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Any CPA's/CA's here?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi there,

I am a CA student articling with one of the big four audit firms here in Calgary. I'm posting to find out if anyone here is a CPA/CA and an avid skiier. I discovered part way through business school that working in public accounting is not the best profession if you like to ski, given the busy season. I will still make it out 15-20 times this season (which has been a poor season around Banff) as I have most Sundays off, however it is unrealistic to take a week off and ski given how busy audit firms are, especially in Calgary.

I'm wondering if anyone in the profession has any ideas of places to work with better work/life balance, geared towards skiing. My plan is to stay here at least until I get my CA, possibly until manager level, and then explore opportunities (either in industry or public accounting) in other locations, near good skiing (I can't stand how little it snows around here anymore). I'm contemplating major centres such as Seattle, Sanfrancisco and SLC, which appear to be within a short drive to good skiing (WB, Baker for Seattle, Tahoe areas for Sanfran and LCC for Utah).

If anyone in the profession has advice, I would appreciate it. I know I don't want to stay here working 65 hour weeks all winter for the rest of my life.

post #2 of 22
Calgary is relatively close to Banff/Lake Louise, Panorama, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Castle, Nakiska. All are max a few hours away.

One of my ski buds is a CGA with KPMG. He's a senior partner, and doesn't miss many weekends.
post #3 of 22
When you figure this out, let me in on it. Jeff works way too hard this time of year, and it Sucks!
post #4 of 22
Life sucks, then you die :

Hummm now, where is that balance??? We work to provide the necessities for our families/selves and hopefully there is enough left over for a little fun, like skiing

Basically Gramboh it aint easy, but your chosen profession is a good meal ticket which will stand you in good stead anywhere in the world. I work 60-70 hrs a week in my own practice and most weeks I'm in my office 7 days a week. But each morning I either go for a 20k cycle, go for a surf or try and grab 9 holes of golf at sparrow fart. Then every winter I'll book a week or two in the mountains and steal a couple of 3 day weekends to sate my skiing addiction.

Balance? It's what you want it to be. My advice - get your CA/CPA out the way and they pack your bags for a couple of years and find out how much you really like skiing. You've got the rest of your life to be serious :

BTW the big four always want their pound of flesh. Get out of audit and try a smaller firm (especially where the principals ski).
post #5 of 22
go to law school..wife has 4 yr degree from marist for cpa then 3 yrs law school"she tried working for cpa firms and found them to be *******s" so she decided to practice law"estate planning" ...get 4 to 5 weeks vac plus sick we ski about 3 days a week....will get about 55 days this year
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tips guys. My roommate actually works for KPMG here in Calgary, they had a nice trip up to Fernie this weekend, got to watch the freeski competition, too bad he blew out his knee on a rock hidden under powder . My firm didn't have a trip this year, too busy.

Beta: I shouldn't complain about being in Calgary, we do have world class skiing, but I have been skiing here since I was 3 years old and am looking for something new. If they actually develop Jumbo and Revy that would change things a lot . Really wish I had taken up touring in high school/college.

Taxman, where abouts are you working if you don't mind me asking? Do you find you have to work 60-70h a week to be comfortable, or is it more out of desire? I can handle the hours now (single) but not sure if I could hack it with a girlfriend/wife, unless the amount of hours was proportional to the cash I was taking in.

I'm contemplating trying a secondment but the big firms make you sign a contract that you will come back and work for a few years (up to 5) after, because they are so desparate for people. I will get my CA then re-evaluate what I want to do, possibly consider the CPA reciprocity exam (I think I just have to do an exam on US GAAP/tax) and go from there. Basically I'm dreaming of somehow landing a 4 day a week controller job for 80k and living comfortably. It's painful to be testing payroll and seeing oil and gas accounting clerks in Calgary pulling in 90k compensation working 7-4 for four days a week.

skidbump: I've kind of romanticised about going to law school for a long time, not sure why, my only exposure is a business law intro course which I really enjoyed. Not sure if I want to foot that bill and be broke for years again though.
post #7 of 22
Oz Gramboh, local beach Bondi, (10 mins away ), local mountain Thredbo (5 hrs ).

I'm a CA, now with my own practice, so the bastard who's working me to hard is me. And yes the hours are proportional to the income, lifestyle expectations, mortgage, school fees etc, etc, etc. Younger and single I could run on the smell of an oily rag, but you get older, your expectations rise, you are no longer satisfied with beer and chips (fries) so you work harder/smarter (not enough of the latter) to grease the wheels. :
post #8 of 22
I'm 23 and work for a technology company. Right now I am in Corporate Finance. I want to study and get my CPA. However, I do not plan on working in tax or audit. I think I would rather work for a large company's accounting department. My boss is 38. He is assistant controller, and makes about 180k a year. The controller is maybe 45 and makes around 250k. They work hard, but dont put in nearly the amount of hours that friends of mine put in who work for KPMG, E&Y, etc.
post #9 of 22
I have a good friend who's an avid skier and CPA. During tax season, he gets his turns in at night. He and some of our other corporate lifestyle buddies bought 20 watt halogen headlamps and go out for backcountry runs after work. Sounds a little extreme, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
post #10 of 22
I am an accountant with my CPA, but I do not work in public accounting. Corporate accounting is the way to go, IMO. I have never liked the audit aspect of accounting, but if you do, then there are plenty of internal audit opportunities that you could try. I value my personal time greatly and if I can make a comfortable, albeit not wealthy, living with my accounting degree, working 40-50 hours a week, with no weekends at work, then I feel that is worth more to me than busting my butt for 60-70 hours a week (or more) for the corresponding higher compensation. You can always buy things, but you can't buy time. At the end of their life, no one wishes that they would have worked more hours, but many wish they would have taken more time to do other things. Just my $0.02.
post #11 of 22
I skipped working for a public firm and went straight into working in corporate accounting out of school. The hours were much better and the work much more rewarding. 40-50 hours a week tops as well. I could never stomach that boring audit work. I ended up becoming a controller at 26 years old even without becoming a CPA. I skied 30-50 days a year through all this. I recently left accounting (it got too repetitive and boring )to become the GM of a general contractor.

For me I'd trade off the long hours and pay for more free time to do the things I enjoy more. I also would rather have a working experience that was interesting and somewhat enjoyable.

Remember you have plenty of time to work in your life.
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
My long term goal is to get into corporate accounting in a controller type position either here in Calgary (oil & gas) or to move somewhere else with great skiing/outdoor activities available. Thanks for all the tips and information on here guys it has been helpful. On a positive note I actually had all 3 days off this long weekend and skiied every day
post #13 of 22
Another option is education. I did the public accounting thing for a couple of years and then went back to school for my Ph.D. I have been a professor for 18 years and really enjoy it. I have lots of autonomy with my schedule and find my family responsibilities tend to be a bigger constraint on my skiing than my work.

The up or out tenure process does create some stress but once you get past it you have considerable job security. The market for new Ph.Ds is excellent as there are many more openings than candidates each year. Pay is pretty good too.
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Did you do your Ph.D in accounting? What was the reseach like? What little journal reading I did for my undergrad I found understimulating. My professors also gave me the impression that academic research for accounting isn't widely regarded by practioners (as opposed to FASB/CICA/IASB or whichever governing body applies). Teaching is appealing, if I were able to get on at a good school near good skiing.
post #15 of 22
Ski resorts hire accountants too. Just go work for one.
post #16 of 22
Originally Posted by gramboh
Did you do your Ph.D in accounting? What was the reseach like? What little journal reading I did for my undergrad I found understimulating. My professors also gave me the impression that academic research for accounting isn't widely regarded by practioners (as opposed to FASB/CICA/IASB or whichever governing body applies). Teaching is appealing, if I were able to get on at a good school near good skiing.
My Ph.D is in accounting and I have done most of my writing in applied (professional) rather than academic journals. I started my career at a research oriented university that emphasized top level publications (the ones that practioners don't read), but didn't find it too rewarding. I moved on and have taught at two institutions that place more emphasis on teaching and value applied research.

Why don't you send me a PM if you want more info.
post #17 of 22
I am starting out as a public auditor - lots and lots of hours during the wrong season, but I figure get some experience, and then go private. I did get 3 weekends in this year - but it was not easy... one or two more years of this and then I'm private. There are a lot of downsides, but this is the first year I could easily afford new skis...
post #18 of 22
Wow - I didn't realize there were so many skiing accountants on this board. If skiing is important to you, get out of public practice as soon as you get your license. Then find a company out there whose fiscal year ends in either June or September and you should be able to find companies willing to give you all the time off you need during ski season. Everybody I know in public practice is pretty miserable during ski season.

By the way, I've heard many first-hand accounts of how lousy the pay is for entry level staff for the Big 4 in Canada. Is it still pretty miserable?

By the way
post #19 of 22
If you're getting bored with the lift served around here, start thinking earn your turns. You can easily ski the rest of your life within 3 hours of Calgary and never hit the same line twice.
Any oilpatch job has a busy winter season which conflicts with skiing, but I know quite a few people, myself included, that manage to pull off 50+ day seasons with some creative time management. I'm not an accountant, but is there not a way to spend a few hours in the evenings getting ahead of the game to free up some ski hours?
post #20 of 22

My wife ...

My wife's a CPA. She works in Truckee and Salt Lake City. Both have skiing very accessible. But she specializes in Tax. She skis maybe 20 days a year despite the ability (and encouragement) to do more. She prefers to get the work done rather than increase her stress levels by taking mornings off to go skiing. But just wait a couple of weeks and she'll be out there much more often

Big picture is to try and find places with a late season to get some catch-up spring skiing days.

By the way Tahoe is not close to the San Francisco Bay Area, and it's getting further away based on the traffic patterns. In the 'good old days' it used to be a three hour drive, in cruise control. Now it's a stressful 5 hour drive : That's almost as 'close' as Mammoth is to Los Angeles. Reno, a town that's growing incredibly fast, is close though :
post #21 of 22
I work in internal auditing for a bank. I find this even more conducive to skiing than corporate accounting. You don't have to deal with month end or quarter end closes. Most importantly you don't have to deal with 12/31 year end work. I work about 40 hours a week and have not worked a weekend in 10 years.

The plus for internal auditing. There are many jobs available nowadays. The Sarbanes Oxley Act in the US has created a demand for internal audit professionals. I highly recommend the profession.
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
clark: this is my first year and I will probably have about 20 days which isn't too bad, including 2 days in Fernie over Christmas (conditions were terrible though). I bought new boots/skis/bindings just because I could this year, felt good to finally be making money after being a student forever.

rquick: June year end, that sounds good, winter would probably be dead, I'll look into that more, probably going to diversify my clients out of oil and gas to get more broad experience if possible. All oil and gas seems to be 12/31. Pay is still terrible, I am getting $34k/year (first year), I probably could've received $45k if I went into production accounting for an oil and gas company. Salaries are higher in TO but so is living cost. Raises are pretty good, ~10-12k probably this year for the first few levels but there is no bonus and no overtime banking (at least at my firm, I believe KPMG is the only one in Calgary to let you bank overtime for holidays/study time). There is massive turnover and short staffing in Calgary at all the big firms, due to SOX-404 work and because seniors/managers can leave to industry and make 30% more salary and work less. Not many people are staying around, so the firms are hiring huge numbers of university grads but there is no one around with experience to manage, and then they end up farming in managers from the middle east and Europe who don't have Canadian experience. Clients are starting to get angry with quality.

Jeff: I am hoping to get into backcountry in the next few years, the problem is I have zero experience (not taking the avalanche course in highschool/university is one of my biggest regrets) and I need a few weekends to take courses, get familiar and meet others with similar interests willing to help a newbie. I know this would solve the problem with resort skiing boredum. One thing I've seen that is appealing is acting as a consultant to small clients to prepare their financial reporting, I've seen a few people doing this 4 days a week making 90k and it looks pretty slack. No job security though.

Truckee: Wow 5 hours, I thought it was 2.5-3 (never been there though), that is brutal for a day trip you'd have to leave at 5.

Ski: I've never considered internal audit, interesting, I've seen a bunch of CA's leave to work as SOX-404 consultants which I guess you might consider internal audit? In fact the client I am typing this at right now (oops) has a recently qualified CA doing this work for 50/hour I believe. How do you find the work in internal audit compared to financial statement audit? Is it lots of boring detail testing?

Thanks a lot for the replies guys it is helpful
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