Tag

early retirement

Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Taxes and Investing

Why Saving Half Your Gross Income is Better and Easier Than Saving Half Your Net Income

People frequently look to their accountant for sound financial advice. Good accountants are up to the task; other, not so much. Finding a good one is easy; they tell you what you don’t want to hear even if you threaten to leave.

Advice sought from accountants runs the gamut. Selling or buying a business requires in-depth analysis and most people trust their accountant’s judgment regarding this matter.

Then the bizarre requests come. Over the years I have been pulled to the side by clients wanting advice on how to raise their children, gambling problems, infidelity, and divorce issues. Some of the requests have a hint of tax built into them. Gambling problems are also tax problems. I’m never comfortable helping anyone decide if they should end their marriage. It’s not my place or at least shouldn’t be. And even if it was I want nothing to do with that kind of conflict.

My favorite requests are about personal finance, intelligent tax reduction and retirement. These are the moments when I can shine. It is also an area of massive risk. My mantra, oft repeated, is simple, yet rarely followed. First the client is in denial (which is a river in Egypt last I checked). Quickly the client moves to tell me my advice is impossible to follow and nobody does it. (Oh, yes they do.) Finally, the client starts to bargain her way into a deeper hole. They think they can change the rules and make it easier. Don’t they know I already thought of every twist and shortcut possible? Clients usually bargain themselves into a deeper hole without even knowing it.




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It Pays to Have a Hobby

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.




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Stop Paying Your Quarterly Estimated Taxes!

 

When life is good the revenuers have a way of raining on the parade. A large year-end bonus, mutual fund distribution, or large year-end sale at your business can crimp your tax situation in more than one way. A quick call to your accountant gives you the answer: Make an estimated tax payment.

But making an estimated tax payment can hurt you! A quick payment at the end of the year to eliminate a tax liability still subjects you to an interest penalty in many cases. What you need is a quick and dirty guide on estimated tax payments to avoid nasty surprises, and even better, a way to game the system. (Who doesn’t like gaming the tax system? It’s this accountant’s favorite pastime.)

Our goal today is to pay as little as possible for as long as possible. There are two reasons for this: 1.) The longer you keep your money the longer it keeps working for you earning interest, and 2.) When you know you owe money you start thinking of ways to reduce the liability you have to eventually pay. I understand interest rates are very low as I write this. Still, keeping you money invested longer in your account is better than paying the government. If you are in the “digging out of debt” phase of your wealth building, keeping your money longer means less debt for longer. Since debt interest is significant, the later you pay the better for you.Continue reading

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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Thriving on Minimum Wage

Minimum wage to riches.

Complaints about wages are rampant in the current news. The common wisdom is wages are too low for people to save for retirement or even pay for basic needs. Today I will dispel this common wisdom and prove 1.) Minimum wage, while not very much, is more than enough to live on; 2.) You can get a pay increase even if the boss refuses to pay you more than the minimum wage; and 3.) Early retirement is possible even at minimum wage and in fact you are more motivated to reach early retirement goals when you are locked at the lowest pay scale allowed by law.

I know I’m coming across as a dick to many people. But I’m right and you know it. I can and will deliver on all three points above in one short blog post. The problem with reaching these goals is you and your spending habits.

My dad grew up on a farm and started his own agriculture repair business back in the early 80s. He noticed his employees were no better off regardless what he paid them. Some were paid very well and still were flat broke.

I see the same thing in my practice among employees and clients. With a larger group to sample, my data is conclusive: Income is not the problem, spending is. Where you live has nothing to do with it. Nothing! Living in a high-cost area of the country usually means minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. Since a few will refuse to believe me, I also included point #2. If you are so underpaid you should be excited to know I can guarantee you a pay increase on a regular basis. That means minimum wage will be history for you, my friend, and your employer can’t do a damn thing about it.

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They Said It First . . . and Better

The hardest part of writing a personal finance blog is finding fresh material. Most things have been said before and better. All the important points have been regurgitated onto the screen thousands of times before. If a PF blogger wants to make a difference she needs to find something to add to the already large heap of material available.

The trick to wealth is a very short story: save half your income, invest in index funds, avoid debt like the plague. Everything else is opinion. Everything else is nothing more than ways to spend less and learning to live on half your income without feeling cheated so you stay the course. The real trick is to get readers to apply the simple message.

Then the truth hits home. Even brilliant new ideas come crashing to earth as the blogger reads the PF universe. The new idea was said before and without a doubt, better. It is a sinking feeling when it happens. You pour your soul out onto the page only to discover weeks or months after publication another PF blogger already wrote the story. You feel like a hack.

You keep writing, keep hunting for the elusive fresh story. It’s new to you so it does not matter. Your story, your writing, is a journey of discovery; a story you can’t keep inside; a story you must tell. So, several times a week you sit in your chair and push your index finger (in honor of index funds) down your throat until you ralph up another classic. And you hope and pray it all makes a difference for at least one person. Otherwise you are only wasting your time.

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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Taxes and Investing

Here is How You Can Piss Off Donald Trump

Disclaimer: This is not a political rant! The time is ripe for this message and Trump happens to be President. It is meant as satire wrapped around a serious message you must follow or suffer the financial consequences.

Nothing is more fun than good times. The recent run in the stock market in nothing short of incredible. After years of slow growth economy and low inflation coupled with a rising stock market, the stock market has exploded. The chart has gone parabolic! But this is not a story about investing or the stock market, however. This story is about pissing off Donald Trump.

Promises of faster economic growth and more high paying jobs face reality after Election Day. President Trump has hitched his wagon to a promise of hyper economic growth, in the neighborhood of 4% or higher. Depending on the day, a lot higher. I’m guessing if things go well we can see wages double every three, maybe four, years. And the best part, no inflation while the government pays off the national debt and increases spending across the board. Such are the promises of politicians.

And in these “best of times” you think it will last forever. Think 1929 or 1987 or 1999. Oh, for the heady days on 1999 when broad stock indexes sported triple digit P/E ratios. How can you lose? The future is clear to the horizon. Life is good, just ask the government.

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Recap of Camp Mustache SE

Working as a team to climb any wall in our way.

Each edition of Camp Mustache gets better than the one before. Camp Mustache SE in Gainesville, Florida (January 13 –January 16, 2017) is the fourth in a series of camps, this being the first outside the Seattle area. I have had the honor of attending and speaking at all but the first Camp Mustache.

Stephen Baughier organized the event with guidance, advice and a helping hand from Emma Pattee. Emma’s experience organizing Camp Mustache in Seattle allowed Stephen to move up the learning curve faster. The added experience and hard work made Camp Mustache SE awesome on every level. For the record, I have already accepted the offer to attend Camp Mustache IV in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend in the states this May. There is no doubt the gathering will be an incredible place to learn and meet like-minded people in the FIRE community.

Several notable names were in attendance. Pete, the guest of honor, was, of course, there. J.D. Roth (Money Boss), Joshua Sheats (Radical Personal Finance), Brad Barrett (Travel Miles 101), Gwen (Fiery Millennials), Jonathon Mendonsa (Chosefi), Zeona McIntyre (ZeonaMcIntyre.com), Brooks Nelson (Gainesville Cohousing) and more were available for questions. (Hope I did not miss anyone.) Continue reading

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Financial Independence for Normal People

51efot8iakl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Discussions around here have focused on early retirement and financial independence with a few assumptions: either you own income properties, own a business, or have a side hustle. But what about the other 95% of the people working their tail off, day in and day out, looking for a retirement plan? For those fine folks I have a treat today. We will focus on normal people and wealth accumulation. We will avoid tax talk because income level and type of income create too many variables muddying the conversation.

You would think it should be simple if you are a wage earner only, but it’s not. There are several choices you need to make to maximize your wealthy building. Accelerating to the early retirement line is straight forward if you know where to start. Without passive income like rental properties you only have your earned income (wages) to rely on. Your passive income will be limited to dividends, interest and capital gains.

Building an Empire

There are two parts to living the Financial Independence (FI) lifestyle: the building phase and the maintaining phase. During the building phase you save like crazy. My recommendation is to save half of what you earn. It is more important than ever to have a high savings rate if you don’t own rental properties or have a side hustle. It will take 16-17 years to reach FI at a 50% savings rate assuming a 5% growth rate and a 4% withdrawal rate once retired.


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