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Are you trying to learn how to deliver massive tax value to your clients? Then look no further. Retirement Tax Services Podcast, Financial Professional’s Edition is a show hosted by Steven Jarvis, CPA. Steven aims to bridge the gap between tax professionals, financial advisors and their mutual clients in their quest for reducing tax expenses in retirement.
Steven is joined by the CEO of Asset Map, Adam Holt, to talk about the cross-section of technology and financial planning. Their conversation covers the evolving tech space but also dives into where Advisors can deliver the most value to their clients, regardless of what software they might be using. This wide-ranging conversation provides great insight into where the Advisor’s biggest impact on their clients can come from.
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We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast, financial Professionals Edition. I am your host, Stephen Jarvis CPA, and with me today going off on a little bit different topic, I have CEO of asset map. Adam Holt, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Stephen. Great to be here with you.
Yeah, I’m excited to have you on the show today. And while there is certainly a tax element to, I mean, anything finance related and certainly some of the things that you’re doing at Asset Map, I mean, really the reason I was excited to have you on the show is to talk more broadly about technology and a financial advisor’s life.
My goodness. That’s something I spend way too much time of my life talking about. So I actually, you know, I do love it as you know, well, I’m a recovering financial planner. For someone who’s been in the field for, gosh, 25 years now as a CFP, but found myself as a CEO of a FinTech because the best practice that I created for my own firm just went viral in 2012. Next thing you know, I’m a CEO of a FinTech company. So it’s, I love this space of the mashup and I certainly love what you’re doing at Retirement Tax Services, talking about how advisors delivered more value and certainly tech is a big part of that today.
Yeah. It definitely is there. There’s a part of me that I, this is the CPA brain where it’s like, I wanna be able to know all the numbers. I wanna be able to stand all, understand all the math, and while I like software tools, there’s part of me that wants to be able to just knock it out in my head or on a piece of paper, but I get questions just constantly really from advisors that it always lead towards, well, how do I do that with software? Or what tool are you using to figure that out? Well, I mean, there certainly is an element of that, you know, that interpersonal interaction that advisors want that face-to-face with clients, it keeps coming more and more back to how’s the technology fit in.
Do you know why, though? I mean, the real key for this is that we are all just indoctrinated with this idea that we can move faster and technology is the fastest way to move faster and likely more inexpensively. Right? I mean, we talk about this word scale all the time, but I don’t think advisors really understand what that means because we never were taught this idea of scale your practice, scale your practice. Right. That’s a relatively modern concept. And at the core of that today, basically being able to do more with less, it’s really rooted in how do you use technology to accelerate the process or make it less expensive or reduce barriers in many ways. Right? These are all doing the same things.
Yeah. Specific to reducing barriers. In my opinion, that’s where it comes a lot from on the tax side, that you have advisors who see the importance of tax in their client’s life, but feel like there’s this huge obstacle to being able to weigh in on it, whether that’s because of compliance constraints or they think my acronym after my name is fancier than theirs. But I think the other thing in addition to speed that advisors are looking for is certainty. They want a piece of software that they can implicitly trust and say, if I put my client’s tax situation in here, I know I’m going to get the magic answer that’s going to set me on the right track.
It’s so true. But I mean, when you think about the core of what all professionals do is that a consumer usually comes to us and is willing to pay us to get our guidance at a moment in time when they’re either faced with some form of complexity, right? I don’t know what I’m doing or there’s a high cost of being wrong. Right? Which means if the decision I make is not rooted in some sort of intelligence or experience, or at least, you know, gives me confidence, as you’ve already said, right. Getting that certainty, I don’t know if I can recover from this. So when you have complexity in high cost of being wrong, we tend to want to human, right? The interesting thing for us humans who are playing that role, the professionals, we want to give as good an answer as possible, and likely we even have regulatory component behind it that says, if we give poor advice, it’s gonna come back on us.
So we have a high standard as professionals to make sure we’re giving the best guidance we can. And these days, because it’s rooted so much in both the math of it as well as the calculation function and the historical archive of that information, in other words, being able to go back and saying, this is what I provided over time to support my recommendation, the best interest, if you will. We need technology to support both of those. And it’s put a lot of pressure on the tools to almost help us get to a conclusion faster.
There’s a lot of great insight in there, and just with the sheer complexity of this ever-changing environment we’re operating in, whether it’s on the tax side, which changes anytime Congress gets together, it seems like, but finances in general, I mean, over the last couple years as digital assets have become more common, what I mean, whatever the most recent regulation it is, we think to your point we’re to this place where you can’t, an advisor can’t possibly do all of this without some kind of software tool. So then it’s finding that balance of how much of it is the advisor’s skillset and expertise versus how much is it just their ability to use a piece of software?
Yeah, no, that’s true. And you know, most of the software we’ve all had for years was very back office. right? It was either to help us do calculations, if you’re doing tax, it’s really doing the prep, the filing, the implications of what is the budget, what do the finance looks like, right? The zeros, the QuickBooks, a lot of the tools that we used on the tax side, or if it was from the investment management side, it’s the financial planning tool, the forecasting, the asset allocation, the performance modeling, CRMs, these are real backend tools. And what I’ve seen is that there’s been a relative gap of how I can use those technologies directly with the consumer. Certainly there’s portals, robo-advice pops, its head up every once in a while in the media. But for the most part, we’re still very human dependent on building the confidence you were talking about. And that’s very much rooted in what we’ll call a human empathy or advice intelligence as I tend to call it these days. But I think we’re starting to see the technology kind of sneak into the interaction, not the least of which Zoom meetings and screen sharings. Obviously that’s technology infrastructure, but I’m talking about real enabling of conversations and that’s where we tend to focus on an asset map, is how do we help elevate the conversation between a professional and their client so that they can get to better decision making.
That’s interesting. So as you look at how asset map specifically fits in an advisor’s life, I mean, is that kind of goal balance of if you get an advisor to sign up for Asset Map, how much of their job is that taking over? Is this a 50/50 split between tool and operator? Or, like how do you envision that? Maybe there’s not a number to put to it?
Oh, yeah, no, I, look, I think that the, you know, actually, now that I think about you asking that question, the goal of Asset Map has always been, can I collect the data from a client in 15 minutes, get a very clear, high level 30,000 foot view of all of the people that matter in their life, the people, that’s their big why, right? Usually it’s because it’s about the people and the entities. You control all the financial instruments, that’s incomes, assets, liabilities and policies, that’s insurance policies all on one page so that a financial professional tax, legal investment insurance doesn’t matter, can have a clear view of what’s going on in the household, right? No judgment, just hear the facts Hmm. Drawn out spatially so that they all kinda live like a financial x-ray, if you will. Right? All of our X-rays of us and you know, it’s gonna show a skeleton, hopefully if you’re a human and you have muscles and you have tissues and so forth.
Once I look at that, I can now diagnose the situation and ask better questions. Hey, I noticed that you’ve got some, you know, your spine looks a little bit awry. Why is that? Oh, it’s because of this, or, oh, it’s because of something that needs attention, right? So the key for asset Map is really to try to build speed diagnostics without judgment. So that means remove the intimidation factor of, oh, your retirement’s totally underfunded. Let’s not start there, let’s start with what have you done so far? Let’s overlay what your peers have done to see if there’s any kind of missing gaps. And now let’s figure out whether, where should we take this conversation? Okay. That’s, that’s the real key to asset map is speed to that moment of what we call advice intelligence. Many different professionals apply their knowledge, their silo knowledge tends to be pretty much strong in one area investment.
Tax, legal, insurance, banking. And they see the things that are indicative of what they tend to see. Where we’re really interested in is bringing all of those professionals with skills, so that’s able to look at the same map and see different things. And when they do that and they apply that knowledge to the client, the client gets opportunity to lift their current condition. And that’s really the key. So when you ask about who’s doing the driving, we think that if you can use the minimal amount of technology to get to the conversation, to build the confidence that we can make good decisions, that is the key. And that’s, I think, 90% human, 10% tech. The challenge is that all the tech that’s tend to be out there requires you to spend 80% of your time to get to that moment and we’re two weeks later and I forgot what we’re talking about. So I really want to kind we tend to joke these days that everybody has learned attention deficit disorder as a we’ll call it as a, a superpower that some people have and some people have to learn. Yeah. Everybody is kind of fighting for attention span these days, and we need to get there quickly so we can figure out whether this is an emergency or whether this is a long-term strategy that we can implement.
That’s a really interesting approach. I definitely like the focus on that, on how do we get this to a point where we can interact with the client on it? Because on the tech side, there are definitely some really robust tools out there from a math standpoint even, whether it’s the DIY solutions or the solutions available for professionals, and those softwares are moving, they’re trying to move more to a planning, angle of things. I think they’ve got a long ways to go, but what really where the huge gap is, and this is where I struggle to give advisors answers when they come to me and ask for a solution, a software solution, the gap is then, okay, what do I do with this, with the client? Because no matter how pretty the report comes out looking, it’s how do I take really complicated things and then communicate in a way with a client that they’re going to take action.
And so I’m not an advisor. I know that one of your long-term goals with asset, but maybe I’m long-term, I know that you’re moving towards, you just talked about getting all of the professionals on the table, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing asset map more and more. I’ve definitely had a chance to play around with it. I like the visual aspect of it, but one of the things I would love to hear your insight on is how are you helping advisors go from this nice visual to no how, what’s that conversation? How do I communicate this to a client? That seems to be the gap that a lot of advisors have.
Okay. Well, so here’s a great example. So just in your mind’s eye, how many times have you met with households where one member of the household, let’s call it typically the wage earner okay. Has a lot of financial instruments in their name. and their spouse who’s not a wage earner, has literally none in their name. Is that a problem? I don’t know if it’s a problem. Is there a state or tax implication depending on how they file or what state they live in? Possibly. Is there legal liability issues to that? Is there a possibility with a death scenario? Is there a possibility on investment management that one risk tolerance is dominating versus the other? All of those are interesting questions, but when you see it visually, you see that one member in the family has a boatload of financial instruments and one does not, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that dichotomy.
Okay. When I show that to you visually and the clients are in the room, the first question is why is so much in his name or her name? And why is nothing right? There is a technical aspect of you that we know there’s downstream implications as a professional and problems that will arise if we don’t address the why behind that decision. So the real important aspect of that specific situation is why is it like this? That’s conversational, that’s empathy, that’s advisor intelligence, knowing what question to ask and not be intimidated. Cuz it’s buried on 50 page 52 of 73 because it’s in everybody’s face. By the way, when I see six different IRAs left at different firms and 401ks, that’s pretty obvious when you’re looking at it visually cuz it’s cluttering the map. And so it turns out actually what happens is that when you look at this stuff visually, even with a third grade education, you can’t hide from the obviousness of it.
So what we’re basically doing is saying get good at interpreting the current condition so you can figure out what questions to ask based on your expertise and or bring in others as I just said. Yeah. And you supported and also maybe I can overlay what your peers are doing. If you’re confused, you don’t know what your peers are doing, let me just overlay them like Netflix tells you what movies you should be watching cuz they know what you watch. Yeah, I can do that based upon demographics. Your ex gen boomer business owner lawyer, I can overlay, we can do that in asset map. So that those are the ways that we’re enabling a conversation of intelligence that makes the advisor look like a rockstar and doesn’t get stuck in the tech. You see what I’m saying?
Yeah, I do. Mmy wheels are turning on that because I’ve really liked the approach. I mean obviously you said you started this in 2012, you’ve had a long time to develop this. It makes sense that you gotten good at it because I think what a lot of software, or maybe it’s not even the software that should be blamed. I think what a lot of users, a lot of advisors go to software looking for is final answers. They want a tool that they can put numbers into and the software’s gonna say, here’s the answer, go tell it to the client. And what you’re saying is that you’ve intentionally designed asset map to not say, Hey, we have all of the answers, but that we can create a clear picture so you know what direction to go in and what questions to ask, what conversation to have. So you’re actually not remotely threatening the advisor of, Hey actually asset map’s just gonna take your place. You’re saying we’re gonna help you be even better at your job.
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Hey, I’m glad you see this because obviously as an advisor and this is actually the original IP goes back to 2004, which is scary. Oh wow. I built a significant practice of at scale before 2012 when I showed it at the top conference for my broker dealer at the time. And they were like, what are you doing? And I’m like, well this is what I’m doing. And they said, can we use it? Thars actually how asset map got out of my firm. Wow. Cuz I wasn’t planning on sharing that special sauce. We had gotten to over a billion of a AUM and we were very happy with that outcome, even back 10 years ago. So you can kind of imagine that. But I say that more to impress upon you the insight that we gained by being able to ask the right questions as opposed to give the right answers.
Our credibility as professionals is supported and built upon and layered over time. We don’t have credibility out of the gate unless somebody referred us to somebody Yeah. As a professional and they just, I the person who referred me to you just loves you. I’ll do whatever they say cuz I totally respect them and that’s good enough. Good advice, bad advice. No, we actually earn trust over time and it turns out that we earn that trust by asking good questions that are relevant and contextual to the client. I noticed you have this, why’d you do this? You know, by being insightful as opposed to being saying, you know what, you need an IRA or well, you need a life insurance for what problem? I don’t know. You just need it. Okay. Unfortunately, the industry has been so mired by a product first and then we went into financial planning to justify the product.
Yeah. To now we’re in this space where a professional is, wait, let me just ask good questions and I’ll figure out if I’m even the right advisor for you. Or I need to build a team. We’ve moved past this idea of you gotta buy something in order for you, to be a relevant conversation. And that’s actually a panacea. It’s been a true at the highest net worth for many years. And I think that’s what’s interesting about this. The mass market or the mass affluent market has been sold products and then they got planning as a, oh, you’re welcome. I’m on the side. The high net worth market was like no planning first, and I’ve got professionals that are gonna vet this, so don’t try to mess with me. And then we came ultimately to solutions as well. So I think we’ve now moved into this luxury that’s turned into a necessity in the sense that we need to provide professional guidance with a process to everybody. And that’s awesome for the industry. It’s actually what’s been happening overseas for 10 years. The United States I think is really starting to follow suit on it
So much what you’re saying really resonates with me and I’m thinking through things that we, software aside for a second, thinking through things that we do with advisors and the way we work with clients, and then how we share that with advisors. The most powerful moments I have with clients and that I work with advisors, I have with clients are all based around not telling someone what to do or what the answer is, but asking them questions to help them see the value of whatever that ideal plan might look like for them. But having even if it’s the same topic, starting with questions as opposed to starting with answers makes all the difference on that client experience. And so approaching the software from the same way that really the software should help you with the questions, not the answers. Maybe it contributes to where what the answer you get to, but yeah, it’s as the advisor, as a cpa, whoever you are helping a client, it’s that those questions are really gonna make the difference.
You know, it’s funny, Steven, you sound like a therapist almost, right?
I mean, don’t therapists, well, not almost probably in very many real terms, right? The best professional therapists Yeah. And coaches will call them if you want to call ’em coaches, and I’ve had coaches forever will always ask you why, how, when, why did you choose to do this? What were you trying to achieve? Right? You want to get into the mind of people because it turns out as we’re all learning, it’s the behaviors that support the outcomes, right? I know you’re into racing it’s the behaviors that you take consistently over time that enable you to win, right? it’s not, you don’t just run the race and you just win, right? And so the question in finance and creating wealth and if that’s your goal or creating security or certainty or tax efficiency or whatever you want to call it, or illegal protections that happens over a long period of time all of a sudden.
And the key is for professionals, we actually need to help people make long-term changes, not just episodic changes or ones, oh, I just do this and you’re good until the next time. I think what we’re starting to see is a recognition that that’s true from the consumer. So you’re having a much more empowered consumer that’s just more mindful. And I think that that’s why professionals are seeing a move towards this kind of holistic life coaching, financial coaching. It sounds really weird to many of us, like what I, I’m not trying to be a therapist, but it’s actually true that we’re expanding our capacity to understand underlying why you’re doing this. Therefore I can help you achieve that and it will be sustainable because we’re both on the same page as of why. Do you follow what I’m saying on that?
Yeah. This is such a great conversation. I I almost wish we were having this off the podcast so we could just kind of completely nerd out about it. Like I just wanna take it like, just like sit back for a second and just kind of ruminate on it, but we’ll, for our listeners sake, we’ll keep going and we’re gonna take a five minute break for me to think Yeah, yeah. There so much in there that, just, you have a great way of describing that. There’s pieces of that that I’m going back through in my mind and I thinking of places where I’m gonna focus in more on that, the pieces that I already do that are in line with that. Maybe it’s just some of its confirmation bias of, you’re right Adam, I should keep doing what I’m doing. But it helps have that lens to say, okay, those are the areas I need to focus on so that as I’m working with advisors,reviewing tax returns and just naturally, as I’m reviewing those tax returns, I’m not giving definitive answers. I’m asking questions or I’m relaying questions they can ask their clients. And I think that’s one of the things that sets apart tax preparers from tax planners. It’s not just, here are the numbers and here are the answers, but oh, I see based on this situation, here’s something we should explore.
Hmm. You know what’s interesting? I’m thinking about that while you’re saying, and I do believe there’s a difference between an effective advisor, effective communicator and someone who’s just trying to gather assets or just trying to prepare the taxes and just, I’m trying to solve the problem of the day. And there’s a role for that. I get it. I think long-term value for a consumer is knowing that you have an advocate on your side and an advocate, as my coach told me many years ago, he said, there’s really three important aspects that you want to pay attention to. Everybody on this podcast. You need to prove that you know the client, you know their situation and that you know their options as a result of knowing them and their situation. If you can prove to a client on a consultative basis that you know them, you know their situation and you know their options, you will be viewed as a professional advocate.
And that is what I think consumers are looking for and willing to pay for, to know there’s somebody on their side, someone on their team, maybe multiple members that’s looking out for their best interest. And that’s why it’s kind of interesting to see how much these regulations have really kind of pushed towards this idea. That’s what they’re really talking about. Are you on my team or you on your team? And if you’re on my team, you gotta prove it by knowing what matters to me, where I am in this kind of whole process and what I have to do or what choices I have. Don’t just tell me I have one choice, but tell me one of my choices and then make a recommendation based upon your knowledge, experience, and hopefully your credibility.
Adam, if we pivot just a little bit for a second here, there are, so there’s so many software options out there and it seems like an ever-growing number of them. And so o o obviously you’re very passionate about asset map. That’s what you spend a lot of time talking about and understandably so. I would love for you to kind of just share some insight for advisors in general of as they look at the way their practice already runs, the software they already use, and what are the things they should be looking at to say, Hey, maybe it’s time for me to reevaluate my suite of tools that, that I should even go out. And because I, I think there’s a lot of advisors who have done things the way they have for a long time and they’re not even looking for what’s that next solution. So how, how do you go through that evaluation?
Oh, boy, isn’t that true for everything though, right? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? Yeah. I mean, I didn’t, you know, it’s kind of funny, we were talking about this this morning. I had some people visiting and they asked me a similar question. I said, you know, I used to have a wardrobe that was full of dress clothes, sport coats, slacks, as a male, you know, doing presentations so forth. I had dress shoes that went with all those slacks different, you know, today I wear sneakers, you know, and the fact that I can wear those sneakers on a zoom meeting or on a stage and it’s good enough, basically I’m saying, why wait, why do I need dress shoes anymore? Right? Unless I’m going to a Blackside event. And I say that because it turns out that a lot of the stuff we’re focusing on is how do I make the tech into pair of sneakers?
You could use ’em in every environment. I could use ’em on stage. I can use it with my highest net worth client. I could use it with my, you know, the pro bono case I’m doing, right? I can use it pretty much everywhere. Cuz convenience really matters to me today, right? I want to come up with one process that works. And so I think that a lot of advisors are still using tech that’s dressed up in a full suit and it doesn’t need to be. And what we’re also seeing is that advisors are not using 20% of the capacity of these fantastic tools. And there are some great tools, like you said, they’re fantastic tools. I love tools. I’m a gadget guy also, but I’m also a realist in the sense like, I don’t use any of that junk. Like it’s awesome, beautiful, expensive junk.
You know why? Because it’s in the basement with the other junk that I loved at one point in time and I’m not using it. So it’s really just taking up space and I’m treating it like junk. The challenge I’m seeing with advisors is they’re not using what they’ve got. And I think the adoption game is really interesting. What are you actually adopting? What can you actually use that’s useful, that’s gonna be productive, that’s gonna enable you to scale? So the things that I tend to focus on is if it can’t fit on one page, I don’t want it asset map the entire platform, every single concept stands on its own as a tear sheet. I want to basically, I wanna have a one page report, I wanna have a three page report. But those three pages can stand on their own. And that’s why when we kind of approach this idea of rethinking about tech advisors, when they see that they’re like blown away. Like I, what I do in what I do in two pages takes most systems 30, because you are the engine of advice, not the technology. If you can rely on the human component of it, then I think you get really far.
That’s some really great perspective. I 100% agree that really all that matters is what we actually put into practice we actually take action on. It’s a huge focus for us here on the podcast because the only information that counts is information we take action on. And so we always like to wrap up these podcasts with action items for our listeners and our conversation’s gotten in a lot of different directions today. So it might be a little bit harder to pull something out of it, but I would just love your thoughts on, as advisors, our thinking about technology or how they serve their clients. I mean, if you could just recommend one or two action items everybody takes this week, what would those be?
Oh, wow. That’s great. That’s a great question. I wish I had time to think about that. Look, I think the key is, I would say in financial planning, let’s remember number one that our needs to get to clarity on a recommendation are different from our clients’ needs to understand what to take action on. Okay, so if you’re simplifying and you’re making things simpler than the tools, that’s a great thing. I do happen to think that most financial planning that’s call it Excel based, right? It’s all math models of forecasting. These are commodities. Please don’t rely on these alone as your advice engagement tools. There’s a lot of things that are coming up, I think in technology that you should be looking at. You should obviously look at asset map and see if that has a place in your tech stack.
If it doesn’t, that’s totally cool too. I will tell you that we’re trying to build the first financial x-ray that is a standard globally. That means we think everybody should have a treasure map. Everybody should have the ability to do high level diagnostics. And I would encourage you to be an advisor who provides that to your client before someone else does. Whether you’re in the legal or tax, insurance or investment side of the business, I think it’s really important that you can prove you’ve listened to your clients and showing them that you’ve listened is the best way to do it since most of us are visual learners. So I would really just encourage everybody to really explore what’s out there these days, whether it’s with us or not. And really challenge yourself to say whether you’re delivering the best customer experience you can.
I would say right along with that. The other action item I would recommend from our conversation is that you have to be practicing whether we’re talking about reviewing a tax return or using software or engaging with clients. If you want to deliver massive value, if you wanna be the best, you wanna be a professional, you have to practice these things. I think that in some part gets to your point about people only using 20% of the software. If you’re not getting in and trying these things out and improving your game on whatever area you wanna focus on, you’re not gonna improve that client experience. And so whether it’s software tools that you’ve signed up for that you’re considering sign up, signing up for, or just other things in your practice like tax planning, you have to put in the practice if you wanna be a professional.
Yeah, well said. Steven,
Adam, really appreciate you coming on the show today. My last question probably most important one. What kind of sneakers are you wearing on stage?
I’m wearing on clouds actually. That’s what I pretty much wear. I have like 6 pairs of them now.
Right on. Right On
Because my back, right? My back hurts from sitting so many years of sitting in front of a Zoom.
It’s a good choice. It’s a solid choice. Well Adam, like I said, really appreciate you being here today. Thanks a lot for tuning in. Where can people follow up if they want to hear more about what you’re doing or learn more about asset app?
Yeah, absolutely. Yo, connect with me on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. I’m a big, voice there. Obviously assetmap.com, you can certainly google it, find out what we’re doing, stay in touch with us and and hear and hopefully we get a chance to meet with you in person.
Awesome. Well as always, thanks everyone for listening and until next time, good luck out there. And remember to tip your server, not the IRS!
We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.
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