Archive for June 2018

Perceptions of the Wealthy: Learning to Think Like the Rich

Our view of the world is colored by our perceptions; our perceptions are colored by experience; our experience is adulterated by media influence. The secret to financial wealth is between the ears. How you think has as more to do with wealth creation than hard work. It is possible to work hard and accomplish nothing useful. Only with the correct mindset is value created.

Tony Robbins is fond of saying, “The past does not equal the future.” I think he is right. The average man or woman spends too much time worrying about every failure they experienced in life. Moving from mediocre to significance requires burying the past: the good and the bad. Past success isn’t good enough to ride on and failure doesn’t define you unless you allow it to.

There are only a few seemingly minor differences between happy, well-adjusted, successful, wealthy people and the masses. Believe it or not, wealthy people do NOT consider money their most valuable asset; time is. Money can be lost and having money always requires investing it or burying it in the ground. Both options carry their own unique risks. Rich people know money is easily replaced. In a world of fiat money (issued by decree) the government just prints more when things get tight.

Time is another issue. Whereas, you can always rebuild from a failed financial venture, time wasted is never recovered. The best one can hope for is a learning experience applicable to future endeavors. The financially successful of our communities know every moment should provide value. Sleep nourishes, quiet time allows for reflection, work feeds the soul and reading feeds the mind.




The Neighbors You Keep

I worry at times the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community will implode. The group is diverse with people from all walks of life. Jealous and selfish people have plenty to gain by harming the movement. Perceptions are all important.

Think of a new friend you meet at a financial conference. You hit it off and share stories. You feel a strong affinity with your friend until you are shocked to learn she has AIDS. She never changed, your perception of her did. And that is wrong. If she was a nice person to talk with, she is still a nice person even if you learn she has a disability or disease.

Judgmentalism is a damning disease that destroys everything around it. It is so easy to judge others. The Bible even has a verse warning of such behavior, where Jesus preaches to take the beam from your own eye before the sawdust from your brother’s. (Matt 7:3-5)  Many religions warn against judging other as it leads to you being judged.

Walls are easy to build; near impossible to tear down! It is easy to stay within your own comfortable group. But if you are well on your way to financial independence, you need to share with people beginning their journey. Most people would rather continue their foolish money habits. Those who come to camps, meet ups and conferences (FinCon and the various FI camps around the world as examples) are eager to learn. Sticking tight to your click encapsulates your knowledge and experience. Only with open arms can they learn and grow. In fact, the only way for you to move another step higher is to share your experience! If you stagnate you risk tumbling back down the hill. It’s happens faster than you think. Billionaires have gone broke!

We can also judge people by where they live. Our initial impression is shattered when we discover our new friend lives on the wrong side of town. Once again, nothing changed except your perception.

Let’s hit closer to home. Your favorite accountant lives in a sleepy part of a quiet state. Yet, in this quiet neighborhood, the district attorney in the county where my office is planted went to prison on federal and state charges of bribery. A few of the convictions were overturned; most were not. Justice went astray for a long time in my community.

More recently, the district attorney in the county I live was booted out of office. His wife was accused of activities which could be construed as federal felonies! People get sick of that behavior from elected officials.

My county has a long history of poor behavior. The drama of the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer, took place seven miles from my doorstep! To make matters worse, one of the key players in the investigation, Mark Weigert, is now running for sheriff and is likely to win! You can watch the documentary where Weigert gets a 16 year old kid, Brendan Dassey, in a secluded room and grills him for hours without his parents or an attorney present. Dassey has an IQ of 73 and a verbal IQ of 69 according to the documentary. Making a Murderer is chilling to watch. How anyone can take pride in cracking a kid with a low IQ is beyond me.

If we saw this happen in a third-world nation we would be up in arms. Since it happened right here in the good ol’ US of A we stand in stunned silence. Do we hate everyone from Wisconsin or my county? I sure hope not! Every community has things it would rather not talk about. Once again, we shouldn’t judge people without knowing all the facts. (And you never have all the facts.) Judging someone on a past fact diminishes you and invites others to return the favor.

Perceptions can cost a community or individual. Poor choices a lifetime ago can extract a current cost if you allow it. Perception has a powerful hold.

Wealthy people make mistakes all the same. The only difference is that they don’t allow perceptions to derail their aspirations. Never allow someone else’s perception to alter your focus. Lesser people will always want you to quit. Winners don’t do that!




Your Most Valuable Asset

While average people are concerned with the perception people have of their work ethic, status and affluence, the wealthy are laser-focused on the most valuable asset anyone possesses: time.

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Elon Must and Jeff Bezos all have the same amount of time each day as you. What each does with that time determines the level of value created. Create massive value and financial wealth is sure to follow.

When you are more concerned with the actions, past and present, of other people, you are allowing your perceptions to be twisted. This will make you average, mediocre. Your desire for all the benefits financial independence brings will be derailed because you allowed your precious time to be wasted by unimportant dramas.

Tony Robbins is right, the past and future are only loosely connected. Past mistakes mean you tried. That’s more than you can say for most. Mistakes do not define you; how you handle them does. If you quit because you’re worried what others might think, you rob the world of your talent and experience! All the time invested learning those skills is squandered. You have wasted the most valuable asset any human being possesses. Rich people don’t do that.

If your dreams involve early retirement (retirement at any age) then you must use your time wisely. Business ventures will fail. Ideas that sounded good at the time will fall flat. Screwing up is not the problem. Never screwing up is! The only way to never screw up is to never try. If you never try, all you have is delusions of grandeur.




Carry It with Pride

I don’t walk around telling people my net worth. Money is a score card for determining value created in my practice. As much as I avoid talking purely money, people tend to come to the conclusion quickly I have a significant financial pot of goodies.

People develop a perception of me fast. The same happens to you. Then the gloss wears off. My human side is exposed, warts and all, and the weaknesses and failures are revealed. Business ventures that ended with a dead thud remove the illusion, the perception, everything I touch turns to gold. (I butchered that goose a long time ago for stew meat.)

Successful people make mistakes. Big ones! It comes with the territory. You’ll also notice the failures don’t distract the successful from the true prize.

Elon Musk is a modern example. He made a fortune with PayPal and instead of sitting on his hands he risked it all on SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, and now The Boring Company. Any one of these ventures could cost him his financial fortune.

But Musk knows money is not real wealth anymore than the scorecard in a bowling game is skill. Value must continually be created! He had to risk it all to do something of real value. His rockets are unique in their performance. Nobody has anything like it. Automotive manufacturers told us electric vehicles were not a viable option until Musk made it a reality. Now the simple-minded are playing catch up.

I don’t encourage mistakes. They happen easy enough on their own. But you should own your mistakes. Wear them with pride. They are a reminder you are human and remain motivated to create value. Scars are a badge of honor. When they lay you to rest, pray your skin isn’t smooth and soft. Pray to be covered in scars of experience. Yes, it is painful. But it is the only way to live life with meaning.

Our Deepest Fear

I’m going to close with a quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I can’t say it better.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.



Unlimited High Speed Internet You Can Take Anywhere for $10 (or Free)

The quest for reliable high-speed internet is a never-ending battle when you live in the backwoods of Wisconsin. The available options did not send their best. Normal wired internet isn’t even an option. Satellite and wireless choices helped me reach a stage of complete baldness early.

In desperate need of quality internet service I turned into a resilient cuss since I had plenty of time on my hands without the internet to distract me. Local wireless internet providers were expensive and spotty. Without other choices the local guys could thumb their nose at me. Bad idea, guys.

Time kept counting until more options materialized. The local library loaned out a wireless internet service that worked pretty good. Unfortunately, a lot of people—even in town—needed fast, reliable internet service that didn’t require a second mortgage. The library solution needed to be returned after a short week. The waiting list to re-loan the device grew long.

Research led me to a non-profit company called Calyx. Boing Boing and a few other sites had articles on Calyx, saying they offered internet service a lot like what was available at the library. They even alluded to the idea that Calyx’s fee could be deductible as a charitable contribution, a half truth (as in partially deductible).

Excited over my discovery, I published my findings. Readers started to comment that Calyx is expensive (they are) and the same exact product was available by other non-profit organizations at a fraction of the cost.

I switched gears and went with 4GCommunity instead of Calyx, saving several hundred dollars. Less than a year later 4G was out of business. Calyx had me right where they wanted: defenseless with nowhere to go. If I wanted internet service I was a captive customer of Calyx.




Painful Lesson

Reluctantly I coughed up the $500 needed for a year of internet service. There were other lower cost options similar to 4GCommunity, but the risk was high they’d face a similar fate as 4G. So Calyx has been my internet provider.

My renewal date is fast approaching and the idea of paying such a large fee gnaws at me. The library never had an issue; I checked. Calyx works fine. Similar options carried risks. What is a wayward accountant to do?

Well, the pain of parting with another $500 was the cattle prod to the backside I needed. It became clear all these companies had a root source and were reselling the service using a loophole that could be closed at any time without notice.

As I kept digging I discovered Mobile Citizen was the fairy godmother providing all the toys. It seems Congress opened bandwidth for wireless internet reserved for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Calyx was the first to figure out there was a loophole to resell the service. A herd followed fast behind.

The wireless companies didn’t like customers switching to lower cost alternatives on their own network. Every opportunity to find a breach in the agreement was used to shut down resellers of the service. It is rumored 4GCommunity suffered such a fate.




Creative Thinking

Securing long-term reliable internet service has become a religious calling for me. (This statement makes more sense in a bit.) Risking $500 on internet service that could be cancelled without notice wasn’t working for me. The nonprofit organizations reselling the service were doing so outside the spirit of the agreement they had with the wireless providers. My library didn’t have a problem because they used the service as it was intended.

The dividing line came when I dug deeper into Mobile Citizen. They sold the wireless internet service for $10 a month, in some cases free. (You are allowed to swallow hard here.) To recap: the wireless service works almost everywhere in the U.S., can travel with you, and costs a mere $10 per month!

So what’s the catch?

Well, for one, Mobile Citizen only sells to educational entities, nonprofits and social welfare agencies. Since I’m not one of these I could be forced to lie (not a good option and liable to cost me more when caught) or pull a John Oliver (something you may actually want to consider) and start my own church (religious organizations don’t count unless they also have an educational institution attached).

But there is a better way! My oldest daughter is tutoring and teaching English as a second language to people in China. I haven’t tested this method yet, but I will.  I will contact Mobile Citizen to see if she would qualify as an educational entity (probably not, but worth asking). I’ll be honest and accept whatever the decision.

But, my daughter is moving out so she will want her own internet service, leaving dad in the dust. (Thanks, kid. After all I did for you. Remember, I never killed you in your youth.)

I needed creative ideas to get this awesome internet service for ten smackaroos per month. I could ask my library if they’ll let me piggy back their account and pay for my own service rather than loaning out their device when it was available. My suspicion in the library will not want to jeopardize their account so they’ll politely decline. It’s still worth asking.

Absent a library willing to extend the offer to you, the choice is limited to other nonprofit organizations, educational entities and social welfare agencies. The definition of these three groups is rather wide so I’m hoping the slide something through.

Most of you, kind readers, know of a nonprofit that doesn’t use the Mobile Citizen service. This is a good time to bring it to their attention for the opportunity to purchase your own service from them. If you are actively involved in the organization, you can volunteer to set up the program for the organization. The process is easy.




A Plethora of Choices

Of course, there will be readers who don’t have contact with a nonprofit or other eligible organization. In this case, or if you’re just interested, you can set up your own nonprofit organization. It can be small and still count. The nonprofit ideas are endless.

There are a few problems with starting your own nonprofit organization. First it takes time to set up and time isn’t free. Second, the IRS charges a $750 application fee to be considered for exempt status. If your organization expects less than $40,000 of annual revenue the application fee drops to $350. This is a major pain in the tail!

However, Mobile Citizen provides several options to receive service through a qualified organization. They are clear they do NOT sell to individuals. However, teachers and students can open an account for the school with the school’s permission. Then the wireless service can be provided to students and teachers. A win for everyone since the service could actually be FREE!

You can search for non-profit organizations in your community. Even the smallest of communities has nonprofit organizations. Using the link to search local nonprofits, review the list of local organizations for those that interest you most. You can approach the nonprofit with the information about low-cost internet service. If the nonprofit is really small you could end up with free service! Offering to handle the setup in return for your internet service is a good idea. The smaller the nonprofit the better, as a really small organization may qualify for free internet for members and officers.

Final Option

Since I’ve dedicated this blog towards building financial literacy and donate all the proceeds to charity, I may need to consider turning The Wealthy Accountant into a non-profit organization. If I can’t find a way to renew through normal contacts I will strip this blog from my tax practice and file for exemption with the IRS. If that happens I’ll be sure to let you in on the project, kind readers, as you may wish to be charter members with the awesome perk of low-cost internet service.

Don’t get too excited though. As I explore ideas it is nearly a certainty I’ll find a nonprofit I can help open an account with Mobile Citizen and extend the service to members, including your favorite accountant.

You should do the same. You can kill two birds with one stone. By helping a local nonprofit get internet service for the organization and its members at a very low price, you also stand to gain.  A quick glance at my local list of possibilities immediately shows several prime candidates. A nonprofit only two miles from my country estate (I sound important, don’t I?) maintains snowmobile trails in the area. Bet the group would love a low-cost internet service.

The knee jerk reaction is to open your own nonprofit so you run the whole show. That’s too much work! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to succeed! Many, many micro-sized nonprofits are already setup to receive the Mobile Citizen internet service. You can benefit your community while doing yourself a personal finance solid. Remember Occam ’s razor: the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

 



Hacking Itemized Deductions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted late last year opened a variety of opportunities for average people to reduce their tax burden. The biggest advantage of the tax cuts for individuals is the reduced tax rates and extension of income in the lower brackets. Itemized deductions also pay a serious role in how the changes in the code will affect your final results next spring.

Gaming the standard deduction was less of an issue in the past. Now, with the standard deduction at $24,000 for joint returns ($12,000 for single filers and $18,000 for head of household) there is ample opportunity to reduce your tax bill. Exemptions are gone so many will face higher taxes in this area. State and local taxes (SALT) are limited to $10,000 in 2018 – 2025. With the standard deduction so high and SALT limited to such a low level, most people will no longer need to itemize.

For every problem there is a solution. Today we will cover each deduction on Schedule A and look for alternatives. Pulling deductions from Schedule A (even if you don’t itemize) and deducting them elsewhere on the return is akin to legally double dipping. That is our mission. We want to have our cake and eat it too. If we play this right you should manage a big juicy standard deduction while deducting a large portion of each expense as well.




Medical and Dental Expenses

Medical expenses were always a high hurdle to overcome with the 7 ½% (10% in some cases in the past) of AGI reduction of qualified medical expenses. There are several ways to remove numbers from this section and deduct them elsewhere.

If you have a qualified medical plan you can contribute to a health savings account (HSA).

Your employer may offer a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). The employer sets the amount available to employees. Unused portions can be rolled into the following year if the employer allows. If unused funds are not allowed to roll to the next year it becomes a “use it or lose it” plan.

Certain restrictions exist for self-employed persons. People with a side gig/side hustle or small business can use a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA). QSEHRAs require administration. The cost is minimal, but the rules complex enough that you will want professional help. My office recommends Take Command Health for administration. The tax savings are well worth it.

Employers may cover annual physicals and other medical expenses as an employment requirement. The cost is born by the employer and the employer also gets the deduction.

Investment property owners and those with self-employment income can also shift some medical expenses from Schedule A. Small business owners can deduct most medical insurance premiums on the front page of Form 1040 as an adjustment to income. A landlord who is hurt while working on an investment property will have a medical expenses related to the investment property and are therefore deductible against the rental income. A self-employed semi driver can shift medical expenses required to drive a commercial vehicle from Schedule A to the business part of the tax return.




State and Local Taxes (SALT)

This is the issue that started all the problems. There is a cap on SALT deductions of $10,000 from 2018 – 2025 unless Congress changes the code. Several high tax states have devised plans to work around the issue, shifting the expense to the charitable contributions line of Schedule A. The IRS nixed the idea and at least two states have sued. Because the IRS allowed similar schemes in the past when it involves college funding the court will have a serious consideration on its hands. When the issue clears up I’ll let you know.

The problem affects all states. The higher your income, the more likely this becomes an issue. Texas, a state with a reputation for low taxes is really a high tax state. The sales tax and property taxes more than offset the income tax free part of the Texas tax code.

We don’t have to wait for the courts to decide the outcome before we skin this cat. (My apologies to all the cat lovers of the world. For the record, my cat, Pinky, just clawed me in protest as I wrote this.) Property taxes can be partially shifted to an office in the home if you have a business or investment properties. The office in the home must be “regular and exclusive” and it is worth the effort to meet the tax code requirements.

Be sure to report personal property taxes related to a business or investment property on the appropriate form and not on Schedule A where it has limited value.

Interest You Paid

There is more incentive than ever to pay off the mortgage early. You can shift some of the mortgage interest to an office in the home as proffered above.

Investment interest has significantly reduced value under the new tax rules. Margin accounts should be avoided. They’re a bad idea to start with (buying investments with borrowed funds) and the deductibility of the expense is now also limited.




Gifts to Charity

There is some minor good news on charitable deductions. Cash donations were limited to 50% of AGI in the past with the remainder carried forward for up to five years. The deduction limit for cash is now increased to 60% of AGI.

Still, the goal is to reduce Schedule A to a nonevent on your tax return. If we reduce deductions to less than the new higher standard deduction we can, in effect, double dip.

I’ve published on this strategy in the past. The strategy is more powerful than ever under the new rules. Taxpayers with business income or investment properties can shift normal contributions to charity into promotional/advertizing expenses for the business.

It works like this. Instead of donating to the charity of your choice, ask the charity about any upcoming events and sponsor said events. Your business or rental properties get a nice plug in the brochures handed out at the event and probably a prominent display of your company logo and contact information. While this may not be the best way to grow a business, it is a powerful way to build community goodwill for your company! It’s also a business deduction. You can support your favorite charities and get a deduction, too.

Landlords need caution when applying this strategy. Deducting a $20,000 sponsorship when you only have one small duplex in the low rent side of town is unlikely to pass the sniff test! On the other hand, if you have five duplexes around town and you sponsor an event for $1,000, it probably falls within acceptable parameters. Landlords should have a business name: ABC Rental, LLC, for example. By having all your properties under one umbrella it allows the sponsorship to promote all your properties.

Casualty and Theft Losses

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated casualty and theft loss deductions except for casualty losses in federally declared disaster areas. Even if you are in a federally declared disaster area, the first $100, plus 10% of AGI, doesn’t count. Example: If your AGI is $100,000, the first $10,100 of casualty losses in federally declared disaster areas doesn’t count.

There are few options if you suffer one of these losses. Business owners can deduct the loss as a business expense.

The loss/theft might qualify as a capital loss. This is a stretch for most situations, but you should be aware of the possibility in case it happens. Capital losses are reported on Schedule D where there are no restrictions like Schedule A. Schedule D losses are limited to $3,000 per year, plus all capital gains.

Casualty and theft losses are reduced by insurance coverage. If all or most of the loss is covered by insurance there is little or no opportunity to deduct expenses. More than ever, adequate insurance of assets is indicated.




Miscellaneous Expenses, Subject to 2%

Miscellaneous expenses, subject to 2% of AGI are eliminated for 2018 – 2025 under the current code. There are still a few planning opportunities for those who plan.

Unreimbursed employee expenses is the biggest issue in this section. It is important to have a serious discussion with your employer on your out-of-pocket work expenses. Your employer gets a full deduction on most of these expenses while you get nothing if they are not reimbursed! It might be worth a salary adjustment to make room for reimbursed expenses. Example: If you typically have $5,000 per year of work expenses, any salary reduction less than $5,000 with full reimbursement of work related expenses is a win for you and a nice tax deduction for the employer. Employers: this can be a valuable employee perk that pays both you and the employee. A true win/win.

Tax preparation fees are only deductible as they apply to the business or rental property portion of the return. A lot of accountants miss this. If your tax preparation fee is $500, a portion is for the personal part of your return (no longer deductible) and a portion is for the business (Schedule C and other related business forms) and rental property part of the return (Schedule E). Ask your accountant to break out the prep fee (required by the IRS to deduct). Your accountant can list $250, for example, as the portion of the prep fee attributed to the business portion of your personal tax return. This $250 can be deducted on the appropriate forms (Schedule C for small business, Schedule F for farms and Schedule E for income properties).

A safe deposit box used for business or income properties is deducted on their respective area of the return instead of Schedule A.

This section of Schedule A catches a lot of minor deductions. Think the deduction through before writing it off (pun intended). On Schedule A it is now worthless. But, if it is an expense related to a business or rental property . . .

Union dues are the remaining big item. I wish I had an answer. If any of you kind readers have a suggestion, let me know. Union dues are no longer deductible until the tax code changes or I figure out a work around. Don’t hold your breath.




Other Miscellaneous Deductions

This is the last section of deductions on Schedule A. These deductions are not reduced by 2% of AGI.

We will focus on the two most common items reported in this section: gambling losses and claim repayments.

Gambling losses are reportable on Schedule A up to gambling winnings. The best way to avoid tax problems is to stop gambling! The odds are against you. As budding accountants you know better. There, I said it. Now on with the show.

If you insist on gambling, at least keep a daily log of your results/sessions. You can use gambling sessions to remove losses attributable to gains in the same session on the front page of Form 1040. Most states follow federal on gambling sessions so the tax advantage stretches to the state return for most taxpayers.

Gambling sessions don’t remove all the losses from Schedule A, but it should shift a serious portion of the losses from Schedule A to the front page of 1040 where they have value. You can read more about gambling sessions here.

The other big item in this section of Schedule A is claim repayments. We are not talking about business or investment property repayment issues. Those are reported on their respective forms.

A common repayment is unemployment benefits. The claim repayments reported on this section of Schedule A are taxable items of income on a previous tax return. Repayments of items not reported as income on a prior return are not deductible.

We’ll use unemployment benefits as our example. Repayments made in the year the income was received is adjusted where the income is reported. Example: You receive $2,800 of unemployment benefits and are later required to repay $200 of the benefits. You repaid in the same year you received benefits. You adjust the reported $2,800 to $2,600. No itemizing required.

All claim repayments reported as income in a prior year under $3,000 must be reported on Schedule A. Repayments over $3,000 can also be reported on Schedule A, but you want to use an alternative method. There is a planning opportunity here.

For repayments over $3,000 you can calculate a credit for the repayment, reporting the credit on page 2 of Form 1040 (line 73 on the 2017 return). In the margin write 1341, to inform the IRS of the code section you are using for your right of claim.

You calculate the credit by going back to the return the income was reported on. Calculate the prior return without the income repaid in the current year. The reduction in tax is the credit.

Final Notes

I covered what I feel will be over 90% of the issues surrounding Schedule A and the available solutions for moving the deduction to another area of the return. This, in effect, allows a bit of double dipping. You still get the new, outsized standard deduction while still claiming a serious portion of the actual expenses.

Unfortunately, not everyone will benefit from these strategies. However, with the volume of options provided there should be at a least a few options available to most readers.

If you have any creative ideas to divert deductions from Schedule A to areas of the tax return where they have value I’d be happy to hear them.

Remember, an expense is worthless until you get a write-off.



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

The FIRE Community Needs to Make Room for Semi-Retirement

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

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

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




Spending Decision

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

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

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

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

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




Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Back to the FIRE Community and the Nouveau Riche

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

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

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

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

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

Hear the Wisdom

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

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

Here is an old and often told story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

CAMP ACCOUNTANT HAS ARRIVED!!!

Note: Camp Accountant is postponed for now. The original planned weekend is two weeks after FinCon and the same weekend as the tax extension due date. A large number of accountants wanted to attend, but couldn’t due to the due date. There were also several complaints the event wasn’t in Wisconsin. Colorado is an awesome place, but a lot of bloggers promote Colorado; it was felt I should promote Wisconsin. We can satisfy all these issues by having Camp Accountant in West Bend, Wisconsin at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa the week following the Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp, a program I’ve been involved with in the past. Sorry for the inconvenience.

 

The Event you have been waiting for your entire life had finally arrived! Camp Accountant is Here!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tingly all over. Camp Accountant is different from any camp you’ve attended in the FI community. All proceeds go to support the local Boys and Girls Club. In fact, all the registration money is collected by the Club. They pay for the cost of running the camp and put the rest to work serving the community. Everybody wins! Many of the venues are provided at low or no cost so more money ends up helping the Boys and Girls Club.

The first ever Camp Accountant is limited by the size of the venue so register early (details and links at the end of the post for registration and accommodations). First I need to share details. Read to the end for a special surprise!

Karen (she can share her full name if she wants) put this thing together. That means she did all the work. Please acknowledge her efforts. These things take time and cause stress so I am tremendously grateful for Karen’s efforts.

Karen and I have communicated during the planning process. She put together an information sheet so I’m going to cut and paste her words because she said it first and better:

 

Location – Salida Colorado — main location 419 D Street

 

Cost – $400 per person.

Participants – 30 people.

 

What this is all about –

 

Have a great time meeting like-minded folks, bike and hike around the Rocky Mountains in Colorado; learn cool stuff about accounting and how it supports our road to Financial Independence.

 

Keith from the Wealthy Accountant is hosting this event.

 

Lodging is not included in the event – it takes place in downtown Salida, Colorado.  Lots of camping and lodging nearby, all info provided upon registration. All lunches and most dinners are included in the cost of the ticket.

 

The camp will be a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County. This amazing program supports youth in a rural county in Colorado.

 

A bonus of supporting the Club is that Colorado residents attending the camp will receive a donation letter for $200 that will equal a $100 credit on their Colorado state taxes.

 

Boys and Girls Club

 

Salida, Colorado is a very economically diverse community. As a small town of 5,000 people, there is no other after school programs for working parents that are affordable, and no other enrichment programs for families of limited means.

 

This program supports our local youth in many ways. Kids are with staff for homework help. They join structured programs to follow interests as diverse as sewing to robotics, and have a chance to be physically active instead of home alone in front of a screen.

 

The Club needs its own building to guarantee its future, instead of renting space and moving every few years. The opportunity to get word out about supporting the Club through the Wealthy Accountant blog could help us get a building so that the youth served by this program will have a permanent home.

 

Link to the Club website – http://www.bgcchaffee.org/

If you want to donate – http://www.bgcchaffee.org/Donate (click green button to donate online)





This is what the FI community is all about. We share ideas to improve our own lives and pay it forward so the upcoming generation can enjoy the same.

Here are answers Karen provided to important questions:

 

FAQ’s

 

Can I come just for the day?

 

The space will only hold so many comfortably, so we will only have tickets for the whole event.

 

Where should I stay?

 

There is camping, Airbnb lodging, and a couple of B&B’s all near the site. Details of lodging and transportation will be sent upon registration. Most locations for lodging downtown are within walking distance of under a mile.

 

Is registration refundable?

 

No, but we will try to find a way to transfer tickets to people on a waitlist.

 

Who is hosting this event?

 

Keith from the Wealthy Account Blog is hosting the event.

Snap Pea (Karen), a longtime reader of the blogs and OG of the FIRE world, is helping coordinate all the logistics, and is crazy excited for the fundraiser for her local charity.

 

For profit event?

 

No. Information on the club is linked above.

 

Could I or Should I bring my rugrats?

 

While there is a lot to do in the area, the setup isn’t good for kids running around if the weather is bad. They would have more fun with a non-attending person around. If you do want to have kids and/or partners join for meals, please email for availability and rates to cover food costs.





If you have any additional question use the contact button on this blog. I’ll do my best to calm Karen down, ah, work with Karen to get you an answer.

Here is the planned itinerary.

 

Tentative Event Schedule

 

Thursday, October 11

 

5 PM

 

Intro: evening at the Salida Hostel.  Beer, wine and appetizers (enough for dinner) provided.

 

Friday October 12

 

9 AM: meet at 419 D Street for a bicycle ride or hike around the Salida area. There are mountain bike trails, road bike routes along low traffic county roads, and hiking trails all nearby.

This activity is dependent on weather – coffee and conversation at the site is the alternate plan.

 

Noon: Lunch at HQ

 

Intro talk by Keith, Q and A’s, etc. (I promise not to upset stomachs.)

 

4 or 5 PM: beer at the site or nearby park, happy hour, dinner on own downtown Salida.

 

Saturday, October 13

 

8:30 AM: Yoga with a volunteer leader – for those so inclined.

 

9:30 am: Event – talks, Q and A, discussion topics, power presentations, breakout discussions

 

Noon: lunch at site

 

1 PM: Event – talks, Q and A, discussion topics, power presentations, breakout discussions

 

5 PM: happy hour and BBQ. Volunteers from Chaffee Boys and Girls Club will be helping with the BBQ.

 

Sunday, October 14

 

10 AM: coffee and conversation, possible 5 min power talks, hanging out.

 

Noon: sandwiches and leftovers for lunch, organized event ends.

 

1 PM: Mountain bike rides and trip to local Hot Springs for those inclined. Car-pool organized by participants.

 

Afterparty –

 

The after-party will continue in Salida, Colorado –

 

Stay longer and come check out our volunteer coordinator’s business – www.salidainnandhostel.com The Inn is set up as a friendly and social place to continue the fun after the Camp.

Salida is near several hot springs, hiking and biking trails and just a cool little town.





I’m happy to do all the talking, but for this to work best we need participation from others. Taxes are always a hot topic, especially with the new tax law in effect. I’ll answer questions personally as well.

We also need volunteers to give short presentations. Topics should be of interest to the FI community. Those active in real estate should consider a short presentation on the real estate market, RE values around the country and rent rates. Frugal living and early retirement are always of interest. And don’t be afraid to step forward and share some travel tips. Just because a certain unnamed accountant prefers to avoid travel doesn’t mean other wealthy accountants feel the same way. (For the record your leader is a slightly nuts!)

Here is additional important information before I provide the registration links:

 

Lodging–

 

We recommend staying in the downtown area. Salida Inn and Hostel www.thesalidahostel.com the Palace Hotel https://www.salidapalacehotel.com/ and the Simple Lodge https://www.simplelodge.com/  are all within walking distance.  We also recommend Airbnb as many locations are within walking distance.

 

Camping/RVs – There is a lot of free camping just outside city limits on public land. There is also a nice private campground just on the outside of town, as well as a public pay campground called Salida East.

 

Transportation to Event

 

There is one bus a day to Salida — it leaves in the afternoon from downtown Denver, to get there from the airport you take light rail. It works best if your flight arrives quite a while before the bus leaves.

http://expressarrow.com/

 

Renting a car is highly recommended unless your flights really work out for the bus.

 

The Colorado Springs and Gunnison airports are much closer — you would need to rent a car from them.

 

I come from a small town so I’m excited about our venue. The boondocks are my home and anytime my tail is planted in the outback I’m a happy camper.

This is going to be such an incredible event. Registration is on Eventbright.

 

Register Here!

 

Now for the surprise! I’m donating all my time and all my travel and lodging expenses are coming out of my pocket so the Club gets more of the proceeds. Airfare between the Accountant farmstead and Denver is really, really cheap; like $100 or $150 per person. Buuuut, Mrs. Accountant and I are driving so we can spend more time checking out the sights along the way. And since I’m driving there is a strong possibility a case (or ten) of the world famous Spotted Cow beer only available in Wisconsin will be smuggled in the truck of a wayward accountant willing to share.

I’d say the first beer is on me, but we all know it’ll be more than one.

See you at Camp, kind readers. There will be loads of powerful information for you and a future for the kids. And that is what life is all about.



Our Heroes Have Failed Us

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were ripped from our lives in the past week in what early reports suggests are suicides. Robin Williams is another star extinguished before his time.

Kevin Spacey betrayed our trust along with a litany of actors and producers and comedians. It seems like an endless parade of successful men ran to the cliff like lemmings bent on self destruction.

Liz Taylor entertained us for decades. As a role model she left us with issues. Marriages came and went until she reached eight husbands over her lifetime. We see the same behavior today without the distraction of marriage in our modern starlets. Adored musicians race from one bed to the next until the world crashes in.

Closer to home we see bloggers and podcasters who failed us. Some crack under pressure while others lose themselves in drugs and cheap whisky. We idolize these people and want to be like them. Then, when we get a closer look, they have warts like the rest of us.

Friends and even parents can let us down. The perfect marriage collapses and nobody can figure out why. We watch as people we admire undertake destructive behavior. At some level it is entertaining. Deep down we know it ends badly.

We want our heroes to live forever. We want their example to help us live a better life. We want them to entertain us the way we remembered them at the height of their career.

Then something horrible goes wrong as we discover the emperor has no clothes.




Out of Left Field

Professionals who work with a lot of people for long periods of time start noticing patterns. In all the years I’ve been in practice only two clients ever surprised me with their divorce. In both cases I liked my client too much to see the forest from the trees. All the telltale signs were there to see if only I opened my eyes. A third case is impending. I didn’t see it coming, but it isn’t good.

My track record is pretty good. I can tell you within a few minutes of seeing a new client if their marriage or business will last and about how long it’ll last or how much wealth they’ll amass. Then I swing and catch air once every decade or so.

I’m not alone in this unique talent. Clients who are therapists tell me they tell the same thing, which begs the question: If I can see so clearly who will and will not succeed, why don’t I tell them so they can avoid the pain?

If only it were so easy! When it comes to financial matters I do speak up. I am brutally honest with clients contemplating an investment or planning a business venture. It’s rare, but I’ve helped clients I noticed were teetering on the emotional edge by recommending appropriate help. That is easy compared to telling a client their marriage doesn’t stand a chance in hell.

Two divorces surprised me. Not every client I had concerns over actually divorced (yet)! Investments are easy to advise on compared to interpersonal relationships. It’s not my place to warn clients they might not have a strong relationship.




Never Ending Failures

How can super successful people like Anthony Bourdain feel so low they feel the need to end their life? How can a loved rock star sink into drugs and other illicit behavior sure to destroy their career and health?

We can explain away the tragedy by blaming depression or other mental illness.  While I give credence to the explanation, I think a lot more is going on under the hood. Mental illness isn’t a good explanation for why a football mega star is caught beating his girlfriend in a public elevator. Mental illness doesn’t explain why seemingly good people turn dark when they become celebrities.

There s another explanation I want to explore.

Why Good People Do Bad Things

I notice something many people fail to realize: our heroes are normal people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The international rock star, sports phenom, bestselling author, Hollywood celebrities and even bloggers are real people who were once something else.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t always there helping us connect with food. Before he became a household name he was something else. Before fame he was a student and before that a child and before that an infant curious about the world around him. Something happened between then and here to cause him to take his own life. What could possibly have gone wrong?

First, it is unlikely a single defining moment which turns people down the wrong path. It can be a single event (divorce, illness, death of a loved one), but usually it is an accumulation of events that leads to their demise. It happens slowly so people adjust and accept the new behavior. Only after the defining moment is it clear—as hindsight so often is—do we recognize the problem.

But the real problem is that these are normal people! The demands on them once they gain fame must be crushing. Hell, your favorite accountant bends under pressure that wouldn’t even register on the scale real celebrities use just running a small business.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how small these people are in real life. Have you ever discovered an author, actor, musician or blogger you really connect with? Of course! Everyone has. We build up an impression of who and what these people are. Then we meet them in real life and they seem so small, so . . .  like everyone else, sans the press of people wanting their attention. Our heroes are frequently underwhelming when seen in real life. They are the furthest thing from a superhero. They just belt out blog posts or books, or act in movies or sing really good. Otherwise they are just like you and me.




Can We Help the People We Admire Survive?

Perception is what drives people to act the way they do. After the Plutus Award ceremony last year where this blog won the Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year a few of us talked before heading to the party. Congratulations went around as we drank in the moment.

As we prepared to attend the after ceremony party a few in our group felt good about so many people seeing our work. I plagiarized an author I met in Albany two decades ago at a sci-fi convention when I said, “If you walk outside this hotel and ask random people if they know what a Plutus Award is nobody will know what you are talking about.”

That’s the truth of the matter. People inside the demographic might know what a Plutus Award is, but virtually nobody outside the demographic will have a clue. It brings it all back into perspective.

Later this week there is a ChooseFI meetup in Appleton. I was invited to attend. (I’ll be there.) The host mentioned they needed a celebrity to draw more people. I asked who the celebrity they were thinking of inviting. Then it hit me. They meant me! I was flattered as all get-out. But I don’t feel like a celebrity. And in the real world I’m not. But if you love my work and read it regularly you might have a perception I’m some bigger than life individual. I’m not.

Real celebrities are constantly on the go. Travel is hell even when you are on vacation. To be on the road the way Bourdain was had to have been painful (and lonely).

The worst part of popularity is the demands on time. People think they know you because they see your work. No harm is meant when they seek interaction. When the flow is manageable I love the recognition. When the water runs too fast I start drowning.

I never met an author who didn’t enjoy shaking hands and autographing her books. I never met a blogger who didn’t love talking shop and sharing ideas. Really, really famous people are different. Twenty people at a meetup or conference is a manageable group to communicate with. The press of thousands is destabilizing.

We can help our heroes. They are normal people who happened to strike a chord with a vast audience. They went viral so to speak. Books, songs, movies and blog posts all enjoy going viral. The more the better. But time is limited so a viral song or movie can push us to the extreme when it happens.

There are no excuses for what Kevin Spacey did. We can’t condone violence from our heroes. But we have to ask ourselves why so many of our heroes, people who have it all, fail so often. Personally, I think they crack under pressure. I for one would never withstand such an assault! In varying degrees none of our heroes do either. Fame always extracts a cost.

There is nothing wrong with admiring our heroes and role models. We must always be respectful of their time and wishes as it relates to their personal time. We can’t fix our heroes; they have to do that on their own. Support is always welcome, however, when it is unattached to a time demand.

Fame isn’t glorious. Even on a micro scale—the way a local businessperson sees the world—it is demanding. A modestly successful blogger gets several requests per day. People want a piece of you long before you do anything really big.

Many goals require acknowledgement to succeed. As a blogger I want traffic to justify my writing efforts. Traffic means more people will be interested in who this character is writing the blog. It’s natural to want to meet people who have shaped our lives.

Our heroes are normal people known by many. When you see a master at work it is clear they have given their life for their craft. Anthony Bourdain literally did.

Mrs. Accountant and my girls are sacred. I would give a lot for success in my business and this blog. If the price includes any harm to my girls I’d walk in a heartbeat.

But it happens so slowly, building over time, you probably never see it coming. Heroes need more than our admiration; they need our support. When we see one of our heroes, role models, begin to waver we need to take action. Most of us had no ability to help Bourdain. But there are people around you who may need your help: role models, heroes, parents, friends, our children. It is your responsibility to be the hero, the role model, when they do.



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

How Much You Need to Retire is a Lot Less Than You Think

You need a lot less to retire than you think. Early retirement dreams come real faster when you know the facts. The 4% rule isn't good enough. #earlyretirement #FIRE #financialplanning #personalfinanceA common question in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community involves how much money you need to retire. Before I became a card-carrying member of the community I would hear the question something short of a dozen times per year. This blog means I hear the question a lot more these days. And people still don’t believe my answer.

There is a great misperception over how much money is needed to cash a check and walk your own path. I’ve consulted with 70 year old men worried they don’t have enough to retire. In the FIRE community younger people are more interested in the same question with a different set of rules.

Social Security changes all the rules. The 4% rule is wildly off the mark because they forget two simple facts; facts we will cover right now.



How Much is Enough

I will use one example to outline how much you need to retire. It is easy to adjust to fit your personal circumstances.

This exercise began when I started to wonder how much Social Security I’ll receive monthly at 70. We will not use my actual numbers. Instead, we’ll use a hypothetical married man my age. (I don’t use my actual numbers since they are atypical.)

Later this month I’ll tip the age scale at 54. Yeah, I know. Never thought I’d live that long either. It also brings up a few interesting facts. First, I qualify for early retirement (qualify for early discounted Social Security) in eight years. (Where the heck did the time go?) Full retirement for Social Security is 13 years away and I can get a bump in my benefits every year I wait until 70, or 16 years. Regardless, Medicare is for the taking at 65, or 11 years for your favorite accountant.

My daughter, Heather (age 23), and her friend, Katie (age 27), at the centerpoint of Beijing, China. They’re getting paid to travel.

So how much do you think I need to call it a career? A million? More?

It all depends on my spending habits really. Depending on the circumstances, most years I spend about $20,000. Some years I spend as much as $30,000 in the event the car dies (every twenty or so years) or some other personal adventure arises. Summertime is low spending season. An average summer month sets me back $600 – $800. Rare is the non-winter month that sees a four-figure reversal on my spending fortunes. Winter is another matter. December is property tax month. January (February, too) is cold in backwoods Wisconsin. The utility bill gnaws at me the entire time.  By the time the frost clears I’ve lost $20,000 of weight from my money belt.

The 4% rule (bantied about in the FIRE community a lot) says you need a cool $625,000 to be safe with a $25,000 annual withdrawal rate. This is just plain stupid! You don’t need $625,000 to retire with a $25,000 annual budget!

Here are the two mistakes most people make. First, it assumes you’ll never earn another penny after you retire. Oh, for God’s sake people! You will earn money after you retire, if only by accident. Heck, you can sell tradelines if you’re allergic to work and need a thousand or so each month to supplement your wants.



Time for Math Class, Accountants

Let me ask you this. If you have $625,000 at age 54 and withdraw 4% ($25,000) annually, how much do you have at age 70? Answer: More than Zero! The 4% rule is considered a safe withdrawal rate to never run out of money in retirement.

But this assumes you want to leave a legacy at least as big as your net worth pile right now! If 4% is a safe withdrawal rate then in all but the rarest of circumstances the account balance will continue growing!

The second mistake people make when deciding how much they need to retire is using the 4% rule rather than amortizing the liquid net worth balance over the maximum years needed before another form of income kicks in.

There are plenty of amortization calculators around the web. I’m using the program inside my tax software. I asked my amortization program a simple question. How much will I need today to withdraw $25,000 annually for 16 years (remember I’m 54 and want to wait until 70 before drawing Social Security) at a 4% return? Since many people consider the 4% rule safe (as do I) it is acceptable to amortize the liquid net worth balance at a 4% investment return rate.

My tax software says I need $291,307 (I rounded) to make this work. I’ll have exhausted my liquid cash at the same time Social Security kicks in. (Assumptions: withdrawals for the year are in one payment in advance with the money market holding the funds prior to use earning 0% with the first payment drawn the first day to account for an immediate retirement and the next full year withdrawal of the first day of each fiscal year.)

This is a far cry from $625,000! The amortization solution doesn’t take into account several factors. You are likely to earn at least a small amount of income in the next 16 years, but inflation is not factored in so  buying power slowly erodes. It also assumes the stock market (I assume we’re using broad-based index funds) only performs at half its historical average. That is a serious assumption! Odds are the market will do better and you will still not use up your nest egg by the time Social Security kicks in. If fact, it’ll probably be bigger than when you started.



The Crazy FIRE People

The crazy FIRE community needs even less than my calculations indicate. When a 35 year old walks into my office and wants to know how much more he needs to retire when he has $200,000 stashed away already with no debt I tell her she can retire today. After they break the dead stare they think I’m joking. I’m not!

Once again we are assuming the $200,000 will only throw off $8,000 per year under the 4% rule. Not so. Once you give up on the rat race you can join a race you really enjoy! If you’re 35 you need something to fill your time. First, you are likely to move to a lower cost area if you don’t already live in one. (My low living expenses are partly a product of geography. New Your City or most of the West Coast would force me to talk out of the other side of my mouth.)

You can live the good life with spending a fortune. This museum piece in Beijing, China requires a King’s Ransom, but you can enjoy the jewels for less than a $10 admission fee.

Second, you’re 35 years old!!! There is only so much travel or golf a guy can handle. It gets old fast, becoming the new rat race you want out of.  Then reality sets in and your interests bubble to the top. A side hustle you always wanted to try is now a viable option. It doesn’t have to pay tremendous amounts of money. Your cost of living will decline unless you engage stupid spending habits. If you have said habit it is unlikely you’ve read this far. (For the rest of you, this way.)

Using the assumptions above, the $200,000 amortized over 32 years will throw off a bit more than $11,000. Still not enough to retire.

But if you spot a 35 year old $11,000 per year and she only needs $25,000 per year to live you have a helluva start!

If you can swing $1,200 per month with a side hustle you can retire at 35! Yes, Social Security might be pretty small, but your side hustle will add to your account when calculating benefits. At full retirement a husband/wife team should realize around $2,000 a month even with the low earnings assumed here! Retiring at 35 with $200k is doable if you have any interest at all in any activity with potential to throw off an income stream.



Crybabies this Way

The information above has the tendency to bring out the crybabies. “I can’t do that! Waaaa!” “It’s impossible! Waaaa!”  “I want my mommy! Waaaa!”

Your mommy isn’t here so pull up your shorts and listen. $200,000 is a bit light to retire on at 35, but not bad for someone a certain accountant’s age. Amortized over a shorter period means you will have enough until pensions and Social Security kick in.

You can travel the world or stay closer to home. Beauty is everywhere. This piece is showing at a Beijing, China jewelry expo.

At 35 you will be required to still earn some coin. Notice I didn’t say work. Please don’t break out in a rash.

A seasonal or part-time job can provide enough money to enjoy a very joyful and full life. The first ingredient is cutting out all the stupid spending! The more you spend annually, the more you will need at the start to make it to the finish line!

If you live in a high-cost area it many require a move. If you stay put you need to adjust my numbers. Younger people need to calculate on their age, not mine! If you have a higher lifestyle than mine you’ll need more to start unless you plan on spending more time on your side hustle.

Until your health gives out or you die, you will bring in more income than you realize. Just doing the stuff you enjoy doing has a tendency to become an income source. Even small income sources do wonders to your investment account. Using your favorite accountant as an example, the lower spending habits of summer means money is left to earn more before it is spent. Every nickel earned on the side is one nickel less needed to appreciate the awesome retired life you’re living.

You probably worry as much as my clients about how much you need to retire. Financial advisors always scare you with big numbers. It’s good for them when they get more of your money. The truth is you don’t need as much as you think to have a comfortable retirement with spare change for some travel and entertainment.

And for God’s sake, please don’t be that guy who has $200,000 in cash, a $25,000 annual spending budget and is 65 with Social Security checks for him and his wife totaling over $3,000. Just don’t be that guy. You’re never going to run out. Now go and enjoy your life.



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

Teach Children to Follow Their Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Nothing to Lose

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

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

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



Go East, Young Girl. Far East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ground is the Same over Here

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

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

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

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

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




The Guiding Hand of Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.