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relationships

Frugal Living, Lifestyle, Small Business

The Knuckle Dragging Neanderthal Meets Uber and Airbnb

Tax Collector? They opened an office for me when I visited Florida!

Earlier this year Mrs. Accountant and I attended Camp Mustache in Gainesville, Florida. We were offered a ride to the Camp, but we also had several additional days planned around the event. Renting a car in such a situation is expensive since the car would just sit there for days while my wallet was financially abused.

My youngest daughter rolled her eyes when I mentioned I needed the phone number to the Gainesville taxi service. She grabbed my phone and started working on it. This is an unusual event for anyone who knows me. I use my phone as a phone. Period. I don’t care about, nor do I want to know about any of the other things smart phone can do. I make my own breakfast, thank you.

In a few minutes my daughter completed her assault on my virgin phone. She added an app to my phone. (To this day I have no idea what an app is. Whenever the kids talk about apps I joke that we are living on The Planet of the Apps.)

I told her it was nice of her to put an app on my phone, but I’ll never use it. Another eye roll. “Here, dad,” she said pointing to the Uber icon now conveniently located in the middle of my screen. “All you do is touch the icon and tell the phone where you want to go.”

Huh?

Well, my fingers don’t work well with all the small letters and stuff on a phone so I have made a habit of avoiding the issue. Now I find out I can talk to my phone and it responds. Awesome!

I know, I know. You readers are rolling your eyes like my daughter. This stuff has probably been around for a long time. Somehow I missed it. I refuse to blame my stubbornness on “missing it” even though it is probably the reason why.




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Your Money or Your Wife

Divorce and money.

Warning: What you are about to read will be disturbing to many. Women and children should leave the room now. Men with a queasy stomach should also take a step back. It’s been two weeks since I dropped the f-bomb. The drought is over. I will use the f-bomb today in its correct dictionary definition to illustrate an important issue. This post is so volatile LinkedIn will not allow you to post this to their site even though your life depends on it. Facebook is good with it, however.

Money is the leading cause of divorce in the United States and in most Western countries. Marriages survive infidelity better than money problems. The worst part is how expensive divorce is and since money issues are the leading cause of divorce, it doesn’t solve the problem.

Then we need to think of the children. They suffer disproportionately. Adults have at least some control over their actions and the outcome. Children are helpless victims in the middle of elevated negative emotions. The damage is significant and lifelong.

Every marriage has its challenges. Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce. Abundant data on divorce exists, but there are large discrepancies in some of the data. It is also hard to put an exact number on the percentage of marriages that will end in divorce when the married couple are still alive. Using the number of divorces in a year compared to the number of marriages is useless. Still, many marriages end in divorce, statistics aside. Money is a large factor in divorce and divorce only exacerbates money problems.




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Lifestyle

Tough Times Make You Rich

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. held their annual meeting this past weekend. Warren Buffett noted some of his failures over the previous decades (missing Amazon, for example) and Charlie Munger added Google as a big miss. Both men agreed they’d continue missing many opportunities in the future. Buffett and Munger made it clear they learn more from their mistakes than from their successes. They felt winning was a poor teacher as it fooled people into thinking they were right.

Steve Jobs had some Syrian blood and was raised by adoptive parents. Armed with only this information it would be hard to imagine a path that would lead to Jobs creating a company which would become the largest on the planet by the time of his early death at age 56. The odds were stacked against Jobs, yet he rose above the travails and changed the world.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa. His parents divorced when he was nine. It would be hard to see a path for this young boy where PayPal would be part of his future followed by SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City and a growing list of additional companies.

Tough times. We hear about them all the time. Rarely is found a successful person who doesn’t have baggage in the closet. Show me someone who never had problems and I’ll show you someone who is mediocre. The exceptions are exceedingly rare.

Yet, most people have hard luck stories in their past. Why does a difficult time in life, especially early on, define so many successful people? And why do people with the odds stacked in their favor frequently end up average at best?


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Lifestyle

Sleep Yourself Rich

Tax season is over. The long days and endless weeks are finally at an end. It’s time for a nap.

In my younger days I also ran long stretches with limited sleep. Farming is intense during spring planting and autumn harvesting; college was late night studying or visiting with friends; and now taxes provide me with twelve weeks of unrelenting work each year.

Society idolizes people who run with limited amounts of sleep. It is a badge of honor to pound your mind and body mercilessly and do it with lack of sleep.

As tax season clawed toward the finish line my performance was no longer acceptable. The amount of work I completed was down and concerns over accuracy started to pop up. Nobody can perform at peak while fighting fatigue and lack of sleep. Nobody.

I call these bursts of hyper activity “marathon runs”. Tax season is my current annual marathon run. It appeals to me because I have manic depression and I learned a long time ago autumn is a bad time and springtime is power time. It was a natural fit. The disease doesn’t always cooperate, but I have learned to control it enough to use it to my benefit.

Yet, the risks of long hours without sleep are a real problem. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of transportation accidents. Even if you read the news poorly you have heard stories of airline pilots, ship captains, train conductors and barges in catastrophic disasters due to lack of sleep. Doctors frequently perform surgery in the morning for a reason. Only emergency surgery is performed later in the day.




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Early Retirement, Lifestyle

Crime and Punishment

Tax season is racing toward the finish line. There are 5 days left, including today. I’ll work every day, even Easter Sunday to get as many returns out before the due date.

The stack of tax returns on my desk is taller than I hoped by this time. Incomplete files are put to the side until all documents are in. All too often clients piecemeal information. This forces me to put these accounts at the bottom of the stack so I can focus on files with all their documents. Every time I open a file I review all the prior work done to ensure nothing is missed. Dribbling in data wastes a lot of time.

The good news is that every return with complete data in the office by April 1st will be done by the due date. In fact, most returns in the office by April 10th will be done on time. There will be the rare exception due to required research.

The days are long and I am beyond exhausted. There is a place past the “second wind” where motivation is based on sheer willpower. That is where I am now. I live for this last week like an addict anticipating her fix. Each year as the New Year approaches the taste coats my mouth. I lick my lips in anticipation. The game is on.

The number of tax returns prepared some days sometimes boggles the mind. There have been a few days where the number claws close to 20. Complex returns slow the pace down to a crawl with some days only moving one, two or three returns from the stack. I hate those days. I want to serve as many clients as possible.

Preparing so many returns takes a team effort. Many returns have the bulk of the data already entered for me. I review most returns before they leave my office. You would not believe the shine a man with 30 plus years experience can put on a tax return.

I am too tired and exhausted to write a high quality blog post today. The well is empty. Monday another post is due and I am not sure what will be left to write. My mind is too focused on real tax returns to waste any speck of energy on a random idea in a blog post. Tuesday the race is over. I will take a day to relax and work around the farm. I’ll get a better post out later on Wednesday as I will have time to think and reflect.




After tax season I have a podcast to prepare for. Around May 1st I meet Jim Collins as he visits the fine State of Wisconsin.  In late May I am in Seattle speaking at Camp Mustache 4. I might have two sessions I speak at: one on anti-Mustachiamism (I didn’t know so many people would be interested in that) and a second as a comedy skit. We’ll see how my preparations go before the final commitment is made. Standup comedy is a lot more work than you can imagine.

Rather than keep rambling, I encourage you to read a few posts appropriate for this time of year for those of you going through withdrawal symptoms. (Gawd, that Wealthy Accountant guy can sure spin a fine tale.) (Note: I am not conceited. Just tired as hell and getting a bit punchy.)

Knowing When Not to do it Yourself is a good start. Here is a post on filing an extension to pay and/or file your taxes. A word of warning: When tax season reached its conclusion last year and I wrote, egads, about tax stuff, I received a very nasty letter telling me how much I suck and that used to be such a great writer but now suck completely. I think the guy left a comment too. Go check it out.

For five days sleep will come in fits. The taste coats my dry mouth. The release when it is over is like nothing else you can experience.

Don’t cry for me, however. I am doing exactly what I love doing. This is what I want; this is what makes me feel alive. The numbers. The game. Some people desire retirement so they can travel, fish or golf. Except for that year I spent as a janitor, ah, custodian, I have never worked a day in my life. It isn’t work when you have this much fun.

Tired is a good feeling. Then the anticipation builds slowly all year until the holidays arrive. Then the sickness sets in hard again. The addict is ready for his next fix.



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Lifestyle, Small Business

It’s a Small World

There is a ritual the accounting profession goes through every autumn. Eager tax professionals attend continuing education programs to hear all the latest tax law changes with interpretation. Large hotel venues fill with CPAs, enrolled agents, and even attorneys eager to learn. The room is filled with tax professionals all from within a hundred miles.

It amazes me how small the accounting profession is. Tax professionals are an even smaller crowd. A handful of conferences draw nearly the entire industry in each geographic region of the country. Smaller programs abound, but the annual refresher courses with tax law updates bring out the vast majority of the industry.

The same people attend year after year. We know each other. Sometimes personally, sometimes we are only aware of each other’s existence. Many times we talk and share ideas, talking taxes, clients and business management. There is respect in the air. We have something in common and feel comfortable together.  Some of us worked in the same office or worked together on a client’s file. Few members of the crowd feel we are competition.




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Early Retirement, Frugal Living, Lifestyle

Stop Working for Money

Have you ever wondered why Elon Musk keeps pushing so hard? A hundred million from PayPal wasn’t enough, I guess. Building the greatest all-electric car is not enough for Musk, either. He also wants to fundamentally change the way humans see the world by starting a company called SpaceX. As I write, Musk promised to take two people to the other side of the moon and back next year! Talk about pushing yourself.

Before you start thinking Musk is a slacker, he also has this thing he manages called Solar City. If you want to build the greatest electric car ever you may as well figure out a way to fuel the darn thing for next to nothing. Right?

You would think running three large companies at the leading edge of technology would be enough for a 45 year old man with plenty of money to kick back and spend the rest of his life gloating. If you think that you don’t know Elon very well. He wants to put mankind on Mars in the next decade and send the species even further into space. His dreams never stop flowing and he makes them real against all odds. Just one great feat of Musk’s would make anyone’s career complete. So why does he do it? Why does Musk keep dreaming and then putting those dreams into action?




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Taxes and Investing

Finding a Good Accountant

The topic of finding a qualified tax professional is common in my mailbox. There is no pat answer for each request so I generally ignore them. Another common request is for a referral if I am too busy. It is true I only accept a small fraction of the requests for service, but the good news is I have more staff this tax season and have been accepting more new clients than last year. The bad news is that I don’t have someone to refer you to in your area.

Yesterday I received an email that touched me. Long emails usually die before I read more than three sentences due to time constraints. This email was different. The sender asked to remain anonymous and I will honor that request. He asked: How do I go about finding a good local accountant? He wants someone local he could shake hands and sit down with to discuss his tax and financial matters. I get it. He continued: I am hoping for an idiot-proof, step-by-step guide. I don’t know where to start searching, never mind narrowing the choices.

Finding qualified professionals is a difficult task. I wish it were as easy as an idiot-proof guide, but there is no such thing. My goal today is to share ways to increase the odds you have a good tax professional on your side.

Good tax professionals are a busy group, especially this time of year. The industry has consolidated over the last few decades and many top notch accountants have retired. Making matters worse is fewer people entering the field. CPAs frequently seek employment in government and large corporations or large accounting firms. The small and mid-sized accounting practice is a dying breed. These are the same firms serving the average American family’s tax preparation and planning needs. Finding an awesome tax professional to work with you is getting harder by the day. I have a few ideas to help you land a good one, but you might not like what you here.

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