor then that's a different educational and career path, it's not, or shouldn't be a career that you "buy into".