Keith 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 concern an aneurism 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 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.
In 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. Fuck’em! 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.
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 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
There 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.
Have 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.
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.