Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Winning the Game of Life

Winning the game of life takes perseverance. Winners don't quit. Each action is a step toward their goals. The winning attitude wins. #gameoflife #success #motivationThe original working title of this post was If You’re Rich You Don’t Quit. I loved the title, but it didn’t encompass the entire theme I wanted to present. Life isn’t just about money! (Sounds crazy coming from a wealthy accountant, right?) Money is important when in need of life necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medical care. After the basics are covered money is either a game, and for some even an annoyance, since it distracts them from what they are really interested in.

Motivation is a powerful tool. Life is a never-ending series of groin kicks. People want to knock you down. Sometimes it’s life. Sometimes it’s a malicious act. Regardless, the only way you can get from where you are to where you want to be is find the motivation deep inside your soul.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s how you play the game.” True. “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Another true adage. These short catchphrases can be used by your own mind as a way to stop striving for your goals. Self-talk will drive you forward or into the ground. Best to be cognizant of your thoughts!

Winning is important to me. (Surprise, surprise!) My interests are catholic (little c). This requires I find the most important interests so I can focus on the ones that matter most. The other interests may live as hobbies or may go unsatisfied. The mark of a true winner is focus on the single goal (or few complimentary goals).




Failure is for Winners

We all know the story of Edison and the light bulb. He tried 1,000 times and failed. He kept pulling himself up by the bootstraps and eventually produced a working incandescent light bulb on try 1,001 (or something like that).

Closer to home we have an unnamed accountant who likes to write. I wrote my first complete novel my senior year (or was I a junior) of high school. It was never published, but it gave me experience telling a story, building a world, creating characters.

After I graduated I bought a Tandy computer at Radio Shack. That bugger set me back $4,000 and it didn’t even have a hard drive! You had to insert a 5 ¼ inch floppy disk and twist a lever down to lock the disk in place before turning on the computer for it to boot. Yeah, that was one awesome OS! I think it was DOS 1.0. (Really!)

I still have 5 ¼ inch floppy disks floating around someplace with short stories on them. My second novel and two (or possibly three) nonfiction books also exist in a format I have no way of accessing anymore.

My writing sales were dismal. I sent out a lot of stories, and—being an optimist—never kept the stack of rejects. A few still float around the office, but most rejects had no value to me. I always focused on learning from each experience and moving on to the next level. What I’m saying is that I didn’t exit the womb with pen and paper ready.

In the late 1980s, shortly after I went full-time in taxes, I started a financial audio newsletter called The Wealth Builder’s Guide. Six times a year you would receive a wonderful (it’s my story so I’ll tell it the way I want) cassette tape with 90 minutes of financial advice from me along with a printed newsletter with information on which banks had the best investment rates nationally and other important financial articles.

Successful people never give up. You can have the career, family and financial success you want as long as you strive forward each day. #Success #motivation #personalfinanceI wrote, edited and produced the whole kit and caboodle. It was a lot of work. After three years it was time to hang up my cleats. My tax practice had grown too large to do both.

If you are lucky enough to still have an original copy of my audio newsletter I hear they go for a pretty penny on eBay. (Yes, that is a joke. If you find one of those suckers on eBay I would like to buy it so I have my own copy.) My basement was filled with audio equipment, tapes and booklets. After enough years went by I dumped the remaining stuff in one of my intermittent personal belongings purges.

It doesn’t sound like much, but I had around 100 subscribers at the peak. If memory serves, I charged $199 per year. I wasn’t getting rich, but it covered costs and once again, I was learning.

Up to this point you might consider my writing efforts a success. Let me help you gain perspective. My total writing sold to traditional press earned me less than $1,000 over ten to fifteen years. The newsletter, while somewhat successful, wasn’t putting food on the table. All the money brought in went to recording and dubbing machines.

I still wasn’t ready to quit, dammit!

By the mid 1990s my tax practice hit full stride. I was taking market share and I was able to find time to write. A competitor jealous of my success almost destroyed my business. It hurts (and still hurts). But I never quit. Wouldn’t think of it.

The new millennium had me punching the keyboard more than ever. Another novel ended up unpublished and several false starts kept the number of unpublished novels at a reasonable level. This was actually good news. I was starting to realize good writing from bad. Bad stories that just didn’t have a chance were ended. To prove the point, some material was selling to online sites, though the pay was a pittance.

To further hone my skills I wrote for content farms like HubPages for a few years. Most articles there were bad, but it was a place to write things I needed to get out and to build my skills.

Not all of my work was bad. Stuff was selling. Even my fiction got some notice. A few hubs on HubPages were picked up by industry journals. Traffic was growing. I was learning to write and market online.

There was one area which drove me crazy: flash fiction. I had periodic moments of brilliance in all areas I wrote with the exception of flash fiction. The money in flash fiction would never feed a parakeet so I wasn’t too upset until a chance opportunity accidentally fell in my lap.

A flash fiction blog ran across my screen. I quickly noticed the traffic was massive—millions of pageviews per year. I researched similar blogs and realized many get modest to good traffic. None monetized! The accountant in me couldn’t help himself.

I started writing flash fiction for my new blog in said genre. A small amount of research showed me how the other guys were getting their traffic. My traffic never rose as high as the best in the category, but still was respectable. I started a second similar blog once the first got going. Both those blogs had many millions of pageviews.

I quickly reached a ceiling in the genre. The reason these bloggers didn’t monetize is because you could only make so much unless you also wrote and sold genre specific novels to compliment your site. I wasn’t willing to spend that much time on the topic involved since I wasn’t really interested in the topic. (For the curious, it involved transgender issues; something dear to my heart since my youngest daughter was born intersex.)

I earned reasonable money on the flash fiction blogs, but I didn’t want to spend a lifetime repeating the same genre drivel. I was burning out the flash fiction bug.

The good news is that it allowed me to hone my skills even more. I was learning brevity. Storytelling is an important part of writing. When it works the reader steps into your world for a short while and enjoys the experience. They also tend to return like a good friend.




Failing All the Way to the Top

Decades of writing prepared me for the big event I wasn’t even planning on attending. Mr. Money Mustache asked to be my client and he was going to publish on his uber-blog how I helped him. The words weren’t even out of MMM’s mouth when people started asking about my blog. Ahhhhhh.

Yeah, you get what I mean.

This blog was an idea I hadn’t moved on. The URL was purchased to preserve the link. I played a bit with Bluehost (too much work). I hired a local firm to whip my blog into shape. They dropped the ball. The big push came while my blog was still a mess.

A year and nine months later this blog won the Plutus Award for Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year. Now I know what you’re thinking. It seems so easy for me. I write for a bit more than a year on this blog and get a massive reward. True, but did anyone consider the 10 million words I wrestled to the page over three and a half decades?

I threw my hat in the ring this year for Blog of the Year. You can vote/nominate here. (That reminds me; I still need to vote!)

The amount of time I put into writing is obscene. It was something I loved (well thought out communication), but it never came naturally to me. I had to work on it.

Traffic still bugs me as more is always better in my book. Maybe the blog isn’t failing, but growing is very important to me. (I have a secret I think I’ll publish in a flash post this Saturday.)

After peer acknowledgement and traffic, money is a powerful guide to gauge success. I haven’t published much in the way of blog financial progress reports. Let me give a taste of the trailing twelve months here:

Ad Revenue: $11,000

Amazon: $1,200

Credit Cards affiliate: $4,000

Miscellaneous affiliates: $2,000

Specialty affiliate 1: $9,200

Specialty affiliate 2: $6,000

Specialty affiliate 3: $4,800

Consulting: $23,500

Tax clients from blog: I don’t know? Maybe half my practice already.

The numbers are estimated as I’m writing at home late at night while my data is at the office behind a very secure firewall.

The specialty affiliate listings are unique situations I created. When I saw a few powerful products I helped create an affiliate program for me only. There is no competition meaning the revenue is encouraging.

Bloggers underestimate the power of consulting with readers. Consulting may reach as high as $40,000 this calendar year with the new tax laws in place. I handle consulting sessions Tuesday and Thursday only, except for tax season and wide spaces around holidays.

Traffic peaked at slightly over 130,000 pageviews per month last year leading up to the Plutus Awards. To my disappointment, traffic is now a hair below 70,000. (This is my own fault. I expected with a Plutus Award I could focus on writing instead to promoting. Didn’t work any better than it does in my tax practice.)

There are plenty of failures along the way as I reached for my writing goals. Each failure was a corpse I could pile higher so I could climb to my goal. I turned the corner on traffic as I’m now focusing on my ego blog as a business.

More failures will bump along as I strive for new heights. It is never easy! Each failure is really just a lesson on the road to success. Remembering this makes it a whole lot easier.




One More Goal

When I entered the demographic as a blogger I received some harassment. Early retirement (ER) is MMM’s shtick; not mine. Many people found this blog through Mr. Money Mustache. My readers only mesh slightly with the ER movement. The ER folks are still good people and welcome to drop in.

People started to remind me I had “one more year-itis”. Well, I do. And I have a feeling it will not end until they plant me six feet below sea level. I enjoy what I do even when I complain. Remember that.

Taking on too much work leads to burnout. Elon Musk is a business hero of mine who has recently concerned me. A recent investor conference call was handled in what I considered a very unprofessional manner (investors have a right to know how they’re investment is being managed). We see some Twitter issues and Musk doesn’t have Teflon skin like President Trump. Part of Musk’s issue, I think, is his heavy workload. Tesla is a huge time demand. Musk is building cutting edge products nobody else is either thinking of or feels is impossible. Then Musk does it. He also admits to fatigue. Reports say he has slept on the factory floor to achieve numbers; no time for driving to work or other distractions when in crisis mode.

You win at life if you don't run the race. RUN THE RACE! You can do anything you set your mind too long enough. Your financial goals are within reach. #goals #winning #earlyretirementAt a fraction of the workload Musk carries, my back shows a serious strain. I look like a mule carrying a heavy weight in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Tax season is the worst. I cut back from publishing three times a week to two. I think it helps with quality. Quantity should be a secondary consideration only.

Tax season stress doesn’t end instantly and clients sometimes think I have nothing to do all day April 16th so tax season really stretches into June before things really slow. I was so stressed I threatened a countdown clock and wrote (published) about it. I also published a countdown clock on the Where Am I page. When the number on the bottom of the page hits zero I will have published 500 posts here. (I checked statistics last week and can proudly proclaim this blog has 713,000 words already.) Then I walk away.

Except, I probably won’t.

By publishing a countdown clock, I reminded myself of the Warren Buffett 20 slot rule. You only get so many chances to tell a story so you better tell it right the first time. (I’m batting around .500 which is awesome in baseball; not so awesome when writing.) The countdown clock reminds me a day will come when the typewriter stops clicking. It focused my attention and got me thinking about life without writing. It wasn’t a pretty fantasy.

The Plutus Awards published an interview with me earlier this spring. I let the Plutus Awards know about the countdown clock and that I probably wasn’t headed for the sunset.

 

I tell the story of my writing life for a reason. There were plenty of painful moments when I didn’t know what to do. I was lost and spent hours thinking about how I would learn to communicate effectively in the written form. Even when I met success I felt pain. As soon as I reached a goal I made another bigger goal. I get nominated for a Plutus; I want to win a Plutus. I get 130,000 month of pageviews; I want 200,000 pageviews. This 70,000 pageview stuff ticks me off.

Success is defined in different ways. My marriage has different goals with less stressful demands. Career is what causes me to push. I want it all when “all” isn’t possible.

Retirement goals and financial independence are important issues. If you’re rich you don’t quit because the “rich” mindset never quits. Before you amass your first dollar, you are already rich if your mindset is right. Your body just has to wait for the money to catch up.

That is why I changed the title of this post. Winning the game of life is the most important part of life. Money plays a modest role. The quality of your life, your dreams, career, goals, family, health and joy, are what count. “Rich” means you’re always looking for the next challenge when a task is complete because you know that it is what brings meaning to life. Rich people never settle for mediocre.

But rich people also know mediocre days are the price you pay to get to the top.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant for a bonus. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you very much!



Taking the Lottery Out of Scholarship Applications

Today we have a special feature. My daughter provided today’s post as promised last week. It is hard to capture the work she did in preparation to winning all those scholarships and the pitch contest. She practiced in front of anyone who would sit still long enough for her to get it out. She honed her presentation until it was as smooth as silk. I even tried to interrupt and distract her as she practiced so she would be prepared for anything.

A few notes are in order. When Heather says the pitch conext was organized by a local bank, local business owners and the college, know I was not involved in any way with the program and had zero influence over the results. I listened to Heather practice, but did not attend the event. I didn’t want to be a distraction.

I want to point out Heather mentioned hard work. Sorry to say you can achieve great things as long as you are willing to do the work necessary to succeed. Another point I hope people don’t miss is Heather’s encouragement to never give up. If one thing doesn’t work, research and study more and reapply. The prize frequently goes to the consistent and persistent.



Taking the Lottery Out of Scholarship Applications

by: Heather Schroeder

 

I’ve never been comfortable with bragging. I wouldn’t go around telling people I got the best grade on a math test or that I got accepted into one of the best colleges in the United States. This is something I just can’t get myself to do. So, when my dad asked me to write a blog post about a recent success I had, I had to tell myself that it’s OK to be excited about winning something.

I struggled when I was in primary school. I was in a special reading class as I couldn’t read at the level I needed to be at and I was equally horrible at comprehension and writing. My reading disorder continued throughout my middle school career and I thought, based on my experiences, that I would never be able to read. Once I entered high school and wasn’t forced to read, I willingly picked up a book at my high school library. In less than a year, I had read more than twenty books and suddenly I knew how to write. This was the starting point that has led me to where I am today—an entrepreneur, a mentor, and a teacher.

I’m currently a student at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. Fox Valley Technical College has a 94% employment rate, the highest in the area. This was the first year that the college had a pitch contest for FVTC students. A local bank, several entrepreneurs in the area, and FVTC staff all supported and funded the pitch contest.

Naturally, I felt a need to sign up, but even though I signed up, there was no guarantee that I would be picked to be one of the eight finalists. Three months after I signed up, I got the email stating I was accepted as one of the finalists. I was rejoicing, and I felt like I was on top of the world. There was only one problem, though—I had a lot of work to do because my business was not what the judges were looking for. And if I wanted to win the grand prize, I needed to switch from being a solopreneur to an entrepreneur.

Think about it. I started a tutoring business with the intention of being the only employee and taking on as many clients as humanly possible. This worked great and was a nice way to have some extra cash coming in on the side; yet, I wasn’t making enough to survive. This is one of the reasons I decided to go back to college. I knew I needed an education, no matter how little or how much, to be taken seriously as an academic tutor.




I had one month to come up with a 90-second pitch for the Fox Trap Pitch Contest in hopes of winning the grand prize. First through third place were guaranteed a financial award. This is something I was bound and determined to win.

My adrenaline was pumping as I entered the room full of judges and FVTC staff. My entrepreneurship teacher was also running the show. I had to make him proud as my entrepreneurship teacher is the reason I’ve come so far. My pitch went great and the judges seemed interested in my teaching style I created and the opportunities for people in the valley and around the world to become employed by me. I’m an ambitious little thing that doesn’t let my size determine how big my dreams can be.

I won first place at the Fox Trap Pitch Contest. This was one of the first times I’ve seen myself succeed at something and then be told that I need to continue with my plan. I learned many things when I prepared and presented my 90-second pitch. The most important thing I learned was that writing a pitch is nearly identical in writing an essay for a scholarship.

When preparing my pitch for the contest, I had to identify a problem, identify the target market, identify the solution or solutions, and determine how my idea will make money. I also had to identify what I was going to do with the winnings. This outline is exactly how many scholarship essays should be written.

All scholarships follow the same general rules including determining the winners by how creative the applicant is, how well written the essay is, the quality of the information, and determining if the applicant is a right fit for the scholarship. When writing an essay for a scholarship, follow these simple rules.

  1. Identify the problem or identify the topic

When writing essays, research reports, and personal memoirs, the stories or the introduction introduces the audience to the situation. Research reports are the easiest when determining and solving a problem. With my pitch, I determined the problem by stating startling statistics and examples of why it’s important to help “at risk” students and students in special education succeed.

 

  1. Identify the target market or who you are trying to reach

Scholarship essays usually want applicants to write about issues that are affecting others in the United States. One scholarship I run across yearly is the drinking and driving scholarship that requires applicants to write about and videotape themselves on describing how they think they can help make people aware of the risks that come with drinking and driving. With my pitch, I determined my target market by identifying who I wanted to help. My target market is “at risk” students and students in special education. The target market for the drinking and driving essay could be people who drink often and take the risk of driving or college students. According to the college drinking prevention website, “1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.”



  1. Identify the solution or what you think could be done in the future

When writing a scholarship essay, determine what you think could be done to solve the problem. My solution for my pitch was offering academic tutoring services for “at risk” students and students in special education and teaching these students by utilizing my teaching style, which has so far been a success.

 

  1. Identify what you will do with the winnings

Like with the pitch contest and writing scholarship essays, judges want to know what you will do with the winnings. I determined in my pitch that if I won I would use the winnings to go to China to determine if my business idea can work globally. With scholarships, determine how you will use the winnings. I usually state that I would use the winnings for housing, tuition, food, and supplies.

The last piece of information I can give is to research how to write scholarships outside of reading this blog post. I have given some valuable information, but there is so much more available online. I suggest looking on YouTube and searching for videos on pitch contests. These contests have great insight on how to reach your audience and make a difference in lives of others.

I wish you the best of luck.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Endnote: Once again I encourage you to reach for your dreams. Heather is 23 years old and living her dreams. She is on her way to China for a month to teach in a few weeks. More opportunities are coming her way as a result. I don’t like to travel; she does. I never asked my kids to live the life I expected of them. I always encouraged they walk their own road. There will be bumps and even painful experiences. It’s part of life. But the journey is all worth it.



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to skyrocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon good way to control costs and comparison shop. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

 

Depression and Personal Finance

If you are feeling suicidal, please seek help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. Find a trusted friend or family member to stay with you while you are suicidal.

 

Depression knows no boundaries. Anyone at any age can experience debilitating depression. No one is exempt: male or female, young and old, every ethnic background, every religious belief and every level of the economic spectrum.

Depression is hard to treat since it comes in so many flavors. Some people experience mild or seasonal depression, sometimes known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Depression can be brutally severe or cycle between periods of hyperactive behavior followed by an equally severe depressive episode. To complicate matter more, manic-depressives can cycle fast or slow.

Medication doesn’t help everyone and for many only provides mild relief. Frequently external factors trigger an event. Overwhelming debt can bring the walls crashing in.

But external triggers are not necessary for those with a tendency for depression. Successful and wealthy people are not exempt from external triggers causing depression. Eliminating debt can go a long way for many people in regaining mental health. But not always.




The Dear Debt Mission

Melanie is an incredible young woman who writes the Dear Debt blog. What started as a public journey to break up with debt brought an unexpected consequence. People started reading her blog and contacting her with their stories of unmanageable debt. Melanie also noticed in her analytics program that many people finding her blog were suicidal due to their debt load.

It might be forgivable to bow our head in silence and move on feeling there is nothing we can do. Not Melanie. Every September, which is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Melanie has a Debt Drop program where she encourages bloggers to join her in creating a web of posts focusing on suicide awareness and prevention. A heavy dose of debt reduction is encouraged. I added to the list a few times myself. Here is another entry.

It is impossible to know how many lives have been saved due to Melanie’s efforts. Certainly the number of people helped is tremendous.

But that isn’t why I’m writing today. There is another group of people in desperate need of help I want to address.

Living the Dream or Living in a Dream

Before we continue I must make a confession. The author is a rapid cycler manic-depressive. The dark days of winter can cause SAD, but I also suffer awesome bouts of efficient hyper-activity followed by crushing depression. It can happen any time of the year.

When I was a boy I was diagnosed with the disease. Later doctors tried a cocktail of medications to tone down the highs and lows. Lithium did nothing. Prozac and similar drugs were ineffective. They even tried scary drugs that really messed with my head. Eventually the medications were ended and I attended therapy to understand my triggers and methods to control an episode.

Here is the funny thing. I never had an overwhelming debt burden in my life. I grew up poor on a farm in rural Wisconsin, but we always had food, family life was good and I never felt like we were poor until I got older and the outside world reminded me what I am.

Later I married the best woman on earth and she blessed our household with two incredible daughters. Home life has always been good for me. I got lucky. With a predisposition for mania followed by depression, I found a way to create a life that minimized triggers. Like I said, lucky.




Money Doesn’t Solve Every Problem

When people are deep in debt they think money will solve all their problems. It doesn’t! Money will solve some issues in your life. Money can reduce and eliminate debt obligations. This is a major stress reducer.

Lots of money also opens doors unavailable to the poor. Money makes it easier to retire young or choose the job of your choice since you have resources to weather the time between fulfilling jobs. Money means you don’t have to settle for any job offered just to put food on the table. If you enjoy traveling money certainly helps with that too.

Money can solve financial problems. It can’t fix a broken marriage or resolve a drug problem. Money can buy quality healthcare, but can’t cure every ailment. And money can’t stop the demons of depression from crushing you down.

 

Dealing with Depression

To someone deep in debt it may sound strange to hear someone is suicidal when they have a quality home life and financial wealth. But depression doesn’t work that way!

Mental illness carries a social stigma. It shouldn’t. Depression is not a sign of weakness. Depression is a disease and must be treated as any disease.

Left unchecked it can destroy things of value in your life. Medication is an option for some. I encourage you to have a serious talk with your doctor on your situation. If medication doesn’t work for you, as it doesn’t for the author, you need a different set of tools. I will share some that have worked for me.

I was hesitant writing this post. After nearly a decade of controling excessive bouts of depression (I am less successful controlling the manias) I am in the deepest episode in nearly a decade.

Age gave me experience in handling triggers. Small bouts of depression would set in, but it was manageable. I have ready mental tools to get me back into life and motivated again. Manias are the worst because they make you feel so good as you get stuff done. I even managed to reduce the downside after a mania. Encouraging a mild mania is a valuable tool for an accountant during tax season. It is also dangerous. But when tax season spills into the remainder of the year the energy needs to come from somewhere, or so goes the crazy thinking.

Now is a good time to review the tricks I’ve learned to deal with depression since I’m struggling right now:

  • Triggers: Even if medication helps, controlling triggers is vital. Dark and short winter days can trigger depression in some people. It was an issue for me when I was younger, but it has been a non-event in later adulthood. Sunlight or sun lamps can help.

OTC medication or mild stimulants can trigger an event. For me large amounts of caffeine can trigger a mania. It’s easy when the workload increases to pound the coffee. You should constantly observe your response to foods, beverages, medications and recreational drugs (legal and illegal).

Stress is a huge trigger for many people. This is where a heavy debt burden comes in. But money isn’t the only stress. Other illness or the death of a friend or family member can do it. An unforeseen event can lift the stress level and start an uncontrollable spiral into depression.

  • Communicate: I have a very close relationship with my wife, Mrs. Accountant. We talk all the time. We can feel each other’s moods. Mrs. Accountant frequently knows I’m headed for depression before I do. She can see the outward signs I’m not paying attention to.

A trusted friend, family member or counselor is a tremendous benefit. Let people around you know when you are going down. Make sure a plan is in place to protect you if you become suicidal. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of intelligence. You know the helplessness of depression. When the depression passes, only then do you realize what you would have thrown away if you ended your life. And the damage to your friends and family lasts decades and longer. Do the right thing. Have a support team in place.

  • Train Yourself: Many people benefit from motivational tapes if they only have mild depression or borderline personality disorder. The upbeat message of optimism from speakers like Zig Ziglar have helped millions.
  • Diet and Exercise: Finding the right diet and mix of aerobic and strength exercises has made an incredible difference in my life. It’s those times where running a business cuts into running in the park conflict when I eventually get into trouble. Then diet suffers and the sodas go down the throat during the day and Jack at night. It all ends badly. Discover what foods cause attacks. And consider a sensible exercise program developed with a professional (trainer, doctor, et cetera).
  • Sleep: Lack of sleep is a serious stressor. Depressive episodes for me are usually preceded by a bout of sleeplessness. Lack of sleep even messes with people who don’t have depression. Get your sleep. It might be the most important thing you do all day. Cut the caffeine if it disturbs your slumber.
  • Avoid alcohol: For some reason people with depression think alcohol will deaden the pain. It might a first, but alcohol doesn’t deaden the pain long and the risk of addiction is real. Alcohol is no solution for depression and is fraught with problems.
  • Avoid important decisions while suffering a depressive event: Depression is a funny thing when it comes to decision making. I can prepare a mean tax return without issue while struggling with depression. The reason is the decisions are less about a choice and more about application of facts. The decisions best avoided while depressed include financial decisions.

Important financial decisions are best avoided while suffering deep depression. Your judgment is clouded when you are suffering. Cashing in a retirement account is a bad idea when you should be focusing on healing. Major expenditures are also to be avoided at these times. Now is not the time to shop, buy a new car, home, et cetera.

When depression strikes deep I start to eliminate things. I cut back on life demands. Depression causes me (most people) to withdraw. I try to cut back on projects or even eliminate them. I’m not saying this is a good thing because this in itself is a decision with consequences long after the depression ends. Unfortunately, you don’t always have a choice. Life doesn’t go on as usual when you suffer depression. Something has to give and certain activities need to be curtailed. Things you don’t want to cut back are your relationships and job. Your family and friends are your support group in your time of need. And you may need that job later when the fog lifts.

  • Seek professional help: It isn’t easy to seek help for depression. When you are suffering the blinding tunnel vision of depression you don’t think anyone can help and don’t even know you need help many times. When not depressed you think you are okay now. You must break out of the trap and seek appropriate medical attention.
  • Don’t be alone: Depression can do strange things to good people. If you are suicidal, call the number at the top of this post. Help is available. Whenever possible, have someone with you.

Remain Strong

It’s not always possible to control triggers. A surprise stressor can come out of left field. Some people are lucky enough to grow out of some types of depression like SAD or borderline personality disorder. Regardless, the illness is always there. Like any serious disease, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Seek help. There are solutions.

And most of all, remember, you are not alone.

 

Wealth Building Resources

Personal Finance is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Finance is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to skyrocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon good way to control costs and comparison shop. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

 



Stalking the Future of The Wealthy Accountant

All good things must end. (No goodbyes, just good memories.)

Burnout sets in post-tax season. Long hours working leads to exhaustion only to be repeated the next day eventually takes its toll. Recovery is less certain than in the past. Age is part of it, but the new tax code and demands from a wider audience also play a role. Due to these factors there will be significant changes to this blog going forward.

The most notable change will be the publishing schedule. Tax season became so overwhelming something had to give. I reduced the publishing schedule from three times a week with a “Stalking” edition on Saturday to twice per week.

What surprised me was the increase in traffic when I reduced the amount of material published! I was warned about this by several bloggers. Nailing the equivalent of five or more average-length novels per year to the blog can burn out readers. It was even causing some to unsubscribe. I might be slow, but I eventually catch on.

The end of tax season may account for much to the uptick in traffic after the publishing reduction. Regardless, my desire to write in other venues is growing. Whether traffic climbs or not, the new publishing schedule will remain. Monday and Thursday are the new publishing dates, replacing the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule in effect for the past year or so.

The “Stalking the Accountant” posts are reduced from every Saturday to the last Saturday of the month only. (This “Stalking” post fulfills next week’s weekend post.) I’ll share some of my personal activities in “Stalking”, as always. Other matters will also be addressed where regular posts would be inappropriate.

Since our last “Stalking” publication we had a few drawings for money! On March 30th Gina V. of Florence, S.C. collected a $50 Amazon gift card for opening an email of the latest TWA post. In honor of the end of tax season a drawing on April 16th from a list all of subscribers made Charlie M. of Las Vegas, Nevada the proud owner of a $250 Amazon gift card.

Power Posts!

My previous writing schedule made it difficult to honor my commitments to other writing projects. With the extra time I will work hard to mend bridges ignored. When I publish in other venues I’ll keep you updated on social media and weekend editions here, if allowed.

A reduced writing schedule also means I can focus more on quality. Quantity is fine for certain issues, but digging deeper is required in many instances and if time is short the quality tends to be the same.

Five or so years ago I wrote a series of articles on a content farm dealing with and winning an IRS audit. The articles were short, yet valuable. Changes at the IRS and in the tax code require I update these pieces. I will re-write the entire series with a massive expansion. Because these articles will be a virtual bible for the accounting industry they will not be published in the traditional manner here. Each section will be unavailable until the entire series is complete. Each section will be available for purchase with the whole series available at a lower price than individual article purchases combined. People who want to audit-proof their return may wish to buy that specific article. Tax professionals will want the entire guide. The best part is I will update these articles in real time so once you purchase a section you will have access to future updates. The IRS Audit Manual should be available by late summer or autumn 2018.

Renewed Focus

Warren Buffett has a 20-slot punch card philosophy to investing. I will apply the same methodology to this blog.

Over the decades I’ve written more material than I can count. Writing for me is personal with a side benefit of a modest income. My interests are catholic (little c) so writing the same genre for too long starts to feel stale to me. When I decided to become proficient writing flash fiction I set a goal of 2,000 stories. When I hit 2,000 I was done. The end. Finito. Goodbye.

The Wealthy Accountant has been my most enjoyable writing to date. I write what I know and enjoy talking about. But money is more a side discussion in my personal life. I’m more of a business type of guy than a money talker. Truth is money is pretty straight forward. Control your impulses, spending less than you earn and invest the excess. Even a bad investment is better than no investment. A million words on frugality and investing starts feeling stale to me.

Business is a different story. Writing about running a successful enterprise is endless. Reading another story of how someone paid off debt and retired at any age seems rote. Business is a bit more challenging; value creation more involved.

Over the last several months I’ve included hints of the future around this blog. I published Countdown Clocks. It should have been a dead giveaway. Subtle hints didn’t seem to connect unless readers are keeping it a secret from me. Then I made it less obvious.

On the Where Am I page below the calendar are the words “All good things. . .” printed backwards. Below this is a large bold number. The number is a countdown clock. When it reaches zero this blog will have 500 published articles. The IRS Audit Manual and other private publications here do not count toward the total. When the clock reaches zero I will stop publishing here. By applying a sort of 20-slot punch card approach I will need to focus on what is most important rather than filling column inches. Everything has an expiration date and so does this blog. (Come to think of it, so do I.)

 

What I’m Reading

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos. Not only interesting, but concerning. Computers are starting to learn from the massive reservoir of information gathered each day. The future will be radically different from even the recent past. With all good comes some bad is all I can say.

 

What I’m Watching

Brian Greene on the B-Theory of Time. I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately; the kind of time experienced in an Einsteinian world.

 

What I’m Listening To

There is a publishing opportunity to write a story on the rollercoaster ride of blogging. The Karen Carpenter story will play a central role.

 

Now I’m off to spend more time with my family. I’m sure you understand.

I Hate My Job!

And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey. Love the one your with. —Stephen Stills

The accounting industry has been consolidating for decades. When I started my practice in the 1980s the local newspaper had several pages of business card sized ads hawking the wares of local tax offices and CPA firms. Today you would be hard pressed to find an ad (outside the massive DIY tax software) by any tax or accounting firm even in the depths of tax season.

There are several reasons why the corner mom and pop tax office is dying. The tax code has steadily increased in complexity. If I didn’t have a background of knowledge to build on I might not consider the tax field if I were starting today.

Finding qualified tax/accounting professionals is harder than it’s ever been. The number of graduates coming out of college with a desire to work in accounting has declined. Those who do choose the tax/accounting field are picked up by government agencies and larger firms, all who have deeper pockets to pay new talent.

Stress is probably the biggest factor in the decline of the field as a career choice. Recently I had lunch with two young ladies who started their tax/bookkeeping office two years prior. I accepted the dinner date with the intention on building a relationship to possibly share new clients. Before the meal was served I was informed the two young ladies were so busy they couldn’t take any new clients. In two year they were full-up. They contacted me because they wanted to see the guy in sunglasses writing the crazy accounting blog in the Fox Cities.




Looking for the Exit

Long, stressful hours call my sanity into question every tax season. It always starts nice, but then every client wants a piece of my time to chat. Then I get behind and more tired by the day. By March it physically hurts really, really bad. If you ever want to buy a tax office cheap, make the offer in late March or early April. Just a wise piece of advice.

I get my fair share of offers to sell. A year doesn’t pass where I don’t see three to five offers. The big franchise names always make at least one pass. H&R Block wants to slap their pukey green on the side of my building so bad it hurts. I toss the offer before reading it. The answer is no.

Serious offers I might consider also arrive. Sometimes attorneys show up with paperwork demanding I give them a hearing. My location and time on the job has created a modest amount of value in my neck of the woods, I guess. Some offers show up in the mail, others with a phone call. For some strange reason local tax/accounting offices think I want to sell in August or September. Are they kidding! Running my practice is a breeze in late summer. Why would I ever want to sell when I have full control of the volume of traffic?

A word of advice to anyone looking to buy an accounting office cheap: make the offer late in tax season. From personal emotions and attitudes, I actually would consider an offer at such a time. Anything to release me from the physical and mental agony of unrelenting demands on my time. I’m also more open to negotiating the sale price in late spring. Just sayin’.




I Hate My Job!

You can love any job! I grew up on a family farm (virtual forced child labor) shoveling manure. Believe it or not, cleaning the barn was one of my favorite jobs! I could see my progress with each pass of the tractor. There was something intoxicating about working in shit.

I hated milking cows, however, but look back fondly on the experience now. I learned to accept the long hours in the milking parlor listening to tunes and caring for my ladies, the cows.

Cleaning the barn meant more open space to enjoy the outdoors. Milking cows was managed from the concrete pit of a milking parlor. It was cold and damp. I milked cows for about eight hours a day when I was in high school. There wasn’t much time for a life in such circumstances. I quickly learned to hate milking cows and farming. The pay was microscopic, the work hard, the hours long and I had virtually no interaction with people. The milking parlor was a one man job. I kept twelve cows filling the bulk tank simultaneously for hour after hour. To this day I can still see the fan blowing fresh air into the parlor as I milked cows during a summer thunder storm. If only I could enjoy the rain outside.

I hated my job. It was also 1982, a very bad year for the economy in the Rust Belt. I was trapped and acted as any trapped animal does. Late that year the family farm finished a bankruptcy. I had mixed feelings. I didn’t want to go back into farming and sure as hell didn’t want to milk another cow!




Love What You Do

Accountants see strange things walk in their door. The most perplexing is a young individual who is only a few years out of school complaining how much they hate their job. They’ve been reading some blogs (sometimes even this one) and are invigorated to pursue early retirement. I can’t help but think, Why would anyone spend years in college pursuing a job they didn’t like? I sure hope to God it wasn’t only about money. That would be short-sighted and shallow.

Dream jobs still have their days! Difficulty causes stress, but shouldn’t diminish your love for the task at hand. After growing up working endless hours farming I moved to town for a few years, started my practice and then moved back to the country to a small farm! It was in my blood. Raising animals and the land had an irresistible pull on me. I don’t milk cows on my hobby farm, but there are still jobs I don’t care to do. It comes with the territory.

I was too young to know how good I had it! If I’d have grown up in the big city my early life might have been easier. Then again, maybe not. Kind readers from said big cities might beg to differ. Their life wasn’t all roses either.

My formative years made me who I am. For that I am grateful. The stories I share on this blog and my other writings are only possible because I milked those cows, cleaned those barns and fed those calves. The work became a part of me. A good part.

It took me a long time to grow up and realize anyone can love any type of work. If I worked in the sewers I could learn to enjoy the moment. Cleaning barns has similarities and I liked that job.

Finding work you love is easy. Don’t limit your mindset to preconceived notions of what a “good” job is. Working at a fast food restaurant might not pay a lot, but can easily provide massive amount of personal satisfaction.

My news feeds are filled with stories of people retiring young. How can so many people have chosen the wrong profession to want to quit so badly? Some even spent massive amounts of money and time in college to hone their craft. And still, within a few short years they want out so bad it hurts.

Regardless the age you retire, in my office I see people returning to some form of organized labor. Life is meaningless for many without the companionship of co-workers and clients. “Work” is about serving your fellow man (or woman). That’s the magic potion searched for throughput the ages! The meaning of life is to serve! When you Pay it Forward to help another it gives your own life massive amounts of added value too!

Back Home

After a long day of work it feels good to be home. There is nothing wrong with that. Just because you love your work doesn’t mean there are days it hurts or doesn’t satisfy. It’s okay to feel like you need a break. (Might I suggest a break?)

Early retirement—retirement at any age—is not about checking out of life. No satisfaction is to be found there. A change in career, pursuit of other interests and a short sabbatical are great options you have every right to consider. Traditional retirement is a trap! Providing value is the true meaning of life.

Now we return to your favorite accountant and notice the time of year. Yes, we are approaching mid-March as I write this. S-corporation and partnership returns are due in just over a week. I filed over 40 extensions of these entity returns today alone. Many will be completed on time if clients bring in all their paperwork so some extensions are only filed just in case.

I’m also tired. I don’t feel good. Exhaustion is part of every waking moment. My back hurts from sitting too much. My eyes burn from staring at the computer screen all day. The price of my practice dropped 15-20% since early February. I want to sleep. I want to read a book. I want to go home.

Some smart cookie will read this post and realize now is the time to pounce. In August I laugh sales offers right out the door. Now that we are in the dog days of tax season an offer will not be laughed out the door. I’m too tired to laugh. Should such an offer arrive in the next few weeks I’ll stare for several seconds as I attempt to digest what is happening. I’ll get a visual of life without the work I love and usher you out the door, open or closed.

I love what I do. I love my work! This is who I am; what I want to do. I’ll quit the day they begin lowering my casket into the ground and not a day sooner.

I’ll even milk a cow if I have to.



I Received a $1,980 Check on My First Secret Shopper Assignment

Hey der kind readers. Dis is da welty accountant from way up nort der hey where it gets darn cold in da winnertime. Payin all dos heatin bills is a might painful here in Phuket, Weeesconsin, sometimes known as Nowhere, Weeesconsin so extra side income is always welcome.

Mrs. Accountant does her best to contribute to the family budget by cookin and cleanin whenever the work shows up. She is the kindest thing to ever walk God’s green earth and proves it by sending your favorite accountant with a brown bag lunch to work every day to save money.

She also likes to do surveys online for some extra cash. Well, da udder day she discovered a way to make some real money. I’m not talking small potatoes like selling weed or anything. I’m talkin big time!

She got herself a heck of a side hustle as a secret shopper! Yup. Da missus done got herself some serious job now. And as you can see from da picture of the check above, da missus sure cleaned house (haha, pun intended) with her first job.




Sharing da Experience

I wanna share da experience we had wit dis secret shopping job. Above you can see da first part of da letter dey sent da missus Priority Mail. Des guys don mess around! Dey spent some serious money to get dis to us fast.

I broke da letter into two pictures so you can see what it says easier. I’ll go through the process so you can join in on this awesome side hustle.

First of all, we got da check in da same envelope. Des guys don’t sit on der hands. When dey give instructions dey back it up wit cash!

First thing we had to do was deposit the Cashier’s Check in our bank. Well, right away I knew somethin was wrong. I’ve seen des checks come through the office now and again and know from experience des guys bite off more than they can chew. Sometimes der checks don’t clear right away. Too many secret shoppers, I guess.

Click to enlarge.

I did some leg work (not the leg work I do at the gym, by the way) to verify des guys were ready to rock. A quick internet search revealed the first problem. Their check had the wrong routing number. Personally, I’d fire da guys who printed the checks wrong!

The next thing I knew was dat Kenneth Ginola guy no longer worked at Whitney Bank. Hard ta chew somebody’s tail if he ain’t der no more! They musta taught I was some stupid country bumpkin.

This wasn’t going to work. Des guys might not mess around, but dey are sloppy as hell. Don’t dey know I can’t send’em money I don’t have?

Well, the bottom half of the letter told us where to send our experience report. Once again it was sloppy work. I sent an email to both addresses provided. They came back undeliverable. No worries, mate. They used an online account to print the postage. I tracked it back to the sender, Jose Ceda.

I called Jose and told him I was excited about da offer he sent da missus, but he might wanna be careful and all with our current President’s dislike for most people named Jose. Just sayin.

I also told Jose about da sloppy work and that I still wanted to work wit da guy if he cleaned up his act.

Before long I knew des guys were bush league. They wanted da missus to send some of da money back with a Moneygram and something called a Walmart2Walmart thingie. I never heard of dis stuff so he explained it to me.

Click to enlarge.

Of course da missus messed it all up. We biked over to Wally World and tried to get the Moneygram to dat Anthony Reyna guy in Houston and the udder guy, Gerald Chaffman, also of Huston.

Ah, it was frustratin as getout. Finally I threw up my hands and walked out and called Jose back. (BTW, he had a very pleasant voice and spoke mighty darn good English for a guy from Eastern Europe.) Anywho, I finally convinced Jose to just give me his banking info so I could wire him his money back. I never saw a guy so happy to get out of a deal in my life.

He gave me da bank info. After hanging up da phone I decided it would be da Christian thing to do to still try to get dis to work. After all, we did give our word and we still had the cashier’s check.

Wat I did was use Jose’s bank info and ACHed da money outta his account and into mine. Strange how smooth money transfers when you get all da numbers right. You can always trust your friendly accountant to get da job done.

As you can see from da letter, we are supposed to keep $270 for ourself, $370 if we get da job done in a day. Well, all da dickin around took more than a day, but I said f@*ck’em, figuring da missus deserved da bonus for all the extra work we did.

Before we could send Jose some of his money back we got an email from Jose. (It still amazes me how much stuff they know about a guy these days.) Jose was upset we withdrew $1,980 from his account instead of depositing it. All I can say is he wasn’t as excited as he was before.

The madder he got the more Russian he sounded. I promised Jose I’d personally see to it da missus would complete the secret shopper assignment.

We didn’t actually return to Wally World, but figured we could just make some of it up since Wally World is the only place to buy supplies for a hundert miles in any direction. (Welcome to Phuket!)

I sat down with da missus and worked through the twelve questions we were supposed ta answer. Most of da questions were stupid. Darn near got in trouble when I knew the name of the cute cashier over at Wally World. Dang Jose.

Question 8 was also a problem. Ya see, in backwoods Weesconsin we rarely use the restroom facilities. Normally we just walk out behind Wally World when we need to water the horse.

When I got done sendin Jose the answers to his questions I decided it was such a hassle I wasn’t going to send Moneygrams or other such crazy stuff. I kept the money! I know it’s not da Christian thing to do and all, but for the record I haven’t been to church in God knows how long. (Actually, God might have a hard time remembering the last time I visited for dinner.)

One last thing. I highlighted in yellow the last message on the secret shopper instructions. I am EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN to disclose this information to anyone.

I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.




Time to Get Serious

Kind readers, I made a joke out of a serious issue harming numerous people every day. Mrs. Accountant does surveys and recently did a few secret shopper projects.

The letter, check and mailing label above all showed up a few weeks ago. We think it came from a Swagbucks offer.

Normally I throw stuff like this out, but decided to write about it. I could have explained the situation and ended with saying, “DON’T!” Instead, I wanted to take a different approach. We are constantly warned of these types of scams. The fact that they are still active means they probably work and many people are getting hurt!

The story above is made up. I took the situation and turned it into a joke. However, it’s no joke to those victimized by these criminals.

There is no doubt in my mind the cashier’s check is bogus. Because I’m writing a blog post I did some research. There really is a Whitney Bank on Johnston Street! But the check is bogus. The check is printed on check stock you can buy online or at Office Depot. A quick call to the bank and it becomes clear this is a scam.

The poor and elderly are most vulnerable. The people least able to suffer the loss are the best target for these scumbags.

Here is how the scam works in a nutshell. They send you a cashier’s check with instructions to deposit the check at your bank, withdraw the money and forward some of the money to the scammer via some type of wire transfer. They tell you to keep a portion as your reward. Later you discover the cashier’s check was bogus and you are out the money.

Today in the office (I’m writing this the day before publication) a client came in with a stack of papers, victim to a similar type of scam. In his case it was a new client of his business who needed extra cash so they used their credit card to withdraw money. They then sent it to another bank account. Later the credit card was discovered stolen and they are now out the money.

If you ever see anyone in a situation where they are asked to deposit a check or credit card payment and send the money to another account, please stop them and call the police.

Have a serious talk with elderly parents and grandparents. Talk to your children. Warn friends and family of the signs something isn’t right. There is no reason to take a check, credit card or any other means of payment and forward it to another account. Ever!

If anyone you know thinks this kind of thing is legitimate, yell at them at the top of your voice,

“DON’T!”



Saving the World (and Yourself) One Frugal Act at a Time

Frugal living is challenging at times. What seems like a meaningless small change can energize your budget and fire your investments on a steeper trajectory.

Countless blogs and websites provide lists on how to save money. Turn out lights, turn down the heat in winter and the library are good ideas. Mr. Money Mustache has a strong drive to bike. On several occasions he has published on the benefits of biking. Biking is good for your health and cuts energy use. Reducing or eliminating what he calls a “clown-like car habit”, you cut spending by serious coin.

Like many readers I undertake a number of these ideas. I keep my house 60 degrees F in the winter. To keep warm I wrestle Mrs. Accountant and the kids to keep them away from the thermostat. I use natural lighting whenever available.

The farmstead is a whisker more than 15 miles from my office. I bike about 100 days a year. The savings are modest, but noticeable. A 30 mile round trip costs me about $15 according to the IRS mileage rate. My vehicles are purchased used and run for a couple decades before they are replaced so my vehicle cost is less. I estimate my real cost per mile is closer to 30 cents. This means every bike ride to the office allows me to keep an extra $9 in my pocket, tax-free. (You don’t pay an extra tax for not spending money.)




A Lesson from Walmart. Yes, Walmart

Back around 2008 Walmart started to examine its energy costs. The idea was to offer affordable compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to customers; the thought being CFLs lasted longer so Walmart would soon have more shelf space for other products. The energy savings customers experienced would likely be spent at Walmart on other items.

The discussion eventually turned internal. What if Walmart used CFLs in their stores? One idea was to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the ceiling fans on display. Of the 3,230 stores Walmart had at the time, the average store had ten ceiling fans. Each ceiling fan had four bulbs.

Each bulb produced a minor savings, but when the Law of Large Numbers took hold Walmart stood to reduce their utility bill $6 million per year! Management had an easy decision.

Since then Walmart has expanded their energy philosophy to include utilizing as much natural lighting as possible and electric semis to deliver products to stores around the U.S.

CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs upfront, but the longer life of the CFL (8-10 times as long) and energy savings more than cover the initial capital outlay. Total savings from reduced energy use is several times the entire upfront cost.




Lesson from a Humble Accountant

My memory is slipping with age. I can’t remember the exact year I transitioned to CFLs and later LEDs. What I can share is how I determined when it was a good idea to make the switch. Regardless the exact date, I was an early adaptor.

We will focus on my office to keep the discussion simple. I used the same thought process to transform my lighting at home.

Lighting is an important consideration in a tax practice. Eyes get tired easy enough looking at a computer screen all days and trying to decipher smudged and faded documents. Security lighting and signage are also important.

The outside of my office building is covered by floodlights and security cameras. The entrance light is always on. Security lights and the sign are on a photovoltaic trigger. This means the two lights at the entrance are on 24/7 and the sign and security lighting average 12 hours of operation per day — more in the winter, less in summer.

I forget the exact wattage used so I’ll stick with 100 watts per bulb when incandescent bulbs were used. My research showed an equivalent CFL used only 26 watts. Each hour of operation used 76 fewer watts per unit.

The hourly savings didn’t amount to much. However, when a light is operating an average of 12 hours a day 365 days a year we get 4,380 hours of annual use. 4,380 hours of use times 76 watts of reduced energy consumption per hour equals 332,880 fewer watts used per year. Reduced energy consumption of 332 kilowatts times $.12 per kilowatt and we save 39.84 per unit! We have twelve units.

The lighting replacements paid for themselves in less than a year! And they lasted longer.

 

Inside the office we have 40 of those 4-foot tube CFL bulbs. We use as much natural lighting as possible, but we still operate half the light banks most days.

The typical office uses what is called a T12 linear fluorescent bulb. Each bank has two or four bulbs. T12 bulbs use 40 watts.

Offices are turning to smaller T8 bulbs. The length is the same but the diameter is a bit smaller. T8s kick out the same light as a T12 and tend to last somewhat longer (modestly in my experience), using 32 watts per hour.

The office has on average 20 lights on each day for 10 hours. Two-hundred lighting hours using 32 watts instead of 40 watts reduces electricity usage 1,600 watts per day or 320,000 watts on a 200 day work year. (I cut the work year to adjust for reduced summer hours.) 320 kilowatts time $.12 adds to a modest $38.40 in saving per year.

T8s are easier on the eyes and don’t fade as much as T12s. You might remember seeing one side of these linear bulbs in an office turning black. This happens as the bulbs ages. The bulb still works, but output is reduced. T8s have fewer problems with dimming as they age. For accountants this is a blessing for our eyes.

 

Security lighting has since converted to LEDs which use even less energy. We’ll forgo the math to keep the story moving. Lights with heavy use are worth the extra cost of LEDs. Security lights, the sign and the entrance are LED lights. LEDs also weather the outdoors and cold better.

LEDs have one additional advantage. Incandescent and CFL lights blast light in every direction. LEDs focus with a narrower footprint. This means our security lighting is brightest where we want it.




No More Complaining

You can hear the groans when Mr. Money Mustache reiterates once again the necessity of biking over an automobile. The complaints follow fast on his heels. You can’t haul stuff with a bike. (MMM proved that wrong.) It’s too cold, hot, dark, rainy, blah, blah, blah. You can’t bike where I live because of the piles of snow, or, it’s too far to bike.

MMM doesn’t buy the complaints and neither do I. Small changes can add up to big savings. There is a point of diminishing returns. As my office lighting energy use has declined, every additional capital expenditure to reduce energy use further has less bang for the buck. With security lights now using 12 watts per hour of operation I need to focus elsewhere to reduce energy use.

LED flood lights available at Amazon.

Driving sucks a lot of cash out of the pocket. Lighting can put a few dollars in your pocket per month; biking can keep hundreds in the First National Bank of Wallet. My commute is a hefty 30 miles round trip. If Pete knew this we’d need the paddles to bring him back. (Don’t walk into the light, Pete!)

Even driving an older vehicle squanders $9 per commute, or $45 per week, or $2,340 per year. (I think I’m going to be nauseous.) Biking when the sun is shining (as I do) cuts perhaps as much as $1,000 per year from my transportation budget!

 

It’s true. Our frugal efforts alone will not change the world. At best it will allow us a lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint. A couple thousand tax-free dollars doesn’t hurt either.

Where it starts to add up is when we work together as a team. When thousands and millions start adopting better choices in lighting and transportation the numbers become mind-boggling.

An unenlightened major corporation like Walmart was able to shave $6 million per year off their energy bill. The number is already big enough to make a difference.

Now it’s your turn to join in.

Save yourself, save the world. Love frugal without giving up a thing.

 

Compare LED prices at Amazon. A few minutes of math could lower your energy bill.



#MeToo

This week’s Stalking the Accountant edition is special. We had another drawing for cash prizes here at The Wealthy Accountant and it ended up a humbling experience where dozens of people will benefit far more than the minor investment of cash would indicate.

The drawing pulled names from subscribers who opened their email of the latest blog posts. The winners of the $50 prize are:

Ben O of Essex Junction, VT, and

Jeff H of Santa Barbara

The prize is awarded as either a PayPal transfer or an Amazon gift card. Both took the Amazon card.

Here is where it got real. When I informed Jeff of his win he sent the following email:

Keith,

 Awesome! It’s great to be a winner!

 I’m actually a blogger myself (www.themoneycommando.com) and rather than sending the money to me I’d like to propose something else.

 My wife is on the board of a local charity called Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS). Basically, they provide a shelter for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. The shelter gives the women and children a place to stay while they look for a new place to live. They usually leave at a moment’s notice and don’t have kid’s clothing, a crib, bottles, etc. DVS supplies these things in the shelter and lets the families keep them to help them get on their feet. 

 How about if you donate the $50 Amazon gift card to DVS? You get the tax deduction, DVS gets a bit of exposure (maybe it will encourage somebody else to donate too), and DVS can use the gift card to get whatever baby supplies they need (it’s always changing from week to week).

 Here’s the DVS website: https://www.dvsolutions.org/en/

 What do you think?

 Jeff H. from Santa Barbara

 

Of course I agreed! It was an awesome idea!

This was a perfect opportunity to put some of TWA profits to work. I’ve dedicated 100% of the profits of this blog to charitable causes. I doubled the award to Domestic Violence Solutions to $100. Not a lot, but a gesture of good will.

Jeff’s wife responded as such:

Hi Keith,

Thank you so much for matching the gift card! Our emergency shelter is in great need of about 25 new pillows and this will allow for us to buy almost half!

We are deeply grateful.

 Heartfelt thanks,

 

I couldn’t let it alone. A simple comfort most people take for granted — a comfortable place to lay your head — is unavailable to some victims of abuse. I knew what I had to do.

If $100 bought nearly half the pillows needed, another $150 should finish the job. A drawing meant to engage my readers has turned into a $250 gift to a domestic violence shelter giving dozens of people comfort.

Here is the reply:

WOW, you just made our day Keith!!!

 Most of us take having a soft pillow for granted, but when a victim and her children enter our shelters (usually in the middle of the night) they arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, traumatized and thankful to be alive. Having a warm, comfortable and safe place to sleep means so much to our clients.  

 From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

Would it be OK to acknowledge your generosity on our social media?  

With sincere gratitude,

 

Before I take a bow, let me remind you I didn’t do this. You did!

This blog has revenue because of you, kind readers. That revenue is destined to change lives for the better in our communities. You need to take the bow. I’m only the conduit. You did this. You changed the lives of those women, often times kids in tow, surviving violence.

I know you’re as moved as I am by this. It’s okay to take a moment here to reflect on what our group has just done.

Finally, if you want to add to the gift to Domestic Violence Solutions you can do so here:

Please provide comfort to a child – donate now at https://comfortandjoyforachild.funraise.org/

A child’s future is in your hands.

 




The Other #MeToo

In 2017 women started to speak out in waves. It was 100% necessary! It had to happen. The violence and assault of women had to be exposed before the problem can be addressed.

Even some men came forward. We sometimes forget about men who suffered sexual assaults as children.

The #MeToo movement has another side gaining ground fast. This part of the #MeToo movement is dedicated to supporting the survivors of violence in any way they can.

Guys can come across as dicks at times. We are not talking about that kind of behavior. When a man does something to offend a woman it may have been with good and honorable intentions. What we are talking about is verbal, mental and physical assault. Violence against a woman of any kind is never acceptable. EVER!

The other #MeToo movement, the movement of men determined to support the rights of women to live peaceably without threat of violence and intimidation, needs to grow more.

I’ve supported the women who have come forward (and the silent survivors struggling with the demons) from the beginning. Now, finally, I can stand up and say, “#MeToo.” Not as a survivor, but as a supporter of every woman who has had to deal with the trauma of assault.

Please join The Wealthy Accountant and me in supporting this cause.

 

After such a heavy start to the weekend edition it’s time to relax with some entertainment.




What I’m Reading

The stock market was tame for so long (every month of 2017 was a winner) I had to pull out an old favorite when we experienced a mild correction. Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy J. Siegel is a classic. It’s not an advice book for investing in the market. Rather, the book is a treasure trove of data on the market’s performance from the beginning. The accountant in me can’t resist.

 




What I’m Watching

Elon Musk sent a rocket into space the week before last with a Tesla Roadster as the payload. The publicity stunt gave Musk plenty of bang for his buck and I’m adding to the benefits by sharing the following video here. In this video we learn what space will do the Starman and the Roadster. We also learn about several Easter Eggs hidden in the Roadster traveling to the stars.

 




What I’m Listening To

I worked in silence most of the week. Tax season is in full swing now and time is tight. I’ll be at the office for a short day on Sunday to get some larger returns done without interruption.

Here is one album is listened to earlier in the week:

I know my taste in music can be out there. But by sharing hidden gems I uncover is the reason for the weekend edition of Stalking the Accountant.

 

Have a great weekend, kind readers. See y’all back here in a turn.