Monthly Archives

May 2017

Early Retirement, Lifestyle

Smarticus

Dick Proenneke

There are two kinds of stories people like to read in the personal finance community: personal finance reports and “What am I doing” stories. Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache released his spending report for 2016 this past week and Jim at jlcollinsnh provided us with a report on life in the comfortable Wisconsin south woods.

Spending reports/progress reports toward financial independence interest me, too, even though my financial situation has been solid for a few decades. Spending reports motivate me, giving me ideas to cut consumption without sacrificing quality of life. Progress reports are always interesting. The writers of such reports usually express an emotion with where they are at on the scale of financial independence. From my viewpoint it seems so obvious they are in much better financial shape than they imagine. It is intoxicating watching these good people make their way to the Promised Land.

It’s been a while since I offered my own spending report. Sorry. Spending is so boring to me. God willing, I will get my 2016 report out before the end of 2017.

Kevin has started the redesign of this blog (I’ll pay him a soon as my new bonus credit card arrives).

Collins shared his life these past few weeks on his blog. I enjoyed his story and I was there part of the time! Such are the simple pleasures of life.

Your favorite accountant has a few interesting tidbits in his life you might find of value, too. Whereas, a lot of people in this community talk about their sedentary or retired life or world travels, I am busy acting like a mini Elon Musk. Call it a sickness.




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Taxes and Investing

The Sweet Spot of Non-Cash Deductions

There is an old Looney Tunes cartoon where Daffy Duck is portraying Sherlock Holmes. Daffy is seated at a desk stacked with papers vigorously working the calculator. Porky Pig, portraying Watson, walks in and asks, “Whatever are you doing, Holmes.” “Deducting, my dear Watson. Deducting,” came the frantic reply.

Deductions come in a variety of flavors. We are all familiar with deductions matched with an expense. Donations to charity are deductible on Schedule A. Business owners deduct marketing expenses dollar for dollar.

There is another elusive deduction taxpayers only dream about: the non-cash deduction. The appeal of the non-cash deduction is the large write-off without a matching real world expense. Capitalizing on non-cash deductions can supercharge your retirement or debt reduction plans. The list of non-cash deductions is long. We will explore several ways you can reduce your taxes without spending a penny or taking a deduction significantly higher than the actual expense and stay out of jail in the process.




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Lifestyle

Increase Your Success at Anything with Warren Buffett’s “20-Slot” Rule

Charlie Munger

The best way to learn is by studying the best. Experience has value as long as it also has a foundation in knowledge. Reinventing the wheel again and again is a fool’s errand and not conducive to personal development.

Studying the best takes many forms. Working for someone at the top of their game is the best way to learn, but the opportunities to do so are limited. Formalized education communicates facts without always presenting the best in your selected field. The number one way to learn from the masters is to study them through intense research of their work. The greatest minds are available like never before. YouTube videos of their speeches and books and news articles on their practices give us massive quantities of material to learn from.

Today we will focus on a simple story shared by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s friend and right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway.




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Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Small Business

The Knuckle Dragging Neanderthal Meets Uber and Airbnb

Tax Collector? They opened an office for me when I visited Florida!

Earlier this year Mrs. Accountant and I attended Camp Mustache in Gainesville, Florida. We were offered a ride to the Camp, but we also had several additional days planned around the event. Renting a car in such a situation is expensive since the car would just sit there for days while my wallet was financially abused.

My youngest daughter rolled her eyes when I mentioned I needed the phone number to the Gainesville taxi service. She grabbed my phone and started working on it. This is an unusual event for anyone who knows me. I use my phone as a phone. Period. I don’t care about, nor do I want to know about any of the other things smart phone can do. I make my own breakfast, thank you.

In a few minutes my daughter completed her assault on my virgin phone. She added an app to my phone. (To this day I have no idea what an app is. Whenever the kids talk about apps I joke that we are living on The Planet of the Apps.)

I told her it was nice of her to put an app on my phone, but I’ll never use it. Another eye roll. “Here, dad,” she said pointing to the Uber icon now conveniently located in the middle of my screen. “All you do is touch the icon and tell the phone where you want to go.”

Huh?

Well, my fingers don’t work well with all the small letters and stuff on a phone so I have made a habit of avoiding the issue. Now I find out I can talk to my phone and it responds. Awesome!

I know, I know. You readers are rolling your eyes like my daughter. This stuff has probably been around for a long time. Somehow I missed it. I refuse to blame my stubbornness on “missing it” even though it is probably the reason why.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

Fighting the Profit Train

One of the mantras of the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community is the owning of income property. With rare exception, investors do it all wrong, taking on extraordinary risk for no reason.

Side gigs are handled the same way. Whether you run a full-fledged business or a side gig, you probably make the same mistake real estate investor’s do.

Americans love to invest at home. There is a tendency for people from all countries to focus their investment dollars in the domestic market. The comfort of understanding the local business climate clouds the investor’s judgment. American’s are the worst. For decades I have recommended 70% S&P 500 index fund/ total market index fund and 30% international index funds for my American clients. This is still weighted heavily toward U.S. companies. The diversification in broad-based index funds with a third of the portfolio in international is a good mix in my opinion. Small business owners and real estate investors rarely make such a sound decision.




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Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Your Money or Your Wife

Divorce and money.

Warning: What you are about to read will be disturbing to many. Women and children should leave the room now. Men with a queasy stomach should also take a step back. It’s been two weeks since I dropped the f-bomb. The drought is over. I will use the f-bomb today in its correct dictionary definition to illustrate an important issue. This post is so volatile LinkedIn will not allow you to post this to their site even though your life depends on it. Facebook is good with it, however.

Money is the leading cause of divorce in the United States and in most Western countries. Marriages survive infidelity better than money problems. The worst part is how expensive divorce is and since money issues are the leading cause of divorce, it doesn’t solve the problem.

Then we need to think of the children. They suffer disproportionately. Adults have at least some control over their actions and the outcome. Children are helpless victims in the middle of elevated negative emotions. The damage is significant and lifelong.

Every marriage has its challenges. Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce. Abundant data on divorce exists, but there are large discrepancies in some of the data. It is also hard to put an exact number on the percentage of marriages that will end in divorce when the married couple are still alive. Using the number of divorces in a year compared to the number of marriages is useless. Still, many marriages end in divorce, statistics aside. Money is a large factor in divorce and divorce only exacerbates money problems.




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Lifestyle

Tough Times Make You Rich

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. held their annual meeting this past weekend. Warren Buffett noted some of his failures over the previous decades (missing Amazon, for example) and Charlie Munger added Google as a big miss. Both men agreed they’d continue missing many opportunities in the future. Buffett and Munger made it clear they learn more from their mistakes than from their successes. They felt winning was a poor teacher as it fooled people into thinking they were right.

Steve Jobs had some Syrian blood and was raised by adoptive parents. Armed with only this information it would be hard to imagine a path that would lead to Jobs creating a company which would become the largest on the planet by the time of his early death at age 56. The odds were stacked against Jobs, yet he rose above the travails and changed the world.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa. His parents divorced when he was nine. It would be hard to see a path for this young boy where PayPal would be part of his future followed by SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City and a growing list of additional companies.

Tough times. We hear about them all the time. Rarely is found a successful person who doesn’t have baggage in the closet. Show me someone who never had problems and I’ll show you someone who is mediocre. The exceptions are exceedingly rare.

Yet, most people have hard luck stories in their past. Why does a difficult time in life, especially early on, define so many successful people? And why do people with the odds stacked in their favor frequently end up average at best?


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Credit Cards, Taxes and Investing

The Ultimate Credit Card Rewards Hack

Living your dream vacation is easier than ever with credit card rewards. A litany of cards offer massive miles, hotel rooms or cash for spending a certain amount within a short period of time. And there’s the rub. How can the average person spend $3,000 and more to get bonuses of 50,000 points and up within a few months?

Enter manufactured spending. Reaching a level of required spending either requires owning a business with significant purchases, over spending your budget to get the rewards (why bother, it’s cheaper to buy the darn airline tickets) or manufactured spending. Manufactured spending takes time and requires jumping through hoops. There are also additional fees using many manufactured spending methods. And the time! Oh my god, the time to get it done. There has to be a better way.

Meeting spending requirements always required some fancy footwork. But for you, my friend, those days are over. Today I will show you how to reach nearly any spending goal you need for the vacation of your dreams at virtually no cost to you. In fact, you will probably get paid to engage my way of manufacture spending. The time requirements are nil and the whole process is easily handled from the easy chair in your living room.

If you want free vacations from now on, keep reading. The travel hack/credit card hack I am about to reveal is something I have not seen anywhere else. Even if you don’t care to travel, this strategy can drop $10,000 or more a year in your lap tax free.




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