Another tax season is in the books as I write this. After thirty years in the business I am always surprised by how much my business grows and the industry changes. This year I received a major push from Mr. Money Mustache. His blog introduced a larger world to the crazy and wacky accountant from Wisconsin resulting in over 12,000 requests for help. Sure, I know the industry is understaffed and the level of super tax professionals is low and declining. But this was insane!
Another crazy tax season required your favorite wealthy accountant to work more hours than he cares to admit. It also requires a serious question: Why? Isn’t “work” a four-letter word to be avoided at all cost? It all depends. Do you like to golf? Golfing is work for me; for you, golf might be loads of fun. Tiger Woods plays golf for a living. Fishing also falls in this category. Fishing can be a lot of fun or work.
Fun becomes work when we do too much of it. When people talk about early retirement they usually mean they want to do something else or they want the freedom to work on projects that interest them at the time. If I am having the time of my life in the tax profession I should continue doing it. It becomes work when I take on too much. The simple solution is to manage work-flow. For two and a half months a year I disappear into my office, leaving the world behind. I am happy in this world; I am also happy returning to my regular life after the rush is over.
The Meaning of Retirement
Think what happens to something when we retire it. When you finish paying your mortgage you say you “retired” it. A machine at the end of its useful life is retired. The word retire is not an endearing term. The word retire is used to describe something that no longer has value. For some reason people cannot wait until they retire. Crazy! Who wants to reach the end of their value or usefulness? The term has been modified to mean sitting around doing nothing of value. Look it up. I am not “done in my profession” so I am not retired in the strictest sense of the word. I do get to practice the things I love.
I am retired if you include the rest of the definition: do not need to work anymore. A long time ago I reached a point where I did not “have” to work. When I was young I lusted for that magical moment. Then it arrived and I discovered I was having the time of my life doing what I am doing. Better still, I was getting good at it which made the process even more fun.
The Value of Retirement
Fun produces more income than work. Living a daily drudgery does not bring the best out of you. Watching a person doing something they love is an awesome experience. I do not watch sports, but I still enjoyed watching Michael Jordon doing his thing. I had no interest in the outcome of the contest. My pleasure came from watching a man do what he loved and doing it well.
Warren Buffett is one of the world’s greatest investors. There are a few who have better rates of return, but nobody has as much fun doing it as Warren Buffett does. This is why people love to hear what he says. How do you invest? To make money? Is it drudge work doing all the research? Your attitude may explain some of your results. Warren Buffett (and most wealthy people I know) turns investing into a simple process fun to engage in.
What Is Work?
Too often we act like work is something undesirable. Remember back to your college or high school science class days? You learned work equals force times distance. Therefore, work is the exertion of effort where displacement happens. Better said, work is physical or mental effort applied to an object or problem and there are results toward your goal. Still better, work is positive results towards what you want. See, work is fun!
You work toward retirement. Make sure you understand the words you are using and you get what you really want. To stop working is to stop moving toward your goals or even trying to move toward goals or desires. Work is not a bad thing; it is how you get things done.
As you can see I hate the word “retire” in its common usage. Nothing good comes out of retirement. All the value you have, all the experience, all the knowledge are put to rest when you subscribe to a retirement mentality. I see a lot of people in early retirement. After a brief fling with ‘sitting back’ they end up working part-time jobs or starting a business, working at non-profits, or taking on a serious hobby. They all tell me the same thing; they were not happy without something to do. It is not natural to live a meaningless life.
What Is Fun?
Well, if work is so good for you, what about this silly thing we call “fun”? Fun in its purest form is enjoyment. Multiple layers of fun exist. Amusement is fun; so is entertainment; joking, too. Fun is different for each person. I have a lot of fun spending a day at the office with clients and employees. They are like an extended family to me. It amazes me I get paid so well for having so much fun. Not everyone is going to find a tax office fun. Good thing. The world would be a boring place if we all did the same thing because it was fun.
How much fun would fishing all day, every day be for you? Me neither. I like fishing once in a while, but every day? Nope. I have a client who hunts and fishes ten months a year and sells health insurance like a wildman the remaining two months. It is right for him because it brings him joy. When I go on vacation I take the opportunity to speak on tax and personal finance issues. Some would consider this a busman’s holiday. Well, it is! I like it, so I do it. I hate ‘sitting around’ vacations. I want to be doing something constructive, moving toward a goal, sharing ideas. In other words, work! Golfing does not count.
The Mixing of Work and Fun
When done properly work and fun are the same thing. The modern connotation of ‘work is bad’ and ‘fun is good’ is wrong. You can get a lot of work done having fun. Do not confuse tired with work. You can be tired after a long day of work and still have a lot of fun.
Work is a four-letter word we try to avoid. As we learn to understand ‘work’ is a basic need of life the desire to retire disappears. Who wants to be put out to pasture? Do you really want to go from useful to useless? Imagine Warren Buffett saying he has enough so he will stop working. What a waste! Look at all the fun Warren would have missed if he raced to retirement. Once he had enough to live he could have stepped down. I think he has more fun doing it the way he has.
Now a job is different. You can retire from a job. Make sure you have something fun to do. Also, when I die, please retire my body. My great-grandfather left me a plot at the cemetery a couple miles down the road. My guess is at that time I will truly have become useless. Unless you bury me in a shallow grave. Then I would make good fertilizer. I do eat home-grown food, you know. Come to think of it, I will always have work to do.