Monthly Archives

July 2017

Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

Perennial Seller, Part 1

Have you ever wondered why Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz continue to thrill audiences nearly a century later while the box office leader three years ago over Christmas weekend can’t be sold by Wal-Mart for less than a dollar from the remainder bin? Why does The Shawshank Redemption still perform well after more than two decades?

Closer to home, why do some personal finance blogs find a massive and growing audience while others languish? Mr. Money Mustache publishes a few times a month and still generates 5 million pageviews or more per month. What characteristics do perennial sellers have? More important, can we replicate their success?

Last week one of my all-time favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, published Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts answering the above questions. Holiday has ample experience to draw from in his work with companies such as Google and cultural icons like Tim Ferris.

You can reinvent the wheel or you can learn from the best. Perennial Seller breaks the process of creating long-term success into four parts: The Creative Process, Positioning, Marketing and Platform. We will touch on each of these before we end with a real world example from our personal finance (PF) community.





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Lifestyle

They’re All Dead

OH NO! Look what happened to the Accountant family! Notice the cat at the right edge starting to chew on a carcass. Don't blame the butler this time; it was the cat!

Recently a post card came in the mail inviting me to attend my 35-year class reunion. The years certainly got behind me fast. My only excuse is that I am having too much fun.

Between the office and home is my gym. Three days a week I lift weights (normally Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Outside the gym I hike, jog, work on the farm, et cetera to keep myself in shape.

A few months ago a high school classmate, Doug Zastrow, joined my gym. It has been a long time since we saw each other and talk fairly regular now, catching up on life in our humble community.

Doug mentioned receiving the class reunion postcard, stating he had no intention of going. I nodded agreement. My argument was I didn’t want to pay $60 for a meal and a few drinks at a country tavern. Doug had a different reason.

Doug named two classmates he chummed with over the years. Both are dead now. We both started counting the number of classmates who had already died. The first victim was a girl who died from a genetic disease followed by a guy from my clique. He died spear fishing on Lake Winnebago with his son. He didn’t vent his ice shanty correctly and died of CO^2 asphyxiation. We kept tallying the numbers. Another died of a genetic disorder, one from cancer, a few accidents, a few heart attacks and even one suicide.

By the time we added all the classmates we know were dead we had reached 20 souls out of a class of 120. There is no doubt we missed a few. People move and word of a death doesn’t always reach my ears. It’s not what I focus on in life.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

How Milking Cows Taught Me to Respect Women

It all went wrong before I ever started. Mrs. Accountant and the junior accountants (I have daughters so I guess they are junettes) carpooled with me to take care of a variety of errands in town. When the family gathers in a confined place the situation turns strange very fast as I start with crazy talk.

For the record I consider myself a bit of a comedian. Not in any professional sense, but I fashion myself as a funny guy. Give me an espresso or two, wait fifteen minutes and watch the fun begin. Once on a roll it is hard to stop the train.

The clan sees me writing a blog so a lot of blog writing is going on around the house. Before long I was coming up with what I considered powerhouse titles to posts when the title of this post popped into my head. Groans echoed around the cabin of the car. I stood my ground. It was funny and I knew it. (It was also clickbait and I knew that too!)

The girls of the household don’t always hold my level of humor in high esteem. It hurts. My feelings are tender. The lack of enthusiasm for my blog title only encouraged me to step up the game a level. I started to flesh out the details of the obvious humor piece. The jokes came fast and furious while I skirted around the implication of the title.

No matter how hard I milked the situation I was cowed. My udderly fantastic jokes fell on deaf ears! How could that be?




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

I Preempt Our Regular Programming (Can We Talk?)

Sitting in a darkened room at 2 a.m. searching for words to type seems like an adventure for Don Quixote. Will anyone read the post? Will it matter? All questions, and doubts, every blogger faces daily.

Of course we can take solace in our traffic statistics. Numbers keep stair-stepping higher, salving our fragile egos. But each step higher is followed by a slight reduction in traffic before finding a floor, waiting for the next exposure sending traffic another notch higher creating more doubts.

Then we have revenue streams. Young blogs building traffic to acceptable levels see modest income. The heart flutters with delight when a batch of good news arrives. People are “buying” into my ideas. Readers become fans and start their Amazon shopping from the blog and consider affiliates listed or shared as part of a post. A surprise upswing causes the heart to sink when the follow-through is weak.

The comments offer consolation.  Each comment reminds me a reader is engaged. Of all the things a reader can do to remind the blogger he is not alone in the darkened room at 2 a.m. is to comment. The message at least got through far enough to encourage an intelligent response.




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Estate Planning, Lifestyle, Taxes and Investing

Living with a NIMCRUT

Recently I discussed my net worth and how I went from a poor farm boy to an eight figure net worth. To keep the discussion moving I glossed over a few issues, most notably some of the vehicles I use to invest and protect my net worth from taxation. My sole mention of using trust instruments to protect net worth and save taxes caused several requests to hit my email inbox. People wanted to know more about trusts and how they can be used to super-charge net worth, provide guaranteed income, reduce taxes and protect against lawsuits stealing your hard earned money.

To which I mentally replied, “Is that all?”

A tax discussion on trusts turns into hard core tax planning quickly. Discussing all trusts is beyond the scope of a simple blog post and even beyond the scope of an entire blog. Too many variables are involved. What we can do in a single blog post is cover one trust topic enough to help you decide if it is right for you and get you to the right people to facilitate the process.

Today we will discuss an animal called the net income makeup charitable remainder unitrust, or NIMCRUT. It sounds like a derogatory name you would call someone in the heat of battle. Instead, the NIMCRUT, or even her sister the CRUT, is the perfect tool to get a massive tax break now, avoid paying capital gains on highly appreciated assets, help the charity of your choice and get a nice income stream—some of which might be tax free—for your entire life or a set number of years. Sound like fun? Then read on.

The Problem

Highly appreciated assets face a large capital gains tax rate, currently topping out at 20% for federal, plus more in many states. To make matters worse, the alternative minimum tax is calculated using a 22 ½% capital gains rate.

Moving money from a long-term, highly appreciated asset to a higher income producing asset requires a serious tax haircut. The reason for the transfer of investments frequently revolves around income. The old asset has appreciated several fold, but has a low or no current income distribution. To access your net worth requires sale of a portion of or the entire asset, triggering a taxable event.




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Taxes and Investing

How Long Should You Keep Your Records and Tax Return

A common question around the office involves records retention. Many people think they need to keep their tax returns for seven years, others think it is three; both are wrong.

Tax returns are not the only records you need to consider when building a record retention policy in your business and personal life. Some items can safely be disposed after one year; some items need to be kept forever—your estate can handle disposal.

Record retention in the past required filing cabinets filled with papers. The filing cabinets can be—and should be—replaced by digital storage. A fire, theft or weather damage put irreplaceable documents at risk when stored in a filing cabinet. A better solution is to scan all documents into a digital filing cabinet and store a backup copy offsite.

Most banks already provide digital copies of statements and your tax preparer should have no problem providing a digital copy of your return. Your tax preparer is required to provide you with a copy of your tax return and it can be a digital copy. Have your accountant email you a copy or bring a flash drive to their office. Also, many accountants have secure drop boxes built into their website now. For security reasons you may wish to use this method over less secure email. Plus, emails are easier to subpoena for court proceeding.

Security is the biggest concern when storing records. The amount of documentation held by a business is huge. Even a modest household can accumulate a serious amount of paperwork they must retain. Digitizing data is fast and simple. Security of this “fast and simple” data is important because it is just as “fast” and “easy” to steal it. Storing data at home or business should be secure behind adequate firewalls, encrypted and password protected. Offsite storage must be with a reputable firm safeguarding your data. The cost of storing data is cheaper than ever so there is no reason not to keep all required documentation and store these records safely.

Below is a handy guide for determining how long you need to keep records. I have added a few notes after some items to clarify certain requirements. It would be a good idea to bookmark this page for future reference. I list personal requirements separately from business requirements. To simplify your search I have listed items by 1 year, 3 years, 6 years, forever, and special circumstances.

It should be noted state requirements can differ from federal requirements. I follow the records retention list with special rules affecting certain states. People filing a tax return, conducting business or own property in these states will need to consider additional records retention issues.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

Change Nothing

Imagine you had a time machine. You could go back in time and change anything you wanted. A past mistake could be erased, a missed opportunity taken, a relationship saved. If I had such a time machine I would change nothing. I would leave everything exactly as it happened, including all the regrets.

A popular attitude suggests many people would go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler before he committed his crimes against humanity. I wouldn’t. I would let the approximately 60 million people died; I would allow the gas chambers to continue.

Why would I pass a chance to save all those people? Am I really that cold? No, I am not that cold, but I do know everything happens for a reason. If Hitler didn’t do what he did more than a billion people could have died and the human race sent back to the Stone Age.

Imagine a time machine existed allowing anyone to go back and kill Hitler before the nightmare began. Imagine someone bumped off little Adolf when he was a wee tyke. How would human history have evolved differently.

Well, for one, scientists would not have been motivated to split the atom quite so soon. But make no mistake, scientists were getting close to discovering the mystery of splitting the atom. The atomic bomb wasn’t concocted out of thin air when the desire for a big BOOM was needed. No, human knowledge was getting close.

Without Hitler, Germany might have kept her scientists. Germany might have invented the bomb in the 1950s or 1960s without the impetus of war. The United States and other nations would have soon followed.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Taxes and Investing

How Actively Managed Funds Legally Lie about Performance

Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

I’m going to start an investment company. Actually, I’m going to start a whole bunch of’em. Anyone interested in throwing in with the Wealthy Accountant? Read on if you think I am a good investment risk.

As an accountant I don’t want to leave anything to chance. People invest in firms with proven track records that exceed the norms. Therefore, my investment company will start several investments with only my money at risk. Several different strategies will be used to see which ones outperform. Underperformers will be closed without any investor money put at risk.

Before you start shedding tears for me, know I only invested a token amount into each fund. My loses were small and so were the gains. I just needed to know which ideas worked best.

Only the winners will be offered to the public. That means you, kind reader. Only the finest for those reading my blog.

Once the deadbeats are eliminated I can provide paperwork showing the wonderful returns on the winning investments. In fact, every investor from now on will see investments returns that include the numbers when the investment was really small and unavailable to the public.

Since the early, and unavailable to you, outperformance carries the same weight as the future returns when the fund is larger, the investment might have lost money overall and still claim a positive long-term return to investors. In other words, results are not weighted.

Oh, but the Wealthy Accountant knows future returns eventually catch up to a guy. So, I will close funds that take’er on the chin. Nobody wants to see that kind of thing in this investment company. Only survivors get to live on around here. For the laggards: OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!




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Perennial Seller, Part 1
July 24, 2017
Living with a NIMCRUT
July 14, 2017
The Fastest Way to Grow Your Net Worth
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