A few months ago, I received the kind of jolt from my tax preparer that many of us will get sooner or later. He informed me that he’d decided to retire in the coming years.
While I was happy for him, I immediately recognized the agonizing implications for me: that our 29-year association would be coming to an end and I’d need to find someone to take his place. Someone I could trust, afford and enjoy doing business with. Oh yes, compatibility would be crucial, too.
His bulletin threatened to upend my life, the same way similar news from a longtime doctor, dentist or lawyer might. Finding a new specialist can be a major challenge and a potential point of stress or anxiety.
How would I go about the search?, I asked myself.
Suddenly, I had to start thinking about a new tax preparer’s expertise and track record and I had to fret about how much I might be paying.
Don’t we all settle into our little comfort zones, based on years or even decades of a professional relationship which — if you’re lucky — morphs into a friendship?
As we age, there’s great solace in knowing that these pros will be there for us. They’ve come to know us, our histories and our idiosyncrasies (and we know theirs).
Based on the long association, we hope they”ll give us preferential treatment when necessary: appointments on a moment’s notice and call backs without delay to answer questions whether mundane or critical. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll even give us a friendly discount on their services based on our years together.
The fellow who has been doing my taxes annually and I go back a long way — all the way to 1992. He’d been working on my taxes since George H.W. Bush was President, Phil Simms was the quarterback of my beloved New York Giants and New York Yankees great Derek Jeter was still a high school phenom in Michigan.
And now I’d have to find someone just as trustworthy, wise and knowledgeable of both the tax code and my unique financial life. Could I succeed in finding someone every bit as reliable?
The truth is, there’s no easy answer when you have to look someone in the eye and make an assessment that could affect you for years to come, perhaps the rest of your life.
Even specialists like doctors, dental surgeons, accountants and lawyers acknowledge that this can be a wrenching decision.
If you’re lucky, the retirement of one of these pros is a planned event, so you have time to choose a replacement.
Often, physicians and dentists reassign their patients to the care of a partner or someone local they know and respect.