Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Success is the Best Revenge

It happens to everyone: a business partner embezzles funds destroying the company and leaving you with the mess, an ex betrays your trust, a co-worker or supervisor harasses you. It is easy to get angry and fire from the hip. But reaction only makes it worse. To make matters even worse, the person who slighted you gets away clean while your response is dealt with harshly. There is something true to the adage: the second one to throw a punch gets caught.

There is a better way that doesn’t harm any party involved: success. Success is said to be the best form of revenge, but it only works if it isn’t done for traditional revenge reasons.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said if your life has a why you can bear almost any how. This is a fancy way of saying your life needs purpose to strive for the important goals.

Money will drive you if your finances are in desperate straits. Once the basics are covered new motivations are needed to keep striving for goals. Sheer love of the process drives some, but this is the minority. The vast multitudes need something more, a prod to keep them moving forward.




Dreamscape

Failure happens. All your hard work and planning sometimes ends up in flames. Your financial dreams are tested in these dark times and to make it worse, people delight in your pain, some more than others. A certain crowd enjoys watching people suffer. Sometimes it is a crowd specific to you.

People are jealous of other people’s success. The people closest to you can be the worst, secretly delighting in your misfortune. Building financial success is one thing. As the market claws higher, over-spenders of the world secretly pray for the day when the market collapses or at least your investments take a serious haircut. A jealous brother or friend despises you because you had the discipline to spend less than you earn and invest the excess in index funds.

An ex is the worst of all. In their mind you don’t deserve success or any pleasure after your relationship with them ends. There is something decidedly psychopathic about such attitudes. When you move on with your life and start dating again she takes great pleasure in each relationship that doesn’t work out. It’s as if their worth in life is tied to your failures.

Failure happens more than success so the haters have plenty to gloat on. Your financial investments will have plenty of down days, some remarkably so. Staying the course means time will be kind to you so you get more revenge than your nemesis.

All these feelings, unfortunately, are counterproductive. Revenge is the acid which destroys the vessel which holds it. We all attract haters as we grow. People will do incredibly horrific things to tear you down. The higher you climb the more excuses these people have to hate you for your success. They will work tirelessly to harm you.




Perspective

This is where you need perspective. While people may hate you for your success and feel you don’t deserve it (who does?), the truly successful know the truth of human nature. Jordan B. Peterson wrote in his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “Most individuals are dealing with one or more serious health problems while going productively and uncomplainingly about their business.” (I recommend purchase of Peterson’s book. Read it, mark it up and then use it as a constant reference manual on living well.)

It is so easy to sink to the level of those who wish you harm. Striking back is a reflexive response. Mature individuals, however, know everyone is carrying a heavy burden. As Peterson noted, the majority of people are fighting a medical issue or a close family member or friend is. When you think about it that way it is easier to forgive a past transgression.

Forgive does not mean forget. If a friend betrays your trust you can respect the difficulties they are experiencing in their life. But you don’t have to trust them! This is a personal finance blog so we’ll use a financial example. If a friend steals from you or doesn’t repay money you borrowed him you don’t have to keep giving them more. That isn’t what friends do; that is how people enable addicts and other people in serious need to change in their life.

Hating a cheating ex is natural. The bitter feelings need to come out. But get them out quickly or they turn into a cancer harming you! Yes, you have been betrayed. Don’t allow the betrayer to continue harming you!




Motivation

Past bad experiences can be a powerful motivation tool. Anger and bitterness will eventually destroy you. The “I’ll show them” mentality also wears you out in the end. There is a better way to channel this energy.

Revenge is usually not the real motivation. You are hurt over a betrayal and you want to show “them” what they missed. Using success as a form of revenge is really about showing the world how valuable you are. The people who hurt you in the past are not allowed near you and your newfound success.

Revenge over a prior slight is a long-term steady emotion. Deep down it isn’t about revenge; it’s about acceptance. You are projecting your success as a way to let everyone around you know you are valuable. Every action is motivated discovery. Am I really able to do this? The person who slighted you may not even know you are growing and winning. It doesn’t matter. The person you are really trying to impress is yourself.

Failure brings out the worst in people. Failure is a natural and normal part of the success process.

Elon Musk is struggling with production at Tesla. His efforts to build enough cars to turn his company cash flow positive are necessary if he wants his company to survive. He has tweeted several times in the past about his detractors. He warned people selling him short they will learn a valuable lesson soon. Musk isn’t technically out for revenge, though he is working to prove all the naysayers wrong. The motivation is so powerful he is reported to sleep on the factory floor so he has as many waking hours as possible available to apply toward his goals.

Initial thoughts of revenge are counterproductive. Your first reaction is to strike out at the person hurting you. This will cause you more trouble than anyone else. After the initial sting, the steady state of numbness can go one of two ways: you can fold your tent and withdraw or you can focus on the goal. Quitting is an unfortunate reaction. Stepping back and thinking about what you really want and how to go about getting it is far more productive.




Benefits of Success as Revenge

People visiting this blog generally are looking for ideas to lower their taxes, build wealth, start a business or insights on retirement, early or otherwise. All these things are forms of success. Efforts to create something suffer inevitable setbacks. Many slights are only perceived. We think people are laughing at us or rebuking us due to our misfortune. This isn’t always the case.

A parent may show disappointment when an adult child gets arrested for DWI. The instinct is to withdraw. Burying your instinct is important. To move forward, to grow, you need to use your mistake as a motivator for change. You parents aren’t out to get you, nor do they derive pleasure from your failure. They want what is best for you so they show disappointment. And they can’t do it for you. Your anger isn’t really directed at them; it’s directed at you.

Lottery winners learn fast how many friends and family members they have. When the money runs out they find out how many true friends they have. The same applies to all of us to a lesser degree. When you bust your tail at a business or investing for early retirement or world travel plenty of people will dissuade you. Your friends are limited as you are in the building process. Not many people want to stick around. They’re afraid you might put them to work.

As the goal approaches the number of friends increases. Now you have money; now you are successful. The fun part is celebrating a victory and crowds of friends show up for that. Most you never met before in your life. Such is the nature of fair weather friends.

The same applies in the blogosphere. Everyone wants to know the bloggers slamming it. The guy eking out 72 pageviews isn’t fun to be around. It’s all work, research, and discovery. Success isn’t guaranteed. The fun part is when playtime is available. It takes courage to continue. Thoughts of revenge rarely play a key role. But thoughts of showing people in your sphere of influence you have the right stuff does.

One of the most disgusting displays of fair weather friend behavior involves interpersonal relationships. Staring and building a business takes long hours of hard work and sacrifice. Money is tight; every penny is funneled into the project. Relationships are destroyed sometimes. All parties may not be as committed to the project as you. Over my three and a half decades of practice I’ve seem divorces over this kind of thing. What I find disgusting is when success finally arrives the person who left frequently finds their old partner more attractive then. Rekindling such a relationship rarely works because it is based on one party being exceptionally shallow.

When in the trenches, look around you. When you are sleeping on the factory floor giving every ounce of energy to bring an idea to life, stop for a moment to take an inventory of the people with you. One, maybe two, of these people are true friends. When things turn the corner and success is in full bloom it will be more difficult to determine who your friends are as everyone wants to be your friend.

Enemies will be obvious. They’re the ones constantly gloating at every minor failure. They play an important—if not ignorant—role, too. They are a constant source of motivation to climb to the next level. Not to show them, but to remind you of what you are capable of.

 

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!

 



The FIRE Community Needs to Make Room for Semi-Retirement

The FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community is a growing demographic still trying to find its way. The FI part of the equation is easier to understand than the RE part. The issues revolve around the definition of retirement and what constitutes the appropriate lifestyle once FI is reached.

Some of the wealthiest individuals of the last half century provide an example. When Sam Walton was the richest man alive on the planet he still drove a beat up old pickup truck. He saw no reason to spend money on a new truck when the one he had was comfortable, did the job and gave him pleasure (a bit of a status symbol). In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Warren Buffett confessed he has been semi-retired for decades. Charlie Munger, Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire-Hathaway, joked Warren is good at doing nothing.

Like Walton, Buffett doesn’t go for the extravagant spending so common among the rich. Buffett’s suit is off the rack and he eats at McDonalds. He also lives in the same home he bought in 1958.




Spending Decision

This last week an email arrived chastising me for my frugality. I was reminded my net worth is at the top of the list on Rockstar Finance. (I haven’t updated my net worth status in a while so the number listed is a bit shy.) The sender was concerned over how it looked for a blogger like me with an eight figure net worth to have an annual spending habit in the low twenties.

I responded with the same stories on Walton and Buffett above. I also reminded the concerned reader spending more would not make me happy and I was in no way interested in what people thought of my spending habits. If folks think I’m cheap that is their deal and doesn’t concern me.

What the reader missed (and he was exceptionally polite, and worried my spending level might offend some) was what really mattered in my life: joy and happiness.

Living in the boondocks makes it easier for me to spend less. The nearest retail outlet is nearly a half hour drive. I could shop online, but I tend to break out in a severe rash when engaged in the shopping experience. (For Father’s Day — yesterday here in the States — I wasted spent $3 in gas to visit a restaurant in Forest Junction (my old haunt) for a free glass of milk and dish of ice cream for the whole family. Life really is good in boondock country.)

At the end of the day I really don’t want for anything. I have a beautiful, loving wife and two awesome and wonderful daughters. Books are on my shelves waiting for consumption. The level of contentment I feel is greater than any other activity or spending could bring me.




Lessons Learned

There is a difference between happiness and joy; joy is more important. I’m happy most of the time, but always joyful. I found the right path to a joyful life at an early age. I was lucky. The noise of urban living never distracted me. My grandparents lived downstairs of the farmhouse and we lived upstairs until I was in middle school. Growing up in the 1960’s and 70s with grandparents you were sure to hear the lessons they learned living through the Great Depression. Like most kids, the lessons had a hard time sticking. As I grew older I remembered the stories and took them to heart. It made a difference.

There is a significant difference between granddad and me. Grandpa, who we called Doc, would never in a million years have told anyone his net worth. It was none of your damn business. I’m more open, but experience is showing me I should have listened closer to my grandparents in that arena too.

Growing up on a farm in a very rural area of 1970 Wisconsin meant we did things differently. We had more fun than you can imagine. My brother, uncle and I played cops and robbers on our bikes every summer. The dog days of summer always had a water fight or two. Those were good days I miss tremendously. They are gone now and only exist in here (pointing to my temple).

As hard as life was we always found time to laugh and tell jokes. We worked and played hard. Free time frequently meant a quick run to the creek (we pronounced it “crick”) to fish. When we were older we raced around the back forty on mini-bikes. The best we could do was 40 mph; we could also jump ramps.

We missed out on nothing. Nothing! I was as oblivious to the world at large back then. Buried deep in the recesses of my mind I was aware of a brave new world that hath such people in it as I am now.

We were happy as a tight knit family. We felt joy with rare exception. These days we play cards Friday night at my parents’ house. Afterwards I hug my mother and father and tell them I love them. Yes, even my dad. You see, money will never buy you the things that matter, will never buy you joy. And the happiness money buys is fleeting.

Money, after a certain point, is nothing more than a game to occupy one’s time. Money is a scorecard in the grand scheme of daily life. Nothing more.




Back to the FIRE Community and the Nouveau Riche

The FIRE community is comprised of highly intelligent people with honorable intentions. Lately we see the focus turning more toward the FI part of the equation. I like to pretend I had a bit to do with that.

Retirement is still a hotly discussed topic! Professor Jordan Peterson said it best when he stated most people don’t have a career and will never have a career. What they will have is a job. A job is what you do to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table. It is rarely a lovely experience. It’s work you have to do to earn money. A career, on the other hand, is something you enjoy immensely. Only 5% of people ever have a career. Most only have a job.

That explains the reason why so many in the FIRE community want to save like crazy so they can check out of the job and into a life that fills them with joy. Too many people trade a traditional job for a self-imposed job: income properties, small business or side hustle even though it doesn’t bring fulfillment, only a bit more free time.

Warren Buffett is pushing toward 90 and still goes to the office. I understand his drive. There is a certain comfort in doing what one loves. Charlie Munger is 94 and spends a serious percentage of is waking hours reading. He, like Buffett, is still dedicated to learning daily even at their age. Some might argue it’s a waste of time, but Buffett has expressed on numerous occasions the pleasure he gets searching for good companies to buy at a good price.

Retirement is a trap! I see plenty of people in this demographic on my social media pages. They fill their days with all kinds of activities. Before long they are doing things that create value. This is no surprise. The human spirit is designed to build, grow, share, experience, create. One recently semi-retired member of the community is working on stained glass projects. Good for her. Many start blogs or podcasts. Many travel, at least for a while. Then they invest in real estate (the other RE) or start a business or fill their days with a variety of side hustles.

Hear the Wisdom

My grandparents imparted powerful advice to us kids all those years ago. It shaped and formed our lives. Warren Buffett admits he is semi-retired. What he is really saying is that he has to do something to fill his days so it may as well be something he enjoys.

The uber-successful seem to never want to quit. Elon Musk had it made financially and put it all on the line to start a litany of businesses which promise to revolutionize the world we live in. Steve Jobs worked until his body gave out less than a month before his death.  Even then he worked as much as possible from home.

Here is an old and often told story:

A scorpion came to the edge of the river and wanted to cross. The river was wide and deep. The only way across was if he received help.

The scorpion said to a nearby frog, “Frog, please take me to the other side of the river. I can ride on your back while you swim across.”

“Are you crazy!” said the frog. “If I let you ride my back you will sting me as we cross the river and I’ll drown. Scorpions sting frogs; it’s what scorpions do!”

“Why would I do that?” said the scorpion. “If I sting you while crossing the river  I’ll drown with you. My request is honorable. Let me ride your back across the river.”

The frog saw the logic of the scorpion’s argument. The scorpion would die if he stung the frog while riding his back across the river.

The frog relented and allowed the scorpion to climb on his back. The frog stepped into the river and started swimming across. About half way across the scorpion stung the frog. As the poison started working the frog began to drown. The scorpion fell into the water as well.

“Why?” asked the frog as he started to go under. “Why did you sting me? Now you will die! Now you will drown with me!”

The scorpion replied words of wisdom before he went under the waves, “I am a scorpion. Scorpions sting frogs. It’s what scorpions do.”

Do not be fooled. We are what we are. Our minds and bodies were not made to be unproductive. We play and work to our happiness, joy and health.

You and I are human. Humans play, love and create. It is our nature. It’s what humans do.

Don’t be in a hurry to RE. FI is an honorable and noble goal I strongly encourage. Find the things which bring you joy and happiness, then do them. And don’t let anyone convince you to live their version of life because therein lies sorrow.



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 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.

Teach Children to Follow Their Dreams

This isn’t your parent’s China. China is an ultra modern society with the people curious about the world at large.

From a young age I knew exactly wanted to do. Then I changed my mind.

Such is youth. My dad had different plans for me. My childhood was spent on the family farm and it was an awesome life. My dad owned an agricultural repair business and the plan was in place for me to slide right into the company. There was only one problem: I hated the work.

My children are now adults. One is in China while the youngest just graduated high school. My fondest hope was that at least one of the two would be interested in tax and accounting work. No dice.

Forcing your children into a family business is always a bad idea. The kids might love the work and they should then be welcomed with open arms if they do. But most kids don’t want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Their dreams are different. Most often they follow their parent’s path because they don’t know where else to turn.

Rural areas face the same issue. When few career opportunities exist young people must either leave the area or work in the coal mine. It’s the perfect recipe for unhappiness.

Heather, my oldest, is spending a month in China teaching a 5-year old girl English as a second language. The host family is treating Heather great.

Brooke, the youngest, prefers working in dirt. She works for my dad’s company landscaping. She also has a few side jobs working for people in town clean their yard and garden.

Both my girls are happy. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. I never forced either of my girls into living my life. The goal was to always help them follow their dream. The only constant from dad was the endless indoctrination of personal finance advice. As a result my girls are handling money better than 99%. I guess that means they’ll be the future 1%. Good for them.



Nothing to Lose

Steve Jobs said “you have nothing to lose” in his Stanford commencement address in 2005. Jordan Peterson has said the same thing in many of his videos. What both mean is that in the end we are all dead. Nothing we say or do will change that. Knowing someday you’ll be dead is a humbling attitude you can channel into productive projects. You have nothing to lose by following your dreams.

Failing is part of the process. As much as failure hurts, we know it will all be forgotten someday as the hands of times sweep all our actions into the depths of history. Nobody remembers the details of the numerous failures of Thomas Edison as he worked toward the light bulb. We just remember the one that worked.

Starting a business or side hustle is the ultimate leap of faith. Failure will be displayed to our embarrassment. Or will it? If I didn’t share my many business failures over the years none of you would know! I share the mishaps because that is where learning takes place. Success is a poor teacher so I show where things went wrong.



Go East, Young Girl. Far East

I tried to ingrain the “you have nothing to lose” attitude in my girls. I drilled the lessons into their heads daily without remorse. Early on I was worried they may not be getting the message. Then, as the years progressed, it became obvious they were listening after all.

Heather at a jewelry expo in Beijing. She always loves her art.

Heather worked in my office for a short while and still fills in periodically. She worked in my office at first for the same reason many kids work in the family business: it’s an easy option. It didn’t take long to learn she wasn’t interested in the tax or accounting life. Personal finance was as far as she wanted to go in the accounting world. Dad took a deep breath and allowed his sweetie to cut her own path. It was the right thing to do.

From high school on Heather was interested in East Asia. She built plans to go to college in Thailand and South Korea. Later she learned she could teach English as a second language in countries around the world. Good grades and an unrelenting drive made it a reality. Fundraising and financial tricks learned from dad gave her the chance to see China as an insider rather than a tourist for practically no money!

Her host family is awesome! Heather is seeing China from the perspective of a Chinese family. She lives with her host family, tutoring their five year old daughter, Dora. Dora is such a sweetheart. WeChat allows us to communicate without cost. Dora speaks good English and is a bundle of energy. Heather will be heartbroken when she has to return home. She will always have memories (and friends) in a land far away. The modern world makes it easy to stay in touch.

In middle school you would never have guessed Heather would take the path she did. On a family trip to South Dakota Heather was so anxious we had to stop at every turn off for a bathroom break. We even created a few new rest stops along the way. It was bad. (Heather will probably read this while still in China. She’ll be embarrassed when she does. Consider it dad’s revenge for making him stop every quarter mile.)

Heather inherited the early travel anxiety from dad. I’m crazy when I have to travel. It always sounds like a good idea until the departure date approaches. Mrs. Accountant can tell you many stories of the strangle behaviors I’ve undertake when on the road. I travel for business with rare exception. I keep myself hyper busy so I can control the anxiety. If I’m not chatty, running my mouth a million miles an hour, I withdraw into my own fantasy world. The best non-business trip I ever took was to Costa Rica. My parents invited Mrs. Accountant and me. This allowed for some normalcy with more family around. Still, I didn’t say much during the trip as I mentally withdrew.

Heather and Dora. The world is an awesome (and smaller) place.

Heather outgrew her travel anxiety. Thank god for that. Heather is there, in China, learning their culture and teaching at the same time. The world is much smaller now.

I get to see the world through her eyes and from the perspective of her host family. They seem a lot like people here. They have strong family ties and enjoy time together. They are interested in the world around them. More people speak Mandarin as a native language than any other; English in number three behind Spanish. Still, Heather traveled to China to teach English, whereas Chinese people speak English when they come to the U.S. Strange how they are such an enlightened society as not to demand everyone conform to their culture and language.

The activities Heather enjoys with Dora make me smile. They do so many fun things together. She sends pictures every day. Dora is a well-adjusted young lady. When we video chat Dora keeps hopping in and out of the camera view. We are just normal people to her. Our smaller world reminds us we are all normal people, regardless of culture.

Imagine if I would have demanded Heather work in the family business? All this would have been lost. Heather would have felt a longing for a different life while I dealt with an employee unhappy with her job.

As much as I want to point my girls in a certain direction, I can’t. There was no way I could have guessed Heather would end up where she is. She is better for it too. She called yesterday (about 9:30 p.m. in Beijing) because her car overheated in standstill traffic. I talked her through it. She eventually contacted her host family. The dad stayed behind to handle the auto repairs while mom brought Dora and Heather home. I am so proud of how Heather handled the situation. She really has grown up. She grew up because I allowed her to fly.

The Ground is the Same over Here

Brooke took a path I didn’t expect either. She never even tried to work in my office. She did stuff tax organizers into envelopes over the holidays each year. But her heart was never in the office—any office.

Brooke is interested in computers, but schooling is something she wants to put off for a bit. She has a few coins saved so she has time to decide the path she wishes to travel. In the mean time she likes working in the ground. Heather is traveling land in China while Brooke turns dirt in the backwoods of Wisconsin. It’s a living. And she enjoys it!

Brooke left the door open for college a year or so down the road when she is more certain she wants to learn more about computers. Landscaping and nurseries are acceptable ways to fill a day and gain an income in the mean time.

Again, if I would have forced the issue, requiring Brooke to take a path I thought appropriate for her, she would have been miserable. There is no way a parent can know what will appeal to their children.

There is a way we can help, but is takes a lot of fortitude.




The Guiding Hand of Parents

You can teach your children how to follow their dreams. Engage them. Require them to think about the things they want to do in life. Pay attention to their interests and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Heather and Dora rollerblading in the middle of Beijing at night. Those two are having a great time and are the terror of China. They’re both cuties.

That doesn’t mean the kids get a blank check to do what they want. Quite the contrary. My girls had to earn whatever path they choose to walk. I didn’t pay Heather’s way to China.

College wasn’t a free ride either. Heather struggled with getting to college. I didn’t support her attempts at several higher education ideas financially. She had to earn her way before I stepped in and helped. Once she buckled down and got serious about full-time college she was able to raise the funds necessary to attend school without selling investments to get there. She got so close before she couldn’t do it anymore. I immediately stepped in and provided the rest. For the record, my contribution was very small, a few thousand dollars. Think about that. Heather will leave college with a degree, no student loans, no debt and dad will still be solvent having invested less than $5,000. And Heather got to travel to China (Netherlands next year). She also has a job tutoring people in China from home (online) while she finishes school. She has a bright future!

While Heather is starting to create a path she is likely to travel most or all of her life, Brooke is just starting out. She is 18 and experimenting with her choices. I can’t say as much about her because her story is only beginning. I see the same pattern in Brooke that I saw in Heather. The only difference will be the ultimate path taken.

Parents worry about their kids. It’s only natural. Here is what I did:

  • Provide a supporting hand.
  • Be consistent.
  • Freely offer advice and guidance without doing it for them.
  • Let them explore the available options.
  • Don’t force them into the family business.
  • Let them fail. Failure is the only way to learn.
  • Let them fly. All the way to China, if you must. Your heart will eventually begin beating again.
  • Love them regardless their choice.
  • Share your stories, your wisdom.
  • Use humor.
  • Hug them. It matters.

Most of all, always welcome them home. It’s hard letting go. It is for the best. It is so much sweeter when they return.



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 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.

The #MeToo Movement and the Loss of Intimacy

Romance should not die with the #metoo movement. It is possible to love and respect at the same time.

The event of my life happened on April 2, 1987. It was the most unlikely of events and was totally an accident. Unfortunately you can’t enjoy what I experienced. The modern world no longer tolerates that kind of thing.

The spring of 1987 was a calm part of my life. I owned my own home, I had money and I was living the dream. Only one thing was missing.

My lust to learn goes back to my childhood. With plenty of free time I could read from sunrise to sunset. I would walk to the corner café for a cup of coffee and dinner most days. I would putz around the place and yak with the local farmers as I swilled my coffee. To prevent my underwear sticking to my ass or crawling up thereof I would hop behind the counter and pour coffee. The patrons loved the conversation so the owner comped most of my meals and coffee.

As much as I was enjoying life I was lonely. (And young!) The farmers were a mild diversion and books were a mild form of cocaine, but there was still something missing.

I would take a class or two at the local college those years. Eventually I met some people I really enjoyed talking with so we started to take the same classes. A degree made no difference to me so I just took what interested me with an emphasis in having a friend or two in each class.

The spring of 1987 was different. The loneliness was becoming unbearable. I had my eye on a cute girl in Microeconomics. She was heavy on the makeup, but had the look I found intoxicating. I tried to make small talk with her. I thought we were making a connection.

One day a group of guys were sitting in a side area with plenty of windows discussing historical issues. Some of the other guys had the class; I didn’t. My love interest was listening to the conversation.

At one point another guy participating in the conversation said something I felt was effeminate. My love interest was very offended and let me know about it. The gloss was off the rose. There are things worse than loneliness.




The Truth

The next semester our small group, including my prior love interest, moved on to Macroeconomics. It was the spring 1987 semester.

Class was Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday was fine, but there were issues with Thursday. You see, our group was a bit on the frugal side and next to the college was The Image, a bar connected to the bowling alley. Thursday night was happy hour and if we got there before 7 we could buy a drink (I was a soda guy back then) for $1 and we could eat all the tacos we could scarf down.

Our group must have been charismatic because the professor understood our plight and agreed to cut breaks short so class could end 10-15 minutes early on Thursdays.

So far so good.

But as frugal as our group was we also needed to get out and enjoy life a bit, too. Every so often we would make plans for a Friday night at The Image. Then the fateful event happened.

The Image had a dance floor and contemporary music. We danced as a group but dating among our own was rare. I had no interest in any female members of our group. In fact, some of the female members of our group were later invited to my wedding.

On April 2, 1987, a meek girl with a sad face was dancing with her friend center of the dance floor. I had to meet her; I had to know her story.

She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. Girls like that don’t date guys like me. But the pang of loneliness was too strong to ignore. I gathered my courage and walked onto the dance floor and asked if I could join her and her friend. She nodded.

Why I didn’t pass out on the spot is beyond me. God probably loves crazy fools. We danced a few more songs and then left the dance floor and talked. It was loud and it was hard to make a real connection. We enjoyed a slow dance. Did I mention God, heaven and a few other out-of-this-world feelings I had?

The beautiful woman turned pale when I gave her my name. She didn’t tell me her name. I was disappointed.

I begged her to return the following week. To my surprise she did.

Instead of dancing we left The Image for the sitting area of the bowling alley where it was quieter. (Now you know how loud the music was.) We talked for hours. The connection was instant. I found my soul mate. If only she feels the same.

She finally shared her name. Sue. Her name was Sue. (She doesn’t like to be called Susan because that is what her dad called her when she was in trouble.) She told me she was engaged a few years prior to a guy with my name. It explained a lot.

She still refused to give me her phone number or address, but did say she lived near only a few blocks away, pointing in the direction of her home. She mentioned the name of the avenue, but not the exact address.

At the end of the evening I walked her to her car. I was rewarded with a hug. Sue promised to return the following week. We would see each other sooner.

 

Somewhere around midweek I started missing Sue. (I missed her sooner, but I was able to control myself for a few days.) After class (it might have been Thursday, but knowing me it was certainly Tuesday) I decided to take a ride down her street after class.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw her car outside a home a few blocks up from the college. Emboldened by my prior luck I stopped. I contemplated the risks Sue’s dad might own a gun. Lust got the better of me.

Sue’s mother answered. Sue came to the door. She invited me in. I was the luckiest man alive.

That was 31 years ago. We were married one year and six days after we met. A few weeks ago we celebrated 30 years of marriage and I never regretted a one.




The Fantasy

When in a crowd I tell the story a bit differently now. I like to tell people the basic beginning facts where I met Sue, we danced, she wouldn’t give me her name or address or phone number and I walked her to her car.

Then I add I decided to drive up and down every street close to The Image until I found her car and made a nuisance of myself.

I think my fantasy story is more entertaining. And people like to think it’s funny. At least they used to. Up until the #metoo movement.

A Different World

If I pulled the stunt I did 30 years ago I would be drawn and quartered by the #metoo movement if not arrested. There’s even a good chance a few from the movement will criticize me for not knowing how the future would turned out and didn’t adjust my behavior accordingly back then.

Under today’s unwritten rules a lifetime of happiness for Sue and me would be sacrificed. Two beautiful daughters would never have been born. And we would never have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. What a waste!

Yet, the #metoo movement had to happen! Had to. With a wife and two daughters I feel deeply for the rights and safety of girls and women. Men can be cruel and even violent. Rare is the man suffering catcalls walking past a group of women. Women are not as lucky.

As important as the #metoo movement is, there are real problems with the revelations. So many women—if statistics are correct a majority of females (women and girls) suffer from harassment, assault and rape—are victimized that when they all come out with their story it is overwhelming. It begins to feel normal. And that is really bad.

So many women (and girls) have been abused that it is easy to start thinking every female is a victim and every male a scumbag. Nothing is further from the truth.

There are degrees of inappropriate behavior. (You can shoot me later for my opinion.) Rape and abuse of children is always the ultimate bad when discussing these issues. Touching is equally bad, but rape still is worse.

The real problem is communication. If men are honest they all have to admit saying or doing something inappropriate at one time or another. It could be as simple as an insensitive comment about appearance. As innocent as it was meant it still can cause harm because men have no idea how raw the nerves on women are after a lifetime of unrelenting male behavior.

Men who agree with the #metoo movement find themselves in a corner. What can they say without causing harm? What is an innocent inquiry could be construed in a harmful way.




The Hateful

As important as the #metoo movement is we must be careful. When a mere accusation becomes a conviction of guilt in the public arena we risk destroying the movement which offers so much hope for women in the future. Accusations are front page news and for good reason. People we thought highly of did some pretty shitty things!

But not every accusation should be treated equally. I saw an article in The Economist several months back where they listed all the famous people accused of inappropriate behavior. One man was listed with his photo. The inappropriate behavior? He made her feel “creepy”.

It gets uglier. Lawrence Krauss is an American cosmologist I highly admire. He talks English when explaining the complex issues surrounding theoretical physics and cosmology, two subjects I am very interested in and spend serious time studying.

In February of this year Krauss was suspended with pay from his position at Arizona State University due to a BuzzFeed article accusing him of inappropriate behavior and comments. He also resigned from positions in charitable organizations to prevent his attendance becoming a distraction.

Here is the funny thing. Nobody has accused Krauss of anything. Nobody! A news article (it’s on the internet so it must be true) was published with the intent to harm. That’s it. I’m not privy to all the facts, but what I do know concerns me. Nobody has complained over anything Krauss has said or done even when it was made public people were to come forward with anything they had.

That is really messed up and doesn’t do any good for society or the #metoo movement.

Risk/Reward

There is absolutely no doubt women and girls are abused and experience unwanted vulgar comments on a regular basis. The sheer volume is no longer an unspoken concern, but a raging crisis!

Every woman must be allowed to tell her story. We must also take appropriate action. If the accusations make it likely more women will be harmed immediate action must be taken as a precautionary. If imminent risk is not present we need to wait before passing judgment.  The incidence of false claims is low, but still present. We can’t allow a movement with so much to offer to suffer due to a few questionable claims. The risk is too great.




Lost Intimacy

Men are getting gun-shy. The newsfeeds are so filled with women victimized by men that men are feeling they are all guilty. On some level most men have said hurtful things. But an inappropriate comment shouldn’t stigmatize a man for life!

And men are not alone in saying things they shouldn’t. My office is all women so I hear what the ladies say and sometimes even I get uncomfortable. (I don’t avoid hiring men; they just don’t apply for the job.) I try to tone it down when they get boisterous with variable success.

The females in my office are a good bunch, but if men acted that way around women the boom would be lowered and the #metoo movement invoked. I might be the boss, but shouldn’t feel uncomfortable around female employees. Or should I?

When women talk about women stuff guys look nervously for the exits. Uncomfortable doesn’t mean wrong! Yes, my staff talks girl-talk because they are all female. I turn and walk the other way whenever I can. Just because it is uncomfortable for a male, me, to hear something doesn’t mean they are saying bad things. (Except when they think it would be funny to dress the boss in drag. Not funny.)

Love should be warm and soft, not cold and barren.

Men and women are not that much different. We say and do things from our perspective, our worldview. Inappropriate touch is always wrong. Words can be wrong while not crossing a line. Anything insinuating unwanted sexual contact is always taboo and deserves a strong reaction.

The #metoo movement is causing some unwanted results. As men feel more and more isolated they are pulling back from intimacy. What Sue and I enjoyed 30 years ago is less likely to happen today. Why would I, or any man, pursue a love interest the way I did? That’s inappropriate behavior! And over 30 years of wedded bliss and two wonderful girls would never have existed.

The #metoo movement needs to find a middle ground where men and women can coexist.

The world is different today. The internet makes it easy for men to satisfy their, ah, needs without a human being present. Sorry for being so blunt, but it has to be said.

Women want intimacy and complain men no longer provide it. A simple hug is a social crime so men avoid all contact.

Let me be clear on what I am and am not saying. I’m not talking about sex. You can have sex without intimacy. That is what prostitution and strip clubs provide. Sex can include intimacy, but intimacy doesn’t require sex.

Intimacy is the emotional and personal connection between two people. Co-workers can have it; so can lovers. In each case it is a different level of intimacy. Soldiers on the battlefield must have a non-sexual intimacy sometimes referred to as trust. As you can see, intimacy has many flavors.

The intimacy I’m concerned with today involves the interpersonal relationships between men and women. Most women hunger for intimacy. Honest men admit the same. If I had to give up my snuggle-time with Sue my life would be greatly diminished. And for the record, snuggling is not for the young only. After 30 years of marriage I enjoy a warm snuggle more than ever. Pinky (my cat) only wants to snuggle on her terms. Sue is open to compromise to my delight.




What Does This Have to do with Personal Finance?

A frequent refrain in the personal finance arena involves happiness. Bloggers love to talk about the “why” of early retirement and financial independence (FI). FI can bring us happiness, we are told.

I think they are all wrong! Your goal isn’t happiness; it’s joy. You just don’t understand the difference between the words and it does make a difference.

Happiness is generally triggered by an external event while joy comes from within. Winning the lottery brings a lot of happiness upfront. That is why a leading book on Stoicism is called The Joy of Stoicism and not The Happiness of Stoicism. (Yes, I know I butchered the title. I did it to fit my storyline.)

We want happiness, but crave joy. When I felt lonely I was still happy, but longing for joy. Sue brought me happiness and I allowed it to bring me joy. No matter what happens, what is in here (pointing to head and heart) is what will bring me joy and Sue will always be in here.

What value is financial independence or early retirement if you don’t have joy? If happiness is what you want pretty much anything will do. But joy. That is a whole different animal.

I am well aware how long this post got. I’m still not sure I got everything out I wanted to say.  The #metoo movement is so important and still at such risk of burning out before desperate changes are made in our society.

While changes are necessary to allow women to live without threat of assault or abuse, a common ground must be found where a man can pursue his love interest in an appropriate manner and not be branded. Chivalry should never be dead.

Most women enjoy being courted. It feels good to be wanted by someone you find appealing. Men must learn boundaries. It is easy (with a look or a word) to get permission to hug. This isn’t a hard game to learn: you don’t touch an intoxicated woman sexually; you never touch without permission even if you’re married (there are still boundaries in marriage; that is why mine is still strong after 30 years); offer intimacy before offering sex. Intimacy is more fun than sex! Sex is better with intimacy!

Or you can succumb to the alternative—prostitutes and strip clubs—a world devoid of intimacy. And a world I don’t want to live in.



Dealing with Resentment

It happens to everyone eventually. Long hours at the office or illness or other stress leads to fatigue. Then you get behind the wheel. Distracted by your own issues, another driver cuts in front of you and you react in the nick of time. Your heart races as you speak in a foreign language consisting entirely of four-letter words.

The other driver waves a quick apology and keeps going. Angered by the mishap, you tell your co-workers about the idiot on the highway. The rest of your day is ruined. At home you tell the wife, kids and cat (if she’ll listen to your ranting and raving) about your early morning near catastrophe.

The next day you’re still irritated by the event of the previous morning. You are rightfully angry. Yet you allowed another human being to affect how you felt for over a day while they went blissfully along unaware you even exist!

Minor distractions happen all the time. A car cutting you off in traffic is annoying, but some people take to road rage. Most often the transgression is unnoticed by the offender! The manic that cut you off, causing all kinds of outrage and stress, goes merrily along without a clue of you are. Yet you still suffered an extended period at your own hands. It wasn’t the other driver who harmed you! You did that all by yourself.




Deeper Wounds

We resent careless drivers, especially if they interfere with our journey. Unless an accident is caused the transgression is minor at best. Resentment is the acid which destroys the container which holds it.

There are times we can’t shake feelings of resentment. Betrayal is worst. When a significant other has an affair the wound cuts deep. When a friend stabs you in the back it is hard to shake it off. Even if the wound can be healed a scar remains.

I recently was betrayed by two people I highly respected. I never saw it coming. I was at a conference when I received a late at night text to visit. The individual who texted had recently discussed a business venture with me so I expected he wanted to move forward with the project. I’m notorious for my willingness to work any hour of the day when business is involved. I texted my room number.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. The potential business partner brought along a friend I also knew and respected. It seemed odd but I let them in.

The two trusted friends then proceeded to destroy said trust. Mrs. Accountant was in the room as they dissected my life with accusations, demanding a detail by detail explanation. They had an incomplete story and didn’t care. If Mrs. Accountant and I had a less firm marriage they could have caused a divorce. It was that serious.

I was furious! How dare they question me? My personal life is just that: personal. And none of their damn business I might add.

All could have been forgiven up to this point. Misunderstandings happen. You hear a rumor or gossip or read something on the internet where it must all be true and act on the faulty information. Most of us have had moments where we’ve choked on our tongue, present company included. When it’s discovered it was an overreaction you apologize and hopefully move on.

That didn’t happen in this instance. The friend who texted doubled down on the stupid and destroyed the relationship forever.

Near the end of the conversation he said, “If your business and blog are destroyed you don’t care anyway with all the money you have.”

The temperature reached boiling in record time. Let me make something very clear. I don’t do this solely for money. We call that a chump’s game around here. I do what I do because I enjoy it and some second rate schmuck screwing it up isn’t going to make me happy.




Inappropriate Response

My reaction, and it was pure reaction, was to fire from the hip, all guns blazing. I was hurt and betrayed. I wrote a post about it since unpublished. It was terribly written because I was writing in the heat of anger. I was hurting everyone around me over my wounded pride.

I removed the offending parties from social media because I wanted nothing to do with them. I only use social media as part of my business, but I didn’t want to see or hear from these people again. I was cut deep and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. From an enemy I could expect this, but a friend? No, a friend’s betrayal cuts to the bone.

Now it’s tax season and the hours are long and sleep minimal. My natural defenses are weak. Sunday I went to the office for a quiet day of productivity without interruption. Lack of sleep powered with a heavy dose of coffee lit my fire. The anger bubbled to the surface.

Declining blog traffic set me off. I put serious hours in this thing and neglected any promotional efforts after the fateful night last autumn. Long hours and fatigue reached their boiling point again. Resentment rose to the surface when I started crunching the numbers. Traffic dropped from a high several months back to 44.6% lower in the last 30 days.

This blog isn’t about padding my wallet. But money is still an important factor. All the profits are destined for charities. The problem is that the profits are pretty minimal right now so any philanthropy is coming from other sources. I enjoy the writing, but am addicted to the acknowledgement of my efforts. Donations to charities (and a very coveted award I won) express acknowledgement. Without something to give I’m not feeling the warm and fuzzy lately.

For a few weeks now I started to feel like quitting. I’ve joked in the past you can buy my practice at a reasonable price right about this time of year. In August I’m happy as a clam so the price is a lot higher. Now, with constant pain from all the sitting and fatigue, I’m looking for the exit. I need a nap to recharge my batteries and the next scheduled nap is four and a half weeks out. It always hurts this time of year.

I cried on Twitter about the traffic issue. (I’m working on my presidential qualities for the next election.) And I blamed it all on you know who (the midnight visitor).

Anger and resentment set in. My visitors hurt my relationships with other venues. Jealousy happens in all fields, but I was unprepared for the vitriol from people I trusted and respected. And the resentment never went away.




I Thought This Was a Personal Finance Blog?

It is. That is why resentment is such an important topic. The traffic issue is in large part my problem. Out of anger I retrenched. I know I’ll never go back to the route of advancement I was formerly on. Still, even with other opportunities, I dragged my feet.

Writing brings me great pleasure. Even tax work! Long hours can physically hurt, but it’s all worth it in the end. I make people’s lives better and that feels better than all the pain the profession dishes out.

This is where I provide meaningful steps to solve issues of resentment. In the past I would always say something from the Stoic literature. In life I usually just let stuff go. It might bother me for a bit before it dissipates, but before long it is forgotten.

This time was different. Interpersonal relationships cause deeper wounds. Flesh is blown from the body. The wound may scab over, but a deep depressed scar is plainly visible.

What I want to communicate is that you must find ways to cope. I’ve included two YouTube videos I found helpful. It’s important! Throwing away the most valuable things in life over a slight is borderline crazy. Nix that. It’s totally batshit crazy!

There is more for me to share. Writing does need an audience to ferret out the juicy pleasure. Most successful blogs in this demographic have more traffic in a day than I garner in a month. Part of the reason is my lack of desire to use Pinterest and other resources to spread the word. Facebook and Twitter send minor traffic and search engines are just starting to notice. I spend all my time pleasuring myself, ah, doing what I like most, writing, and avoiding things I don’t care to do: promotion.

Now that I’ve written close to 1,500 words about resentment and why I’m currently feeling it, I feel better.

That is my advice. Talk to someone about what is causing your resentment. The one who caused the resentment might not be the best person to talk to about it. The guy you flipped off on Interstate 7 is unlikely to want a stimulating conversation on your feelings.

In relationships conversation is vital. Mrs. Accountant and I have always had a strong relationship. We weren’t luckier than everybody else, experiencing fewer challenges. Quite the contrary. The challenges levied against us would bring regular army to its knees. It is all about the communication.

Keep a journal. Write your thoughts and feelings. Ranting to yourself like the crazy guy who talks to himself as he walks a crowded street is not always effective. It could get you locked up in the loony bin if you’re not careful!

My Sunday at the office wasn’t as productive as it should have been as I wasted time walking the halls ranting over my resentment. It cost me money and got me further behind. Blame it on lack of sleep or whatever. It doesn’t matter! The consequences are all the same.

Writing is better than talking. Writing allows you to think about what you are saying. Writing has a way of getting it out so you finally get some closure.

If you have been cheated on, abuse or betrayed, write about it. Get it all out! The sooner you do, the faster the healing can begin. Yes, there will be scars. Yes, it will still hurt. But you will learn to deal with it and get the pain out so it can scatter to the wind.

The only thing you should never do is publish your rant. You don’t want the public to think you are that crazy guy walking the street talking to himself. Worse, you could get a midnight knock on the door of your hotel room.



The Bittersweet Joy of Raising Children

Alone.

My youngest daughter turned 18 on Wednesday and while Mrs. Accountant and I are not yet officially empty nesters the handwriting is on the wall. High school needs to be finished and an adjustment into adulthood is in order before she leaves. The timing is the only thing undecided.

My oldest daughter (I have two girls) stuck around home milking mom and dad for all it was worth. At first the prodding was gentle. As the years passed the cattle prod was more insistent. It’s wasn’t about her behavior either.

Both my girls are well behaved and quiet. Neither took to drinking, drugs or promiscuous behavior. Brooke, the youngest, enjoys playing on the computer and working outside. Heather buries her nose in a book or online research. In many ways it was like they weren’t here.

Quiet and well-behaved doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy quality time with the girls. We spent many hours outside throwing Frisbee. “Puss arm!” and “Butter fingers!” were shouted often as we laughed away an afternoon. Walks to the creek or around the farm are all fond memories. Fire pits, cook outs, and farm animals filled the formative years of my girls. I hope it was enough.




Where Did the Time Go?

Intellectually I knew my children were growing up and working toward a life of their own. Somehow it never sunk in that it wouldn’t last forever. Still, I managed to sprinkle each day with my wisdom and sorted humor. It’s amazing my kids survived at all with a dad like me.

It was impossible to know if my lessons were sinking in. Advice on interpersonal relationships was hardest because your choice in life mate determines a serious percent of your wellbeing and happiness. A good marriage or dedicated relationship (or whatever they call it these days) is one of the most important decisions you will make in life. Money is important, but I can be very happy and poor with the right woman next to me. I was extremely lucky in meeting Mrs. Accountant. Very lucky indeed! She stood firm through the roughest of storms. We weathered a lot and grew stronger over the years.

Here I am with Mrs. Accountant, my girls and nieces at the Jingle Bell Run.

Money was also a common discussion. I kept repeating my mantras hoping something would stick. Instead of demanding my girls live frugally I repeated things like, “You don’t save money by spending it.” Of course I had to qualify the statement as they got older. Spending money on your health is usually a good investment. Changing the oil in your car is spending money, but it does, in a way, end up saving you a lot more.

The two areas you are told never to talk about in public—politics and religion—were common discussions in the Accountant household. We’ll skip the religious conversation for brevity and to allow time for a short detour through politics.

Remember, the original, and still primary, goal of this blog is to leave my children a legacy of my knowledge and experiences. You are here to observe and comment if you want (and do it respectfully). My political ideology is definitely centrist with mild detours to the left and right.

Ronald Reagan was president when I reached the age of majority. I liked Reagan and voted for him when he ran for a second term. It was my first presidential election. Age and experience have tempered my appeal for Reagan, but I still like the guy. The first Bush got my vote, but his performance and communications skills left me wanting.

I voted for Clinton twice. The Monica Lewinski thing didn’t bother me. I knew it was dirty politics only. Considering what we see today neither party is much concerned with ethical behavior when it comes to women. It’s a talking point until they get caught in their hypocrisy.

What I liked about Clinton was his understanding of economics and government finance. The Republicans cried about the deficit once a Democrat was in office. President Clinton knew exactly how to balance the budget and he did it! Clinton knew he could keep a strong economy with growing government spending and balance the budget if he kept spending increases to 1% below the inflation rate. A deficit at 4% of GDP was resolve in about four years on its own. I thought it was genius and few ever talked about it. I guess you have to be an accountant to understand.

Bush II never thrilled me and I voted for Gore and Kerry. My opinion of George W. Bush has improved over the years. I never disliked the man, but I felt he was ineffective and too much a puppet of the establishment right. I’d still sit and have a beer with the guy. I think he is an honorable man forced onto a very big world stage.

I liked President Obama. He was cool under every kind of pressure. I voted for Obama the first time around and would have voted for McCain f he’d have picked anyone else for a VP. John McCain would have been a good president. His just right of center ideology sat well with me. He also played fair with both sided of the isle. Something I admire as professionalism.

Trump is dangerous in my opinion and I’ve shared my thoughts personally with my girls ad nauseam on the subject. Leadership by tweet is not leadership in my world.




Back to “Where’d the Time Go”

Politics is an important discussion point to have with your children. Your children will pick up your position on the political spectrum and that isn’t a bad thing. They’ll stray when they’re ready, also a good thing.

Politics is important and an important part of this discussion because politic affects many money issues. Tax laws can help or hinder you on your way to financial independence. Retirement plans offer tax advantages. The level of advantage is an inducement toward solvency.

Enjoying an ice cream at Frogg’s in Sherwood, Wisconsin.

My disdain for Trump doesn’t cloud my judgment because no matter how much I like or dislike a political leader I know some ideas they have will sit well with me and others less so. For example, I agree we needed tax reform. I’m not as excited the final result will allow for a long-term lower adjustment in rates, but since my crystal ball is cloudy on all future events I withhold judgment. Trump’s willingness (and last I heard a soon to be real event) to have a face-to-face discussion with Kim Jong-un is something I highly approve of. I also think Trump is more qualified on this one issue (face-to-face with Kim) than any president to ever deal with North Korea. I’ll withhold judgment, of course, but am guardedly optimistic. (As I read this aloud to Mrs. Accountant and Brooke I was informed the meeting will not take place. I hope Trump reconsiders. This is his strong suit.)

And then we realize the years have got behind us and the kiddos are finally adults.

After a slow start getting off dad’s couch, Heather has shown real maturity as she gains new friends in college. She is heading to China this summer with future plans of living permanently abroad. I wanted her to get off my couch, but I didn’t think she would travel so far away.

Heather works most Friday’s in my office. She is starting to miss more and more as she continues to spread her wings. She was coming home every weekend. Now she misses some weekends. Soon she’ll be gone for a month or longer and then. . .

Yeah, I miss my sweetie. A good parent teaches and then allows, even insists, their kids build a life of their own. Mom and dad are always there as a sounding board. However, flying is a solo sport. I gave them the tools. It is up to them now. I’d be a liar if I said my heart doesn’t flutter as I watch.




The New Kid in Town

For the Accountant household there are no new kids in town. The kids are all gone. Brooke is an adult now as she reaches for high school graduation and big plans of her own. She has no plans of moving out at this time. But before long the call will be heard and eventually answered. It is the way life is meant to be.

The house feels emptier without Heather around most of the time. She stays up really late (midnight or later) while Brooke and mom go to bed early (around 8). My bedtime is in between. I love the quiet time and house to myself for reading and writing. Yet, there is an emptiness causing me unease. I doubt it will ever go away.

No Regrets

I don’t regret the path I’ve chosen. Mrs. Accountant was better at staying at home than I ever was. Sue raised our girls with incredible patience. She has been a guiding angel for our children and her wayward husband. I can only imagine what she feels as the house grows quieter.

Whenever the girls had an event I was there. Except for 14 months I was self-employed my entire life. The drive which pushes me incessantly also knows when to back off. When it comes to family nothing is more important. I’d rather be poor in cash and rich in family than the other way around. Money is something nice to play with and fill time, but family is the real meaning of love and happiness. Family is what makes life worth living.

Tax season keeps me in the office long hours. Early in my career the office was our remodeled basement. Since 1995 I’ve enjoyed a storefront to escape to when practicing my passion. For nine months a year I am home a lot. Tax season is a nice reprieve for the family from a crazy dad. Then it’s time for the prodigal dad to return home.




Alone, Naturally

The day is fast approaching when Mrs. Accountant and I can sit alone together and enjoy uninterrupted time. It’s a skill we haven’t had much time to practice. There is a sadness in the approaching moment.

No goodbyes, just good memories.

I’ve always idolized older people who have the time to satiate the lust for learning. The ability to while away a day immersed in books appeals to me. I do also understand it is better to want than to have. It may prove difficult to concentrate when my thoughts keep straying to the years when my girls roamed the house.

I hope I don’t second-guess myself. That would lead to misery! I made the choices I made because I thought they were right at the time. There is no value in torturing myself with paths I didn’t take.

The lessons have been taught. All that remains is gentle support and guidance. It is a bittersweet joy raising children. Never once did I dream I would feel like this. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I thought about the instant my last child would leave our home to live her own life. I never prepared because I was unaware of what should have been obvious.

Still, I have no regrets. I brought two fine young ladies to adulthood. For all my flaws they turned out darn good. There is no doubt Mrs. Accountant had a lot to do with it.

Even Pinky, our cat, sits in the front window more now. She stares to the distant horizon and chirps with thoughts I can’t even begin to imagine. Pinky probably feels it’s time for her to roam free too. She might also want to consider the difference between wanting and having.

Soon the house will be empty. Then I can start dating that young lady again I met oh so many years ago. No kids. We can dream again of our future.

Forever.

 



The Power to Do Evil: The Ethical Dilemma

Over 2,000 years ago Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and the Stoics were debating ethics. Fast forward to our modern day and we find our moral compass challenged daily and on a much deeper level.

Less than two months ago I faced the second largest ethical dilemma of my career. About eight years ago I faced my biggest ethical challenge. I will share both stories here today and the outcome. My struggles should prove fertile ground for contemplation of your own moral judgment.

As a society we think of certain people as more prone to ethical lapses. This might be the result of the professions involved. Police officers make repeated ethical decisions every day. Judges, prosecutors and even jury members must deal with their personal ethics and that of others. But law enforcement or military personnel aren’t the only ones thrust into serious choices. Attorneys and doctors are forced into making decisions that might not seem ethical at first, but they are often forced to make a choice and fast. No choice is an ethical choice all too often with serious consequences.

Your favorite accountant also faces ethical issues. I’m enrolled to practice before the IRS (EA) and that means I have an ethical code of conduct forced upon me (Treasury Circular 230). But it isn’t enough! Every decision I make in my office has some level of ethical consideration involved. The bare-bones guidelines governing EAs is only a framework. Many decisions must be made quickly in the gaps.

Non-professionals also deal with ethics. The demand to choose the most ethical route might be less rapid-fire, but everyone still faces tough choices from time to time. By revealing my two most difficult decisions of my career I hope to get you thinking about choices you make in life and the moral and ethical issues involved. There is no doubt the comment section will be lively with this one as opinions vary widely when ethical choices are discussed.




I Did it Right and Paid Hush Money

This one happened less than two months ago and is still a festering thorn in my tail.

In Wisconsin we have a personal property tax for businesses only. In January a form comes in the mail to list all the business assets outside the building. Computers are exempt from the tax, but desks, phone systems, copiers and faxes do count. The value of the property is decreased each year for depreciation in estimated value. The value is then taxed at the rate real property rate.

My client received his personal property tax forms in January two years ago. The report is due March 1st. This is a serious issue. Most business clients don’t have their financials in to me by the time I need to file the personal property tax report. When most clients are quizzed on new purchases they generally draw a blank until they need a deduction on their income tax return. By then it’s too late for the personal property report.

As preparer I’m required to sign the return attesting the report is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge under threat of perjury. Even though the return might be wrong, I don’t know this until after the fact and usually after the due date.

The client in question purchased a large piece of equipment two years ago. It was missed on the first return for the reason listed above. Then, last January, we added the new equipment to his disclosure. This added close to $100,000 to his business’s personal property. His bill from the municipality would jump from a few hundred dollars to $2,000.

Last December the bill came in and he flipped. We did everything right, but he was mad we didn’t cheat on his personal property tax report. After several rounds of debate he demanded I pay him half the tax owed.

Here is where the ethical dilemma turns ugly. His business and personal return alone isn’t enough for me to even consider such an outrageous demand. But he’s connected to one of my five largest clients. Losing all that business will be noticeable. I paid the $1,000.

You can grill my tail in the comments. You are 100% right. I was wrong to pay half his tax bill in the name of saving a client.

Of course, you know what happened next, right? Well, in December he got his personal property tax bill and in January he got the forms to report this year’s information. My office manager filled it out last year and filled it out the way the client wanted this year and put my name on it to sign. I refused. I made it abundantly clear this office will neither prepare nor sign another personal property tax report for this client ever again! If he wants to cheat I will have no part of it.

My office manager hand delivered the personal property tax forms back to the client with my response. She pointed out the offending machine and he made it clear he will not report it.

Things have been frosty since. I did the right thing except for writing a check. In the end it is almost a certainty I will lose one of my biggest clients and all work connected to them. It probably would have been better if I cut ties immediately.




Ethical Discussion

The ethical dilemma above is clear to see in hindsight. I did a lot right and also committed what I consider a grievance error.

Every option available creates an ethical problem. If I comply I’m an accomplice to fraud. If I do what I did I only pushed the unethical act back on the client. And if I fire the client I push the ethical issues to the next tax professional. As you can see, even no choice, standing like a deer in the headlights, is still a clear choice with ethical implications.

What would you have done? Do you think I was wrong? Would you have written a check to keep a client? Paying a client’s tax isn’t illegal. I committed no crime. I was only asked to prepare a false return and refused. Morally the ground I stand on is higher. But we are talking ethics, kind readers. The decision isn’t always so clear cut in such cases.

My Greatest Ethical Challenge Ever

I have a reputation for handling very difficult cases against the IRS. I have a tax attorney in D.C. on speed dial. Her rate starts at $1,000 per hour. For the dirtiest cases we call her in.

The case in discussion here didn’t involve outside help. I did this one all on my own.

Sometimes when an accounting or tax firm gets into tax trouble I’m called in. It makes for a unique situation, for sure. The IRS usually laughs when they see me defending the competition. When I was done with Revenue on this case the laughing had stopped.

The tax firm involved had about $800,000 of profits annually. They are a slightly larger firm than mine. An audit revealed some irregularities and the IRS assessed them with $1.2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest. It was rightfully owed.

The auditor made a few errors in assessing tax. When I pushed back I was threatened with preparer penalties. I was called into the IRS office. I brought the only paperwork I would need. The agent made it clear I was in serious trouble. This is when I pulled out the federal court paperwork already filled out. You see if you want to attack a tax professional you don’t do so in Tax Court where you need to prove your innocence. You go to federal court where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I finished my argument with, “You file any penalties against me and I file this in federal court. I want to see the prosecutor dumb enough to get his butt chewed by a federal judge over preparer penalties against an individual who DIDN’T PREPARE THE RETURN!”

The auditor swallowed her tongue. I remember her words clearly, “I’m glad you told me this.” I’m sure she did. Of course she could have looked at her paperwork before she levied the threat to back me off a case. As I left I turned back and very quietly said, “You’re going to regret doing this.” I was pissed.

Six months later the IRS couldn’t collect a penny and the auditor was gone.

Through a series of procedural maneuvers I backed the IRS into a corner. Eventually they sent a guy from the appeals office in Dallas. That’s a long trip for little ol’ me.

The meeting with the appeals officer, client and me happened in my conference room. My client was grilled for assets. He kept professing he had few assets. Most of the client’s income was off the table. (That story would be a long post in and of itself.) At one point the agent asked the client if he had any expensive jewelry. My client said no.

But that was a lie! He just bought his wife a $25,000 ring. I saw the receipt. That was one nice rock!

When the inquisition was finished I filed the coup de grace and had my client deemed uncollectable. Not bad for a guy who owed over a million and pulled in close to a million annually.

One of my CPAs at the time asked me if what I did was ethical. I defended myself by saying it would have been unethical of me NOT to defend the client to the nth degree. After all these years I’m no longer certain.

As happens all too often, the client dodged a bullet and went right back to the well. This time he brought a bigger shovel. I took a pass. He was no longer a client. But there is no doubt in my mind I enabled his behavior.




Ethical Discussion

I take a big chance sharing these stories. I kept the details vague for a reason. All information that would lead to identifying the client has been removed.

Tax professionals are a large part of this blog’s readership. IRS agents and state revenue departments also drop in unannounced. By sharing my ethical standards I expose myself to risk of sanction or retaliation. However, these issues are too important to ignore. Hiding from the truth doesn’t make my profession better. Only by sharing my experiences and choices can the demographic grow.

When over a million dollars are on the line we are starting to talk serious money. The ethical implications are huge.

I never said a word when the agent asked my client about jewelry. If I were asked I would have told the truth. But I wasn’t asked and the IRS agent had no reason to believe I had additional information.

What are the ethical implications? If I spoke up I would have betrayed the client I was representing. Can you imagine an attorney throwing his client under the bus? I felt it was the same thing. Now I’m not so certain.

Enrolled agents have virtually no privilege with clients. People need to understand licensed tax professionals (CPAs and EAs) have to comply with most IRS requests for information or face penalties and/or sanction. Only attorneys have privilege with clients.

This final story bothers me on two levels. First, the size of the amount due was large. This wasn’t a minor issue. Once you cross into seven figures the gloves come off. The second problem for me was my actions enabled the client. He went back to digging a new hole.

The worst part of this ethical dilemma was why I did it. An IRS agent pissed me off by her low level of professionalism. I used my 30 years of experience to gut her just because I could. It sounds like smart talk, but because I won the game I actually walked the talk. And when the dust settled I had to contemplate my CPA employee’s comment: Was what I did ethical?

The real questions should be: Why don’t I fight at that level all the time? For one I don’t have the energy. And second, most cases don’t have the facts to accomplish what I did.




Time for a Debate

This is where you can tell me how wrong I am.  The second ethical issue above is a large number while the first issue above is highly questionable.

What would you have done? If you hire a tax pro would you expect that kind of defense? When it comes to taxes is it anything goes? I hope not. I think my moral compass is better aligned than that.

In each instance every action I took was an ethical choice. “No decision” was also an ethical choice! Firing the client only kicks the can to the next tax professional.

Treasury Circular 230 is clear on the matter. Section 10.21 states tax professionals governed by the rules of Treasury Circular 230 must inform the client of errors and the consequences. In other words I have to tell you if you are cheating when you probably already know you are cheating! I also have to tell you the potential penalties. There is nothing in there saying I have to fire the client! However, I think it’s clear I’m not allowed to sign a return attesting its accurate when I know it isn’t. But I can still keep representing the client. Talk about a conflict of interest (which is covered in the circular, too).

I hope we can get a lively debate in the comment section. The personal property report issue is what triggered this post. I’m very interested in how you would handle the situations I had.

My goal is to get you to think about the ethical implications of your decisions. Many times life gives us all bad options and not much time to make said choice. Doctors make life and death decisions in a heartbeat. The police, prosecutors and judge can destroy an innocent life with one bad decision.

And tax professionals can make or break the personal finance issues of clients. Retirement, early or not, is affected by tax choices. The answers are rarely crystal clear.

This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about making a choice when all the answers are wrong. About making the most ethic choice of those available.



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.