img_20161016_142840Keith Schroeder passed away early Saturday evening after a short battle with illness. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, parents, and brother.

Keith complained of a headache Wednesday. He used over the counter medications with no improvement. On Thursday he visited his doctor who prescribed stronger pain killers. It was determined the headache was due to the change of seasons and allergies. The medication improved Keith’s condition until Saturday morning when the pain returned and was unbearable. He was rushed to the hospital over concerns an aneurysm was about to burst.

Prior to surgery Keith spent time with his wife and daughters comforting them. He seemed to know the end was near. He talked about how much he loved the girls in his life and how happy they made him. “I am so proud of you girls,” he said as he held their hands. To his wife he said, “I am the luckiest man alive. You gave my life meaning and hope. Without you I was nothing; with you I am everything.”

Keith grew up on a farm and had fond memories of working with animals and later doing the same on his own small farm. He was happiest when with his family walking his land and watching his animals play.

After high school Keith went to work in his father’s business until he was injured inhaling silo gas. His serious farming days over, he focused on his other passions: numbers and writing. He loved business, investing, and working the tax code. Over the years he ran several businesses, none more successful than his accounting practice. His office was his home. He loved working with clients and employees helping them realize their dreams.

The office was also his greatest regret. He said to his wife, “I know you wanted to travel more. I wish I would have felt the same.” Keith worked long hours in his practice and more recently on two fiction blogs and an accounting blog. He enjoyed communicating whether it be writing or speaking before a group. His greatest thrill was making a difference in someone’s life. There was limited time for travel and he preferred to spend his free time on his farm. It was where he felt most comfortable.

Searching for meaning in your life? Write your own obituary to discover what you most value. Love, family, stoic values, friends. Money is important to live, but relationships give life meaning. #wealthyaccountant #stoicism #faith #death #dying #loveRemember the lessons I taught you, girls,” he said speaking to his children. “The world is an awesome place filled with good and evil. Do not allow the evil to corrupt you; savor the good.” To his wife, “I wish I were a better husband and father. Everything interested me and distracted me from you. I gave all I have; you deserved better. I never wanted children because I thought I would be an awful dad. I tried with all my might to be a good person and failed all too often.”  “I love you all,” he said to his family, “because you accepted me, flaws and all. I will miss you.”

Keith loved sharing stories. The last thing he said before going into surgery was, “Remember the Star Trek episode where Natasha Yar is killed? She left a video to be played after she died. I always liked that idea. There is no video of me, an oversight I wish I could change. Yar’s last words always stuck with me, ‘No goodbyes, just good memories.’”

Two hours later the doctor informed the family of the bad news. A good man, a father, husband, son, brother, friend, left us Saturday night. He touched us in a thousand ways. We will always remember him for his undying passion to excel. He cared deeply. For all his flaws he touched every one of us in ways that will follow us to our last day. He taught us to never fear death, to cherish life as long as it lasted. He said our philosophy of life was worthless if it failed us at the end. It never failed the man we admired, regardless the scars. May his words continue to speak to people for a long time to come.

Visitation will be held Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at the funeral home followed by interment.


How do you feel? Is there a lump in your throat? The above obituary is an exercise we should all undertake (no pun intended, I am all serious today). Practicing Stoics understand death is only a natural part of living. I am not afraid of death or the dying process. Whether it happens fast or slow is of no concern to me. What I am interested in is how I live life now.

One Stoic practice is negative visualization where you imagine the worst that can happen, really feel it, and then realize, when finished with the visualization, it isn’t that bad so there is nothing to fear. The worst isn’t that bad! Death is the ultimate fear for many people. The obituary above is only a visualization. (It was a lot more intense, but I kept a few things private.) I sat back, closed my eyes, and wondered what I would feel if I was facing death right now, today. I wanted to look back from my deathbed and see what I was proudest of and what I wish I would have done differently. The things I wish I would have done I can now do now that my eyes are opened! By looking back on life in this manner I can see where I will want to make changes and then make them while I still can.

Contemplating your own death is hard, I understand. We all know it will happen. You can do the same exercise of yourself as a very old person reflecting on a long life. What were your regrets? What made you happy? Really dig into it. It’s okay to cry. When I soul search it moves me emotionally. I think it is an indication you are doing it right. I caught myself smiling at times and in tears at others. Then I wrote the above abridged version for you, my friends.

Your obituary will be much longer, as was mine. Writing it down makes a difference. By writing it down it becomes real, alive. The reason we put ourselves through this emotional exercise is to learn what really gives us joy. In the hustle and bustle of life we can forget to stop and think about who we are and where we are. Even retired people get too caught up in their life, forgetting to breathe deeply and focusing inward.

Writing your own obituary takes time and should be repeated at least annually. You evolve as I do. I am not the same person I was in high school, or before I was married or in the early days of my business. I changed. My business changed. I am ever grateful Mrs. Accountant changed with me in a way where we could walk the road of life together. It takes sacrifice. I’m okay with that. You have to decide what you are willing to sacrifice to live the life you want, to live right.

My children sometimes read this blog. Not often, but sometimes. When I informed the household of my intentions to publish my obituary they wanted to hear it. Regardless of age, we all want to know how to live a good life. Don’t wait until you die to find out how.

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img_20161015_103817The TV blares ad after ad with million dollar budgets to maximize sales with each commercial. The school has one project after another for parents to fund. Your children can’t get away; neither can the you. When parents are financially responsible, advertisers and the school system work on your children to get your money. Even your child’s allowance is at risk. Anything to pry money away from you is acceptable practice. It wears you down. All the work teaching your children good money skills is wasted in the never-ending assault.

And don’t count on teachers helping you or your children either. Your kid’s teacher is broke. Without a guaranteed government pension most teachers would be homeless after retirement. Teachers can’t teach what they either don’t know or refuse to practice. Your kids will never learn money skills in school because the teachers are broke and don’t know how to handle money. Period. The school system is the opposite of responsible spending. The school system constantly looks for additional ways to get your money. Great lessons they are teaching our kids. No wonder people work their entire life and have nothing invested for retirement.

There is hope if you look fast. Every so often I run across a teacher who handles money the way we do around here. Of course this teacher retires early, as in somewhere in their 30s usually, and then travels the world. When you find one of these gems, you glue your child to this teacher as long as possible. With your responsible spending and investing at home and the teacher at school sending the same message, your child will not be a slave to money. Instead, your child will use money as a tool to live a good and fulfilling life.

Step 1

Parents must work hard to protect their children from these financial predators. The first step involves mom and dad only. You can’t blame the school for your behavior. The first step is simple: get rid of commercial media in your home. Kids are inundated (as are mom and dad) with thousands of commercials. Mass media if funded by these ads. The ads in turn are funded by weak minded fools.

Most mass media is geared toward getting your attention long enough to serve the advertiser’s needs. Over a third of each hour of cable and network television channels are commercials. Removing commercial TV from your home is the most important step you can take to protect you and your children from negative messages. This one step will cut spending and desires to spend by 80% or more. Before you want something you have to know it exists first. Since mass media force feeds you what they want you to do, you avoid the whole messy process because you never play their game. Think of it this way: How many people had an undying desire for the latest smart phone in 1930? Exactly. When you are unaware of these things you never feel like you are missing anything.

Step 2

Asking you to step into the Stone Age will not work. Kids will be exposed to mass media at school and even at the gym there are TVs on every wall with all those wonderful “important messages from our sponsors.” A media detox doesn’t mean you will never be exposed to the mantra. Instead, you reduce your exposure to an absolute minimum so the effects are limited, if not eliminated.

In Step 2 you need to replace mass media with something nurturing, educational, and productive. Entertainment is a large part of our lives. With intelligent money practices, we have plenty of free time to enjoy life. Financial security allows you more time outdoors with family and friends. It is about time the kids learn to throw ball with dad again. It is about time the family enjoys a walk in the woods or park. The Accountant family likes to throw the Frisbee now and again. It is great fun and good exercise. We have plenty of laughs too.

Netflix and other commercial free forms of entertainment are good choices. Also consider Caveman TV. The library and books are also good ways to pass time in a fun and productive way without constant interruptions to spend money.

Step 3

Now comes the hard part. Removing most mass media from the home and replacing it with nurturing activities is easy compared to building the right mindset. Teaching your children they have enough is hard enough without their friends and the school teaching otherwise. It gets hard when your child has been convinced they need _______ or they will be an outcast. The school may create the illusion everyone needs certain items. It is your duty to buy candy or subscriptions to fund school projects. It is your duty! And all the kid’s parents are doing it.

Then there is the competition between parents! Talk about an insane mindset. These bottom-feeding Cretans think they must keep up with everything you do and then up you one. When you don’t meet their higher level stupid spending they look down their nose than you. Their kids are better than your kids. There is a finger somewhere around the middle of my hand, when extended by itself, explains my attitude accurately.


Santa Claus came! The Accountant household Christmas tree outside the holiday season. Add some pretties and you have a holiday tree!

Replacing the attitude of the most vocal members of the community takes effort. It is worth it. Your children will be happier and healthier once you get them away from the dark side of the force. My girls know Christmas is a time for family. There are few, if any, gifts under the tree. We decorate a huge fern we call Fronds as our Christmas tree with homemade and inherited decorations. Mrs. Accountant and I decided against holiday gifts long ago. The girls received Christmas gifts, but were trained not to expect a haul of plastic crap from foreign nations. As the girls got older we trained them into the practice mom and dad engaged. If we need anything during the year we call it our Christmas gift. This year we updated the bikes for the girls. So they could get a quality bike, we paid part of the cost. Merry Christmas! The girls bought a $30 fire pit this summer; the old one was really bad. Merry Christmas, mom and dad! Thank you girls. What Mrs. Accountant and I get each other is unpublishable in a family blog such as this one.

A Quick Story

Back when I was in school I walked uphill both ways, in snow, even during summer.

My freshman year of high school I was in an agriculture class. I was a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). To raise money (sound familiar), FFA sold light bulbs. I was a bit of a salesman/businessman already at that age. My first year I was the highest seller of light bulbs in school history. Since even in a rural community farmers were considered dirtballs, I got a minor pat on the back for my efforts. I expected nothing for my efforts so it did not bother me.

My sophomore year I was in another ag class and still an active member of FFA. I decided I wanted to tackle different projects my second year so my light bulbs sales, shall we say, were light. This was no good. I was called to the principal’s office and told it was my duty to sell as much as I possibly could. They knew talent when they saw it. However, I was unmoved. I had other ideas. You see, I figured out how to string wires around the farm in a way where I could pick up radio stations thousands of miles away. Much cooler than selling light bulbs. The principle said, “No dice.”

Rather than a simple refusal at the principle’s insistence, I used my normal logic (with colorful language (I had a way with words back then, too)) explaining how he was not going to get what he wanted. The principle rallied the troops; he called in my father. (Not dad, father. This was serious shit!) I amped my response to their arrogant gesture. I told the principle, right in front of my father, where he could shove his light bulbs. My dad was disappointed in my behavior, but never said anything further about it.

Needless to say I never sold a single thing for the school again. I did sell stuff and started a wholesale business on my own while in high school, but that is a story for another day. From that day forward I refused to take the school, teachers, or the principle seriously. The vast majority, and most important part, of my education came all in one day. If the school needed me to raise money so bad, who was teaching whom?

Building a Dream

Mass media, the school, the community, and even your neighbors and friends will tell you what to dream. The greatest tragedy in our society today is people living their entire lives in someone else’s dream. Only at the end do they realize they wasted the greatest gift they ever received. Don’t be one of these fools.

Teach your children the value of spending less than they earn. Teach your children to feel like they have enough, because they do. Teach your children to invest intelligently. Teach.

You can only teach what you know. You teach best by example. Someday, your children will thank you for bestowing such an awesome gift upon them; the gift of living their own dreams.

img_20161012_063728In the United States we have a ritual we put people through age 50 and over. It starts slow and builds momentum. The first indication shows up in the mailbox offering loads of financial information and a FREE! meal. In no time our kind 50 year old has a mailbox full of invitations for free dinners. There are opportunities to screw the Social Security system, opt out taxes, earn huge yields on your investments, and the best ones scream THE SKY IS FALLING!!! and only they can save you.

The answer to each problem, of course, is to invest in what they are selling, usually annuities. I call their bluff and sign up for every free dinner gracing my mailbox. By now I must be the most sought after seminar attendee on Earth. There is a name in the industry for people like me: plate lickers. I love it!

Mrs. Accountant and I rarely go out to eat, but when we do it is usually free. Restaurants I would never try now get scratched off my non-existent bucket list. All because I am a plate licker.

Now before you think ill of me, let me explain. My goal is never to harm the presenter. They offer the free meal and information; all I do is take them up on their offer. If they ever come up with a valuable product I am more than willing to pry open my wallet and blow out the cobwebs.

Baby Boobers

My dad was born the first year of the baby boom and I was born the last year of the boom. It’s an interesting fact that has nothing to with our story, but something I find interesting. The Baby Boom finally ended because guys discovered coitus interruptus. Child support attorneys have seen declining sales ever since. Back to our story.

As a Baby Boomer I get lots of invites. Tuesday night Mrs. Accountant and I attended one of these free meals/seminars. As always, the food was great. I had high hopes going into this one. The invite promised and 8% return investing in mortgages backed by assisted living homes. I understand the demographic and the profit potential so the idea intrigued me. The vast majority of my money is invested in Vanguard index funds. A few hundred thousand in my portfolio is looking for a home with a fixed rate worth accepting. Eight percent backed by local assisted living homes held promise.

The night went poorly right from the start. The seminar was heavily laced with political opinion which I work hard to avoid. Now it was in my face. Even the food started to smell gamey due to some of the BS I was being served. To protect the guilty I will not mention names.

Before the meal arrived we heard about how old variable, fixed, and index annuities screwed people. I get it. Then the presenter went off the rails. We need to keep gold in a safe at home in case an EMP/nuclear strike ends us. Then he claimed he was really rich and only did this because he loved it. (I understand that part.) It soon was obvious he was not as rich as claimed due to his desire to acquire debt. He was living large. If Mr. Money Mustache were there he would have had an instant coronary.

Then we entered the twilight zone. He started going on about 9/11 and how people could not get ahold of their broker to sell as the market crashed. The new world annuities were better and always available for distributions, unlike the stock market. I bit my lip so hard blood flowed. I was nice. I wanted to say, “Dumbass, ah, I mean sir, I don’t sell when people running around like chickens with their head’s cut off, I actually buy at those times.” Instead, I kept biting my lip and let it pass.

As if things could not get worse, they did. Our presenter, an attorney with plenty of credentials (so he should know better), kept the ball rolling down wind. We were informed mutual funds are no good and no longer a preferred investment. He proved his case by showing how actively managed mutual funds underperform the market over long periods of time. He claimed people were poor because mutual funds have failed us. His proof was how many people reached full retirement age broke. My heart gave out. Once the paramedics applied the paddles I slithered back into my chair. I remained quiet out of politeness. He was wrong! People are not broke because mutual funds failed them; people are broke because they spend too fucking much and never save. Even if people invested in broad, actively managed mutual funds they would still be fine as long they actually saved some money in the darn accounts.

All credibility was lost by the time he reached the part I was interested in: 8% returns on assisted living home mortgages. I lost all trust in the man as I assumed the position. No longer feeling like a Baby Boomer, I felt like a Baby Boober. At least I had a good meal.

The 8% Solution

Long term stock market returns hover near 7%, plus the rate of inflation, according to the Jeremy Siegel, author of Stocks for the Long Run. Once Treasury bonds reach 8% (a really long time from now) I want some of my money locked into these virtually risk-free investments. Solid investments with a fixed rate of return of 8% piques my interest. I am always concerned when a fixed rate investment promises to outperform its peers by a significant amount. Lending money to an investment group secured by assisted living homes fell within the realm of normal at first glance.

The problem by this stage of the presentation was trust. He interjected so much political drama into his presentation and followed it with facts that were stretched, or at the very least, misleading, I had to take a pass. When you listened carefully, you soon came to the conclusion the guy was leveraged to the hilt. As an attorney he knows how to structure entities to protect himself and maximize fees to his personal account. I am not saying he was doing this, but he could have and my lack of trust in him caused me to walk away without any further consideration.


What is the difference between him and me? We both claim to have money. He certainly has an awesome resume; my client list has some impressive people on it. He teaches about money through seminars and selling investments products; I talk money on this blog and with clients. Do you cover your crotch when I speak like I did when he talked? I hope not.

There is a significant difference between him and me. His wealth bragging also indicated he needed a strong stream of cash to fund his lifestyle. For example: He thought it was an awesome deal to pay $600 of interest a year just to use $10,000. He said he would do it all day long. Not me. I use debt very sparingly. When I use debt it is a tool to increase my net worth. Credit cards are my favorite way to get free travel and tax-free cash rewards. I pay the cards in full each month, but technically I am borrowing money for a short term.

When it comes to real estate I borrow money sometimes. My office building hasn’t seen a loan on it since 1999. The only reason I ever had a loan on the office building is because the guy who sold it to me demanded I take a land contract so he could spread out the gain on his taxes. Four or five years later I talked him into taking a lump sum payment and he accepted. The building has been debt free ever since. My personal residence has a mortgage and my excuse is the interest rate is 2.375%. I drag my feet on retiring the mortgage because the dividend yield on the S&P 500 is about the same as my mortgage. It is the only debt I have.

If I wanted to build a large number of assisted living homes, I have the resources and financing capability to do the whole thing on my own. This guy needed me to get the job done (in other words he is really broke) or he was spreading risk because he lacked confidence in the outcome. He paid 8% on his mortgages. He also used multiple (as far as I could tell) LLCs to get investors while circumventing private equity rules. There could be legal issues with this strategy. A few of those issues have visited my office now and again. Attorneys can get into trouble with regulators too. My low level of trust caused me to question his setup as well.

Finally, why is he paying 8%? I am a country accountant with a farming background and I can manage lower cost financing! Something is not right here.

For the geriatric crowd and those nearing my age, you know about all the free dinners to be had. It certainly appeals to our frugal nature if you are willing to sit through a lot of BS. I really thought this time would be different. I really thought I might learn something beneficial this time. It was not to be. I guess I have to settle for being a plate licker.

imag0319The cost of a college education has risen faster than inflation for so long the discussion can no longer center on what your major is in college, but whether you should even go at all. We have all heard the statistics on how much more you earn with a college degree which begs the question: How much do you need?

Outside medical, education has seen prices skyrocket more than any other category of spending. According to the College Board, tuition and fees for the 2015-16 school year for state residents of public colleges is $9,410. Out-of-state and private colleges are significantly higher. Add room and board and the cost for the school year is $19,548. Now toss in the cost of textbooks and living expenses and the cost of a college education is a major investment.

There are ways to decrease the cost of an education. Starting at a two-year college and living at home or renting your own apartment versus living on campus can lower the total cost. The one nonnegotiable item is the tuition fee. Scholarships and grants can reduce or even eliminate the cost of higher education except for the time investment.

Define Education

When people hear me speak or watch me work in the office they come to the conclusion I must be highly educated. It is a surprise to them when I admit I have no college degrees. I don’t think I even have enough college credits (if I took the right classes) to qualify for an associate degree.

Education is defined by many people as the education you get in a classroom at a higher education institution. This is wrong! Even if you have a college degree, a large part of your learning came from outside the classroom. My life is no different. When I inform a group I have no college degrees it does not mean I am not educated! I have read more meaningful books in my life than 99% of the people in the country, including the college educated.

I take training courses like a sickness. Enrolled agents are required to have 24 hours of continuing education per years on average: no less than 16 per year and a minimum of 72 hours per three year cycle. This is the minimum to keep your license. I am not a minimum type of guy.

There are plenty of programs to help you prepare for the enrolled agent exam. I used a self-study course to prepare. For one summer I lived in that book. I wanted to learn as much as I could, not only for the exam, but to also help my clients. It went well beyond pride. I wanted to know this stuff. I wanted to digest and incorporate this material into my psyche. I wanted the answers to these tax questions to be automatic.

Am I Educated?

Knowing facts above, do you consider me educated? Let me ask this: If you get an IRS letter who do you think gives you the best chance for a positive outcome? A guy with a college degree or your friendly enrolled agent talking to you right now?

I consider myself educated. Learning never stops. A formal college education is only a foundation to build upon. If you stop pushing your education forward after they hand you your degree you are not educated, I don’t care what the piece of paper says hanging on the wall.

The real question is: Should I go to college? For most people the answer is no. You can start sending your hate mail to: Of course doctors and engineers must attend college. But does a plumber or tax guy need a degree? Instead of college, I recommend attending programs designed for your field of work. My experience getting an enrolled agent license is a perfect example. There are few good tax programs in college. Good tax guys don’t come out of university very often. A Master Plumber does not need a master’s degree from UW-Madison! And plumbers can earn a darn nice income. (So do tax guys, but keep that a secret; I don’t need competition.)

The Real Cost of a Formal Education

What more could Steve Jobs have done if he had completed his college degree? He attended classes he enjoyed and left the rest. Some classes he audited. It was about learning, not bragging about a piece of paper some claim means you are smart.

The real cost of an education is time. No matter how smart you are, no matter how many grants or scholarships you earn, you still invest the same amount of time as the schmuck sitting next to you in class paying for the whole thing in cash. And time is where the cost gets really high.

Working your way through college will keep the cost down. Putting living expenses on student loans is insane! I see it all the time. Education debt takes time to work off. It is time again. First you invest four years or more to earn a degree, then you need to find a job, then you need to make up lost ground while you were sitting in school. My biggest advantage attaining financial independence early was an early start. I had a job in high school (farming) and a job immediately after high school (working in my dad’s business and my nascent tax practice). Between life I found time for a handful of college classes. I had the college experience, kind of. I missed the parties and drinking part.

By the time all my high school buddies were finishing college I had a net worth of six figures and growing fast. They had student loans to pay and a job to find. I already had a job and an established business. I had a head start and made the most of it. The key was ambition. I am a self starter. Nobody holds a gun to my head to write the amount of material I do here. I do it because I want to. The same applied to my early days in business. I was always up to something, trying ideas, building my client list, learning how the real world works in business.

Necessary Formal Education

All this said I refuse to look down my nose at college educated colleagues. (Okay, there was that one time.) Some people need a formal education to help them decide a path in life. Some people learn better in a formal setting. And then there is all the self-serving BS required to get a BS. CPAs need 150 credit hours before they can sit for the CPA exam. (I might be off with this. I am pulling from the top of my head and since I am not a CPA I am light on the requirements. Feel free to correct me in the comments section below.)

imag0317Many professionals are required to have a minimum level of formal education to gain access to the herd. Attorneys, doctors, CPAs, and teachers fall into this group. If your career choice is in a field requiring a long education time investment you have no choice. A car mechanic is better served by attending a technical college or program geared toward their craft. By focusing your education on your trade you have an added risk. Additional knowledge is needed to function properly in any field. I recommend either self-study or short and intense seminars to build these additional skills. Example: I am attending a one-day grammar and proofreading seminar later this fall. Bet you are glad to hear that.

Some education is unavailable in a formal setting. Financial independence, early retirement, and intelligent investing are rarely part of the curriculum, but absolutely necessary to live your life well. By reading this blog you are gaining an education. No degrees when you finish, just a head full of knowledge shared by a tax guy with decades of experience. And isn’t that what education really is?

We learn by sharing knowledge. Once in a while a member of the herd discovers something new. Not often, but it happens. Then the knowledge is transmitted to peers for review. The whole group learns, becomes smarter.


My oldest daughter has struggled with college. She wanted to attend college all over the world on dad’s dime. She had no grants and not a single penny of scholarship money. The first test of college is getting there. Having someone else foot the bill teaches you nothing. You need to figure some things out for yourself. We all get there in time. The college classes I attended were paid for by the First National of Wallet.

Now my oldest is working. She is discovering what she really likes and wants from a career. In the end she will probably go to college; she wants to be a teacher; an honorable profession.

I come across strong against jumping right into college. That isn’t true. I am against a formal and expensive education until the student is ready. When the student is ready they will actually get an education along with that bill.

Whether you attend college or not, your education starts at birth and never stops until your last breath. Only a small fraction of your education will come from a classroom. Learning is a journey, not a destination.

img_20161009_152000I am writing this as the tax extension deadline is a week away. Tax returns I delegated to my team are starting to boomerang back to my desk. Some issues are beyond the comprehension of everyone but me. This confuses me. How can I be so much smarter than everyone else? What makes me so special?

The first issue perplexing me is the Indispensable Man theory. It goes like this: I want to earn more money but I am unable to close the money accounts. As you can see it does not work. Avoiding the tough cases holds people back in their career. If the boss does the work you can’t claim credit for the project.

The second issue is that the Indispensable Man is only an illusion. There is no tiny bag of pixie dust hanging at my side I can use to fix any problem showing up. Okay, maybe I do. It’s called an absolute confidence I can figure anything out and get it done. I am not asked to perform brain surgery (and if I was I could do it given enough time to research the subject and consult with other professionals); I am asked to perform a task in my field of study. All the resources available to me are available to all tax professionals. Nothing special in my bag of tricks.

The Illusion

Once I started writing this blog the emails started pouring in. As you might expect, a large number were from people wanting personalized help, something I don’t have time for. Another common refrain comes from other tax professionals. They either want to know how to grow their practice or they work for a firm and want to strike out on their own, but are afraid to make the leap, worried they have no one to turn to with the tough cases.

It is true, when the tough cases come in and you are the boss, you are the final line of defense. It isn’t that bad! If a country boy, raised shoveling manure on a farm, can step into the captain’s chair and excel, so can you. There is no secret. Really! The only problem for the Go-To Guy is time. Handling all the tough cases with limited time is a problem.

51oxkptqfwl-_sx320_bo1204203200_Michael Jordan made basketball look easy. It looked easy because he was so good at it. Experts in all fields are the same. They make it look easy because they practice their trade every day, even during their free time. Jordan was once asked what he did after practice. He responded, “Shoot buckets.” What Jordan did to unwind after practice was practice some more! And he was the best and paid accordingly. He really was the Indispensable Man. When the money shot was needed the ball was tossed his way.

Creating the Illusion

Of the few emails I respond to, none have returned telling me they made the leap. None returned telling me they opened their own practice; none said they made the move for the premium paycheck. When I started my practice thirty years ago I have shelves of research materials. My business forked over thousands of dollars every year for the resource. It is so much easier today with the internet. I can research Tax Court cases for free with search algorithms better than I ever had when working through thousands of pages of folio leaf paper.

Michael Jordan and I have something in common. We both practice after practice. I read after I finish working and much of what I read is business or tax related. After a while it becomes second nature. It isn’t hard. The only issue is time. The clock sometimes runs out before the game-winning shot leaves the fingertips.

In the office a common question is: How did you do that? Simple. I opened Google. I read instructions and articles on the subject. When I finish I then research things that made me curious, expanding from the original issues.

It all looks easy from the outside. I ask the client questions and then plug the numbers. How did I know where the numbers go? Experience plays a large roll. Jordan did not start at the top; he worked at it. My experience gets me to the correct research material faster. Without experience I would still get there, only slower. I glance over the left shoulder at the clock when that happens. It keeps ticking.

What is the Indispensable Man Worth?

When I talk on the phone with accountants looking for inside knowledge I have on rising to the top I can hear their voice resign as I tell them the only path to get there. It’s disappointing. For some reason they think it is really hard. It isn’t. It does take time and effort. Thinking is involved.

Once the phone call is over I wonder how much the caller will lose over a lifetime with their defeatist attitude. You don’t have to run your own firm to be an Indispensable Man. Owning a business is hard work with plenty of worries. The problems never stop and all problems end on your desk. Running a business means you will do things unrelated to your field of work. Business management is a whole different set of skills required to learn.

Working for the man can be a pleasant experience. Some employers and managers are wing nuts. I get it. But if you rise to the level of Indispensable Man the rules change! For you. Employers/managers can talk smart and treat employees like shit when they are easily replaced. Finding good employees is hard, but a normal part of running a business. As hard as it is to find good employees, I still keep finding them.

Indispensables are irreplaceable. Once you rise into this category you make the rules. Your share of the honey pot of cash goes up because you bring in extraordinary revenue and profits for the company. You become a quasi partner without all the headaches of ownership.

The best part is you get to chose who you work with. Indispensable people inside a firm are limited by time. We already said that. The Indispensable Man decides who he serves within reason. They still have to be tough accounts. But they are not tough for you. You just need time to get the job done and for the research necessary.

img_20161009_141327Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

We look for heroes to light the way. To reach the heights of indispensable the road gets narrow. There are no cowboys to ride in to the rescue; you are the cowboy. The feeling is like no other when you realize the buck does stop at your desk. The lead doctor in surgery is looked to by the rest of the team for direction. As the Indispensable Man they now look to you for guidance and direction.

The first step is scariest. I admit I had it easy. I was so stupid when I was younger I just jumped in with both feet and started my practice unaware of the consequences. Ignorance is a great way to avoid fear. My ignorance has waned over the years and fear is an emotion I have to keep under control.

It takes getting used to making decisions affecting the lives of others. The guy at the top must make the decision. Inaction is a decision, one you probably will not like.

The tax/accounting industry is in dire need of people willing to step into the Indispensable Man’s shoes. Few take the call, instead choosing the path of a data processor. You can’t complain if you get paid like a data processor if that is what you are. Lofty goals take work. Once you prove your worth the paycheck follows. The farmer who stands by his field and says, “Lord, give me a crop and then I’ll plant” will be sorely disappointed. The consequences will have a reverberating lifelong affect.

Building the Muscle

Overworking a muscle is prescription for several days of pain and soreness. I was fortunate to naturally know where I needed to go. The day I opened my practice I didn’t invite the biggest and worst cases. Instead, I take a handful of serious cases, with material new to me, each year.  I grow steadily. Oh, I bite off more than I can chew now and again. The muscles get sore. That isn’t always a bad thing.

Muscle mass is built by stressing the muscle, actually causing micro tears in the muscle fibers. The healing process grows the muscles bigger and stronger for the next workout. You increase protein intake as you work to build muscle mass. Building blocks coupled with stress equals growth.

The same applies to your profession. Research and study is your protein intake while the tough case one level above your pay grade is the stressor causing the muscle to grow. The more valuable you are the more people will want you. That is the moment you call the shots. You pick and choose who you work with. You have limited time and are experienced, and by past performance, the person to get the job done. The best of the best make the big money because they take the cases paying the big money.

If you are happy as a data processor, happy with a safety net of an Indispensable Man, then you have to accept your position. The Indispensable Man is not giving up his paycheck to a data processor when he is doing the heavy lifting.

Or, you can start on the road to excellence. You can start the journey to being one of the elite, one of the best. The one person everyone goes to the get the job done right.


Awesome people I admire. (Pete, Brandon, Paula, and Doug.)

Enrolled agents, CPAs, attorneys, and other professionals frequently are required to attend continuing education programs to keep their license. The same people show up year after year. Camaraderie grows as the group becomes closer. Familiarity breeds relationships. Our personal experiences and focus in our practice gives each member of our group unique skills. When certain situations arise we know where to turn.

I have belonged to several of these groups over my career. I am an enrolled agent (a licensed tax professional) and attended classes from even before I was licensed. This large group is familiar to me. I have worked with many tax professionals outside my firm in special situations. As odd as it sounds, I have represented a few accounting and law firms before the IRS. My comfort with litigation makes me someone professionals engage when things go really wrong.

For a while I belonged to a securities group. I had a short fetish with selling investments until I was disgusted by the dirty game played on clients by the industry. Along with a securities license I got a life insurance license which I still have, but never use. One day I will let it lapse.  

Each group has its own members. The groups are fairly consistent; the same people show up year after year with a few newbies and a few who retire or die. The educational classes are fun and an opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances and share ideas.

Groups gather for all sorts of reasons. Anytime a group of people share a common interest, a program is developed. It makes sense. If you enjoy something you naturally want to gather with people who share your mores.

Personal Finance Groupies

Personal finance seminars and retreats seem to grow daily. In the past I read the blogs, but avoided the gatherings. I know who I am and feel comfortable in my skin. Frugality, saving, investing, and financial independence are normal to me and I feel no desire to travel to meet these people. (I have enough venues to attend.) That all changed a few years ago.

Once I broke the ice it turned into a storm. The good news is I only attended limited venues. But that is all changing. In the past I could attend programs for my business locally or only a short distance away. World Domination Summit, FinCon, and all similar smaller gatherings are not driving distance. You don’t have to read this blog long to learn of my disdain for travel. Prying my ass from my 10 acre farm is a major undertaking. If you give me a choice between a bullet in the head and traveling I pause for a moment. I’m seriously considering the options.

The people at personal finance (PF) gatherings are like the gravity from a Black Hole. Once you cross the event horizon there is no going back. Like the local tax seminars, the same people make the rounds of all the PF gatherings. There is some cross-over from groups with similar interests, such as travel hacking, but the crowd is 80% regulars.

And these people are so darn friendly. You get a group of accountants together and if you are not one of us you get that corner of the eye look. We’ll accept you once we vet you. And you start at the bottom until you earn your stripes. Not so with the PF groupies. All you have to do is show up and it is like, “Fuck, yeah!” You are instantly part of the herd.


If you have never attended one of these events, you need to. The sex is non-stop!


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Had ya for a minute, didn’t I? Of course I am messing with you. This isn’t like a rock concert. Half the people at these events have their own blog and the other half would like to find the time to write their own. Blogging has turned into big business, hence all the gatherings around the world. Now, there could be sex orgies I wasn’t invited to. I’ll give an update if I discover anything.

It was only a strange set of coincidences that drew me into the cult. I wanted to build a business relationship with a blogger and I was willing to travel this one time to “get it done”. I was not on the itinerary, but I changed that. I have something to say, damn it, and I’m going to talk . . . in front of people.

The original goal was to storm the Camp, do a smash and grab, and make like the wind. Except for that gravity thing. Damn Black Holes! I was sucked in so damn fast it was over before I knew it. I waited a whole year and returned to the same Camp. Now I am actually speaking for real at Camp Mustache SE this January. People actually requested to hear me talk? Sick bastards. I can live with that.

What I noticed as I built this blog is the same people are involved. I am terrible at social media. I try, I really do, but I stumble and fall a lot. In business today, especially with a blog, you must have a social media presence. Since most people love this stuff it is easy to find people willing to help me. The web designer of this site set up all the automatic postings; Karen, my office manager, helps manage Facebook and other social media sites. I try to check Facebook daily because people sometimes ask questions. I don’t interact much. That is slowly improving.

Facebook seems to be the go-to place for social media. The account sat there forever with no friends; it was only a landing page to access business accounts. In the past I had several people start and manage Facebook pages in my name to build business. Most started fast and fizzled. Those sites crashed and burned. My rule was: make me look cool so people will want to do business with me. I don’t think I was always made to look cool.

Once I attended Camp Mustache II people discovered I had an account in hiding. Suddenly I had friends! <a tear comes to my eye> People started contacting me and I had to call in Karen because I could not figure it out. Somebody left a message and I can’t find the damn thing. (I like social media like I like traveling. Bullet in the head or check Facebook. Hmmm. Let me think about that for a bit. I’m still thinking! Don’t rush me.)

I am not an idiot. (You, in the back row. Shut up!) I fully understand social media is an awesome tool to grow a blog. (Well, so is traveling to all those &^%$ PF seminars.) As my love list, ah, friend list grew, I noticed something. They are all friends with each other! This groups sticks together better than peanut butter to the roof of my mouth. And they are nonjudgmental. New groupies have questions and it turns into an instant intervention. (If this gal wants to get her finances in order she came to the right place.)

I gave Karen walking orders. Since this group is so cohesive, I asked her to start building my Facebook friend list. Years ago I grew my Twitter account with a program that automated the process. With Facebook I think you need a live person as the people on my list are more selective with FB; there needs to be a real connection. It seems the more people added to the list the more integrated the friend list became. Unofficially I have become one of the herd.


The finest group of people you will ever meet.

The New Accountant

As the list grew and I watched what was happening, I discovered this group of people really attend a lot of programs. And I mean a lot! As much as I hate traveling, I will make it a point to attend more venues. I can learn a lot and make new friends in the real world. Many of these people I admire from afar. Since life is a learning experience I am drawn toward the center of gravity of this particular Black Hole.

The question arises: Why do people attend so many of these things? I think our group exists because intelligent people need to go somewhere to deprogram from mass media. Hearing the message “Wealth is good” and “It’s okay to spend less” are powerful and liberating messages. People are sick of debt and working a full-time job buying crap they don’t want or need.

That is what drew me to the blogs. I am sick of the garbage most people watch or listen to. It is impossible to get away. If you start a media detox your friends and acquaintances have not so mass media still affects your life.  Hearing a pure, clean, uplifting message is refreshing.

There is no doubt I will attend more of these events. I see many people I admire greatly making the rounds and it would be awesome to spend more time with them. The new accountant will travel more to see people he cares about. Finally, after all these years, the Wealthy Accountant is joining the global village.

And good thing too. The sex is awesome! Especially if Mrs. Account comes along. She is my favorite groupie.

crow-741168_960_720There is a heaping plate of steaming crow on the kitchen table cooked especially for me. It all started a year and a half ago. After all these years in business, I was starting to feel my oats. I would brag about the list of clients I had put together. My tax practice was serving some very wealthy and well known people. A few rock bands were in the fold and even a board of director from a company connected to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway graced my client list. I had a sales pitch for anyone willing to listen.

Then a brainstorm hit. I would move to the next level by landing a business deal with an influential personal finance blogger. It went better than I ever expected. Instead of inking a collaboration, I got a collaboration and a client and a massive promotion for my tax practice. There was no doubt in my mind I could handle it. I lived through worse. And don’t think for a minute I didn’t let people know about it.

That was the moment I allowed arrogance to turn me into a dick. By biting off more than I could chew clients were left in the dust. It became impossible to respond to all the emails. Emails were not simple acknowledgements to read. Each had a long request requiring time to answer and respond to or I had to disregard them.

It gets worse. One client I accepted got nervous when only half the work was done. He paid in advance and asked for a partial refund. The email got lost in the shuffle. He contacted me earlier this week to see if I would finally respond. I felt like shit. Here is a client who trusted me to help him and I over extended. Then I dissed him when he only wanted fair treatment. Instead of a partial refund, I returned the whole fee.

Before you sing my praise, I still acted like a dick. The solution was more than fair . . . to me. The client was gracious and thankful, offering his excitement to meet me some day and tip a bottle over conversation. I am not so sure my Stoic training would have served me well if our roles were reversed.

Acid Reflux

Food that disagrees with us usually feels good going down. Only experience tells us the price will be paid later. Arrogance is like that. It is the disease that makes everyone sick accept the one who has it. The disease is insidious. When you least expect it, there it is.

Arrogance is the acid which destroys the vessel that holds it. In a business it is death rattle if not excised quickly; in a marriage it destroys intimacy; with friends it destroys trust. The key part of arrogance is “destroys”.

The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, indeed. There is nothing wrong with having awesome clients, a wonderful mate, successful friends, and living in a progressive community. The moment you think any of these things make you better than someone else you have crossed the line. Like me, you become a dick.

Successful and popular clients do not make me better; it means much is expected of me because much has been entrusted to me. Easier said than done. Right? When life is firing on all cylinders it is easy to think it is all ME! I did that! Well, I have news for you. You crossed the line into arrogance and the price for arrogance is heavy. It ends the same way every time. In disgrace. Or, as in my case, a full refund to a client. And deep down you know you still did not make it right.

ghs-pictogram-silhouette-svgI AM GREAT!

Alexander the Great conquered the known world. Cities were named in his honor. But Alexander did not know humility. Once, while drunk, he got into a fight with his close, and perhaps dearest, friend. Before it was over Alexander accidentally killed his friend. When arrogance rules your life, life will inflict humility upon you whether you want it or not. Alexander was so distraught he could not eat or drink for three days.

What good is success if it is squandered in wanton masturbation, for lack of a better word? Stroking your own ego, as I did mine, always pollutes the thing you are so arrogant about. Yes, I have a successful business. It is okay to use that as a tool to keep growing the business. Grand standing is not pride, nor is it going to help you continue to grow.

If you really want to be great, you must first be humble. No matter how good either you or I are, it is worthless if we abuse our good fortune with an arrogant attitude.

Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. Without getting into religion, we can learn a lot from the actions of people like Jesus. Only when you can prostrate yourself before others have you really become great. The moment the nose goes up the greatness is over. The greatest act of all is humility even when you are the best at what you are doing.

Exposing Myself

Why expose my failings and shortcoming publicly? This blog talks a lot about taxes and personal finance, but also a lot about living right. I have shared some really awesome successes I’ve had. What you learn from those successes in far smaller than what you can learn when a successful man faces defeat or humiliation.

Humility and humiliation are two different animals. Humility is how we act by our own volition; humiliation is what is inflicted on us, whether deserved or not. Of my own will I expose my failures. This is humility. I still need to be careful. The leap is small between “I show you my shortcomings” and “Look at me, I am so great because I show I have weaknesses”. False humility is the worst. Where arrogance sickens, false humility destroys all trust.

Your favorite accountant is lucky. In the tax profession there are plenty of opportunities to experience humility. The tax code is huge. No one person knows it all. Every time I think I am getting good at this stuff I realize I missed a point. Sometimes I beat myself up too much when I miss a salient point. I think it is a healthy response. I want to do the best thing for my client (and you, my readers), but sometimes I get it wrong. The salve of praise from a client knowing I gave it my all is still only a salve over an open wound. People pay me to get it right and on time. Plenty of opportunity for humbling experiences.

Exposing who I really am is not a weakness. As you read this I bet you are thinking of some moments of arrogance and/or humility in your life. It might even be a current event. It might be an accidental slight or intentional. (It seemed like a good idea at the time!) Regardless your religious faith or if you have any religious faith at all, kneeling and washing feet instead of drinking heavily and accidentally killing your friend is preferable.

51eyhtthw2l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Neutralizing the Acid

It is never too late to live humbly. Muhammad Ali said, “I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.” And, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” Ali lost 5 fights in his career, two during the height of his career: Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. Ali did beat both Frazier and Norton twice in rematches. Then age injected humility. Ali lost the last three of his last four professional fights.

Marcus Aurelius said it best: Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. We are all a very, very small part of this grand universe we live in. When you understand this simple truth humility is easier. Christ knew it; Alexander the Great and Ali did not.

Who would you rather spend an afternoon with? Marcus Aurelius or Alexander the Great. Me, too. Killing a friend in a drunken rage is the ultimate arrogance.

Acid is only powerful until you throw some baking soda on it. Arrogance is neutralized when our head is bowed and we allow someone else to step into the limelight. Writing a blog and even owning a business requires a bit of showmanship. We need to be recognized so we get more clients or readers.

There is nothing wrong with me saying I have over 30 years of experience in the tax field. It is okay for me to ask you to subscribe to this blog. (Please do.) Pride in having successful clients and doing awesome work is the kind of confidence clients need to see. Biting off more than I can chew because “I am awesome!” is a sickness. Arrogance.

If you feel the tug of arrogance taking over in your life you can stop by my house. I have plenty of leftover crow in the fridge.

img_20161006_070108Have you ever wondered what a typical day looks like for the Wealthy Accountant? Like most people, I have a routine that varies as personal matters dictate around a framework I prefer to follow. It is interesting to see how other people work. How they structure their day to get stuff done helps us decide how we want to compose our day.

Before we start I want to point out my typical day isn’t exactly what I do each day. The pattern I follow changes over time as I evolve. As I complete one project or start another, determines a large part of how I organize my time. Tax season is a different schedule than the remainder of the year. Even the seasons affect my work patterns. I tend to stay in bed later in the autumn than during the other seasons.

Many years ago I met an author who did his writing late at night. He would start writing at midnight for three or four hours before going to bed. In the morning his wife would proof read the prior evening’s work and add suggestions. It worked for him. I decided this must be an awesome way to get the creative juices flowing. The experiment lasted exactly one night. What worked for him did not work for me. That is the lesson before we start. Learn from example, but don’t copy. I have found what works for me. You will be different. Stephen King sits his ass in a chair each morning until 2,000 words of draft are out; it usually takes him until early afternoon. After writing, King goes for a long walk. The styles are endless. King’s style only works if it fits your schedule and personality.

It is fun taking a peek into a person’s life. It is natural to think what they do will work for us. It rarely does. Examples are just that, examples. My life is far from perfect; I venture most people would be shocked at my life if they stepped into my shoes for real. You can say the same. Over time we create rituals which are insane to the outside world. Our worldview, and life experiences, determines how we choreograph our life.

Typical Day

6:00 a.m. Sometimes I get out of bed at 4 in the morning, but normally it is between 5 and 6. During the autumn I stay in bed closer to 6, while 5 o’clock in more typical the rest of the year. In high school I milked cows before school so I got up every day at 3:30. Yeah, I still have nightmares.

The steers are gone, but a flock of chickens still grace the barn. I used to always take care of the animals. Now Mrs. Accountant decided to take over the job. I do the heavy work; she gathers the eggs and fills the water tanks and food trough.

Since barn work is not part of my morning ritual most days at this time, I start my day by either editing the previous night’s writing or continuing the previous night’s work. Today I am late so it will be afternoon before I publish.

Mrs. Accountant prepares my breakfast while I write. Most mornings are an egg dish in a wrap; other days are regular oatmeal and protein powder in a bottle. I’ll share the oatmeal story another day.

9:00 a.m. Since this blog started I check the stats and revenue before I head to the office. I am sitting at my desk by 9 or so.

Phone messages and emails occupy my morning. Prioritizing the emails is a must as over 300 show up each day in five different accounts. No more than an hour is allowed for emails.

If I did not get a chance at home, I open a book and read for 30 minutes. Many times I am reviewing Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, other times I read business books.

10:30 a.m. Mid-morning I work on client accounts and meet with clients. Depending on a client’s needs I make phone calls all day, sometimes into the evening and weekend.

Noon: I read while I take lunch. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go to the gym in the early afternoon for a workout. Tuesday and Thursday I go for a walk or jog. One day each weekend I don’t do a formal exercise to give my body a break. The other days I jog.

Afternoons: Once lunch and the gym or walk is finished, I spend the afternoon working with clients. Phone calls are a big part of the afternoon.

5:00 p.m. I go home most days before 5, except during tax season when I live at the office. If my schedule is tight I may go to the gym at this time if I didn’t earlier.

Mrs. Accountant has dinner waiting for me when I get home; I read while I eat. I spend time with family after dinner.

8:00 p.m. By 8 o’clock I start writing or reading and continue until 11 or midnight.

Weekends, Holidays, Days Working at Home, Days Off

My typical day at home is pretty simple. I get up a bit earlier when I stay home and take a short nap (20 minutes) after lunch. I spend more time writing and reading on these days. Working from home starts at 10:30 a.m. and extends later into the evening. Before 10:30 is either family or reading time.

At home, without road time I can focus on writing. Reading and writing are by far my favorite activities. The nice thing about working from home is I can call clients when they are available without filling in time at the office between calls. The best day is a productive day. Then there are days I do not want to talk about.

Only phone calls and emails from work come home with me. Unless I need to use a really old computer to prepare tax returns from the 1990s or before, I always do that work at the office where security is tight. Phone calls from home are on my cell which leads to problems. People think my cell is the office phone or a direct line. So when I call from home I use *67 now to keep my number private.

img_20161006_064320Crazy Things I Do

Work habits differ amongst professionals. I have a favorite spot to read and write in the living room. I wear noise cancelling headphones contractors wear as a way of closing the door when I work at home. The kids can watch TV or talk without a problem then. My favorite corner of the couch is always covered in books and research material.

Normal people sit in a chair and relax when they read or write. Not me. With rare exception, I sit on the floor with the laptop on the seat of the couch as I peck away at a blog post. If I am reading I sit the same way for a while and then I am up and walking while I read. Sometimes I end up outside walking around with a book. If I sit too long, like a normal person, I dose off.

Habits I Should Break

Starting a new blog is a sickness. Watching Google Analytics and the few monetizing resources on the blog is a time-sucking sickness. Previous blogs have taught me watching the numbers don’t change them. I’ll outgrow it. The time wasted watching numbers would be better spent reading other personal finance blogs and networking with those bloggers.


There is no such thing as normal. Normal is what works for you. My sleep patterns are all over the place. I might be up in the middle of the night reading and sleeping in the afternoon. My typical day is more a wish list than actual life for me.

As a business owner everything is work related. I live my business because it is what I want to do. I focus on family and family is a part of my business life. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have a family. Mrs. Accountant travels with me to most conferences and even local events. The junior accountants have daddy time every day. It’s important. I have two awesome daughters. They turned out well. Mrs. Accountant had to talk me into having kids because I always thought I would be a terrible daddy. Maybe I did okay. Mrs. Accountant did all the heavy lifting, however.

Now it is time to turn out the lights; morning comes fast in these parts. Tomorrow morning I will edit and then you can read.

And there is only one thing more pleasant than reading: writing.