Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Taxes and Investing

Credit Card Hacking




psd-credit-cardWhenever I speak to an organization if I mention you can travel for free or get $10,000 or more per year tax-free, I am always asked to come back and speak again on this single topic. It is incredible how many people either don’t know or don’t use on a regular basis what I am about to reveal. I am talking about tax-free money just for the asking and every kind of free travel imaginable.

A lot of people opt for the travel benefits because they enjoy traveling and the benefits are usually worth a bit more if used for travel. For me, cash is king. I like money, especially when I don’t have to report it as income.

Responsible adults should have no problem using credit cards to their advantage. We do NOT recommend carrying a balance on a credit card ever! The above statements about free travel and tax-free cash are available using credit cards and to a lesser extent debit cards. At the bottom of this post I will provide links to a list of credit cards with a variety of cash and travel bonuses.Continue reading

Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

One More Year




20131027_152837When you live in northeast Wisconsin “One More Year” has significant meaning. From the beginning of his career with the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre always talked about hanging up his cleats. As his career was clearly waning the annual refrain of “One More Year!” started to grow old. Memes were created of an old and wrinkled Favre in a full football uniform muttering a toothless “One More Year”.

It is easier to retire when you are young. As the years add up, the work we do begins to identify who we are. Stopping said work is akin to suicide. And so it goes for your favorite accountant. I had my chance to hang up my cleats before the turn of the century. One More Year syndrome set in until it is almost a joke when I say I am quitting or retiring.

At Camp Mustache earlier this year the phrase was often repeated. It felt like it was directed at me because I kept defending my stance of continuing to run my business. Doug Nordman, everybody calls him Nords, was one of the attendees who really struck a chord with me when he spoke on the subject. The last day he was part of a podcast and he really made the sale with his plea for people to understand they have enough to retire even if they think they don’t. Nords retired to Hawaii and is living the good life now.

I always made excuses for why I would keep doing what I do. Deep down I know there is enough money to do whatever I want with the rest of my life. Doug’s warning to not hang on too long still haunts me. Life is not meant to be one long haul of work even if it is what makes us happy. Other things can make us happy if we give them a try.Continue reading

Lifestyle

The Dark Side of the Accountant




IMG_20160827_092737The Things which hurt, instruct. —Benjamin Franklin

Good intentions can lead to disastrous results when the premise is faulty. There is a dark side to the Wealthy Accountant left undiscussed until now. People walk into the office, call, email, text, and leave comments asking for help on a variety of topics. Accountants typically want to help those in need: real or imagined.

This desire to help sometimes crosses over into a dark realm. Not everyone wants help, even those asking for it. A cry for help in too often a cry for attention and your friendly accountant is often too slow on the uptake to realize it is a ruse until it is too late. Employees, clients, readers, and people in general all want a piece of someone willing to feed their addiction for attention.

Patterns

I see a pattern emerge in my behavior when I hear a cry for help. People profess to want life better and I am willing to share ideas to help make their life better. Usually it involves money since I am an accountant. Before long it becomes obvious the individual requesting help is not really interested in help; they want a willing accomplice in their personal dramas.

The closer someone is to me the more likely Continue reading

Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Cut Your Clothing Costs 98%




IMG_20160827_095350Clothes are one of those expenses easily avoided. Paying $50 for a shirt, slacks, or any kind of clothes is something I’ve never done and is insane. Today I will show you how Mrs. Accountant acquires the necessary brand-new garments for our household for less than $200 per year for a family of four. If you read to the end of the post (no peeking) I will show you a trick where you can get nearly unlimited amounts of free clothing.

Trading time to find awesome deals is not cheap, nor free. Clothes shopping is simple and fast when you know where to look and when. I have a closet filled with more clothes than I need. The females of the house have more than I do. It still amazes me when Mrs. Accountant walks in the door from grocery shopping with a million dollar smile and two bags overflowing with clothes she spent less than $20 on. I must admit it is not hard to love that woman.

Low cost quality clothing requires a few tactics to divide and conquer. The most important tactic is to destroy any desire for trendy clothes. I am lucky my girls never wanted to keep up with the Sheila’s of the world and all the crap peddled by Disney teen stars. Learning to be happy with what you have is the first step. When you are in a bind and must buy something it is a recipe for disaster.Continue reading

Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Budgeting Without a Budget




IMG_20160826_090153Accountants are reluctant to tell people what they do for a living. When I’m asked I sometimes say I’m a farmer. And whatever you do don’t say you are an accountant with plenty of free time on your hands; if you do, you are screwed. In a weak moment I mentioned my occupation at a writer’s conference and seven year of my life evaporated as the treasurer. In my younger days I ended up an elder in my church for the better part of two decades. Age has helped me weigh my words more carefully.

Working in a non-profit requires budgeting. It is the only budgeting I have ever done in my life. Budgets personally annoy me. Budgeted expenses are always spent while budgeted revenue is iffier. Hence, the organization is always broke and they look at the treasurer for answers. How do you tell the church council to stop spending so fucking much money? At the writer’s group I could say just that, but it never sunk in. Budgeting is a waste of time in its familiar format. I have a better idea.

Do as I Do and As I Say

Before we start I need to define the difference between goals and budgets. Generally goals are things you want to accomplish. You might have an income or a net worth goal, but I doubt anyone would have a spending goal, as in I want to spend at least this much this year. Budgets create a financial framework for a group to work within, including a family or even an individual.

My money management method is a blending of the two disciplines: goals and budgets. Even though I don’t have a budget, I track my income and expenses like a hawk. The accountant in me wants to record everything. Rather than a budget telling me what I can and can’t do, I am more interested in watching the trend of my income and spending.Continue reading

Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Special Report: Why Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is full of BS




Heather Bresch, chief executive officer of Mylan Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Heather Bresch, chief executive officer of Mylan
Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The health care system is broke in the U.S.; few doubt that fact. Mylan NV and its CEO Heather Bresch symbolize everything wrong with medicine today. In this short post I will show you how to ferret out BS from public companies using their own words. Bresch is on CNBC this morning defending Mylan and the company’s position.

In the interview Bresch makes several comments about the price increase of a Mylan product: EpiPens. Prices increased steadily from $164.98 for a two-pack in May 2011 to $608.61 for the same two-pack in May of 2016. Bresch uttered frustration because the price increases are the result of all the middlemen touching the product (“…four or five hands”). Bresch said, “That $608 is a list price. What Mylan takes from that, our net sales is $274, so $137 per pen.”

But don’t worry. She and Mylan have a heart of gold. They are reducing the price by up to $300 with savings cards. Thank god for all their love.

But wait a minute. Your net sale is $247 for a two-pack and you are refunding $300? What are you, an idiot!? Well, no, Bresch is not an idiot, just a greedy _________. I never use naughty words so you can fill in the blank. And Mylan stock has been drifting down lately; must be all the refunds they are giving. No. Just a big pay increase for the CEO. Talk about a bullshit story.

As an accountant I am a solutions type of guy. Here is my fix for the problem of monopoly powers used by big pharma to abuse people. Since society grants patent protection to companies like Mylan, society also gets to make the rules. Never mind how pharma extends patents and jacks prices based on minor tweaks to a formula. From now on when the price of a medicine is 10% greater than the next ten highest priced countries for the same medicine or increase prices more than 10% in any twelve month period we pull the patent and the protections patents provide. Now the free market and competition can solve the problem.

When a large corporation says they only net $247 on a product but will now offer a saving card for up to $300 you know they are mentally challenged on math issues or full of crap. Since Bresch’s compensation skyrocketed with the price of EpiPens I think their math skills are just fine. For some reason I feel an invisible hand slowly bending me over to service the account. Oh, this is going to hurt.




Lifestyle

People I Would Like to Meet




13164111_f520Over the years I have met some truly awesome people. Mrs. Accountant and I used to frequent science fiction conventions and stalk authors I enjoyed reading. You would be surprised how many were thrilled (they acted thrilled) to break bread with the missus and me. Many of my heroes have either died or are getting up in age. I miss Zig Ziglar; I have a picture of me shaking hands with him over breakfast. Tony Robbins was busy as heck but still took time to talk. Beside my office desk I have a picture of me, Mrs. Accountant, Newt Gingrich, and Mark Green. Newt was Speaker of the House at the time and he was promoting his Contract with America. For the record I vote both side of the isle; it just happens the opportunity to have my picture taken with the Speaker of the House came up so I took it. Also sat at a round table with the Speaker and five other people in Green Bay talking politics and taxes.

There are more people I would love to meet. Unless you run in a tight group you may not know many of these folks. It’s okay. You can look them up. Most are writers; writers always thrill me. I met Pete Adeney (Mr. Money Mustache) a few years back and as readers here know I am now his tax guy. The problem with meeting some people is it costs money. Either you need to attend a conference and there is little opportunity to spend any real time with the mark, ah, I mean gentleman, or people like me never have a real chance for a sit-down lunch with the victim because the victim is too famous.Continue reading

Lifestyle

Dealing with Mistakes




IMG_20160818_150822Have you ever made a mistake? Of course you have. Like me, you have a few doozies in the closet to air out, too, if you are honest. Mistakes come in all sizes. From the minor mishap to the really stupid to the criminal, we all have our moments of ignorant brilliance.

As luck would have it, mistakes do not define us. Maybe you were drinking and driving and got caught or have been convicted for possessing an illegal drug; maybe you ruined a relationship due to infidelity or sheer apathy; maybe you trusted someone and they betrayed you; maybe you made an investment and after it was too late suffered a major financial setback to your early retirement plans. None of these mistakes define you; how you deal with the mistake does.

The Wealthy Accountant’s Inferno

Before we start talking about you or solutions, I need to confess a great sin I once committed. Many years ago my commercial tax software provider branched into DIY tax preparation. Accountants using their software in their office were given a free license to market the online program. Needless to say, I was excited. I developed a business plan to take it to TurboTax and all the other online DIY tax programs. I would compete on price and quality.

As tax season approached I put my marketing machine into action spending $80,000 in TV, radio, and online advertising before I discovered this was not working as planned. When the dust settled the revenue from my little project netted a bit over $3,000. I took a $77,000 loss on an idea I thought really had potential.

I made one huge mistake and a bunch of smaller ones. The mistake did not define my business or me. It certainly hurt the pocketbook, but I was lucky to have an established business where the investment came from cash flow; no borrowed funds were used.Continue reading

Frugal Living

Free College Education and a Free Car Too




Before we get started I need to add a disclaimer up front. Periodically a topic comes up at the office where I shed financial advice in a less than politically correct manner. What you read here is a scene that took place as I left the office last night. When I get into one of those moods—usually induced by an overdose of caffeine—the advice I give is solid coupled with a massive dose of sarcasm. If you are easily offended you might want to take a pass on today’s post.

Free College

The topic of college costs came up and the payment of student loans. I have no sympathy. Student loans are a cancer that need to be excised immediately. The argument was other debt should be paid first before student loans. I disagreed. Let’s listen in on the conversation.

Tyler speaking to Dawn: You shouldn’t pay off student loans first.

Wealthy Accountant: Yes you should. Do you know how hard student loans are to discharge? The darn things follow you like the plague.

Tyler: But she has a car loan.

Dawn: The interest is higher on the car.

WA: Yeah, yeah, I forgot about that. Yes, you should pay the higher interest loan off first. You shouldn’t have student loans in the first place. You don’t need student loans to go to college; it’s not part of the curriculum.Continue reading

Taxes and Investing

Signs It Is Time to Sell an Investment: The Unfolding Lending Club Fiasco

23b65f55-97d0-408b-9215-14e47abb86fbI started investing in Prosper, the micro-lending platform where you can invest as little as $25 on a loan, back in June 2012. By investing a small portion in a large number of loans risk is spread out; no one loan going bad has an outsized effect on performance. I started withdrawing money after the returns plummeted after changes were made to the platform. Because it takes time to collect payments from loans held, it is an illiquid investment. My original investment of $13,400 is still worth $979 after withdrawing $15,430. Not great, but not bad either.

Before investing I did my research. I wanted to invest in Lending Club, but was unable to at the time because Wisconsin residents were not allowed. Prosper was my second choice so I took the plunge. Eventually I was able to invest in Lending Club, but because the rules were so easy to change (as I saw at Prosper) and the investment is illiquid I only added $5,000 to my Lending Club account.

When Lending Club went public I was allowed 200 shares of the IPO (I think, whatever the max was) at the IPO price. I sold within a day or so after it went public for a tidy profit. My opinion (and review of the financials) was investing in loans was better than the stock. My instinct served me well in hindsight.


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Lifestyle, Small Business

Leadership

IMAG0328

When the boss misbehaves he gets tied up. Karen, the office amnager, was out that day.

Leadership is a skill far beyond bossing people around and delegating workload. Leadership skills take years to develop with careful grooming to prepare for the day you step into the leadership role. We think of leaders as politicians or business owners, but we all take leadership roles in our daily life. Parents are leaders of their children for good or bad. Cultivating the most desired traits of a great leader in ourselves allows us to make a difference in the world around us in a positive way. Without these traits you can lead you and your followers off a cliff.

Many years ago I had a CPA employee who wanted a management position so bad it hurt. I was dubious of his leadership ability but he had a decade of experience with me and he was due for a promotion. My fears came true immediately. The CPA emptied his desk on everyone else and bitched at the entire staff for not performing while he sat at his desk watching the stock market all day. His tenure as a manager was over before it began. As a leader I know the characteristics of good leaders. Bossing people around is not one of the desired characteristics.

Bad leaders are easy to spot. We point out the flaws of our elected officials and sports figures. We also notice awesome leaders like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Their great leadership skills are hard to pinpoint because they make it look so easy. Take Steve Jobs as an example. He started a company that in his short lifetime became one of the biggest and most profitable companies before his death. Yet, when we analyze his leadership skills we sometimes think of his short fuse and how he treated people poorly. He may have done these less than desirable things, but he also instilled admiration and respect. Jobs’s abusive behavior must have taken second seat to his ability to inspire people to their best or he would never have accomplished as much as he did.


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