Here is an important interview with Warren Buffett everyone needs to listen to as we face significant tax code changes from the new administration. Warren’s views are not always mine, but his fundamental understanding of taxes and how they work requires all intelligent people to listen and learn as we grade our representatives on how well they are leading.
Things have been looking up at The Wealthy Accountant. Traffic is increasing and the audience is expanding. Even better, the original demographic attracted to the site has expanded, bringing in more people to benefit from the information provided.
The newfound success also causes problems. People unfamiliar with the FI (financial independence) community are frequently shocked at the way I present information. It’s an easy thing to do. Right up there in the title is the word accountant. The blog ought to be about taxes and similar stuff found in a CPAs office. Then you open the cover and find me standing there. Don’t worry! It would scare me too.
There is a major misunderstanding on what this blog is about. Yes, the word “accountant” is in the title. There are a few reasons for that. First, it’s getting hard to find an unused url in the dot com universe anymore. Second, I don’t want you to be an accountant (unless you want to be), but I want you to THINK like an accountant. There is a difference.
Thinking like an accountant allows you to make better decisions in all areas of your life: working, investments, taxes, even relationships and raising the kiddos. Accountants think in a logical fashion. They plan. They also look before they jump.
People frequently look to their accountant for sound financial advice. Good accountants are up to the task; other, not so much. Finding a good one is easy; they tell you what you don’t want to hear even if you threaten to leave.
Advice sought from accountants runs the gamut. Selling or buying a business requires in-depth analysis and most people trust their accountant’s judgment regarding this matter.
Then the bizarre requests come. Over the years I have been pulled to the side by clients wanting advice on how to raise their children, gambling problems, infidelity, and divorce issues. Some of the requests have a hint of tax built into them. Gambling problems are also tax problems. I’m never comfortable helping anyone decide if they should end their marriage. It’s not my place or at least shouldn’t be. And even if it was I want nothing to do with that kind of conflict.
My favorite requests are about personal finance, intelligent tax reduction and retirement. These are the moments when I can shine. It is also an area of massive risk. My mantra, oft repeated, is simple, yet rarely followed. First the client is in denial (which is a river in Egypt last I checked). Quickly the client moves to tell me my advice is impossible to follow and nobody does it. (Oh, yes they do.) Finally, the client starts to bargain her way into a deeper hole. They think they can change the rules and make it easier. Don’t they know I already thought of every twist and shortcut possible? Clients usually bargain themselves into a deeper hole without even knowing it.
Tax season is over. The long days and endless weeks are finally at an end. It’s time for a nap.
In my younger days I also ran long stretches with limited sleep. Farming is intense during spring planting and autumn harvesting; college was late night studying or visiting with friends; and now taxes provide me with twelve weeks of unrelenting work each year.
Society idolizes people who run with limited amounts of sleep. It is a badge of honor to pound your mind and body mercilessly and do it with lack of sleep.
As tax season clawed toward the finish line my performance was no longer acceptable. The amount of work I completed was down and concerns over accuracy started to pop up. Nobody can perform at peak while fighting fatigue and lack of sleep. Nobody.
I call these bursts of hyper activity “marathon runs”. Tax season is my current annual marathon run. It appeals to me because I have manic depression and I learned a long time ago autumn is a bad time and springtime is power time. It was a natural fit. The disease doesn’t always cooperate, but I have learned to control it enough to use it to my benefit.
Yet, the risks of long hours without sleep are a real problem. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of transportation accidents. Even if you read the news poorly you have heard stories of airline pilots, ship captains, train conductors and barges in catastrophic disasters due to lack of sleep. Doctors frequently perform surgery in the morning for a reason. Only emergency surgery is performed later in the day.
Over the years I have retired many times. So have you.
The demographic of this blog leans heavily toward early retirement. This has always bothered me. I always feel like I have to be an apologist for all the folks enjoying their work. Life would be less bright for me and my brethren if we were forced to do what we enjoy most, less. Why is this? What is the hang-up with this retirement thing?
Zig Ziglar, God rest his soul, pointed out to me 30 years ago what retirement really means. I only met Zig once and it was enough. We talked and shook hands. In that short meeting I confessed to Zig I was going to cash it in and sit around reading all day. Now Zig is a good guy. He didn’t say nasty things to me, but for the smallest fraction of a second his face had a tell. I knew Zig was going to tell me something profound.
He told me to go home and verify what he was about to say. He said, “Look up the definition of retirement in the dictionary. It means used up, worthless, ready for replacement.” Worthless! I am not used up or worthless!
I did go home and check the dictionary and Zig was right. This whole retirement thing was a BS story. Years later, when it was cool to retire early, I came across the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) crowd. I love the concept of simple living and frugality. It was frugality that led me to the community, not the early retirement thing. Now CNBC and the Yahoo newsfeed have a story of somebody who retired at 12 while working through middle school on a regular basis. I’m still not buying it.
Tax season is officially over and not a moment too soon. As much as I love the work, when months go by without a day off it begins to wear on me. The worst part is the sitting. Too many hours planted in a chair coupled with sleep deprivation and health is not getting the attention it needs.
Loving something as much as I love tax work is also a challenge for people around me. Mrs. Accountant is an angel, allowing me the opportunity every year to disappear for months to help complete strangers and semi-strangers with their tax, accounting and financial problems. My daughters have learned from an early age dad is a very intense man when it comes to his work.
Work has never been a four letter word for me. (Considering my profession you would think I could count to four better.) Growing up on a farm meant everything was work, but not work. Running to the creek to fish was something you did. Planting in spring was fun, not really work. Harvesting was an addiction; sleep was hard to achieve until the crops were off the field. I know of no greater pleasure than watching a barn filled with bales of hay, placed there by my own hands. There is no greater thrill than to see the milk cooler fill each day to the rim. A full bulk tank meant money, and therefore, life. It was a good life and I had no idea what the real world was like outside my vision horizon.
Sometimes accounting can be a downright boring subject. It is the job of your favorite accountant to spice it up a bit with stories and jokes so the message resonates and therefore gets through. No matter how brilliant my idea to increase wealth or lower taxes, it is worth nothing if I can’t keep you reading to the end.
Many people find blogs like this by accident. The people hunting for blogs like this already are open to the concepts. Not so the wayward traveler finding her way here from search engines. I write for the choir, but always consider the wayward, too.
I use stories to convey the message. Money is fun to read about and have. To keep readers engaged I impose secret formulas to keep them coming back. It’s almost like a sickness the reader can’t quite put her finger on. How come I am so draw to this blog about (egads!) accounting, saving money, investing and retirement? the wayward soul asks.
Let me be clear. The message is simple: Save half your gross income and invest in a broad based index fund. All done. Now you have another 23 hours and 58 minutes to fill today. Money stuff is done.
Easy as it is, I still need to make a living writing this blog. I enjoy the writing process and telling stories. Changing people’s lives for the better is a bonus.
Tax season is racing toward the finish line. There are 5 days left, including today. I’ll work every day, even Easter Sunday to get as many returns out before the due date.
The stack of tax returns on my desk is taller than I hoped by this time. Incomplete files are put to the side until all documents are in. All too often clients piecemeal information. This forces me to put these accounts at the bottom of the stack so I can focus on files with all their documents. Every time I open a file I review all the prior work done to ensure nothing is missed. Dribbling in data wastes a lot of time.
The good news is that every return with complete data in the office by April 1st will be done by the due date. In fact, most returns in the office by April 10th will be done on time. There will be the rare exception due to required research.
The days are long and I am beyond exhausted. There is a place past the “second wind” where motivation is based on sheer willpower. That is where I am now. I live for this last week like an addict anticipating her fix. Each year as the New Year approaches the taste coats my mouth. I lick my lips in anticipation. The game is on.
The number of tax returns prepared some days sometimes boggles the mind. There have been a few days where the number claws close to 20. Complex returns slow the pace down to a crawl with some days only moving one, two or three returns from the stack. I hate those days. I want to serve as many clients as possible.
Preparing so many returns takes a team effort. Many returns have the bulk of the data already entered for me. I review most returns before they leave my office. You would not believe the shine a man with 30 plus years experience can put on a tax return.
I am too tired and exhausted to write a high quality blog post today. The well is empty. Monday another post is due and I am not sure what will be left to write. My mind is too focused on real tax returns to waste any speck of energy on a random idea in a blog post. Tuesday the race is over. I will take a day to relax and work around the farm. I’ll get a better post out later on Wednesday as I will have time to think and reflect.
After tax season I have a podcast to prepare for. Around May 1st I meet Jim Collins as he visits the fine State of Wisconsin. In late May I am in Seattle speaking at Camp Mustache 4. I might have two sessions I speak at: one on anti-Mustachiamism (I didn’t know so many people would be interested in that) and a second as a comedy skit. We’ll see how my preparations go before the final commitment is made. Standup comedy is a lot more work than you can imagine.
Rather than keep rambling, I encourage you to read a few posts appropriate for this time of year for those of you going through withdrawal symptoms. (Gawd, that Wealthy Accountant guy can sure spin a fine tale.) (Note: I am not conceited. Just tired as hell and getting a bit punchy.)
Knowing When Not to do it Yourself is a good start. Here is a post on filing an extension to pay and/or file your taxes. A word of warning: When tax season reached its conclusion last year and I wrote, egads, about tax stuff, I received a very nasty letter telling me how much I suck and that used to be such a great writer but now suck completely. I think the guy left a comment too. Go check it out.
For five days sleep will come in fits. The taste coats my dry mouth. The release when it is over is like nothing else you can experience.
Don’t cry for me, however. I am doing exactly what I love doing. This is what I want; this is what makes me feel alive. The numbers. The game. Some people desire retirement so they can travel, fish or golf. Except for that year I spent as a janitor, ah, custodian, I have never worked a day in my life. It isn’t work when you have this much fun.
Tired is a good feeling. Then the anticipation builds slowly all year until the holidays arrive. Then the sickness sets in hard again. The addict is ready for his next fix.