The demographic reading this blog does the things necessary to retire early. The same demographic believes in a side hustle to retire even earlier or to fill time once work becomes an elective. These facts make hobby rules an important consideration. The tax law has a massive loophole few use.
Accountants in the room will understand what I say next. A client walks in the door and his hobby finally turned a few dollars of revenue. No worries, the client says, I can lose money in my business for three years before I have to shut it down and start over. The client actually thinks there is a rule saying you must make a profit 2 out of every five years. By this yardstick, Tesla, a publically traded company, would have to shut down. (Tesla has a decade of loses as I write this.)
The rule people think applies to small businesses actually is a hobby rule meant to serve the IRS, not you. If the rule wasn’t there, people like me would have a field day. Self-employment tax would be a thing you only read about.
People want to be a business when they lose money and a hobby (if they knew the rules) when they have a profit. Race car drivers want to write-off $48,721 of expenses because they won $2,100 of prize money racing. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
But there is a strategy here you can use to seriously reduce your tax burden.
Every investment, even guaranteed ones, require priming the pump. Before you get paid by your employer you work; before you get paid a dividend or receive capital gains you must invest in the index fund first; before you get paid rent you need to buy the property and prepare it for tenants; before guaranteed government bonds pays you a penny in interest you must first buy the bond. You only get something out if you first put something in. This is true in every part of your life.
I grew up on a farm and after a few years living in town I moved back to the countryside where I feel happiest. Town still has a magical pull. Living in town means everything I need is close by. I can bike everywhere. The need for a car when living in town is minimal. If I lived in town I wouldn’t own a car. For long trips I would rent a vehicle. Uber, my bike and legs would handle 99% of my transportation needs.
Living on a small farm has advantages. The cost of living further from town is offset by the amount of free food, or nearly free food, I get. Raising my own meat (beef, chicken, fish and pork) means I know what is in it. Abundant garden produce means healthy living while the crops are in season. Asparagus in spring, radishes and other fast growing vegetables follow, and apples, apricots, cherries, peaches (yes, peaches in Wisconsin!) and grapes round out the abundant autumn harvest. There is so much good food and it is all free or nearly so. Too bad it doesn’t last all year round.
“It’s not working.”
A long time client started reading this blog and subscribed wholeheartedly into the idea of saving half her income. She discovered the blog early so she had nearly a year of effort under her belt. Student loans were the worst part of her debt, but credit cards and a mortgage also weighed heavily on her financial plan.
Saving half your income is the floor, not the ceiling. In this case, my client and her husband earn nearly $100,000 a year. They wanted to cut their spending to my levels using my yardsticks for spending. They are down to the mid 40s, a very good sign. The lament, however, has me concerned.
The only way this works is to be consistent. Years of hard work can be destroyed by a short-term spending binge. A new expensive car, a cottage up north, a trip to the casino and a new set of furniture can all be spent in a single month. The penalty will take years to fix.
My last blog post was a disaster. In an attempt to gain some breathing room I accepted my first guest post without proper vetting. An astute reader quickly realized the guest was promoting a debt consolidation service. I should have known better.
My reasoning was sound; execution needed work. Tax season is getting long in the tooth and I am exhausted from the long hours. Hoping to divert some time from writing to tax work, I allowed the enemy behind the lines. My promise to you, kind readers, is to up my game. I like the idea of guest posts, but I think it would be best if I invited bloggers I know and trust to do the writing.
That said, I have no intentions of reducing my writing output. You come here to listen to my stories and glean my words for valuable advice you can take back home.
Success is a poor educator. When things are going good—and life has been very good to me—I/we start to believe we are smarter than we really are. It takes a solid kick to the crotch to focus attention. As bad as the last post was, a lesson was to be learned you are not aware of: my traffic was rather good! For a terrible guest post I had a high level of traffic. I take that to mean people were attracted to the title: frugality. I decided I should write the guest post intended for you.
Today we have a first on The Wealthy Accountant: our first guest post. Offers to guest post are common once you reach modest traffic levels. Most offers are junk as they are nothing more than thinly disguised advertisements for things I do not approve of. (Anyone want me to promote forex trading? Thought so.)
Then a young lady, Patricia Sanders, emailed asking kindly if she could write a post for me. I did a Google search of her work and found she has a modest online presence. She sounds young, but genuine. Her writing is basic, but I took a chance and invited her to send me an article.
When I write I always try to find something few people are writing about. It is all about value. If I can share an idea with my readers I can make a difference, especially if it hasn’t been written to death before. I talk basic, but usually within the framework of a more complex financial or tax issue. Two things I shy away from—brevity and simplicity—works against me at times. My preference is for storytelling when attempting to convey a message. And no one had ever accused me of being brief.
Then I read the submitted article from Patricia. Her message was brief and basic. This started me thinking. My readers need to hear the basics, too. Michael Jordan was not a superstar because he made three-point shots. He was a superstar because he made the free throws without thinking. He was a superstar because he made the layup without thinking. He was good because the basics became automatic. Patricia reminded me of this.
It is important to encourage young people starting their life journey. We learn far more teaching than being taught. Patricia has a story to tell. Not some long-winded diatribe I like to spew. No, she has a simple message only a young adult can tell. Sometimes our old eyes forget where we came from and how we got where we are. I am not such a fool as to ignore the legacy granted me. It is a pleasure to present you Patricia Sanders today. She has a bright future. Maybe we will cross paths at a financial conference in the near future. It would be an honor meeting her in the real world.
I knew this day was coming. I did my best to hide it from you, dear readers. The government has had it in for me for decades. They tolerated my antics as a small town accountant, but now, with a blog growing in popularity, their patience has reached an end.
In the past I was given subtle warnings. Yesterday, and now this morning, the warning were not so subtle. It really isn’t that bad. They offered me the job on a regular basis in the past. The rules are simple: no more blogging; no more tax office. You work for us now.
My heart is heavy. After serious consideration I am accepting their offer. The pay is a solid six figures and all I have to do is spread misinformation getting taxpayers to overpay their taxes, thereby giving the government more control and power. For decades I have been the solution, now I have joined the problem.
Don’t hate me! They are very persuasive. Very persuasive. They sent seven dudes, I mean really big guys, to help me in my decision. They took me into the back room at my office. Even Karen, my Puerto Rican office manager, couldn’t stop them! The government guys had rubber hoses. Well, actually, they had teat cups. I included a picture so you guys know what a teat cup is. Only a farm boy can understand how much a teat cup hurts when you get hit by one.
I was dancing on my tippy-toes and squealing like a girl getting asked to the prom. It was not pretty. That six figure paycheck with a full line of benefits started looking mighty tempting after three hours of teat cup treatment. All I had to do was throw you guys under the bus. Hell, after three hours I volunteered to drive the bus. A few solid contacts from a teat cup on the back of the leg and you would modify your thinking too.
So there you have it folks. I sold my practice for a reasonable price. (The seven government goons are standing over me with teat cups ready as I write.) I work for the other side now. Disregard all the stuff I told you about reducing your taxes. It was all a lie. A good, God-fearing American is always willing to pay extra taxes to protect the freedoms we hold so dear.
The next time you see me at a conference, remember, I am a plant from the other side, there to gather information to get more money from you to the government. Never mind the steroid monster men holding teat cups by the doorway. They are there to help me do my job.
And the welts? Sure, teat cups leave serious welts, but they heal nicely. And while they are healing I have a nice reminder of the job I need to do now.
Before I leave, please check the date on this post. Have a pleasant April Fool’s Day. I knew you guys didn’t believe it once I said Karen couldn’t stop seven government goons. If that were to really happen, Karen would fuck those boys up good.