A Walk Around the Farm

Each of us have a worldview built on our personal experiences. There is no right or wrong in anyone’s worldview. The differences are what make life worth living. It is why we communicate. Life is interesting because we have endless opportunities to grow as we travel through each day.

Some of my favorite comments are: You write different. You run a tax office different than any other I’ve seen. Working for you is different from previous jobs. Your ideas on growing a business are so different. The key word is different. When people say I am different it means I am doing something outside the mainstream. Perhaps I am blazing new roads. Doubtfully. What I am really doing is practicing a task in a manner that makes sense to me based on my worldview.

Anyone haunting these posts knows my disdain for formal traveling. That makes me different again. I am getting better. By writing out my thoughts and communicating with people I respect I am discovering ways I might enjoy time away from home. And good thing. Mrs. Accountant would enjoy traveling more. What she sacrifices to be with me is beyond comprehension. The plan for a long road trip is still on. Mrs. Accountant wants to see Hawaii so bad it hurts. I think next summer or autumn will be the time we take the leap.

Before I start that part of my life I want to invite you into my home. It is autumn here in NE Wisconsin. It is the prettiest time of year. Instead of showing you the building where I eat and sleep, I will give you a tour of my farm. It should help you understand why I like home so much. There are lots of pictures. Enjoy.

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The Book of Gratitude

img_20161018_081240Marcus Aurelius hoped for a period of peace when he returned to Rome in 175 after spending much of his reign fighting wars and natural disasters. He secured the borders along the Rhine-Danube after spending most of three years in Carnuntum. A year later Marcus and his son returned to the Danube as hostilities flared once again. It was here, between the battles, where Marcus started writing reflections on life and how to live he titled To Himself. These writings later became Meditations.

Of all the Stoic writings from antiquity, Marcus speaks to me clearest. Whereas Seneca wrote letters which feel polished for publication and Epictetus gets preachy at times, Meditations has the comforting feel of a man reminding himself how to live an honest and good life. There was no need to impress the reader; the only reader would be Marcus himself. The honesty Marcus shared with the world is his greatest gift to humanity.

Start with Honor

Meditations is divided into 12 short books. The combined text reaches 99 pages in the copy I carry with me religiously. I find myself reading bits and pieces daily while reading the entire text from beginning to end slowly in an endless cycle. Because Marcus was writing to himself it feels like he is speaking to me, right to my face. With each passage I can’t help but think he was the greatest political leader to ever have lived.

In a time where emperors demanded the heads of any who would commit the smallest slight, Marcus was quick to forgive. His gentle soul made him loved by the people. History has called him the last of the Five Good Emperors. Rome was at her greatest when Marcus ruled.

The problems faced by Marcus daily are beyond anything I will ever experience in my life. In under 100 pages I can find guidance, warmth, and compassion for anything I am struggling with. Marcus had the power to crush his enemies and people who annoyed him. No one could hold him accountable if he did. Yet he chose to do the right thing, to live with honor and integrity. He is the kind of man most of us would follow into war.

As Marcus began writing to himself he started with a book of gratitude. The 12 books that comprise Meditations are untitled. In my mind the first book is called On Gratitude. He lists family, friends, and acquaintances that molded him into the person he became and thanked them all. In our time when politicians can’t wait to pat themselves on the back, Marcus began his self-reflection with a list of all the things he learned from others. He gave them credit.Continue reading

Early Retirement, Lifestyle

Early Retirement versus Laziness


Look at all those crazy retired people. They are so lazy as they sit there on top of a mountain they climbed.

Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache does not publish as often as he once did. I still check in now and again to see what Pete is up to. Even when there are no new posts people still comment on previous posts. A few days ago a comment grabbed my attention. In short, the commenter stated she thought Pete was anything but lazy. This got me thinking.

The post in question was actually written by Mrs. Money Mustache. (I’ve been in the mustache house. She really does have a mustache. Damndest thing I ever saw.) She said she felt like a “Lazy Log” compared to Pete who is “extremely self-motivated”. As their accountant I can attest neither are lazy. On a fairly consistent basis Pete contacts me on a tax related topic he is working on.

As most of you are aware, MMM retired at 30 and is living the good life. The argument over the years has revolved around ‘Is Pete really retired?’ The answer, of course, is yes. Mr. and Mrs. MM are retired and living the life they want. The next question then is “Are all these early retire people lazy asses?’ That is the topic of today’s discussion.

Busier Retired than when Working

I have noticed in my office that when many people retire they end up busier than when they were punching a clock. For some reason a job screws up your personal life so there is no time for major projects that sooth the soul. Once you put ‘organized labor’ behind you (don’t confuse with union labor) you are now free to pursue the things you want. Most people are like me, brimming with thoughts and ideas racing through their mind. Once the floodgate is opened it is unstoppable.Continue reading


Obituary: Keith Schroeder Passed Away Saturday Night

img_20161016_142840Keith Schroeder passed away early Saturday evening after a short battle with illness. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, parents, and brother.

Keith complained of a headache Wednesday. He used over the counter medications with no improvement. On Thursday he visited his doctor who prescribed stronger pain killers. It was determined the headache was due to the change of seasons and allergies. The medication improved Keith’s condition until Saturday morning when the pain returned and was unbearable. He was rushed to the hospital over concern an aneurism was about to burst.

Prior to surgery Keith spent time with his wife and daughters comforting them. He seemed to know the end was near. He talked about how much he loved the girls in his life and how happy they made him. “I am so proud of you girls,” he said as he held their hands. To his wife he said, “I am the luckiest man alive. You gave my life meaning and hope. Without you I was nothing; with you I am everything.”

Keith grew up on a farm and had fond memories of working with animals and later doing the same on his own small farm. He was happiest when with his family walking his land and watching his animals play.

After high school Keith went to work in his father’s business until he was injured inhaling silo gas. His serious farming days over, he focused on his other passions: numbers and writing. He loved business, investing, and working the tax code. Over the years he ran several businesses, none more successful than his accounting practice. His office was his home. He loved working with clients and employees helping them realize their dreams.Continue reading

Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Raising Kids in a Low Spending Environment

img_20161015_103817The TV blares ad after ad with million dollar budgets to maximize sales with each commercial. The school has one project after another for parents to fund. Your children can’t get away; neither can the you. When parents are financially responsible, advertisers and the school system work on your children to get your money. Even your child’s allowance is at risk. Anything to pry money away from you is acceptable practice. It wears you down. All the work teaching your children good money skills is wasted in the never-ending assault.

And don’t count on teachers helping you or your children either. Your kid’s teacher is broke. Without a guaranteed government pension most teachers would be homeless after retirement. Teachers can’t teach what they either don’t know or refuse to practice. Your kids will never learn money skills in school because the teachers are broke and don’t know how to handle money. Period. The school system is the opposite of responsible spending. The school system constantly looks for additional ways to get your money. Great lessons they are teaching our kids. No wonder people work their entire life and have nothing invested for retirement.

There is hope if you look fast. Every so often I run across a teacher who handles money the way we do around here. Of course this teacher retires early, as in somewhere in their 30s usually, and then travels the world. When you find one of these gems, you glue your child to this teacher as long as possible. With your responsible spending and investing at home and the teacher at school sending the same message, your child will not be a slave to money. Instead, your child will use money as a tool to live a good and fulfilling life.

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Early Retirement, Taxes and Investing

Plate Lickers Unite: Leave Your Money at Home

img_20161012_063728In the United States we have a ritual we put people through age 50 and over. It starts slow and builds momentum. The first indication shows up in the mailbox offering loads of financial information and a FREE! meal. In no time our kind 50 year old has a mailbox full of invitations for free dinners. There are opportunities to screw the Social Security system, opt out taxes, earn huge yields on your investments, and the best ones scream THE SKY IS FALLING!!! and only they can save you.

The answer to each problem, of course, is to invest in what they are selling, usually annuities. Fuck’em! I call their bluff and sign up for every free dinner gracing my mailbox. By now I must be the most sought after seminar attendee on Earth. There is a name in the industry for people like me: plate lickers. I love it!

Mrs. Accountant and I rarely go out to eat, but when we do it is usually free. Restaurants I would never try now get scratched off my non-existent bucket list. All because I am a plate licker.

Now before you think ill of me, let me explain. My goal is never to harm the presenter. They offer the free meal and information; all I do is take them up on their offer. If they ever come up with a valuable product I am more than willing to pry open my wallet and blow out the cobwebs.

Baby Boobers

My dad was born the first year of the baby boom and I was born the last year of the boom. It’s an interesting fact that has nothing to with our story, but something I find interesting. The Baby Boom finally ended because guys discovered coitus interruptus. Child support attorneys have seen declining sales ever since. Back to our story.

As a Baby Boomer I get lots of invites. Tuesday night Mrs. Accountant and I attended one of these free meals/seminars. As always, the food was great. I had high hopes going into this one. The invite promised and 8% return investing in mortgages backed by assisted living homes. I understand the demographic and the profit potential so the idea intrigued me. The vast majority of my money is invested in Vanguard index funds. A few hundred thousand in my portfolio is looking for a home with a fixed rate worth accepting. Eight percent backed by local assisted living homes held promise.Continue reading

Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Is a College Education Worth It?

imag0319The cost of a college education has risen faster than inflation for so long the discussion can no longer center on what your major is in college, but whether you should even go at all. We have all heard the statistics on how much more you earn with a college degree which begs the question: How much do you need?

Outside medical, education has seen prices skyrocket more than any other category of spending. According to the College Board, tuition and fees for the 2015-16 school year for state residents of public colleges is $9,410. Out-of-state and private colleges are significantly higher. Add room and board and the cost for the school year is $19,548. Now toss in the cost of textbooks and living expenses and the cost of a college education is a major investment.

There are ways to decrease the cost of an education. Starting at a two-year college and living at home or renting your own apartment versus living on campus can lower the total cost. The one nonnegotiable item is the tuition fee. Scholarships and grants can reduce or even eliminate the cost of higher education except for the time investment.Continue reading

Small Business

Mister Indispensable: Everybody’s Go-to Guy

img_20161009_152000I am writing this as the tax extension deadline is a week away. Tax returns I delegated to my team are starting to boomerang back to my desk. Some issues are beyond the comprehension of everyone but me. This confuses me. How can I be so much smarter than everyone else? What makes me so special?

The first issue perplexing me is the Indispensable Man theory. It goes like this: I want to earn more money but I am unable to close the money accounts. As you can see it does not work. Avoiding the tough cases holds people back in their career. If the boss does the work you can’t claim credit for the project.

The second issue is that the Indispensable Man is only an illusion. There is no tiny bag of pixie dust hanging at my side I can use to fix any problem showing up. Okay, maybe I do. It’s called an absolute confidence I can figure anything out and get it done. I am not asked to perform brain surgery (and if I was I could do it given enough time to research the subject and consult with other professionals); I am asked to perform a task in my field of study. All the resources available to me are available to all tax professionals. Nothing special in my bag of tricks.

The Illusion

Once I started writing this blog the emails started pouring in. As you might expect, a large number were from people wanting personalized help, something I don’t have time for. Another common refrain comes from other tax professionals. They either want to know how to grow their practice or they work for a firm and want to strike out on their own, but are afraid to make the leap, worried they have no one to turn to with the tough cases.Continue reading


Dealing with Groupies


Awesome people I admire. (Pete, Brandon, Paula, and Doug.)

Enrolled agents, CPAs, attorneys, and other professionals frequently are required to attend continuing education programs to keep their license. The same people show up year after year. Camaraderie grows as the group becomes closer. Familiarity breeds relationships. Our personal experiences and focus in our practice gives each member of our group unique skills. When certain situations arise we know where to turn.

I have belonged to several of these groups over my career. I am an enrolled agent (a licensed tax professional) and attended classes from even before I was licensed. This large group is familiar to me. I have worked with many tax professionals outside my firm in special situations. As odd as it sounds, I have represented a few accounting and law firms before the IRS. My comfort with litigation makes me someone professionals engage when things go really wrong.

For a while I belonged to a securities group. I had a short fetish with selling investments until I was disgusted by the dirty game played on clients by the industry. Along with a securities license I got a life insurance license which I still have, but never use. One day I will let it lapse.  Continue reading

Lifestyle, Small Business

The Acid of Arrogance

crow-741168_960_720There is a heaping plate of steaming crow on the kitchen table cooked especially for me. It all started a year and a half ago. After all these years in business, I was starting to feel my oats. I would brag about the list of clients I had put together. My tax practice was serving some very wealthy and well known people. A few rock bands were in the fold and even a board of director from a company connected to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway graced my client list. I had a sales pitch for anyone willing to listen.

Then a brainstorm hit. I would move to the next level by landing a business deal with an influential personal finance blogger. It went better than I ever expected. Instead of inking a collaboration, I got a collaboration and a client and a massive promotion for my tax practice. There was no doubt in my mind I could handle it. I lived through worse. And don’t think for a minute I didn’t let people know about it.

That was the moment I allowed arrogance to turn me into a dick. By biting off more than I could chew clients were left in the dust. It became impossible to respond to all the emails. Emails were not simple acknowledgements to read. Each had a long request requiring time to answer and respond to or I had to disregard them.Continue reading


A Day in the Life of the Wealthy Accountant

img_20161006_070108Have you ever wondered what a typical day looks like for the Wealthy Accountant? Like most people, I have a routine that varies as personal matters dictate around a framework I prefer to follow. It is interesting to see how other people work. How they structure their day to get stuff done helps us decide how we want to compose our day.

Before we start I want to point out my typical day isn’t exactly what I do each day. The pattern I follow changes over time as I evolve. As I complete one project or start another, determines a large part of how I organize my time. Tax season is a different schedule than the remainder of the year. Even the seasons affect my work patterns. I tend to stay in bed later in the autumn than during the other seasons.

Many years ago I met an author who did his writing late at night. He would start writing at midnight for three or four hours before going to bed. In the morning his wife would proof read the prior evening’s work and add suggestions. It worked for him. I decided this must be an awesome way to get the creative juices flowing. The experiment lasted exactly one night. What worked for him did not work for me. That is the lesson before we start. Learn from example, but don’t copy. I have found what works for me. You will be different. Stephen King sits his ass in a chair each morning until 2,000 words of draft are out; it usually takes him until early afternoon. After writing, King goes for a long walk. The styles are endless. King’s style only works if it fits your schedule and personality.

It is fun taking a peek into a person’s life. It is natural to think what they do will work for us. It rarely does. Examples are just that, examples. My life is far from perfect; I venture most people would be shocked at my life if they stepped into my shoes for real. You can say the same. Over time we create rituals which are insane to the outside world. Our worldview, and life experiences, determines how we choreograph our life.

Typical Day

6:00 a.m. Sometimes I get out of bed at 4 in the morning, but normally it is between 5 and 6. During the autumn I stay in bed closer to 6, while 5 o’clock in more typical the rest of the year. In high school I milked cows before school so I got up every day at 3:30. Yeah, I still have nightmares.

The steers are gone, but a flock of chickens still grace the barn. I used to always take care of the animals. Now Mrs. Accountant decided to take over the job. I do the heavy work; she gathers the eggs and fills the water tanks and food trough.Continue reading