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The CPA in the mirror.

The way Journal readers live reflects the kinds of people they are.

If you see a well-heeled, well-educated baby boomer in a foreign car with a laptop computer stowed on the passenger seat, it's quite possible that person's a CPA.

How do we know? To get a better sense of what kinds of people our readers are, the Journal surveyed readers' demographics and consumer buying habits. The answers offer insights into how our readers compare with the rest of the population.


Respondents' median household income was $80,400, far more than double the national median of $33,900. Their median age was 38. Four out of five owned a home, which had a median net value of $149,800 (the national median is $79,600). A hardworking lot, only 10% owned vacation homes. (Even so, their rate of vacation home ownership was more than double the national average.)

Respondents were impossible to pin down geographically: At 10%, the largest group came from California, followed by 9% from Texas, 7% from New York and 6% from Illinois.

An impressive but not unexpected 98% had undergraduate degrees, five times the national average, and 41% also went on to graduate school.

Just over half worked for CPA firms. Those in the next largest group, representing 10% ofrespondents, were employed in manufacturing companies. When asked to identify what kinds of work they performed, nearly half indicated tax work, with 31% offering tax preparation services and 15% acting as tax advisers. Accounting was close behind with 44%, followed by auditing (21%), consulting and personal financial planning (10% each), managing (10%) and acting as a controller (5%).


When it came to automobile ownership, Journal readers were noticeably atypical. Respondents were three times more likely than the average American to own two or more cars and four times more likely to buy a new foreign car. They were also twice as likely to own a new domestic luxury car. The percentage of our readers leasing passenger cars (13%) was nearly three times higher than the national average.

Among respondents, 55% owned domestic cars and 53% owned imports. The most popular auto make was Honda, which was driven by 15% of total respondents (Accords and Accord LXs were the models of choice, purchased by 9%). On the domestic front, 13% of readers made Chevrolets the most popular option.

A significant percentage--39%-owned either a truck, minivan, van or other type of sport or utility vehicle. Journal readers were almost five times more likely than the average American to own a sport-utility vehicle and nearly three times more likely to own a minivan but less likely to own a pickup truck or van.

It was no surprise to learn that 93% of our readers used computers on the job, but the many CPAs who bring work home with them may be heartened to learn that 59% of their colleagues also are tapping away at their own homefront keyboards. Most respondents (73%) used desktop computers at work and 22% employed laptops. The brand of office hardware chosen most often was IBM: Nineteen percent had PS/2s and 14% had other models. Compaq followed with 22%. One of the many other brands of IBM compatibles was used by 53%. When at home, 44% of readers used desktops, while 11% used laptops, and IBMs and IBM compatibles were the clear hardware leaders.

Accounting (81%), spreadsheets (75%) and word processing (69%) were the top picks when readers were asked to identify the most frequently used software applications on the job (tax software came in fourth at 43%). The standings were reversed for home computer usage, where word processing applications led with 44%.

When it came to buying computer hardware and software, Journal readers were nearly 10 times more likely than the average American to order hardware--and nearly 9 times more likely to purchase software-by mail or phone. Ten percent reported purchasing hardware and another 29% said they bought software products using this route.


Journal readers' propensity for purchasing all kinds of consumer electronics put them well ahead of the national averages. A total of 84% owned videocassette recorders, followed by 76% who owned--you guessed it--calculators. Other popular items selected were telephone answering machines (63%), cassette decks (51%), cordless (46%) or cellular (21%) telephones, compact disc players (39%) and video cameras or camcorders (29%).

It's interesting to note that readers were more than five times more likely than the average American to have a facsimile machine at home. Of the 11% who reported owning faxes, nearly half said they had purchased theirs within the past year.


CPAs who urge clients to plan for their futures apparently follow their own advice: Fifty-seven percent had individual retirement accounts, the investment vehicles most favored by respondents, while another 12% held Keogh accounts. Whether investing for retirement or current earnings, 44% were willing to incur the greater risk associated with common stock ownership and 36% invested in stock or bond mutual funds (this compares with 10% of the general population who own stocks and 6% who invest in mutual funds). Greater security was important, however, to the additional 42% of readers who chose money market funds and the 25% who owned U.S. savings bonds. Other popular options chosen by CPAs were zero-coupon bonds (12%) and, characteristically enough, tax-free municipal bonds (10%).

In choosing bank products, respondents were clearly seeking financial dependability and relatively low-interest financing. The types of banking business in which readers were most likely to engage included investing in insured money market accounts (46%), taking out personal loans (33%) and buying certificates of deposit (32%).


Almost every Journal reader surveyed had traveled domestically during the previous year (nearly 89% more often than the general population), taking an average of eight trips that were almost always by air. Respondents reported three business trips for every personal trip.

Forty-six percent of our readers had traveled overseas during the previous three years, nearly triple the national average. Business trips accounted for 18% of their foreign travel. Of those who traveled abroad, 43% went to a European country (the United Kingdom received the largest contingent, attracting about one of every four readers bound for Europe). Another 7% headed for Pacific Rim destinations. Readers on business or personal trips generally preferred to travel closer to home, though. Among individual countries, the leaders in popularity were Canada (14%) and Mexico (13%).

Frequent flyer programs were high priorities for CPAs: 53% were members. The three most popular airline programs were American's (24%), Delta's (22%) and United's (20%). Another 18% were enrolled in hotel frequent guest programs--the top choices were Marriott's (34%) and Hilton's (24%). Readers spent an average of 10 nights per year in U.S. hotels for business reasons and 6 on personal stays. They were about four times more likely to rent automobiles for business or personal use.

Whether dining for business or pleasure, the majority of discerning readers (49%) said their beverage of choice was wine, which was followed closely by alternatives such as bottled water, seltzers or natural sodas (48%).


The respondents read three out of every four issues of the Journal and spent about 46 minutes on the most recent one. They apparently prefer topics that pertain to the profession: When we asked them to name publications besides the Journal they peruse regularly from a list of well-known news, business, computer and general-interest magazines, the top answer was-we didn't make this up--none of the above, the resounding winner at 41%. Newsweek came in next at 17%, followed by Business Week (16%) and Time (13%). The computer magazine most favored by Journal readers was PC Magazine.

As a new year begins, we thought Journal readers might be interested in some of the insights we've gained into their business and personal characteristics. The data confirm an image of a profession made up of dedicated, discriminating individuals.

Financial security

Journal readers who urge clients to plan for their futures apparently follow their own advice. Compared to the national average, readers are

* More than six times more likely to own investment property.

* Nearly twice as likely to own bank certificates of deposit.

* More than five times more likely to invest in money market funds.

* Nearly twice as likely to own U.S. savings bonds.

* More than five times more likely to own tax-free municipal bonds.

* More than nine times more likely to own zero-coupon bonds.

* Nearly nine times more likely to own corporate bonds.

* Nearly six times more likely to invest in mutual funds.

* More than four times more likely to own common stocks.

Reader profile

Compared to the national average, Journal readers are

* More than twice as likely to own a new domestic luxur

* Six times more likely to lease a passenger car for their personal use.

* More than five times more likely tc use a computer at work.

* Five times more likely to own a fax at home.

* Nearly three times more likely to have taken a trip abroad in the last three years.

* Nearly six times more likely to be enrolled in an airline's frequent flyer program.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:readership survey
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:A return to the past: disclosing market values of financial instruments.
Next Article:Test your knowledge of professional ethics.

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