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optimist

Lifestyle

They’re All Dead

OH NO! Look what happened to the Accountant family! Notice the cat at the right edge starting to chew on a carcass. Don't blame the butler this time; it was the cat!

Recently a post card came in the mail inviting me to attend my 35-year class reunion. The years certainly got behind me fast. My only excuse is that I am having too much fun.

Between the office and home is my gym. Three days a week I lift weights (normally Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Outside the gym I hike, jog, work on the farm, et cetera to keep myself in shape.

A few months ago a high school classmate, Doug Zastrow, joined my gym. It has been a long time since we saw each other and talk fairly regular now, catching up on life in our humble community.

Doug mentioned receiving the class reunion postcard, stating he had no intention of going. I nodded agreement. My argument was I didn’t want to pay $60 for a meal and a few drinks at a country tavern. Doug had a different reason.

Doug named two classmates he chummed with over the years. Both are dead now. We both started counting the number of classmates who had already died. The first victim was a girl who died from a genetic disease followed by a guy from my clique. He died spear fishing on Lake Winnebago with his son. He didn’t vent his ice shanty correctly and died of CO^2 asphyxiation. We kept tallying the numbers. Another died of a genetic disorder, one from cancer, a few accidents, a few heart attacks and even one suicide.

By the time we added all the classmates we know were dead we had reached 20 souls out of a class of 120. There is no doubt we missed a few. People move and word of a death doesn’t always reach my ears. It’s not what I focus on in life.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

Change Nothing

Imagine you had a time machine. You could go back in time and change anything you wanted. A past mistake could be erased, a missed opportunity taken, a relationship saved. If I had such a time machine I would change nothing. I would leave everything exactly as it happened, including all the regrets.

A popular attitude suggests many people would go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler before he committed his crimes against humanity. I wouldn’t. I would let the approximately 60 million people died; I would allow the gas chambers to continue.

Why would I pass a chance to save all those people? Am I really that cold? No, I am not that cold, but I do know everything happens for a reason. If Hitler didn’t do what he did more than a billion people could have died and the human race sent back to the Stone Age.

Imagine a time machine existed allowing anyone to go back and kill Hitler before the nightmare began. Imagine someone bumped off little Adolf when he was a wee tyke. How would human history have evolved differently.

Well, for one, scientists would not have been motivated to split the atom quite so soon. But make no mistake, scientists were getting close to discovering the mystery of splitting the atom. The atomic bomb wasn’t concocted out of thin air when the desire for a big BOOM was needed. No, human knowledge was getting close.

Without Hitler, Germany might have kept her scientists. Germany might have invented the bomb in the 1950s or 1960s without the impetus of war. The United States and other nations would have soon followed.




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Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Small Business

The Fastest Way to Grow Your Net Worth

Ever since I disclosed my net worth broke eight figures strange emails have been coming in. Another milestone was passed without fanfare. Past experience had me used to the lack of excitement financial milestones caused.

A theme among many emails revolved around my rate of return. I never really thought of it that way. It was just a thing that happened because I saved a large percentage of my income and invested the bulk of my excess money in index funds. One commenter said he was impressed because my rate of return over the last 20 years was 11% while the S&P rose only 8.5% per year on average. I don’t know if it’s true; I never broke the numbers down that way. All I care is that it grew to a lot.

What the emails and comments forget when they calculate my rate of return is that I added funds over the last 20 years. If I reached my million dollar goal when I was 32 and never dropped another dime in the kitty my internal rate of return would be impressive. Instead, I added excess funds every year. If I analyzed my real return including the additional invested fund my internal rate of return would be less impressive.




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Lifestyle

Camp Mustache IV Roundup (Seattle)

The view from the top of Mt. Si.

There has never been a conference I didn’t learn something from. Camp Mustache IV in Seattle this past weekend was the best ever for learning. Others may have had a different experience. Where you are on your journey determines how valuable a conference like Camp Mustache is.

Two years ago I attended my first ever Camp Mustache. My goals were simple. I wanted to meet Pete, Mr. Money Mustache himself, and make a business proposition. It went better than expected which is why I am here and you are reading this.

Unfortunately, my mind was on business so I missed most learning opportunities save one: humility. I went into Camp overconfident in my abilities and had no clue how smart Mustachians are. My thought was to offer my services in a breakout session on taxes. This was the highlight of my first Camp Mustache. I achieved something I hadn’t planned on and it was a whopper. Mr. Money Mustache was now my client! How awesome is that?

Later I carried out my original goal and shared the business proposition with MMM. He didn’t care enough for the idea to take it on, but graciously offered to promote the idea on his site for me. Once again, how cool is that?




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Lifestyle

Losing Touch with Reality

Just when you find someone really good word gets out and they get busy/popular/semi-famous or some other bullshit. A great tax guy stops taking new clients and is slow as hell because he has too much work to do. An awesome blogger is discovered by the world at large and is inundated with requests until she burns out. The story is repeated again and again. They get good, then discovered and then wore out.

The worst part is what fame and fortune does to these people. They lose touch with reality as the world builds a wall around them, built with bricks made from the flesh of living and breathing human beings. They get callous because it becomes impossible to respond to every request, none the less, honor the request.

Or maybe it isn’t them. It could be you! Maybe these people are seeing the world for what it really is for the first time. Maybe they have always had a firm grasp of reality. It might explain why they are where they are and why you are where you are. Think about it.




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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Small Business

The Dangers of a Side Gig

Tax season is officially over and not a moment too soon. As much as I love the work, when months go by without a day off it begins to wear on me. The worst part is the sitting. Too many hours planted in a chair coupled with sleep deprivation and health is not getting the attention it needs.

Loving something as much as I love tax work is also a challenge for people around me. Mrs. Accountant is an angel, allowing me the opportunity every year to disappear for months to help complete strangers and semi-strangers with their tax, accounting and financial problems. My daughters have learned from an early age dad is a very intense man when it comes to his work.

Work has never been a four letter word for me. (Considering my profession you would think I could count to four better.) Growing up on a farm meant everything was work, but not work. Running to the creek to fish was something you did. Planting in spring was fun, not really work. Harvesting was an addiction; sleep was hard to achieve until the crops were off the field. I know of no greater pleasure than watching a barn filled with bales of hay, placed there by my own hands. There is no greater thrill than to see the milk cooler fill each day to the rim. A full bulk tank meant money, and therefore, life. It was a good life and I had no idea what the real world was like outside my vision horizon.




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Lifestyle

The Government Paid Me a Visit




Teat cups hurt like hell when hit by one, or seven.

I knew this day was coming. I did my best to hide it from you, dear readers. The government has had it in for me for decades. They tolerated my antics as a small town accountant, but now, with a blog growing in popularity, their patience has reached an end.

In the past I was given subtle warnings. Yesterday, and now this morning, the warning were not so subtle. It really isn’t that bad. They offered me the job on a regular basis in the past. The rules are simple: no more blogging; no more tax office. You work for us now.

My heart is heavy. After serious consideration I am accepting their offer. The pay is a solid six figures and all I have to do is spread misinformation getting taxpayers to overpay their taxes, thereby giving the government more control and power. For decades I have been the solution, now I have joined the problem.

Don’t hate me! They are very persuasive. Very persuasive. They sent seven dudes, I mean really big guys, to help me in my decision. They took me into the back room at my office. Even Karen, my Puerto Rican office manager, couldn’t stop them! The government guys had rubber hoses. Well, actually, they had teat cups. I included a picture so you guys know what a teat cup is. Only a farm boy can understand how much a teat cup hurts when you get hit by one.

I was dancing on my tippy-toes and squealing like a girl getting asked to the prom. It was not pretty. That six figure paycheck with a full line of benefits started looking mighty tempting after three hours of teat cup treatment. All I had to do was throw you guys under the bus. Hell, after three hours I volunteered to drive the bus. A few solid contacts from a teat cup on the back of the leg and you would modify your thinking too.

So there you have it folks. I sold my practice for a reasonable price. (The seven government goons are standing over me with teat cups ready as I write.) I work for the other side now. Disregard all the stuff I told you about reducing your taxes. It was all a lie. A good, God-fearing American is always willing to pay extra taxes to protect the freedoms we hold so dear.

The next time you see me at a conference, remember, I am a plant from the other side, there to gather information to get more money from you to the government. Never mind the steroid monster men holding teat cups by the doorway. They are there to help me do my job.

And the welts? Sure, teat cups leave serious welts, but they heal nicely. And while they are healing I have a nice reminder of the job I need to do now.

Before I leave, please check the date on this post. Have a pleasant April Fool’s Day. I knew you guys didn’t believe it once I said Karen couldn’t stop seven government goons. If that were to really happen, Karen would fuck those boys up good.

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Lifestyle, Small Business, Taxes and Investing

Why Trade Wars Never Work

An old nemesis has returned to the United States and other nations around the planet: protectionism. These leaders, and the voters who bought their snake oil, falsely believe protecting their borders by building walls, taxing imports, claiming currency manipulation and threatening to dissolve trade agreements will bring jobs back home. They’re wrong.

What these well-intentioned people forget are the lessons of history. They forget about The Tariff Act of 1930, also known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the one piece of legislation that hastened, accelerated and prolonged The Great Depression. People forget about the jobs created that did not exist before due to current trade agreements and the lower prices consumers paid for goods and services.

The misguided perception that jobs will be created for nations with trade deficits by preventing trade does not work. And we are dangerously close to poking the sleeping giant again. Once a trade war begins it is hard to stop the cascading effects. The damage is swift and painful with few options available less painful. Best to leave the sleeping beast where she is. But politicians sometimes have an agenda we all pay the price for.

But why do trade barriers cause job loss? If the U.S. has a massive trade imbalance, curtailing imports should bring the jobs home to create those products, right? It’s not that simple. Today we will explore why curtailing trade destroys jobs in all countries involved. Open trade is beneficial to everyone.




Continue reading

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