CPA Financial Planners Report Loss of Confidence in Stock Market, Greater Risk Aversion, AICPA Survey Shows

More than Half of Retirement-Age Clients Postponing Retirement

February 4, 2010

NEW YORK  (February 4, 2010) – Nearly a year and a half since the 2008 economic meltdown, more than half of high net-worth Americans still lack faith in the stock market, according to a survey of CPA financial planners conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said their clients, who typically have between $500,000 and $5 million in assets, are currently not very confident in the market. Nearly three quarters, 74 percent, said clients have grown more risk averse in their investment decisions in the past year. Sixty-two percent reported that retirement-age clients are postponing retirement from one to five years.

“Regardless of net worth, every American has to make it a priority to understand how the prevailing economic climate, whether it’s good or bad, affects individual personal finances,” said Clark M. Blackman II, chair of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee. “This new survey of CPA financial planners shows that wealthy investors still feel nervous about the stock market and are being conservative in their investment decisions.”

The temporary suspension of the estate tax isn’t spurring them to take action on their estate plans, especially with speculation that Congress at some point this year may reinstate the tax retroactively.  A large majority, 82.3 percent, said their clients are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward estate tax planning.

Financial means notwithstanding, high net-worth clients have reduced their spending.  A total of 87.3 percent of respondents said their clients were either spending slightly or significantly less.

Six in 10 of the CPAs surveyed, 58 percent, reported that anticipation of  higher future tax rates was most likely to trigger 2010 conversions of traditional Individual Retirement Accounts to a Roth IRA. Nearly as many, 54 percent, say they are advising clients to pay tax on Roth IRA conversions in 2010 despite an IRS allowance that allows taxes to be paid over three years. Roth IRAs offer several advantages over traditional IRAs.

Three quarters of the survey respondents, 75.8 percent, said the average net worth of their clients was between $500,000 and $5 million.


The AICPA conducted an online survey of CPAs belong to its Personal Financial Planning Membership Section from Jan. 15 – 29, 2010. There were 421 respondents. The confidence rate is 95 percent, with a margin error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

About the AICPA

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants ( is the national, professional association of CPAs, with more than 360,000 CPA members in business and industry, public practice, government, education, student affiliates, and international associates. It sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination. The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Durham, N.C., Ewing, N.J., and Lewisville, Tex.

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