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Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

The Clock is Ticking

When my accounting practice went from a part-time seasonal pastime to a full-time firm I needed to bring in talented employees. Bev, a close friend of the family, had many years of experience working for other tax firms so I asked her to work for me. She accepted the offer.

Decades started to pile up. The joke around the office was Bev worked for my firm longer than I had. It wasn’t far from the truth. Bev was always a talented and faithful employee. She did good work and I could trust her.

But time counts, and keeps counting. Bev had something few people ever possess: talent and personality. Clients loved Bev and for good reason. She knew her stuff and made people around her feel comfortable. In my darkest hours she was there to hold the firm together. When my youngest daughter was born with birth defects she kept the office open while my mental wounds healed.

I have fond memories of those days. I also remember how it ended. Bev comes from a farming background; solid German stock. What I mean to say is she isn’t a petite girl. Wisconsin winters can be brutal. Arctic blasts made it difficult for her to breathe outside. I was worried about her. It was the excuse used to force her to retire.

But that was a lie. The truth is something was changing in Bev. It started slow and steadily advanced. She wasn’t as good at taxes as she once had been. Once she was great at taxes, now she was merely good and rapidly approaching mediocre. It is a terrible thing to say about someone with such an honorable and distinguished career.

I noticed the changes in Bev when she reached her mid-60s. It was small at first. Little things were missed. Sometimes the tax return was correct, but little things around the tax return were forgotten. A note was not updated; a basis statement not completed. And clients still loved Bev.

Each year got progressively worse until the work was unacceptable. I had to review all her work at a much higher level. Bev had to go. It was not an easy choice. She accepted her retirement and took to it like a pig takes to shit, but she was hurt at the time. She still brings her personal tax work in for us to prepare.

Is that Footsteps I Here?
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Early Retirement, Estate Planning, Lifestyle

Avoiding the Gold Diggers

Community Property States

At a recent Camp Mustache where I gave a presentation I also offered one-hour personalized consultations. Most of the advice I give is identical among all people I consult with. Most themes come up again and again. About 20% of what I advise is unique to the individual.

This particular group was comprised of high net worth people. These people save a massive percentage of their annual income and are in a position to retire early; mid-30s is average. Incomes were all over the map. Some had high income; some had modest income. All invested heavily in index funds and/or real estate.

An attractive young woman was next in line for a consultation. She had amassed a reasonable amount of liquid funds and was planning her retirement strategy. I knew she wasn’t married by looking at her tax return. I asked if she had a special someone in her life. She said no. I then made the offhand comment, “If you ever decide to get married you will have a prenup.”

Prenuptial agreements are common so I felt the comment was just a reminder. She seemed surprised so I reiterated she will need a prenup if she gets married, especially since she has a sizable nest egg. She wasn’t so certain it was a good idea. I reminded her gold diggers don’t always have tits. It took a bit of convincing to get her to come around to my way of thinking. I told her if I ever found out she got married without a prenup I would be very unhappy with her. My final selling point was, “When you have money some people will lie to get you to marry them. Then when they screw around and leave, you will pay them half your net worth to screw another woman. It is a bitter pill you want to avoid.”Continue reading

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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

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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Lifestyle

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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Lifestyle, Small Business

The Gift of Karma and the Art of Pay It Forward

endlessknot03dI settled back with a good book on a quiet New Year’s Eve back in the early days of my accounting practice. Mrs. Accountant goes to bed early and was already tucked in. We rarely party or go out on New Year’s Eve. To us it is just another day.

My tax office back then was the remodeled basement so I was always close to work. Since the accounting part of my business was many years into the future, there wasn’t much to do around the holidays except enjoy some great reading. A few preparations for the upcoming tax season were as far as they could go.

Cable did not enter our house back then and network television did not interest me. The World Wide Web was just coming into existence and wasn’t a household phrase yet. Internet service was America Online accessed by dial-up. There were fewer distractions to drag a guy away from a good book in those days.

I was reading one of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization books that New Year’s Eve as memory serves. (I consider Will Durant one of the best writers to have ever live. His 11 volume Story of Civilization series is some of the best writing on human history ever.) My cup of tea was on the table next to my recliner where I was reading.

I lived in town for a few years back then to establish my practice. The living room had a bay window looking out toward the street. It was my custom to keep the curtains open so I could see if anything was happening outside.

A blood-curdling scream pulled my eyes from my book. Out the bay window I saw a woman falling from the passenger side of a car! She fell hard. The car sped off.


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Lifestyle

Silent Night




stars-821611_960_720The year is 1991. Mrs. Accountant and I had a foster child that year. On Christmas morning I was to take him to his mother for a day. We got up early and dressed for the chilly morn. I lived in town at the time. His mother lived in apartments near the Valley Fair Mall, the first mall in America.

The mall is gone now, replaced by a variety of shops, a gas station, and a movie theater. The apartments still stand. As I drove down Memorial Drive we rounded the curve toward the apartments. The road was dead quiet. No cars anywhere. It felt peaceful. A major highway completely empty. It only happens once per year on Christmas morning. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and watched a lone snowflake land on the glass and melt. I leaned forward and looked up at the early morning sky out the windshield. The hair on my skin rose with gooseflesh.

“Where is everyone,” asked my foster child, a huge young man from a family with more issues than I care to remember.

“They are sleeping,” I said in barely a whisper. “Resting. But not for long. They are exhausted from all the running and spending. Resting for a day. Tomorrow they will be back, crazed as ever, credit card in hand.” I turned to my foster child, “Never be like them.”Continue reading

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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

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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