Accounting is one of those professions that can open any number of doors. Just ask Charlotte Jungen. After earning a bachelor’s in business administration from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, in 1997, she got her first accounting job, earned her CPA, and did traditional tax and accounting work at a CPA firm for a few years. Over time, though, she shifted gears, and today works for a Beaumont financial services firm as a financial planner, helping people achieve their financial goals. Still, she wouldn’t be where she is today without her background in accounting.
Question: What drew you to accounting in general, and your particular area of expertise?
Jungen: “I’ve always enjoyed working with numbers, so I figured accounting was a good choice for me. Once I started working in the field though, I realized accounting was so much more than just dealing with numbers. But, it was still a good fit for me. I worked several years doing traditional tax and accounting work at a CPA firm. When I decided to move to a different firm, the new firm asked me if I would be interested in becoming certified as a financial planner so that I could work in their newly created financial services division. I agreed, so I spent the next couple of years earning my CFP designation and obtaining my securities and insurance licenses. Over time, my workload shifted from accounting work to financial planning as I progressed in my studies and the firm’s financial practice grew.”
Question: How do you describe what you do to people outside the field?
Jungen: “We serve as advisors to people looking for comprehensive financial planning advice. We help them achieve their financial goals, whether it’s figuring out how to pay for their children’s college education, or how much they need to save to be able to retire when and how they want, or how to transition assets to the next generation without paying the government too much, or how their investment decisions will affect their tax situation, or how to protect the assets they have and provide for their family in the event of a death or disability.”
Question: Accounting often has a reputation for being “boring.” Is this fair? How would you dispel this myth?
Jungen: “I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, but we can only dispel that myth if we take the opportunity whenever we can to tell people what we do. People think it’s boring because, like me when I first decided to go into accounting, they think accounting is all about numbers. But, it’s not. It’s about so much more than that. While the numbers aspect is there, it’s more about problem solving. It’s about being able to look at the numbers and discover the story that the numbers are telling you. It’s a story that not everyone knows how to read, so accountants are able to help others solve financial problems. It’s a people business. It’s a service business.”
Question: What are the best aspects of your job?
Jungen: “The best aspect about my job is that it’s rewarding. I get to help people. Knowing that at the end of the day, a person’s life is better off from having worked with me, makes everything worthwhile. Plus, having the CPA designation generally comes with instant respect. It comes with a built-in level of trust, competency, and ethics in people’s perception of you, and I like knowing that I have that edge over other practitioners in my field. I would definitely recommend that anyone going into the accounting field, even if they aren’t going into public practice, should get the CPA designation.”
Question: Where do you see the profession headed? For people just starting their education or their professional career, what should they consider specializing in or studying?
Jungen: “I think it’s a great time to get into the profession. There’s always going to be a need for accountants, so our field (especially for those in public practice) is generally less touched by what’s happening in the economy than other professions. Accounting students are always left with the question when they go to enter the workforce of whether or not they want to do tax or audit or industry, etc. The thing to remember is that if you don’t know, that’s OK. Talk to people. Gather as much information as you can about your options and then make the most informed decision possible. Try it and see where life takes you. When I took my first accounting job, there was no thought at all that I would end up where I am now doing financial planning. But, that’s the great thing about accounting. That degree opens so many doors for you and there is a world of possibilities of what you can do with it.”