Monthly Archives

August 2017

Frugal Living, Lifestyle

How to Save Money with a Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit

Winter seems like a lifetime away. A quick check of the calendar and a shiver will run down your spine as only a few months remain before the heating season begins in the northern latitudes and creeps south.

Saving money is my favorite passtime. What other hobby provides so many tax-free financial benefits? 

If you are reading this at its regularly scheduled publication date, Mrs. Accountant, the girls and I are heading to or are enjoying the eclipse. Trevor McDonald contacted me a few months back asking to write a guest post. We worked together (he wrote, I edited and provided guidance and recommendations) until he had a solid piece you will enjoy reading. 

I'll let Trevor take the driver's seat and explain.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

Inflection Point

The past week has been an interesting one around the Wealthy Accountant world and all I can think of to explain it is. . .

Put up or shut up.

The best way to tell this story is to go back to the beginning.

Long time readers know I opened shop without knowing I opened shop in 1982. I prepared my first tax returns that year because I wanted the money and it seemed like easy work. It took until the 1989 tax season to realize this is something I could do for a living and still appear as a hard working, up standing (that illusion wore off fast) young man supporting his new wife.

The world was a different place back then. The local newspaper had two and a half pages of business card sized ads during tax season for tax preparation services. I was one of those ads. There hasn’t been an ad in that newspaper offering tax services in 15 years.




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Early Retirement, Small Business

Forensic Accounting: The High Paying Part-Time Business

Fifteen years ago a client who has since passed away had a complaint. He explained his uncle had died and the family was having a difficult time finding his money. The family knew his uncle had money, but he hid it everywhere, kept no records and refused to reveal his secrets to anyone.

The family decided to hire a forensic accountant who took six months to find around $280,000. My client’s complaint was they knew the uncle had a lot more than $280,000, but had no idea where to start looking.

This was during the my early days as a hedge fund manager. The hedge fund didn’t buy stocks or businesses; we bought charge-off receivables and collected on the debt.

When banks have bad loans on the books they sell them for a fraction of the face value. (Banks never really lose. It blows the mind how they every have financial trouble. It takes a new level of stupid to fail as a bank.) Once we took possession of the accounts we sent our legal teams around the country to locate and collect, even in court if necessary. (I authorized over 22,000 suits over the years. Yeah, I was one of those a-holes. But I was good at it. Stick with me here. This is all going to work to your advantage this time.)

Running the type of hedge fund I did (I eventually was hired to run two) provided me with the resources, connections and experience in finding people and their hidden stash. Finding money is something I got really good at.

My client was awed when I started to explain how I would have handled the case versus the forensic account they hired. In 30 seconds I gave them one piece of advice and found over $300,000 more than the forensic account they hired did in six months. Before I was done we collected seven figures of cash from around the United States and even found an account with serious cash tucked away in Ireland.

The family promptly hired me.




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The Hidden Tax: Transaction Costs

Living a frugal lifestyle sometimes lends to a false sense of security. We take all the financial precautions to increase our savings rate and invest in broad-based index funds. Before long the net worth starts reaching for the stars and we feel good about ourselves.

Now, we decide, might be a good time to get a second car or trade for a new one. Moving to a smaller home, across town or to another state or country, sounds tempting and easy to do with your nest egg growing faster than you are spending.

Your habit of caution is well defined. There will be no stupid tax in your future! Careful planning leads to good decisions. You look before you leap.

Then it happens and you never even saw it coming. You paid a stupid tax without even realizing it was there.




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Taxes and Investing

Meet Mister Cohan: The Client Who Never Keeps Tax Records

George M. Cohan

Today I have a very special guest I would like you to meet: George M. Cohan. George has been a regular fixture of my practice from nearly the first day. But he has one serious problem; he hates keeping business records.

There is a very good reason why Cohan doesn’t keep good records of his business expenses. He is a very famous Broadway actor. He also likes to enjoy his fame.

Well, the IRS came knocking and since most of his receipts were missing the expenses were disallowed. Cohan might be lax when it comes to keeping business records, but he can fight like a pit bull in the hot sun after a pair of double espressos. Our good friend was headed to court.

The IRS felt they had it in the bag. Unfortunately, the IRS had an education coming. The 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals settled the case in our good friend’s favor. The court said when receipts are absent it would be impossible to get a perfectly accurate number. However, the court continued, allowing nothing is inconsistent when it is obvious there were expenses.

This court ruling happened March 3, 1930 and my office has never been the same.




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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

You Still Get Paid

Reaching the lofty goal of financial independence comes with some secret advantages. Early retirement and success coupled with wealth allows you a freedom few can even imagine until it is reality.

What is this secret advantage no one is talking about, not even personal finance bloggers? Freedom to spend what you want and when you want, PLUS, you never have to get paid ever again for any work you do or from investments you have!

Just think of it. You work hard and save until you have 25 times your spending in liquid investments. Under the 4% rule you are ready to cash in your ticket. Since you have money you can turn on the spigot and splurge because you deserve it.

Even better, you can undertake all the things you enjoy while hearing people tell you you shouldn’t be paid for your services now because you not only enjoy the work but already have enough money.

The same rules apply to investing. Stocks you own can keep the dividend. Your renters should get a pass this month because they needed to buy a new boat more than you need the rent payment.

Ah, yes! Financial independence is awesome. No worries and a carefree life. Nothing stupid to mess up your day like getting paid for your side gig.

Or maybe not.





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Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Intermittent Fasting Versus Long-term Fasting

The author lean, mean and young. The channel lock has a 10 inch maw. Farming builds muscle!

Growing up on a dairy farm in northeast Wisconsin in the 1970s had its advantages. Computers were the stuff of Star Trek reruns and staying in the house was a form of punishment.

The kids in my family loved summer. We would run and bike down the road and through fresh mown fields of alfalfa. The only neighbor within striking distance was a rental property. To our great fortune the couple who moved in also had kids reasonably close to our age. They were soon sworn in members of our cult.

In the summer we would play cops and robbers on our bikes. Len was a big dude and always wanted to play the cop. The advantage we had is we were wiry kids born of solid German stock. Our lean bodies could bike faster than Len could ever hope to keep up with. The robbers won every time.

During winter we would build massive snow forts. A few winters in the mid to late 1970s included record snowfall for our little corner of the world. The snow plow would pile snow to the highline wires.

Grandma would scold us kids as we built forts in the massive banks. Finally a truce was called where we were allowed to dig our snow mansions into the side of the snow banks on the side away from the road. Those were the best of times.

Then the 1970s came to an end. Len and his brother Joel and their sister Dawn were gone. (If you guys read this please contact me. I really would like to know whatever happened to you guys. I pray you had a good life.) The first signs of financial strain were showing on the farm. I was halfway through high school.

Then the dream was over.



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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

You Can Do Anything . . . Just Not Everything

Paula Pant of Afford Anything

As I surf around the internet I sometimes run across people commenting on me and this blog. A common refrain goes something like this: “The Wealthy Accountant blog isn’t really about accounting or taxes.”

I know!

This blog is written by a wealthy accountant. My goal is to get you to think like an accountant (a wealthy one) so you can improve your life. Sometimes that means I talk about things that don’t seem tax related on the surface.

My next blog post is on fasting: intermittent versus long-term. (Get ready for it.) I’ll get a few complaints, a few pats on the back and plenty of eye rolls. What does fasting have to do with wealth, accounting, taxes, or personal finance? Simple. Financial independence has little value if you don’t have health to enjoy it.

Sometimes the connection is hard to see. When I started this blog I wanted to show the world what it is like from my side of the desk. It’s the first post of this blog. I was still searching for the voice I wanted to use for this blog, but the tenor was there.

As time went on I wanted to step out from behind my desk and was hoping you would join me. I make no claim to being better than anyone else or have higher quality life experiences. In addition to standing behind me while I run my practice and visit with clients I want to share many of my personal life experiences. Call it a form of legal stalking.

Each story has a goal. First, I have to entertain to keep you reading. The second goal is to show how I solve problems. Everybody runs into a buzz saw now and again. The real issue is how you deal with the slice and dice.

Some messages hit you square in the face. Others are more subtle. The facts and circumstances determine the method of delivery.



Continue reading

Related posts
How to Save Money with a Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit
August 21, 2017
Inflection Point
August 18, 2017
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