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The Worldview of the Financially Independent

IMG_20170112_134557What started as a grand idea has morphed into a changed worldview. For decades I focused on the local community in my practice. I would speak for various organizations around the area, rarely traveling more than 50 miles. And I was happy with that.

My speaking engagements and traveling expanded during the 1990s when I entered the securities field. As memory serves, every presentation I have given outside the State of Wisconsin was for something related to securities. Until two year ago.

Two years ago I had this brainstorm to expand an area of my practice that had been an itch I had to scratch. It went horribly wrong and changed my life in ways I never expected. It was a simple idea. Swoop in on a personal finance conference, dazzle them with my usual charm, and sell an idea. It didn’t go according to plan.

My idea was accepted in a modified form. The problem arrived when I was offered an opportunity to expand my worldview like never before. Remember, I am an old farm boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin. This shit doesn’t happen around here. I was totally unprepared.

The result was this blog and a shout out by Mr. Money Mustache. I had to write this blog; I had no choice. The idea was on the back burner for years. Now I had to push forward with the project. People wanted to hear what I had to say.

And then there was the growing demand for my services and requests to speak to more groups. As I started to attend these events and communicating with many people in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, I started to build friendships. I missed these people when they were not around.


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Dealing with Jealous People

4482714827_491d395f7e_bReaders of this blog are committed to financial discipline. They save a large portion of their money and invest it wisely in index funds and real estate. Whatever is left after investing they consider spending . . . maybe.

Before long the value of the index funds grow significantly and the investment properties gain more equity while throwing off a steady stream of passive income. People begin to notice. You, one of the mentioned readers, drive a less than fancy car and have a modest home or apartment. People also notice you brown bag lunch at work and rarely party with the crowd. Instead of the bar scene you invite friends over for a cookout and a few cold ones.

Everyone around you notices how much less stress you seem to have compared to them. You make it look easy. And you have money. Of course, you do. Because you don’t spend every penny you earn. It starts with one person feeling resentment and spreads like a bad rash. For the first time you feel the sting of jealousy. People you care about and admire now have turned against you because you are clearly no longer like them. You lack the fancy house, expensive car and endless nights of fine dining. And how dare you live without cable TV. Is there something wrong with you?


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Black Pride Meets White Privilege

text-1442218_960_720There is something wrong with this community. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. My experiences and worldview didn’t allow me to see the problem. Then it hit me. The personal finance conferences I attend and even the readers of this blog are predominantly white. I felt the issue was so huge I had to write about encouraging minorities, especially the black community, to join our group. Fearful I might come across as a dick, I delayed and delayed. I started writing this post and then threw it away. It was all wrong. How can a white guy from a very white community reach out to the black community?

Then I got the wake up call. I published Overreacting Solves Nothing, where I attempt to calm the crowd after Trump won the election. A few days ago I was called out by a reader. SKG writes, “Easy for you to say not to overreact, you’re white. It’s a whole different story for people of color.” The gauntlet has been tossed and at the risk of coming across as a dick I have to reach out to this massive group of people filled with great pride in their heritage.

As white as the community I live in is, I still have a few black clients. I don’t call them black either; I call them clients. There are more Hispanic people in my community and, as a result, I have more Hispanic clients. Minorities never bothered me. My biggest problem with non-white clients is that sometimes I can’t understand them. Most Hispanics speak English just fine, but some have a strong dialect which I have to concentrate on to understand. When they see me struggle they revert to using Hispanic words because it is clearer for them.


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I’ll Tell You Why You’re a Failure




8226451812_88007f08df_bBuying a car is like marriage to me; it is until death do us part. So far she has been the one dying and I remain to keep the memories alive. In 2009 I bought a 2007 Toyota Camry from the local credit union to help them clean up a bad loan. I have never had serious problems, but periodically I have to invest a bit into the vehicle so the ‘ol girl makes it to 20. The Camry had one of those days.

The exhaust pipe broke near the head next to the catalytic. The metal was too thin to weld so replacement was the only option. My neighbor across the road (how convenient living out in the country), Roger, has a lift in his garage and handles most minor repairs for me. I still change the oil so I can brag this accountant gets his hands dirty now and again.

The replacement part had the cat in it so it wasn’t going to be cheap. I went over the O’Reilly Auto Parts for the replacement. It set me back $184. Roger charged me $25 to change it. I knew it was going to be a bit more than a simple muffler repair. When I picked up the section of exhaust pipe the kindly clerk asked me if I was a member of their rewards club. I said I was now. It works like this: for every $150 you spend they send you a $5 coupon for a future purchase.Continue reading

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Celebrate ‘Buy Nothing Day’




bnd1-friday-25nov2016The day after Thanksgiving in the States is called Black Friday, as if anyone doesn’t already know that. What you might not know is that it is also Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day started in Canada (how un-American) in 1992 and has grown into an international movement against overconsumption. The idea is one day of no spending should lead to a lifetime of responsible personal finance which should ease pressure on natural resource demand and pollution. It has been a slow start.

If you print it they will spend. The non-stop growth of fiat money, created by central banks at the click of a button (I know it involves more than that, but a longer description would interrupt the flow of my story) gets spent. The money supply growth of the last decade has not generated a massive wave to new consumption and inflation because most of the newly created money is sitting bank vaults and central banks around the world to prop up balance sheets. Siphoning off the excess cash once it is unleashed has a high likelihood of being very painful. Before this happens you must hone your financial muscles to protect yourself.

Self control is the only tool you have in self protection. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you hold a hammer in your hand do you automatically hit something? Okay, bad example.

Buy Nothing Day is a great idea to get us thinking, but it is a stupid idea in practice. Staying home and not spending on one day of the year is meaningless. It’s like those “Don’t Buy Gas on Friday” slogans, as if not buying gas on Friday will stick it to OPEC and Exxon. It doesn’t. You just fill up on Thursday and drive all the more. You want to stick it to OPEC and Exxon? Ride a fucking bike. Want to send a message on overconsumption? Then spend less all year round.Continue reading

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Wants Become Obligations




This is not the meaning of Christmas.

The holiday season is fast approaching and the best laid plans of financial independence and early retirement are left for discussion another day. Normally frugal people can lose their senses when the holidays roll around. One day they are giving thanks and the next they are trampling their neighbor to get a deal on a flat screen over at Wally World. And this is supposed to make us happy?

Wants are a harsh mistress. Once you satiate your wants, new wants fill the void. It is a forever hungry beast. Wants satisfied are not the end; they are the beginning of a long slog through financial hell. Once you buy something you need to take care of it. You need a place to store you newly owned junk, ah, I mean, stuff. You now must spend more to protect your pile of garbage.  A home or car needs insurance lest something happen which could cause you to lose your slavery, sorry, belongings. Room is made in the home or stuff is put into storage to make way for the new round of crap purchased on the credit card so you can keep wasting your hard earned money on interest. Once you own stuff, stuff owns you. It becomes an obligation and obligations cost money.Continue reading

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Lessons Learned: Raising Children with Disabilities




Ice creamIn the winter of 1995 Mrs. Accountant and I were a young married couple anxiously awaiting our first child due in late February. Winter in NE Wisconsin has a tendency to get bitter. The winter in question was no different. The holidays were still fresh in our mind on January 7th. My business was a remodeled basement; the following year would be my first with a store front.

The air felt colder than normal and Mrs. Accountant was feeling the effects. The stress of pregnancy coupled with the weather had her bed-ridden. Early on the 7th she got up and wandered to the couch. Then the world turned upside down. Her water broke seven weeks early. Dumb as I was I still knew this was really bad.

I rushed Mrs. Accountant to the hospital. The doctor decided the longer the baby stayed in mom the better. For two days my wife suffered. The doctor finally relented and had Mrs. Accountant transferred to a hospital with facilities for such a premature baby.

It was an intense delivery. I was not allowed in the delivery room. Our first baby entered the world seven weeks early and spent 19 days in intensive care. If I had not worked out of my home at the time I would have never stayed in business. Working from home allowed me all day with my wife and newborn daughter.

The medical problems were only beginning.

Chapter 2

Five years later Mrs. Accountant and I decided we wanted one more child. Two seemed like a good number and we had it in our heads if we only had one child she would be spoiled. (We spoiled her anyway, with love.)

The doctors were taking no chances this round. The ultra sounds were all normal; all tests were normal. It did not matter to Mrs. Accountant and me the gender of our child so we waited for our baby to enter the world to know.

Shortly before the due date the doctor decided a C-section was the safest course. This time I was allowed in the delivery room. The operation went smooth. As the baby slid from mom’s belly one doctor said, “Congratulations, sir. You have a son.” Another doctor said, “Look again doctor. You have a girl, sir.” All I remember was muttering, “It’s both.” The room was silent the remainder of the procedure.


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My Daughter Retired at 22 — Here is How She Did It

img_20161018_075051For five years I played treasurer at the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA). The annual conference is their big event. Every year great minds gathered to share ideas writers could use to write better and promote their work. I always tried to snag a spot for a presentation on promotion for writers.

WWA is a small writers association. Only a small portion of the members are actually published, not including self-published books. I had tons of ideas for those few who did have a book in print and in bookstores. When it comes to promoting a small business — and writing is a small business (which can get really big for some) — I have a massive arsenal.

Three years ago I presented at the WWA annual conference in Wisconsin Rapids. My idea for writers was simple. Stop doing book signings at bookstores and focus on libraries. A gasp rose from the crowd. Sacrilege! I had to explain when you are at a bookstore you have thousands of competitors an arm’s length away. It is common for an author at a bookstore signing to have fewer than five people buy their book; many times they sell none!

Libraries are different. Your competitors are available for checkout, but a signed copy is available only with purchase. Libraries are hungry for authors willing to speak to their patrons. Not only will you sell books, you will also get paid for the speaking engagement in most cases. Libraries are the unsung heroes for people looking to supercharge their writing career.

I went into more detail at the conference than I will here. I will chase to the end. During the 50 minute presentation I outlined how an author can earn six figures annually working ten or fewer hours per week. I was soundly admonished. Authors disagreed vehemently that this would work. I stood my ground. As the presentation came to an end a man in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “I am with the Door County Library system and what Keith has said is 100% true. We can’t get authors to show up even when we pay them. And when authors work with us they sell books and get paid for that too. We also sell the author’s book at wholesale price to patrons so the author sells even more books and gets more royalties.” I rest my case.

My oldest daughter, Heather, was in the audience that day. She is also the only one who took notes and followed through.

Play all Day

Heather is not a normal kid; she is a lot like her dad. She does not want to run a business like I do, but she isn’t excited about working for the man. She struggled with her true dream: art. The kid is talented, for sure, but so are another couple million people, too. Heather wanted to attend art schools around the planet and I refused to pay her way. I told her she doesn’t want to produce the same art everyone else is producing. Be different if you want to survive with art.


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