The Best Apps for an Accountant

Most accountant's aren't very technically savvy, to the detriment of our profession. That's why in class, instead of paying attention to the professor (let's hope they don't read this), I sometimes let my eyes wander to see how my classmates take notes and solve problems. As you might have guessed, they use pencil and paper. If you're not an accountant, here's something you should know. We take lots of notes, and we need lots of scatchpaper. Don't get me wrong, I love the feel of my Pilot G-2 07 Gel Pen smoothly caressing the paper, but it's far from efficient. That's why I don't use paper and pencil to takes notes and homework problems. I am entirely paperless. My devices? An iPad for taking notes, and my Mac for everything else. The only alone time I get with my pencil is during exams, and that's because I'm forced to. So here are the devices and the applications I use.

iPad 

PDF Expert

I open all the PDF slides my professors provide in PDF Expert, and sync them through Dropbox (everything I do is saved in cloud storage, but I'll leave that for another post). It's quick and easy, and let's me quickly markup documents. 

Mac

Numbers

For those unaware, Numbers is Apple's version of Excel. It's less powerful, but much cleaner and quicker than Excel for basic calculations. I do all of my homework in Numbers. It lets me play with numbers and see how various things fit together (which is precisely what accounting is). It's like a digital scratchpad that never runs out. Unlike pen and paper, I don't have to scratch out or erase my errors, I can just delete them. Is my answer off by a few cents? No problem. I can quickly adjust the numbers to see which percentage gives me the correct answer. But the best feature of a spreadsheet program like Numbers is its support for formulas. For example, I can set "Income Taxes Paid" to equal the "Tax Rate" multiplied by the "Net Income/Loss", and it computes the answer in real-time. If I decide to change the "Tax Rate", "Income Taxes Paid" changes with it. Imagine doing that on paper. I keep all of my calculations saved in a workbook, with a sheet for each chapter, so that I can refer to the examples at a later time (like when I have to take the CPA, or more likely, before an exam). Numbers is more stable and appealing to look at than Excel, and I highly recommend it for any accountant/student who uses a Mac. 

An example of my Numbers spreadsheet. If you were wondering, I was calculating the Loss Carryforward and Carryback in this problem.

An example of my Numbers spreadsheet. If you were wondering, I was calculating the Loss Carryforward and Carryback in this problem.

Excel

Every accountant knows about Excel. It's a powerhouse application, and much more powerful than Numbers. That said, most accountants rarely, or likely never, need Excel's power-user features. I still use it for some classes, mainly when the teacher expects the homework in Excel format. It does exactly what I wrote about for Numbers, albeit in a less pretty way. The formula's are nearly identical to the ones in Numbers, so for those who are worried that everything they learned in Numbers won't translate to Excel, stay calm because it will. You'll definitely be using Excel at work, so it helps to get friendly with it.

An Excel spreadsheet with my cost accounting homework.

An Excel spreadsheet with my cost accounting homework.

Soulver

Soulver is what I use when I need to do some quick, dirty calculations. Quick, what's $2,500,212 divided by $20,212? I could do that calculation in Numbers or Excel, but it's much faster to do in Soulver. You can also reverence previous lines. For example, I set "Income before taxes" to Line 1 (revenues) - Line 2 (expenses). It's fantastic for short homework problems. 

That's correct. The above calculations are my net income. 

That's correct. The above calculations are my net income. 

I use many more apps, but these are the three I use most for school. It always amazes me that students still use pen and paper in 2014, when there are much better options out there. And it's great preparation for the real world, where you'll be doing all your work on the computer, not to mention that you'll be a much more productive employee out of it. If your excuse for not using technology is that exams are on paper, I say to you, sure, then you will want to do practice problems more efficiently on the computer. You can do three to four problems in Numbers in the same time as you would do one in your notebook. Make the computer work for you.

Apple Q2 2014 Results

Finals will start soon, but I had to find some time to analyze Apple's Q2 2014 performance. Let's get right into it. 

by Larry Sukernik

by Larry Sukernik

  • iPhone sales are steady. The iPhone is Apple's cash cow. Margin's are luscious, production has been perfected, and carrier subsidies keep consumers making repeat purchases. If you spin off the iPhone as a separate company, it would be nearing the top of the Fortune 500 list. It's big, but it's not the next big thing. That might be TV, wearables, or god knows what other new innovative product. Profits from the iPhone keeps the bills paid (and more), but it's clear from Tim Cook's statement's that they are working on something new. 
  • iPad growth is slowing. Analysts predicted that iPad sales would fall, but not by as much as they did. Apple sold 16.35M iPad's in Q2 2014, compared to 26.035M the year before, a steep drop. Some reasons I can think of to explain the falling sales? The iPad is a hybrid product, one that fits in between a desktop computer and a smartphone, making it a nonessential product. Those who have it love it (myself included), but the value proposition is not clear for those who don't. Power users prefer keyboards, and while you can buy add-on keyboards for the iPad, they aren't as good as a laptop. Smartphones are also get bigger and nearer to an iPad's size, which makes the value of one even less clear. That said, 16.35M iPad's is still a huge number - nearly 4x the Mac sales, just for reference.
  • Macs are like pancakes. Flat. Mac sales are the least volatile segment in Apple's repertoire, because the replacement cycle is predictable and demand is still strong. College students are heavy Mac users, as well as artists, designers, and other "creatives". I'm typing this post on a Mac, and made the graph above on one too, so business people make good use of them too. Not much to say here except that I don't see Mac growth growing much in the future, but nor will it shrink.
  • Why is the iPod still around? Great question, and one that I ask myself every time we see iPod sales, which have been steadily plummeting since the iPhone came out. Apple only sold 2.76M units this quarter, likely to gym goers and children. iPod's are great devices to enter the Apple ecosystem with because they are so cheap, so perhaps that's what is at play here. Kid get's an iPod in middle school, asks for an iPhone in high school, and get's an iPad and a Mac for college. 

So what's coming next? Apple's developer conference (WWDC) is just around the corner, and we're all expecting an update to the Apple TV and perhaps mention of a new wearable. Neither of those products are as necessary as a smartphone, so I'm doubtful they will be the next big thing. It doesn't matter though, because Apple doesn't necessarily need the next big thing, but rather a nice, diversified portfolio of products. Time will tell. 

Google 2014 Q1 Results

I've been quite busy with schoolwork, "work" work, and learning to code, so forgive me for posting so sporadically. I may not be posting very often, but I've still been consuming all of the latest tech news as vigorously as ever, so all is dandy. Anyway, that's enough of my solipsism. This week we have a small treat from Google, with their 2014 Quarter 1 results. Below is a transcribed (and beautified) income statement. Percentages are mine.

Google Q1 2014 Income Statement. Q1 2013 included for comparison.   - Items highlighted in red reduce net income.    - Items highlighted in green increase net income.   - Items in black are totals. 

Google Q1 2014 Income Statement. Q1 2013 included for comparison. 

- Items highlighted in red reduce net income. 

- Items highlighted in green increase net income.

- Items in black are totals. 

Some things of particular interest:

  • Revenues grew healthily, despite what Wall Street skeptics will say. As many analysts have noted, Google revenues closely follow the amount of Google users (due to advertising). For revenues to continue growing, the user base has to expand. The U.S. is saturated already (pretty much everybody is a Google user), so revenue growth will either have to come from 1) international users, or 2) other ways of monetizing current users. It's also worth noting that international users are less profitable than U.S. ones.
  • For every dollar earned, Google spends $0.14 on Research & Development. Google Glass, Google Maps, self driving cars, Android, Google TV, I can go on with other projects Google is involved in. The good part is that they are constantly innovating. The bad is that many, no - most products never leave the lab. Overall, it's great to see a large company spending so much on research and innovation. Looks like it's not stopping. Google spent 31.5% more on R&D this Q1 compared to last year. 
  • Large increase in General & Administrative costs. Are they hiring up? Becoming larger and thus less efficient? Hard to say, but the increase is there and worth pointing out. 
  • Net Income rose by 3.17%. Not bad, but not exactly stellar performance either. Considering revenues rose 19%, I would like to see net income follow revenue growth more closely. Trim down the fat (SG&A expenses). That said, technology companies are rarely efficient, so this is nothing to worry about, but again, worth pointing out. 

That's all for now. In the future, I would like to make some comparisons over a longer time period (10 years), but for now, this will do. As always, you can contact me here (I don't bite) or in the comment section below. 

 

Will Accountants Be Replaced By Computers?

I'm sure you've read by now many articles predicting the demise of various occupations such as doctors, waiters, taxi drivers, and accountants, among hundreds of other "ancient" professions. Now, I'm not a doctor or a waiter (at least in this lifetime), but I am an accountant who knows his field well and feel very comfortable writing about the future of this profession. Obviously my being an accountant makes me inherently biased, but it also makes me especially well informed. With that said, let me get back to what I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph, and that is, will the jobs of accountants be replaced by software and/or computers? Or more elegantly: will accounting be a dead profession?

The short answer is no. If that's the answer you came here for then feel free to stop reading after you finish this sentence, and resume whatever it is you were doing before this. Otherwise, read on to see why I believe accounting will still be done by humans.

Computers (I will lump software into computers as a whole for this post) nowadays are extremely powerful, intelligent, and complex. Evidence of this is Google Search, which we can all agree is almost impossible to live without in our data driven world.  Processors are fast, RAM is abundant, and storage is almost free. All of these things, however, are missing one crucial trait that only a human can add, and that's subjectivity. Here's the thing about accounting; it is at many times extremely subjective. Many numbers are crunched using estimates - estimates that were made by accountants. Sure, a computer can give you the output of a long, complex formula, but it first needs instructions on what it's solving for. Computers are great at math, which by the way, accounting isn't. There is no formula that always guarantees the right answer. Each country, state, and industry has different rules that need to be applied, which a computer will have no way of knowing. An even better example of the need for subjectivity in the accounting field is auditing. Are these internal controls appropriate? Are they compliant with standard X and regulation Y? Lots of these questions require judgement only an accountant can give. I can't predict the future, but unless computers will be programmed with subjectivity in mind, we will always need human reasoning. A computer is an accountant's best friend, but it's nothing without the accountant.

 

 

Some Thoughts on Apple's Q1 2014 Results

One of the richest companies in the world just got richer. Yesterday (January 28th), Apple released their Quarter 1 results, which bring simultaneously good and not so good news (that's just how these things work). I will just be briefly highlighting some things that stood out to me, as well as some thoughts on the numbers. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

Some thoughts on Figure 1, which shows revenues by operating segment (geographic location):

  • Apple made more revenues in the Americas than all of Asia combined. In otherwords, there is enormous room for growth in Asian markets. Smartphones and tablets are becoming saturated in the U.S. but that is not yet the case for China. It remains questionable if demand for more premium tablets (read: iPad) exists in China yet. 
Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the Average Revenue Per Product (ARPU) for the four most profitable products Apple makes, namely the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and iPod. Here's what I notice:

  • Mac ARPU is almost exactly 3 times that of the iPad. Obviously, the future of casual computing (reading email, browsing the web, watching video) is in tablets, but let's not discount the traditional computer just yet. 
  • iPad ARPU is $440, which means that the majority of iPad sales are the now ancient iPad 2 and/or the cheaper iPad mini's. When I say cheaper iPad mini's, I mean consumers are purchasing either the previous generation mini's or the cheapest (16GB) iPad mini with Retina displays. That's unfortunate, given that it's hard, and becomes increasingly harder, for developers to support older models of iPad's. Furthermore, it's not good for the users, since they have to live with a device that has such a small storage capacity. I expect the next generation of iOS devices will come at 32GB as the lowest storage capacity. 
  • Stating the obvious, the iPhone remains the most profitable device for Apple. Most consumers don't know this, but the $200 iPhone they are purchasing from the store is subsidized by their carrier. Good situation to be in for Apple.

That's all for now, but I will be going deeper into the financial statements of Apple in later posts.