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.




Many more readers contact than comment. The contacts come to me via email. I read them all. Answering each is impossible. I send many to my office manager for further review. She then decides which ones to contact for possible consultation and which to consider offering our tax services.

I see everything from the contacts. Some are almost impossible to understand as the commenter is venting recent events. Some want to thank me for my efforts and to encourage my work. Many ask for advice or to be a client. Then a voice comes from the wilderness and I stop in my tracks. Someone, close to home, has had their life changed for the better because I was alive today.

The Blessed Voice

Like most bloggers I watch my traffic intensively. There are clusters of readers around the country and the world. The cluster surrounding my office is one of the smaller ones. Part of the reason is the smaller population of the area. Another reason is many people viewing this blog on mobile devices show up as traffic from a distant location. The local cluster is probably much larger than Google Analytics indicates.

Every so often I get an offer for lunch, coffee or a beer. I am open to this. Unless the request contains scary verbiage I am happy to meet readers and talk shop to just talk about life. (For the record very few people have ever contacted me with scary verbiage.) I enjoy meeting readers and sharing stories. Some things I share in real life I would never share on a public blog so there are some advantages to meeting me in the real world.

Last week I received an email from a young man who asked I keep his name private. I also made a slight change to the email to conceal his identity. Here is the email I received:

Hi Keith,

I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally felt compelled to reach out. While we’ve never met, you have had a great impact on my family’s path to financial independence. I am a CPA and after leaving a large public accounting firm (I was on the audit side but looking back I wish I chose tax!) two years ago, I started working in the finance department at an *redacted* in the Valley. Since that time I’ve driven by your business each day during my 15 minute commute. I think we even use the same library!

If memory serves me correctly, you once had “Mr Money Mustache” on your sign. I drove by each day wondering what the heck that meant. My first thought was some kind of a payday loan store, but boy was I way off. I gave in and Googled it and was instantly hooked. I devoured the archives and my wife and I officially began our path to FI. Discovering the early retirement community has truly changed my life philosophy. I’ve spent the last two years reading as many blogs and books (from the library) and listening to as many podcasts that I can fit into the day. Even though we didn’t know about FI, my wife and I are naturally debt averse and paid off $60k of her student loans and our car purchases the first few years after graduation. Two years into our financial independence journey the only debt we hold now is for our home, and we have a net worth north of $300k at ages 29 and 28.

Despite being immersed in this community for two years I have stayed behind the scenes. I like to learn, but feel that I don’t really have anything unique to contribute. Between you, Pete, the Mad Fientist and JL Collins, all necessary topics are covered in greater detail and more eloquently than I could ever aspire to. However, I’d like to pay you back in some small way for helping me fall down this rabbit hole that has changed my life. That could be buying you a beer or coffee someday and talking about personal finance, proofreading your posts before they come out (I read them all anyway!), or just sending you this email to express my gratitude and you don’t have time to respond.

Best wishes

Let me clarify a few items. My office is in Menasha, which is part of the Fox Cities, which is also sometimes called the Fox River Valley, or just the Valley. We are located about 40 minutes south of Green Bay.

What my friend has done is nothing short of incredible! He and his wife destroyed debt and have a $300,000 net worth before age 30. Folks, you do realize most Americans never reach this level. Ever! At any age!




Before I started this blog, Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) became a client and promoted my services. I can never repay Pete for what he has done for me so I put his blog on my sign at the office until I started this blog. Now I pay it forward as Pete would want me to do.

Our good friend mentions he has nothing to add Pete, the Mad Fientist, Jim Collins or I have not already shared. This is the one area where we disagree. When I started this blog everything that needed saying was also already said. What counts, what matters is the stories. We all have stories to share. You never know when your story might resonate, might make a difference, might make a connection.

Stories give our lives meaning and help us connect. If I gave dry facts on tax strategies only the readerships here would drop to near zero. Instead I share personal stories. I share successes and ideas to improve the financial lives of my readers. I also share failures. The failures resonate. People need to see how others deal with those setbacks and disappointments. It hurts and it is comforting to know we are not alone. We also learn far more from failures than successes. Success tricks us into thinking we are always right; failure forces us to evolve to something bigger, something better.

The email I shared above is not completely unique. I receive this kind of email every month or so. What hit hard this time was how close to home it was. The difference I made wasn’t out there in some far away land where I can’t fully absorb what my work has done; it happened here, in my back yard.

At 2 a.m. it does not seem real. The glow from my laptop is like a portal to a different world. I spill my thoughts onto the page and edit the following morning. Sometimes I communicate well, other times I know I missed what I wanted to accomplish. It’s a risk of the trade.

Then the surreal world of sleep deprived communication bursts into my real world and I am delighted.

I don’t know if you kind readers understand how thrilled I am to meet you. When I peck away at 2 a.m. it is a one-way discussion. You know me, but I have no idea who you are.

As this blog works through its redesign (the process is being held up by your favorite accountant not making up his mind on design issues) a “Where Am I” tab will be added so readers can stalk me easier. By providing an easy to use guide of where I am makes it easier for you and me to meet. I attend several personal finance conferences a year and a few tax seminars, too. Soon you will know where in the world the Wealthy Accountant is.

It is probably not a good idea to just pop into my office. Odds are high I am on a conference call, meeting with clients, or preparing for a meeting. If not engaged in a project I am at home or on the road. However, never let a good notion change your mind. I would love to chat with you, break bread, have a beer or a cup of coffee. Call, email, use the contact button. My staff can set a time for us to meet over a meal or cold one.

It makes the empty solitude of 2 a.m. worthwhile.



Posted in

Keith Schroeder

16 Comments

  1. Church on July 17, 2017 at 7:36 am

    Reading about the failures resonate more than reading about a someone’s success story. Don’t get me wrong, the success stories are inspiring, but the failed ones make me go back and bulletproof my own situation. That is what makes me better.

    Thanks for all the bulletproof sharing, WA!

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher on July 17, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Glad to see that your blog numbers and readers are increasing. 🙂 It’s so easy to want to give up blogging because you don’t get the meteoric rise to fame that so many people write about. But I have a feeling you’re doing fantastically. 😉

  3. Andy on July 17, 2017 at 10:16 am

    You’re close. I am in Appleton. I’ll have to send you a note to have a lunch sometime.
    Quick summary about our FI experience. I can tell you about it in detail during lunch. I worked in IT for 17 years. Low to high pay. Hated my job(60+ hours on call 24/7) so my wife and I saved and invested 50%+ all those years. No kids. I made bad financial decisions with cars but I learned my lesson early. I got really really sick in 2014 and we lived off my wife’s income and it was easy. During my recovery I learned about FI and realized we were there. Our first goal was met which allows me to semi-retire. I am currently enjoying my full recovery and health so I will go find a part time job this fall. My wife will still work full time until we hit the second goal. She will then go part time up to 28 hours and be able to keep the health insurance and add to the 401(k). I worked for an accounting firm in the valley.

    • Andy on July 17, 2017 at 10:44 am

      Forgot to mention that I am 41 and she is 39. Our investible assets are around 500k and the house is worth around 185k to 200k according to Zillow. The last 3 years during my recovery I brought in $0 income. Even now and during my recovery my wife is maxing out her 401k and we’re still able to contribute our Roth IRA’s. No we don’t live like hermits… It can be done.

    • Keith Schroeder on July 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Look forward to lunch. I might be frugal, but a man’s gotta eat.

  4. Scondor on July 17, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for all the great blog posts, and all the ones that don’t yet apply to my nascent FI journey. Between MMM and your blog, our savings rate has gone from 0% (bought a small house 2 years ago), to 35% of my salary, and the 2018 goal is 50% of mine and my wife’s gross (without your article on the topic, I would never have been so aggressive) If that works out, we might try saving even more because my work offers both 401k and 457. If I can be FI before my toddlers graduate I’ll still be (sorta) young enough to really enjoy it!
    Anyway, thanks again! Now time to focus on starting a side hustle…

    • Keith Schroeder on July 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Awesome on the saving rate, Scondor. Keep up the good work.

  5. M Bowden on July 17, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you Keith. With how prolific of a writer you are it helps to have one these posts now and again regarding your process.

    I am one of the number of people that sent an email regarding a consult. Your article creates the impression that when you send the email to your office manager she decides whether to even respond. Does this mean I may not even get a response?

    • Keith Schroeder on July 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      No response is a “no”. However, I would send another request. When volume gets high we tend to pull back. We are one office and I am one guy. That said, I recently found a tool to increase productivity by a large amount. This will open more opportunities to help more people without stressing your favorite accountant out. It is in the testing phase, but so far it looks really good.

      • M Bowden on July 17, 2017 at 3:10 pm

        Thank you Keith. Like so many things in life. Persistence pays off.

        What types of work are more likely to get green lighted? I know you wrote an article on this but couldn’t find it on my mobile device.

  6. Working Optional on July 17, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Keith,
    Found your blog recently, and after subscribing, I find that a lot of your posts end up in the “To Read Again” sub-folder.
    Thank you for what you do, and for being available. Your recent post on the program for convicted criminals and then victims was laudable.

  7. Mrs.Wow on July 17, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Oh how many times I have thought that everything has already been written before. But you’re right, it’s about the connection, you never know who might stumble across a post and it can change their life.

    Side note: when hearing about the WA locator, I immediately started singing, “Where in the World is The Wealthy Accountant?” sung to the tune of “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego”.

    • Keith Schroeder on July 18, 2017 at 6:04 am

      You crack me up!

  8. Mr. FWP on July 18, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Keith,
    That’s such an encouraging post – and reminder. I started a blog for the same reason you describe, to share personal stories that connect with people, encourage them, and help them lead better lives. I realized that I’m carrying a lot of stories about finances and life that might help encourage others to do better in their own lives, and that’s my main asset.

    It’s the changing of lives that makes it all worthwhile. I spoke with a friend recently who’s now fully committed to financial independence/early retirement (and nearly there already) in order to live a more fulfilling life. That’s worth more to me than anything else I could do here, and why I want to keep at this. (Plus, being an influence for good is simply part of who I am made to be.)

    Thanks for the reminder – and love your blog!

  9. Adam on July 19, 2017 at 5:01 am

    Keith, what a great article. If it helps in those early morning moments, never forget that you have an international audience. 2am in Menasha, USA is 5pm in Melbourne, Australia. While the rest of your country may be asleep, we’re with you. And we’re proud to do so.

    My favourite line from this post is “What counts, what matters is the stories. We all have stories to share.” I’ve been debating how much time and value I could contribute to the FI discussion from the antipodes. Our financial systems are different; our frames of reference are different; our costs of living are different, and yet…our first principles are the same. Our goals are the same. Our stories are the same. We’re all humans striving for a better life for our families, and for ourselves. So maybe that’s a story worth sharing.

    Keith, you just gave me the reason to start sharing my story. It may have been early o’clock in Wisconsin, but on the other side of the world our evening was just starting, an evening full of people with stories to share. Thank you. See you next time at 2am.

    • Keith Schroeder on July 19, 2017 at 6:25 am

      You make so many great points, Adam. First, I am aware of my Australian audience. Google Analytics shows a nice following from your neighborhood. This has always confused me because I spend enough time on U.S. tax issues to feel I alienate most non U.S readers. I am also aware of the time difference. It brings a smile to my face to see traffic from my friends in a far away land (but it is close, it is home, to you). And for the record, I am also proud to have you. No, that is wrong. I am humbled to have you read my work and find value in it. Thank you.

      For people familiar with the old Star Trek television series, the Vulcans had a philosophy called IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We are different, Adam. There are similarities, too. It is out differences which make us strong. I work hard to tell stories because most people relate to a story. A far away land like Wisconsin can seem like a nice place with wonderful people struggling with the same issues you have. It makes the world a smaller, and hopefully, better place.

      My greatest challenge is here at home. You mention Wisconsin and time zones. I bet you could point to Wisconsin on a map. All too many Americans have only the vaguest idea where Australia is. Even fewer could point to Perth or Melbourne on a map and if I said New South Wales or Victoria there is a good chance an American would glance toward the wrong continent. That is why it is so important to keep telling the stories. All of us.

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