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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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Lifestyle, Small Business

20% is Enough Effort

8632234386_56ed10483b_zOver a hundred years ago an Italian economist made a discovery while in his garden. Vilfredo Pareto noticed on a pleasant 1906 afternoon that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of his pea production. His interest piqued, Pareto wanted to know if this 80/20 ratio applied to other areas, including business. In every place he looked the ratio held. 80% of results came from 20% of the inputs.

Today we call this the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Principle. The ratio isn’t perfect, but more of an approximation, somewhere around 4 to 1 or 5 to 1. And it happens everywhere, not just in business or an Italian’s garden! Think about it. You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time; use 20% of your home or apartment 80% of the time; eat the same food 80% of the time.

Illinois Tool Works is a large public corporation that has turned the 80/20 Principle into a profitable business plan. ITW buys smaller competitors on a regular basis and then sends in their teams to ramp up profitability by firing clients! Sort of. The 80/20 Principle says 80% of profits come from 20% of clients. Yup. It does. I ran the numbers in my own office. A small list of my clients brings in the bulk of profits. And ITW capitalizes on this fact to improve profitability in companies they purchase.

Think of your personal life. You spend 80% of your waking hours doing the same 20% of activities. If a normal day includes 20 activities, about 80% of the time will be spent on four of those activities.


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Lifestyle, Small Business

Increase Blog Traffic Faster Than Naked Kim Kardashian Pictures

blog-1027861_960_720By this time I am mildly qualified to intelligently explain how to increase blog traffic. My online writing goes back to the AOL days in the 90s and grew over the years. The Wealthy Accountant is my most popular blog, but I have two fantasy fiction blogs pulling around 4 million pageviews a year, an astounding number for online fiction. The Wealthy Accountant numbers are lower, but the traffic is higher quality; in other words, Google, advertisers, and readers like it more. This blog now boasts 40,000 page views per month with a strong growing trend line. There are a few tricks I learned over the years to accelerate blog traffic. I am no expert on the subject and there are many with greater skills at increasing blog traffic. My experiences, however, should provide a solid framework to take a blog from zero to a million pageviews in a year.

The first year is always the hardest. Unless you have a name people know growing traffic is done the old fashioned way. It takes work and time. My three steps to building a blog are:

  • First, create content
  • Then, build traffic
  • Then monetize

Jumping the gun on any step can harm traffic. You need content before building traffic; you need traffic before monetizing. Growing quality content is the hardest part for many people. Writing is supposed to be easy. You just sit in a chair and type. And bleed.


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Lifestyle

So Much to be Thankful For




happy-thanksgiving-greetingWe live in strange times. One day—and for most of us only one day—we take time to give thanks as we gather with family, enjoy an awesome meal, and watch football (in America; I don’t know what the rest of the world does on their Thanksgiving festival). Then the next day we kick the shit out of our neighbor so we can save a hundred dollars on a flat screen. I‘m beginning to wonder how thankful we really are.

Feelings of gratitude and expressions of thanksgiving should not be relegated to one day per year. We live in the best of times where we should feel thankful non-stop. People in times past found the expression of gratitude an admirable trait. People actually worked hard to remember to feel thankful for the gifts life has bestowed upon them. And we have it so much better today!

In my short 52 years of life the world has changed so much and for the better. One gift I still can’t get over is the one you are using right now: the internet. I have the largest library ever collected at my fingertips; I have the ultimate communication tool. Has it ever been easier to communicate with people with shared interests from around the world? Never! I think of all the people I would never have met or known all because of this awesome gift called the internet. And the World Wide Web didn’t exist 25 years ago.Continue reading

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Lifestyle

Entertainment Overload




img_20161101_133227After lifting a set at the gym I pace back and forth gathering my thoughts, focusing on the next set. As I look around the gym all the other people are staring at the TVs plastered along the wall or playing on their cell phone. At the traffic light I take a deep breath and relax. I look over at the car next to me and notice the driver is texting. At the office I always have books on taxes and finance at arm’s length. My free time is filled with learning. During the lunch hour the office is dead quiet as everyone checks their personal email or Facebook.

The above scenes are common. I am certain you have experienced the same thing and more. Our society has devolved into information overload. As a society we can’t sit still for a moment unless we are distracted by some form of mass media. I wonder what Blaise Pascal would think of modern society. Pascal once said, “All of humanities problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  Hell, people can’t stand twenty seconds without checking their smartphone at a crowded party. There are people who actually admit to pollsters they have checked their email during sex. What the fuck is the matter with people!

The More We Get the More We Want

The problem only grows. The more we satisfy this inane hunger the more it demands. Our attention spans continue to shrink. If my math skills were really bad and I applied a straight line to our collective attention span over time, at some point in the very near future our collective attention span would be negative. In other words, we would be distracted to some other pretty light before we even satisfied the first impulse. Oops! Sorry. We already crossed that point.

The lust for another distraction is pervasive. What ever happened to quiet time? Do we take naps anymore? Probably not. The same people willing to interrupt sex for a quick check on the email also check their email overnight. It’s the first thing they do in the morning. Before the emails are finished it is off to check the news and check out some videos and Facebook. How many emails did you respond to? Yeah. Thought so. Too busy moving on to the next distraction.Continue reading

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Lifestyle

Learning to Think: The Art of Critical Thinking

thinking-767040_960_720Critical thinking is in short supply in our society. Before we blame modern technology, the weather, or those darn kids these days, we need to look in a mirror. Critical thinking has always been a dear commodity from the beginning of time. You can’t force critical thinking on another man, but you can take steps to incorporate critical thinking into your approach to any problem and life in general.

School rarely teaches you to think. Schools are built to ingrain conformity. Most people are broke because they were indoctrinated into the poverty mindset. Hell, economists define economics are the allocation of scarce resources. The message: there is not enough to go around so we will have to find a way to distribute the limited [fill in the blank] resource.

There are no shortages! We complain we have limited water resources when 71% of the planet is covered by water. What really happens is we piss in our own cup and complain our water is polluted. The problem is not a shortage of water; our problem is dangling our junk over our drinking cup.

I could go on with a plethora of additional examples, but you understand my point. Huge, world changing issues, require leaders willing and capable of critical thinking! Unless you are one of these world leaders you have limited influence.

Critical thinking is vital in your personal life as well. Decisions made with faulty, or worse, no thinking, are the root cause of most problems in our lives.

Everyone needs a bit of accountant in them. Everything (or so scientists have discovered) can be boiled down into a mathematical formula. We don’t need a master’s degree to make sound decisions based on critical thinking. A few simple ideas can give us all the tools we need to live a happy, prosperous life.


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Lifestyle, Small Business, Taxes and Investing

Working with the Wealthy Accountant




20160323_165144One of the occupational hazards of having a very public blog is demands from readers. I love hearing from all of you. Your ideas spark me into action, looking for new ways to manage and reduce tax bills. The downside is all the time required handling requests for personal help. Normally a simple answer would suffice, but when people have a tax question it takes time to flesh out an accurate answer. There are just too many emails to answer them all. It bothers me immensely. So I will initiate a new procedure to help maximize the number of people I can serve adequately.

Anyone is welcome to contact me. Understand if I don’t respond, it is due to an overload of requests. Readers contacting me for help either want tax preparation services or consulting; consulting is the largest request. I block four hours per work day for consulting with clients. This includes research time and review of client documents.

Returning phone calls is a huge sinkhole of time; I only get through about 20% of the time. I’ve resorted to sending return emails requesting the reader to contact my office and schedule an appointment along with my consulting fees. I started that process a few weeks ago and got only a small response back.

With that in mind I want to outline how I will handle this extra workflow. Rather than readers sending me long emails and asking for my fee, how about I give you my consulting fee here and let you decide if it is worth it before you contact me.

My consulting fee is simple: $(to be updates soon) per hour with a one hour minimum.

If you are good with that, feel free to contact me. You can also contact me to prepare your tax return or if you want me to consider you for a Reader Case Study, which I will start doing on this blog as we approach the 2017 tax season.

Tax returns will still need a quote and I have added staff and opened several slots for new tax returns. Depending on the size of the tax returns coming in, my guess is we will accept around 100 new clients in 2017. This is a small number compared to the volume of requests, but a large investment of time as most readers contacting me have a multitude of issues.

The consulting fee is low so I anticipate a reasonable number of requests. I am also opening up slowly to American ex-pats on a limited basis. We will help catch up back tax returns, too.

My goal is to provide better service in a timely manner to more people. The massive transformation at Tax Prep & Accounting Services, Inc. has stretched my management skills. I needed the kick in the pants. It was time to up my game.

If you emailed me in the past without a response, feel free to do so again. I look forward to working with you.

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