Countless blogs and websites provide lists on how to save money. Turn out lights, turn down the heat in winter and the library are good ideas. Mr. Money Mustache has a strong drive to bike. On several occasions he has published on the benefits of biking. Biking is good for your health and cuts energy use. Reducing or eliminating what he calls a “clown-like car habit”, you cut spending by serious coin.
Like many readers I undertake a number of these ideas. I keep my house 60 degrees F in the winter. To keep warm I wrestle Mrs. Accountant and the kids to keep them away from the thermostat. I use natural lighting whenever available.
The farmstead is a whisker more than 15 miles from my office. I bike about 100 days a year. The savings are modest, but noticeable. A 30 mile round trip costs me about $15 according to the IRS mileage rate. My vehicles are purchased used and run for a couple decades before they are replaced so my vehicle cost is less. I estimate my real cost per mile is closer to 30 cents. This means every bike ride to the office allows me to keep an extra $9 in my pocket, tax-free. (You don’t pay an extra tax for not spending money.)
A Lesson from Walmart. Yes, Walmart
Back around 2008 Walmart started to examine its energy costs. The idea was to offer affordable compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to customers; the thought being CFLs lasted longer so Walmart would soon have more shelf space for other products. The energy savings customers experienced would likely be spent at Walmart on other items.
The discussion eventually turned internal. What if Walmart used CFLs in their stores? One idea was to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the ceiling fans on display. Of the 3,230 stores Walmart had at the time, the average store had ten ceiling fans. Each ceiling fan had four bulbs.
Each bulb produced a minor savings, but when the Law of Large Numbers took hold Walmart stood to reduce their utility bill $6 million per year! Management had an easy decision.
Since then Walmart has expanded their energy philosophy to include utilizing as much natural lighting as possible and electric semis to deliver products to stores around the U.S.
CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs upfront, but the longer life of the CFL (8-10 times as long) and energy savings more than cover the initial capital outlay. Total savings from reduced energy use is several times the entire upfront cost.
Lesson from a Humble Accountant
My memory is slipping with age. I can’t remember the exact year I transitioned to CFLs and later LEDs. What I can share is how I determined when it was a good idea to make the switch. Regardless the exact date, I was an early adaptor.
We will focus on my office to keep the discussion simple. I used the same thought process to transform my lighting at home.
Lighting is an important consideration in a tax practice. Eyes get tired easy enough looking at a computer screen all days and trying to decipher smudged and faded documents. Security lighting and signage are also important.
The outside of my office building is covered by floodlights and security cameras. The entrance light is always on. Security lights and the sign are on a photovoltaic trigger. This means the two lights at the entrance are on 24/7 and the sign and security lighting average 12 hours of operation per day — more in the winter, less in summer.
I forget the exact wattage used so I’ll stick with 100 watts per bulb when incandescent bulbs were used. My research showed an equivalent CFL used only 26 watts. Each hour of operation used 76 fewer watts per unit.
The hourly savings didn’t amount to much. However, when a light is operating an average of 12 hours a day 365 days a year we get 4,380 hours of annual use. 4,380 hours of use times 76 watts of reduced energy consumption per hour equals 332,880 fewer watts used per year. Reduced energy consumption of 332 kilowatts times $.12 per kilowatt and we save 39.84 per unit! We have twelve units.
The lighting replacements paid for themselves in less than a year! And they lasted longer.
Inside the office we have 40 of those 4-foot tube CFL bulbs. We use as much natural lighting as possible, but we still operate half the light banks most days.
The typical office uses what is called a T12 linear fluorescent bulb. Each bank has two or four bulbs. T12 bulbs use 40 watts.
Offices are turning to smaller T8 bulbs. The length is the same but the diameter is a bit smaller. T8s kick out the same light as a T12 and tend to last somewhat longer (modestly in my experience), using 32 watts per hour.
The office has on average 20 lights on each day for 10 hours. Two-hundred lighting hours using 32 watts instead of 40 watts reduces electricity usage 1,600 watts per day or 320,000 watts on a 200 day work year. (I cut the work year to adjust for reduced summer hours.) 320 kilowatts time $.12 adds to a modest $38.40 in saving per year.
T8s are easier on the eyes and don’t fade as much as T12s. You might remember seeing one side of these linear bulbs in an office turning black. This happens as the bulbs ages. The bulb still works, but output is reduced. T8s have fewer problems with dimming as they age. For accountants this is a blessing for our eyes.
Security lighting has since converted to LEDs which use even less energy. We’ll forgo the math to keep the story moving. Lights with heavy use are worth the extra cost of LEDs. Security lights, the sign and the entrance are LED lights. LEDs also weather the outdoors and cold better.
LEDs have one additional advantage. Incandescent and CFL lights blast light in every direction. LEDs focus with a narrower footprint. This means our security lighting is brightest where we want it.
No More Complaining
You can hear the groans when Mr. Money Mustache reiterates once again the necessity of biking over an automobile. The complaints follow fast on his heels. You can’t haul stuff with a bike. (MMM proved that wrong.) It’s too cold, hot, dark, rainy, blah, blah, blah. You can’t bike where I live because of the piles of snow, or, it’s too far to bike.
MMM doesn’t buy the complaints and neither do I. Small changes can add up to big savings. There is a point of diminishing returns. As my office lighting energy use has declined, every additional capital expenditure to reduce energy use further has less bang for the buck. With security lights now using 12 watts per hour of operation I need to focus elsewhere to reduce energy use.
Driving sucks a lot of cash out of the pocket. Lighting can put a few dollars in your pocket per month; biking can keep hundreds in the First National Bank of Wallet. My commute is a hefty 30 miles round trip. If Pete knew this we’d need the paddles to bring him back. (Don’t walk into the light, Pete!)
Even driving an older vehicle squanders $9 per commute, or $45 per week, or $2,340 per year. (I think I’m going to be nauseous.) Biking when the sun is shining (as I do) cuts perhaps as much as $1,000 per year from my transportation budget!
It’s true. Our frugal efforts alone will not change the world. At best it will allow us a lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint. A couple thousand tax-free dollars doesn’t hurt either.
Where it starts to add up is when we work together as a team. When thousands and millions start adopting better choices in lighting and transportation the numbers become mind-boggling.
An unenlightened major corporation like Walmart was able to shave $6 million per year off their energy bill. The number is already big enough to make a difference.
Now it’s your turn to join in.
Save yourself, save the world. Love frugal without giving up a thing.
Compare LED prices at Amazon. A few minutes of math could lower your energy bill.
This week’s Stalking the Accountant edition is special. We had another drawing for cash prizes here at The Wealthy Accountant and it ended up a humbling experience where dozens of people will benefit far more than the minor investment of cash would indicate.
The drawing pulled names from subscribers who opened their email of the latest blog posts. The winners of the $50 prize are:
Ben O of Essex Junction, VT, and
Jeff H of Santa Barbara
The prize is awarded as either a PayPal transfer or an Amazon gift card. Both took the Amazon card.
Here is where it got real. When I informed Jeff of his win he sent the following email:
Awesome! It’s great to be a winner!
I’m actually a blogger myself (www.themoneycommando.com) and rather than sending the money to me I’d like to propose something else.
My wife is on the board of a local charity called Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS). Basically, they provide a shelter for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. The shelter gives the women and children a place to stay while they look for a new place to live. They usually leave at a moment’s notice and don’t have kid’s clothing, a crib, bottles, etc. DVS supplies these things in the shelter and lets the families keep them to help them get on their feet.
How about if you donate the $50 Amazon gift card to DVS? You get the tax deduction, DVS gets a bit of exposure (maybe it will encourage somebody else to donate too), and DVS can use the gift card to get whatever baby supplies they need (it’s always changing from week to week).
Here’s the DVS website: https://www.dvsolutions.org/en/
What do you think?
Jeff H. from Santa Barbara
Of course I agreed! It was an awesome idea!
This was a perfect opportunity to put some of TWA profits to work. I’ve dedicated 100% of the profits of this blog to charitable causes. I doubled the award to Domestic Violence Solutions to $100. Not a lot, but a gesture of good will.
Jeff’s wife responded as such:
Thank you so much for matching the gift card! Our emergency shelter is in great need of about 25 new pillows and this will allow for us to buy almost half!
We are deeply grateful.
I couldn’t let it alone. A simple comfort most people take for granted — a comfortable place to lay your head — is unavailable to some victims of abuse. I knew what I had to do.
If $100 bought nearly half the pillows needed, another $150 should finish the job. A drawing meant to engage my readers has turned into a $250 gift to a domestic violence shelter giving dozens of people comfort.
Here is the reply:
WOW, you just made our day Keith!!!
Most of us take having a soft pillow for granted, but when a victim and her children enter our shelters (usually in the middle of the night) they arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, traumatized and thankful to be alive. Having a warm, comfortable and safe place to sleep means so much to our clients.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
Would it be OK to acknowledge your generosity on our social media?
With sincere gratitude,
Before I take a bow, let me remind you I didn’t do this. You did!
This blog has revenue because of you, kind readers. That revenue is destined to change lives for the better in our communities. You need to take the bow. I’m only the conduit. You did this. You changed the lives of those women, often times kids in tow, surviving violence.
I know you’re as moved as I am by this. It’s okay to take a moment here to reflect on what our group has just done.
Finally, if you want to add to the gift to Domestic Violence Solutions you can do so here:
Please provide comfort to a child – donate now at https://comfortandjoyforachild.funraise.org/
A child’s future is in your hands.
The Other #MeToo
In 2017 women started to speak out in waves. It was 100% necessary! It had to happen. The violence and assault of women had to be exposed before the problem can be addressed.
Even some men came forward. We sometimes forget about men who suffered sexual assaults as children.
The #MeToo movement has another side gaining ground fast. This part of the #MeToo movement is dedicated to supporting the survivors of violence in any way they can.
Guys can come across as dicks at times. We are not talking about that kind of behavior. When a man does something to offend a woman it may have been with good and honorable intentions. What we are talking about is verbal, mental and physical assault. Violence against a woman of any kind is never acceptable. EVER!
The other #MeToo movement, the movement of men determined to support the rights of women to live peaceably without threat of violence and intimidation, needs to grow more.
I’ve supported the women who have come forward (and the silent survivors struggling with the demons) from the beginning. Now, finally, I can stand up and say, “#MeToo.” Not as a survivor, but as a supporter of every woman who has had to deal with the trauma of assault.
Please join The Wealthy Accountant and me in supporting this cause.
After such a heavy start to the weekend edition it’s time to relax with some entertainment.
What I’m Reading
The stock market was tame for so long (every month of 2017 was a winner) I had to pull out an old favorite when we experienced a mild correction. Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy J. Siegel is a classic. It’s not an advice book for investing in the market. Rather, the book is a treasure trove of data on the market’s performance from the beginning. The accountant in me can’t resist.
What I’m Watching
Elon Musk sent a rocket into space the week before last with a Tesla Roadster as the payload. The publicity stunt gave Musk plenty of bang for his buck and I’m adding to the benefits by sharing the following video here. In this video we learn what space will do the Starman and the Roadster. We also learn about several Easter Eggs hidden in the Roadster traveling to the stars.
What I’m Listening To
I worked in silence most of the week. Tax season is in full swing now and time is tight. I’ll be at the office for a short day on Sunday to get some larger returns done without interruption.
Here is one album is listened to earlier in the week:
I know my taste in music can be out there. But by sharing hidden gems I uncover is the reason for the weekend edition of Stalking the Accountant.
It’s been an exciting week in the accounting world. The first full week of the traditional tax season is in the books with nine more left to go. As far as I can tell there have been no casualties.
Your favorite accountant is happy to report this is the smoothest tax season in years in his office. Three or four years ago I met Mr. Money Mustache and he put me on the map (Thank you, Pete!) it created a deluge of demand I was ill prepared to handle. The problem was I had no idea what I was getting into. Those problems seem to be fully resolved.
The added challenges nearly killed my practice. I had to learn new skills PDQ if I wanted to survive. Hiring more employees was a problem since nobody local had experience in what I was going through.
But, I am proud to say after several mental cramps I turned the corner. New policies and massive increases in technology have the office humming like a well oiled machine with stress reduced to a minimum. I’ll let you know if the psychosis returns.
Until then . . . I’m feeling much better now.
The smooth operation of our tax functions means I am still accepting new clients selectively. The bottleneck now is in processing the requests. To that end I hired a new team member to help with the follow-up of requests.
If you sent a request in the last few months without a response you should resend the request. Please include your phone number. Most do not. Amy will send an email with a follow-up phone call if we feel it’s a good fit.
The reason for the additional screening is to make sure it works for all parties involved. Sometimes expectations are different from what we can handle with our current structure. I’d rather discover early if there is a conflict or issues before we start. This is easier on both of us.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t get in. My team has managed to get things running smooth again after I overwhelmed the machinery. To keep it smooth we have to make sure we can do the job right.
Another Tax Bill
When you were looking the other way Congress passed another tax bill Friday. Yes, as in yesterday if you’re reading this the day I published.
The hoopla about the latest government shutdown was resolved with a major spending bill with lots of tax nuggets.
Here is why the spending bill is so important. The tax part of the bill retroactively renewed many expired tax provisions! This means many of the returns filed early are wrong!
The IRS is busting heinie to implement the changes. My software provider will update as soon as the IRS has their end fixed and ready to accept returns with the updates.
Here are some of the more common changes:
- Mortgage insurance premiums are back and will be the number one reason we will need to amend.
- Discharged mortgage debt is excluded from income again.
- The provision to deduct education expenses (qualified tuition and related expenses) up to $4,000 above-the-line is restored.
The remainder of the thirty or so renewed provisions generally affect businesses.
Because the IRS will need time to implement these changes you either have to wait to file (including possible filing an extension) or filing now and amending later. It’s your call.
I kindly ask readers to spread the word on the DIY tax software offered by 1040.com. This is the same software I use in my office. If you use the link on this page it supports your favorite blog.
This is a project close to my heart and means a lot. Thank you for considering the option. Many returns also qualify for free-file.
Remember we have a drawing for two cash giveaways next week Wednesday. Details are available on the Where Am I page. Be sure to open those emails with the latest TWA post to win!
Now let’s have some fun!
What I’m Reading
Every year at this time I make myself a promise as I head to the office each day that I will take an hour or two to read. This year, as in past years, the promise is unfulfilled.
I still read some early in the morning and at night after writing if I can keep my eyes open. The weekends are nirvana!
This week I worked on a book in progress, but mostly read from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
When I need to perform at my best I always look to my Stoic literature. If you don’t keep a copy of The Daily Stoic next to your bed you don’t know what you’re missing.
What I’m Watching
Just as time is tight for reading, time spent watching videos is also curtailed. As important as learning and relaxation are, tax season is a time when accountants sacrifice some of these hedonic pleasures.
SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy Rocket this week and I watched it live from my desk. It was the coolest thing ever! Enjoy if you haven’t already.
I also watched a few videos in the vein of the selection provided here. Mysteries intrigue me even if they are somewhat contrived. Old stuff grabs my attention hard. Here we see mysterious monuments from around the world.
What I’m Listening To
My listening tastes turn unique during these intense times. I think you’ll enjoy Beethoven’s Symphony 7 selection. The calming sound emanated from my office more than once this week.
When the coffee started to wear off I got silly. Something to break up the classical sounds.
Finally, as you read this your favorite accountant is probably sleeping it off or reading voraciously with drool running from the left side of his mouth.
I’m also planning a special post for Monday. We have enjoyed p/e ratios in the upper teens, 20s and higher on the broad indexes for so long people forget it wasn’t that long ago when the S&P sported a single digit p/e ratio and the average stock in the index threw off over a 6% dividend yield with many sporting even higher payouts!
Monday we will discuss what would need to happen to go back to those days of the late 1970s and early 1980s and the late 1940s and early 1950s. It’s been a while since we enjoyed such a market. I promise an engaging read.
Won’t you join me.
The Wealthy Accountant gave away money this week! On Wednesday I set the random number generator a spinning and in a nanosecond a subscriber was $100 richer.
Sara N of Buffalo, NY was our winner. I give a choice of a PayPal transfer or an Amazon gift card. Sara asked for the gift card and Amazon emailed the code straight to Sara. Congratulations, Sara! Thank you for subscribing.
If you didn’t win this drawing there are plenty more. The dates and terms are published on the Where Am I calendar. There are two drawings for three winners in February. I never recommend the lottery, but if you get a ticket for free, why not!
I poked the hornets this week and ran like hell to no avail. I was stung. I made the mistake of mentioning on Facebook I moved to my highest cash position of my adult life in late January. Then the market introduced some reality this week.
Of course, if you call for a bitcoin decline and then it happens and do the same for the stock market you qualify as a guru. On the farm we call it being luckier than a two peckered Billy goat.
Before anyone starts to bow, please reference Elaine Garzarelli. She is the kind lady who accurately called the market crash of 1987 and hasn’t made many accurate calls since. A few, but not many.
My reasoning for the cash position is simple; I no longer understand how the market can go higher. Yesterday’s post explains my reasoning in more detail.
And now I’m getting lots of questions on how I think people should invest. Nothing has changed, kind readers!!! Steady as she goes.
Keep filling retirement accounts to the max. Stop watching market news if it bothers you or freaks you out. And for the love of God, DON’T SELL BECAUSE YOU ARE SCARED BECAUSE THE MARKET IS DOWN!!!
For readers with large net worth’s, consider moving some percentage of your portfolio to cash. Locking in a gain isn’t a crime, especially when the gains in the last decade exceed 400%.
I’m at 52% cash and my cash balance will not go higher. I’m willing to forgo future gains at this point. This level of cash is still a six figure income even with the low money market rates. I’m in no danger of starvation! (Though I have been looking a bit pale lately.)
Where will the market go from here? people are asking. How would I know? I’m just a country accountant from the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. But since you asked . . .
There tends to be a repeating pattern when the market gets carried away (goes parabolic). Without belaboring all the details, it seems to this accountant we are headed for a market crash. The tax cuts will overstimulate the economy, cause inflation (read yesterday’s post again), interest rates will rise and the market will catch a case of the hives.
This said, DON’T TRY TO TRADE AROUND THIS MARKET!!! If you do, I will find you and kick you in the . . .
The “crash” pattern usually starts with the warning shot across the bow as we had this last week. There generally is some type of recovery as the last buyers (the general public, aka the weaker hands) push in. New highs are not reached and the decline renews, accelerating until massive fear sets in and people rush the exits faster than they greedily wanted in.
If you have cash sitting around, I recommend casually buying when you see blood in the streets. When the crowd is in full panic mode start loading up on those index funds!
As your portfolio grows you might want pretty charts and data on your growing stash. PERSONAL CAPITAL is a program perfect for monitoring your net worth. You can’t control what you don’t know so it’s a good idea to have a firm understanding where you stand financially.
‘nough said about the markets. Time for some FUN!
What I’m Reading
This is the second book I’ve read in the last few months involving climate change and extinction. Chris D. Thomas did an excellent job of discussing the facts in our modern world as it relates to extinction of species. Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction set my heart at ease. All the Chicken Littles screaming something about the sky falling are way off base! Yes, species are going extinct, but diversity is increasing at an incredible rate, a rate even faster than the extinction rate. A highly recommended read.
What I’m Watching
There was plenty of cool stuff I saw when reviewing my YouTube history. The first was this short video from the Mars Curiosity Explorer showing a panoramic of everywhere the explorer traveled.
Here is an interesting video on the farthest look our species has ever looked into space. Fascinating.
Finally, a money nerd like me couldn’t go a week without falling prey to a money video on how the Federal Reserve works.
What I’m Listening to
Here is an oldie that rocked my office as I plugged numbers. It’s a catchy tune. If you remember when this song was all the rage, you’ve been dated.
Have an awesome weekend, kind readers!!!
See y’all Monday!
Back in 1982 Wisconsin a young man could legally belly up to the bar on his 18th birthday. That didn’t stop me from getting a jump start on adulthood.
In my later years of high school there were several rural bars where the owners could care less how old I was. The police rarely showed up (they never showed up when I was there, but I heard stories) and the penalties were light if caught selling to minors.
So I unwound after a long week of farm labor and sloughing off at school with a cold one in Brothertown. I drove the distance to tip a brew with my buddy, Ken.
Ken turned 18 our senior year and he promptly dropped out of school. My grades improved immediately. Ken and I were as thick as ticks on a hound, but I was starting to grow up while Ken was dropping out.
Our friendship faded with distance. Alcohol still played a large role in my life.
I met a young lady in a place called Quinney. It’s not really a town. More like a curve in the highway with a turnoff to the shore of Lake Winnebago.
The part about Quinney was it was on the way to Brothertown. Now with Ken fading into the distance I sometimes took a right turn toward Lake Winnebago and a bar called Chuck and Sue’s.
The name (Chuck and Sue’s) has meaning since my engagement to my high school sweetheart ended when she settled into another man’s arms and I eventually met Mrs. Accountant who happens to be named Sue.
(HEY, EVERYBODY! The accountant guy let slip his wife’s name. Y’all gotta see this.)
Sorry about that. Nobody remember Mrs. Accountant’s name so she can keep some privacy. I promise to never say it again (here).
My consumption of alcohol was getting out of control as I clawed toward the age of majority. There were nights I don’t remember driving home. And then there was the night I decorated the side of my dad’s van. And the night I came walking through the house in my BVDs when my parents had company. And then . . .
I think you get the picture.
I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. I was doing things I’m luck someone didn’t get killed from.
My high school sweetheart was gone so I headed back to Brothertown and my old friends. I was still part of the crowd, but everyone knew I wasn’t “like them”.
It became abundantly clear one Friday when a group of guys planned on running to Fond du Lac to catch a movie. They left without me.
I was numb. My fiancé left me and I was walking in a drunken stupor more than I was sober.
The final straw came when I headed to Brothertown in the middle of the week when the bar we frequented was mostly empty. I shot some stick and drank.
I ran out of cash so I wrote a $20 check. It bounced.
The bar owner called me and Ipromised to run over and satisfy the debt.
True to my word I made the run to Brothertown, paid the bar owner the $20 (plus bank fee) and ordered my last drink. Halfway finished, I pushed the beer back and left Brothertown, a way of life and alcohol forever.
Or so I thought.
Then I turned 18.
The reflection in the mirror was hard to look at. I failed in so many ways. I had no idea what I wanted.
Farm life was something unappealing to me at the time. It was all I knew so I wanted something more. Working day and night for peanuts and popcorn had no hold on me. Deep down I wanted to be more than a poor farmer. I wanted to know what life was like for people with money.
1982 was a bad year for the economy. Living in the Rust Belt, the recession hit hard, harder than the 2008 debacle. Unemployment was 20%+ in the area. Businesses wouldn’t even give you an application. The answer was no so there was no need to waste a piece of paper.
I went from drunk to teetotaler in a heartbeat. Before my 19th birthday I put the bottle into my past and embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship and wealth.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Sounds like I had a blast, right?
It wasn’t! I had no clue what I was doing. I tried everything. I sold stuff door-to-door, to retail stores and got serious for the first time about my writing.
Money came in bits and spurts. I saved it all and invested in mutual funds and some individual stocks.
But this story isn’t about my journey to wealth. I’ve told that before. No, this story is about facing myself in the mirror.
Who Is that Man?
I no longer recognized the person I’d become. The drunk was a stranger and now even the drunk was gone. It would be over twenty years before I took another drink.
The ride wasn’t smooth, but I eventually found my confidence and calling in life. As a side gig I prepared taxes without a clue the role accounting and taxes would play in my life.
Successes started to accumulate like an index fund in a bull market. I was happy and started to map a course to the life I wanted.
No longer inebriated on a regular basis I started to like the guy in the mirror. He had promise, if not a little crusty around the edges.
I met Mrs. Accountant while taking a few college courses here and there. That was the greatest stroke of luck I ever had. I won the trillion dollar lottery!
She didn’t know she was Mrs. Accountant at the time; I did.
You would think life would be a pretty smooth ride of luxury for a guy in his young 50s with an eight figure net worth. It wasn’t.
Life seemed to throw one challenge after another. The genius thing I did was never give up. Each obstacle was a challenge to conquer. And conquer we did.
Building wealth and even running a business can become rote formality. Saving at an insane rate was an ingrained habit sending my net worth into the heavens.
Mrs. Accountant and I traveled a bit. I hated every minute. The destination and learning was fun, but I soon discovered I preferred the world of my backyard. Eventually travel turned into something we did because business demanded it. In a way, business is the only thing that kept me from being a dweeb or hermit.
In the 90s I had a securities license for a few years. That required two trips every year. Before long I was frantically searching for a way out and I took the first opportunity.
Routine set in again.
Then I met the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community and felt like I found long lost friends!
The gloss would wear off.
The Best People in the World
Somewhere in the early 2000s I allowed myself a shot of whisky now and again. I drank a few times in the winter if I had a sore throat and rarely any other time.
When I choose to stop drinking and when I drank nil for many years I never had an arrogant attitude toward those who consumed alcohol. If somebody wanted to drink I didn’t care. I was happy as a clam with a frosty Coca-Cola Classic.
As the years went by my drinking increased for short periods and then went back to nothing.
I was happy and enjoying life. Travel was in my past (Thank God!) and I finally was back living on a farm.
The farming life I hated so much as a kid was actually in my blood. My 10 acres of the world are small in the scope of things, but it’s my 10 acres with hiking trails, animals and all.
The rote formality of business was growing old. I had one more dream to conquer before I cashed in my chips.
Several times I started a countdown clock to retirement only to find my anxiety became uncontrollable as the due date arrived. You would think I was facing an IRS audit or something.
The clock was sent to the landfill.
One day I happened across a blog by some strange character who called himself Mr. Money Mustache. This funky dude from Colorado had it figured out better than me. He even found a way to walk away from work and do whatever he wanted!
So we loaded by the truck and we moved to Beverly. Hills that is . . .
I could never give up work, but I was lucky enough to be doing what I wanted to so there was no hurry.
Regardless, I felt inadequate. MMM cashed his check at age 30 and here I was putzing along closing in on 50. How had I failed so badly?
Back to the Suds
I started attending conferences within the community because I felt obligated. My meeting with MMM (and becoming his accountant) forced me to finally start writing this blog.
This in turn led to more offers. I was traveling again. Drinking, too. The mirror started to bother me for the first time in decades.
The FIRE community knows how to drink. Beer mostly, but liquor, too. A shot of whisky (a shot) is something I don’t mind every once in a while. Beer is something I never acquired a taste for.
Well, my new-found buds drank suds and I was part of them now so I drank, to hell with the mirror. If you focus hard enough you can swallow anything and down the hatch went the beer.
Before we get too far, let it be known a local brew called Spotted Cow is palatable to me.
The social media feeds listed my new buds enjoying a cold one on a more than a regular basis. Not everybody imbibed, but by and large the group knew how to throw a party.
Breaking the Mirror
I’m not a traditional FIRE community member. I’m even surprised they let me in the door. (Some have started to close doors.)
The drinking thing returned home with me and the travel I whined about so incessantly caused people to comment on my new-found itinerary abroad. (Anywhere outside the county is abroad in my book.)
Many nights I would have a few shots of whisky and even drank beer. Before long the memory of Brothertown and the bounced check in the bar came flooding back. This is not who I am. This is not who I want to be.
I recently made it clear my attendance at conferences would be limited. Even one trip a year is a chore to me. I did promise Mrs. Accountant and the girls a trip to Iowa this year to see the Hoover Presidential Library. It’s a 4-hour drive; I’ll live.
Expect to see me at FinCon in Orlando later this year as well.
And if God loves me I’ll not travel another lick the remainder of the year.
Nor drink more than a few shots of Jack either.
I’m a big boy now; I can make adult decisions when required. There is no doubt I succumbed to peer pressure when not a single soul within the FIRE community forced me to drink anything. If I drank a soda there wasn’t a single sound of admonishment.
Peer pressure is like that! Most peer pressure comes from inside your head and not from out there. It’s all perceived.
More, I wanted to be like those people instead of living my life my way. I thought living their life would make me happy. It didn’t and it was starting to show.
So what if people think I’m a weaselly guy from Treefarm, Wisconsin. I’m happy. This blog has proven there are more like me out there (people who loathe travel and enjoy home life).
No longer do I feel obligated to attend more and more conferences. I can live the way I want to live.
Here is where you come in, kind readers.
A common refrain in my email involves people wanting to be like me. NO YOU DON’T! The planet has a hard time dealing with one of me.
You can learn from my experiences to build wealth and a happier lifestyle. But you don’t have to do the same things I do.
I like my small farm in the middle of nowhere. A serious percentage of readers here would become insane in the same environment. (First one to comment its already driven me insane gets one in the puss.)
All I’m saying is don’t drive to Brothertown. The only thing you’ll find there is a bounced check in a bar long out of business.
There is an ancient story told by the Kikuyu people of Kenya about a scorpion at the edge of a river wanting to cross. The water was too deep for the scorpion to even attempt a crossing; if he wanted to ford the river he would need help.
The scorpion noticed a frog not far away. “Frog,” he said, “let me crawl on your back and take me to the other side of the river.”
“Are you insane,” said the frog! “You are a scorpion and scorpions sting frogs. If I carry you across the river on my back you will sting me as we cross and I’ll die.”
“Nonsense,” said the scorpion. “If I sting you as we cross the river I will drown same as you. No, I promise not to harm you in any way as my gift for helping me cross the river.”
The frog thought for a moment and realized the logic of the scorpion’s argument.
The frog let the scorpion climb on his back and then started his swim across the river. Near the halfway point the scorpion stung the frog. The toxin locked the frog’s muscles in place as he started to sink. The scorpion was also in the water facing his last moments of life.
Just before the frog went under he asked the scorpion, “Why? Why did you sting me? Now you will die with me.”
The scorpion replied, “I am a scorpion. Scorpions sting frogs. It’s what we do.”
That is why I write so much. Writers write; it’s what we do.
My journey through life was well into the twilight zone this week. I either read or heard something about number stations. I’ve played with these things in the past and decided to waste the good part of an evening digging into the situation again.
Number stations are shortwave radio broadcasts used by spy agencies around the world. Shortwave radio is a blast even if you aren’t checking up on James Bond. It’s your weekend so I’ll give you enough links and a YouTube video to get you started. From there you’ll see how easy it is to blow an entire weekend playing with this stuff.
Hackaday has a boatload of information on secret radio stations.
You need a shortwave radio to listen, but . . .
. . . you can hear some of the most interesting recordings of number station from the Conet Project.
This will be a bit strange to the uninitiated. Number stations get their name from the periodic broadcasts of short number sequences assumed to be messages to spies out in the field. There are also numerous other strange sounds too. One even has Yosemite Sam, the cartoon character.
I’d apologize for wasting so much of your time, but you are going to have soooooo much fun. Here’s the YouTube video:
What I’m Reading
The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce Institutions put in place after the Second World War to protect society from the stresses which led to both Great Wars of the 20th Century are in desperate need of repair. The crumbling of liberal institutions is of interest to all people today from either side of the isle. Luce’s short essay on income inequality and attitudes towards economic winners and losers is addicting. I couldn’t put the book down.
More Stuff I’m Watching
I’ve been watching some questionable comedy and religious YouTube videos this week. So we don’t get a roar of blowback I’ll keep that stuff to myself.
On a brighter note, I have a neat math video sure to entertain the analytically minded:
I found the mind game fascinating. If deep math problems cause you to break out in hives feel free to skip this video.
I enjoy conspiracy theories for the entertainment value only. I don’t believe aliens are coming to get us, et cetera, but sometimes there are interesting historical facts sure to make a guy sit back and think for a few minutes.
Music I’m Listening To
I rarely listen to newer releases. Here is one of the oldies I enjoyed this past week sure to date this farm boy from the backwoods:
Show Me the Money!
We are giving away you free audio books of Jim Collins’s The Simple Path to Wealth to subscribers. The first winner is:
Svetlana of Pennsylvania.
The second winner unsubscribed after the random number generator called his name so we spun the wheel again and heard no response.
I will pick a random subscriber next week to get the free audio book in one of your hands.
Now for the exciting news. This blog will give away over $1,000 over the next few months!
There are several ways to win money. I will list the dates and how I will determine the cash winner on the Where Am I page. Check there often as I will periodically add new drawings. Payment will be made via PayPal or an Amazon gift card code if you prefer. (It makes no difference to me.)
Some of the winners will be chosen from subscribers (so subscribe and stay subscribed). The subscribe button is at the top right of each post and after each post.
Other winners will come from a random pick of comments made.
If I can figure out a logical way of picking a forum winner I will. (Don’t underestimate this accountant’s resolve.) So get active in The Wealthy Accountant forum. There could be some cash in socializing with money and tax nerds.
Winners will be listed in future Stalking the Accountant weekend posts. If a winner doesn’t reply to my email within a week informing them they won (and where to send the money) a new winner will be picked. White list The Wealthy Accountant emails so you don’t lose your prize.
That’s it for now. See y’all next week.
At one time or another everyone has experienced the desire to do more things that interest them. It might be traveling the world or trying multiple sports or musical instruments. A few people, prodigies, manage to conquer several musical instruments at once.
In business we see Elon Musk tackling business after business with endless energy. Small business owners are lulled into a false sense of ability when they try to multitask at the same level.
In our personal lives we might attempt to read several books at once or even write multiple books at one time. After all, we dug deep into a handful of textbooks simultaneously in college.
At work we crack open several projects at once. Before long we stall out as our brain freezes. Why does this happen? Elon and a minor percentage of the population considered prodigies manage it. Why not me?
Back from Holiday
One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, wrote about this issue a year ago.
People demand as much as they can get from you. I get a steady stream of emails from readers stating they wish they could find a local accountant like me.
Clients demand I, and only I, touch their tax return.
People demand every step be taken personally by people they admire. But they don’t know what they are asking for.
Does anyone believe I personally prepare a thousand tax returns annually without a bit of help?
We want to think our heroes are really superheroes!
If only your favorite accountant could be an awesome husband, father, business owner and blogger without a push from another living human being.
A New Brand of Musk
Elon Musk isn’t doing the incredible at the level outsiders think either. If you watch closely, Musk is expert at focusing on the task at hand.
With so many businesses, Musk must multitask. But he doesn’t! At least not to the level many people think.
Musk has been candid about his work schedule. He works long hours with few days off. But he separates each day into specific tasks. Some days he’s working at Tesla, the next day at SpaceX.
Each day is dedicated to the project at hand. Musk attacks several projects over the course of a week or month, but each day is dedicated to one project.
Focus is key.
Most people are thinking about the time they should be spending with their spouse and kids when at work. At home they are preoccupied with work matters.
All this is insanity! You can only be where you are. When your mind wanders to a project you are away from you end up nowhere. The wife and kids don’t get your undivided attention. Later, when exhausted from all the mental anguish, you underperform at work. You end up spiraling down.
In college you read several books at once as you worked through each course. The same happens in your personal, work and/or business life.
Why it worked in college (if it worked for you in college) is that you were in Sociology when you were in Sociology and not in Algebra! It sounds like common sense, but we tend to lose this skill set once we enter the workforce or start a business.
Business owners are the worst! I’ll vouch for that.
Demands come from every direction. As a business owner you want to solve everyone’s problem. But you can’t!
Nobody is helped when you are spread thin.
But business (or side gig) demands constant attention. When a client arrives without an appointment you own them answers to their problem, right?
No, you don’t!
You owe the client who scheduled an appointment who happens to have her stuff spread across your desk at the moment.
If you take every call, constantly check your email or allow every interruption you will end up exhausted without getting anything done you wanted to accomplish. The client is screwed and so is your family when you get home.
Back on Holiday
Ryan Holiday is a writer. Writers need plenty of free time to allow the creative process to work.
Last year when I attended Camp Mustache SE in Gainesville, Florida, the facilitators informed me they tried to get Holiday to attend. Holiday immediately sent them to his agent who said the fee is $15,000, plus expenses. The fee is high as a way of saying “no”. There were some complaints at Camp when this was revealed, but Holiday’s career would spiral out of control if he attended every offer.
Readers who pay close attention can tell when I’m rushed. It shows in my work and the scattered mental process.
Holiday talks about keeping his calendar as open as possible without harming his career. He says “no” to almost very distraction. He admits to lapses, as any honest individual would. Still, lapses evolve into serious issues if allowed free rein.
Holiday calls it “calendar anorexia”. By keeping his scheduled appointments down to a minimum he keeps ample open time to think and create.
I wish I were as good at it as Ryan. Writing a blog is a business all its own. A tax practice is a business requiring serious time commitments. People reading this blog know they can dig for 30 seconds and have my office phone number. The call is corralled long before it gets to my office, but it does take time from my team members.
Distractions are common in an accounting office. If I’m to get any work done distractions must be avoided.
I spend more time at the office than I should, but I enjoy the work environment. I take time to read and research, manage my business, review my budget (what budget I have) and investments. Tax returns take plenty of time during tax season. Managing a small business is a time sink, if allowed.
People will wear you out if you let it happen! They’re not bad people either. They lack discipline so they just “drop by” for a quick question. Not a good idea if you want the answer from me.
The Cost of Yes
Yes costs more than money.
Every interruption has a cost. Each distraction takes more than the “few minutes” the client/potential client/salesman promised.
It takes time to push paperwork (or any project being worked on) to the side to do something else. Your mind has to shift focus to the new task. This takes mental effort!
Once you are finished with the “few minutes” you need to refocus again on the original task. Research says it takes up to fifteen minutes (longer for some people) to get back up to speed on the original project. The “few minutes” squandered as much as a half hour of productive time. And that’s assuming the “few minutes” were really only a few minutes.
Take a couple personal calls and client interruptions and you’re productivity collapses to nothing while you end up exhausted! Worse, the boss is ticked you aren’t getting anything done.
“Yes” costs more than money; it costs peace of mind, satisfaction and tranquility. Interruptions are stressful!
Good for Business?
I get asked to attend a lot of events. Mini conferences have sprung up all over the country and around the world in this demographic. My work with Mr. Money Mustache and other popular FIRE (financial independence, retire early) bloggers coupled with a Plutus Award has made me in somewhat high demand.
My first impulse is to always say “yes”; my inclination is to please people. I want to make the readers happy. And I might get new readers!
Except, if I really thought about it, there is no way I can sit with each reader personally. If my readership consisted of only people I met personally this blog would be very, very small. And unprofitable, too.
Traveling kills me. Of all the things in this world I loathe, traveling tops the list. I don’t begrudge those who enjoy the experience; I just want to be left out.
I felt obligated to attend several events each year as part of the price for being a blogger. There is some truth to that, but it wears me down doing something I really don’t enjoy.
Late last year it was made abundantly clear I need to stop attending events to please people. A natural part of my work/business life will bring me in contact with readers and potential readers. I don’t have to travel across the country or to the other side of the planet to be successful in this genre.
My readership will grow whether I travel to endless conferences or not. Your personal life is the same. Constant distraction subtracts from your overall enjoyment of life.
On the left side of my desk is a media kit I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s not done, but soon.
This upcoming Saturday I have a special “Stalking the Accountant” where I will share why I write so much. You’ll enjoy it.
From this I will complete my media kit so the world can share my stuff without contacting me. I already made it clear you can steal my stuff. Now you can poke and prod without bothering me. It’s the best of all worlds; everybody wins!
Camp Accountant will be my sole public appearance. I’ve committed to FinCon18 in Orlando, but am uncertain of any additional commitments beyond that.
Elon Musk may be the new fragrance of the business world. Without the discipline and focus necessary to succeed it will all end with exhaustion, anxiety and burnout.
We can do better than that. We can consider the consequences of every “yes”.
It might only take a minute, but I don’t have the luxury of spending that minute in an unscheduled interruption.
We’re going to start the New Year out a bit different from what you’re used to in this community. Rather than talk about money I’ll be telling a story.
My stories are always true in this blog with modifications to fit the content, size of the post and to protect players. Today’s post is a short story; a work of fiction. It’s also a parable; a story with a moral lesson.
Money is so important as we strive for our goals we sometimes forget how wealthy we really are regardless the size of our bank account.
After I fleshed out this story I ran across a news article which moved me. I changed this story so there is a slight resemblance (the disease the woman had).
There was a time I wrote more fiction. It feels good to exercise those skills again. I hope you are as moved and touched by this story as I was writing it.
Where I Want to Be
The words crushed my chest. The world spun as the words sunk in, unreal.
Most people don’t know when they’re going to die; most don’t want to know.
“It could be longer, perhaps as much as two years,” the doctor was uncomfortable as he reached for any hope to offer.
Linda squeezed my hand.
The news wasn’t totally unexpected. Fourteen months ago Linda felt a small lump on her breast. It was so small it could have been anything. A cyst, maybe.
Then the bad news. Malignant.
Linda was always stronger than me. She had mentally prepared herself. I refused to accept the love of my life was about to be taken from me.
Linda and I dated on and off in high school. She was my first love.
College separated us for several years, but we caught up at our five-year high school class reunion. The flame rekindled and the rest, as they say, is history.
Eight months later we were married.
My family warned me about marrying Linda. They said she was too ill and would drag me down and hold me back my whole life.
There was plenty of truth to the warning. Linda was sick a lot in high school; age didn’t improve her medical condition.
None of the health issues were super serious, but they cut into the quality of life.
Linda suffered a list of maladies the worst of which included heart issues. Stress wore her out fast.
I wanted to travel the world when I was younger, but after Linda and I rekindled our relationship I knew that dream would never happen if Linda were to be a part of my life. Before long I convinced myself traveling was something I didn’t care for either.
Money was tight those early years. To be honest, money was always tight.
Linda picked up a part-time job at the local library. They gave her plenty of latitude when she was sick. Her heart could knock her out for days. Damn mitral valve.
I was a different story. Energy is in endless supply in me. It’s a good thing too. Somebody needed to keep the wolf away from the door and I refused to leave Linda alone when she was sick.
Her frail body worried me every day I was with her. I couldn’t understand how she could stay alive being so small, so thin. And the cough. Her body didn’t possess the strength for an effective cough. And winter cold and summer heat caused the cough. If we were lucky we had a few free weeks in the spring and fall.
Linda needed me. She didn’t have friends because she was sick so often. My friends went on with life as I stayed behind with my lovely bride.
Uncle George ran a machine shop and gave me a job. The money would be good if I was there full-time, but doctor’s appointments interfered.
Anyone else would have fired me. Uncle George warned me of the life I’d lead if I married Linda. He gave me a job anyway.
So much for a job in forestry. My dream of working in the outdoors evaporated with Linda’s health.
High school was a hard time for Linda. People stayed away from her because she looked so pale and missed a lot of school. Kids started rumors she had AIDS. Kids can be so cruel.
Fortune smiled on Linda during her college years. Books were her dream and she always wanted to be a librarian.
When we met again at our class reunion she had her first spell in years. It wasn’t bad, just enough to let you know the demons never left.
I still held dreams of visiting exotic places. In my mind Linda was a strong woman who would rise to the wonder of a brave new world.
My plan was to work hard and save like crazy. If my calculation were right I could cut back in ten years to spend more time with Linda and to travel. Then disaster struck.
The short days of December are dangerous. Linda worked late at the library since she was really adjusting well without too many medical problems.
Her shift ended at nine. Mist caused a serious glare on the windshield. And the serious drinkers were already intoxicated.
A drunk driver swerved across the centerline. Linda couldn’t judge the intrusion onto her side of the road due to the glare.
The drunk driver glanced off the side of her car. It was enough to send her into the ditch and set off the airbag.
The airbag is there to protect you, but when a small body like Linda’s is smacked full-force by an inflating airbag damage is certain to be done.
The police called. I rushed to the hospital.
The accident wasn’t serious, but the car was probably done for. Linda tried to shake it off. I knew she was acting for my benefit.
Her hand quivered. I held her hands in mine as I looked her in the eyes. She calmed.
“There are no broken bones,” she stammered.
We laughed as the tension broke.
“I could never bear to lose you,” I said.
It was amazing my hands were as steady as they were.
Linda recovered from the scrapes and bruises. Neither of us knew the real damage done.
The first sign of problems can only two weeks later. Linda wasn’t responding to her blood pressure and heart medication.
The doctors were stumped as they tried every medication in their arsenal. Linda’s body decided to react instead of respond. Her tiny frame had no reserves for this kind of stress.
Another two weeks and Linda was finally on the road to recovery. The stress was wearing me down, too. I missed most work, but tried to get out to clear my mind. The rest of the time I sat next to Linda holding her hand and watching her breathe as she slept.
Things were never the same after that.
Linda’s time at the library was limited now. The accident ended any hopes and dreams of traveling the world or building a retirement account. We lived paycheck to paycheck and had to accept a few handouts along the way.
It was hard for me to push down my dreams. Eventually I pushed them down until they were only vague memories.
The years started to walk by. Our love continued to grow and blossom as we spent all our free time together.
It was nice to get out of the house to see family. A few friends from college and high school eventually grew up and accepted Linda wasn’t some infectious woman.
Time does that; helps people grow up. We all think we’re so smart when we’re younger. Then life hits us in the head with a hammer a couple of times and we become less smart, but all the wiser.
Our friends understand Linda’s condition. Once in a while we catch a movie, but usually we stay home and play cards. By 10 o’clock it’s time for Linda to rest. Sometimes she stays up and listens to us talk; other times she goes to bed as I send our guests home.
We fell into a routine both of us enjoyed. Linda worked as much as her health allowed at the library and Uncle George gave me as many hours as I wanted. Some paychecks were really good. Then there were times I amassed no hours at all in a pay period.
We became masters at saving. Every storm we weathered. I am proud to say I never allowed Linda to suffer alone. I was always at her side.
It was so quiet when Linda was sick. I could barely hear her breath as she slept hour after hour.
I dozed in an old chair next to our bed. Late at night I would snuggle into bed with her. If she didn’t wince in pain I’d gently put my arm over her and hug her tight in the spoon position.
There was something about those moments when she was fast asleep. Her body was covered in a sleep film that felt so comforting. Holding her warm body next to mine was the greatest pleasure I ever experienced in life.
Shortly after our tenth wedding anniversary Linda started getting sick more often and for longer. In October she was sleeping almost all day and night.
I crawled in beside her and wrapped her in my arms from behind. I cupped her breast in my hand and enjoyed the softness of my wife’s body.
As I massaged her I noticed a small lump on her breast. I thought it was a pimple at first, but it didn’t seem right.
The next day I scheduled an appointment with the doctor. As soon as Linda was able to leave bed I got her in for an examination.
A biopsy was taken.
I already knew what was about to descend on this family.
Linda found her strength once the doctor broke the bad news to us. She was started on yet another medication and responded well to the treatment.
Not since college has Linda had such a strong stature. She looked healthier than I’ve ever seen her! She ate better, gained a few pounds and found never before noticed physical strength.
The doctor looked pleased at Linda’s progress. She never did so well when it came to medical issues. If I didn’t know Linda had cancer I’d have never guessed she was sick a day of her life.
Her smile was the best part. Many times Linda had a pale smile as she struggled for energy. Now she perked right up. It was almost too good to be true.
We started taking walks before or after work. And for the first time of our marriage we were able to engage in regular, well, you know, sexual activities.
In the past we seldom had relations. There is no pleasure in lust when your partner is in pain. We learned over the years to fill our needs by just being in each other’s arms. It was more than enough.
Now I was enjoying Linda’s company three or four times a week! Once or twice a month was a lot in the past; not that I’m complaining. Linda’s is a remarkably beautiful woman. If feels good to be inside her.
Winter passed into spring and then summer. The healthy times ended with the flick of a switch.
Linda vomited violently and ran a high fever the morning of November 2nd. I called an ambulance.
The doctor ran test several tests and returned a few days later with news we weren’t ready to hear.
“The cancer has spread to the brain.”
I was instantly numb. My lips were cracked with lose skin ready to rip in if pulled. I turned to Linda and understood she knew all along. The doctor had given her a little more life because the cancer was aggressive. Drugs gave her a temporary life, but at a cost. She never went into remission; she was giving me the last she had to offer.
I looked back to the doctor, unable to find words. He knew what I wanted ask.
The doctor was wrong. Before the month ended Linda was in the hospital to stay. Her body was failing fast.
The cough was back worse than ever and she had less strength than ever to clear her airways.
Linda knew what she was doing. The doctor told her there was no cure for what she had. She protected me from the news so we could enjoy the remaining life she had.
Now time was up. Six months seemed so short a time. Now I realized Linda may never see the New Year.
Each day I watched her weaken. Her skin took on the gray tone people get as the end nears.
Her skin was clammy. If felt strange kissing her blue lips, so cold and firm.
Our friends and family came for Christmas. Linda gave a thin smile. She was so tired she barely talked and when she did it was in a whisper. I hugged her parents and thanked them for giving me the chance to love the wonderful woman they brought into this world. We cried for what seemed forever.
My mother hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry.” Even my dad hugged me. He never did that before. “I’m proud of you son.”
Uncle George squeezed my shoulder and turned from the room. I was alone Christmas Eve in a hospital room listening to the last breaths my wife would take.
Christmas Day Linda was still breathing when I awoke. It was mid-morning. I never sleep so late. I was completely spent.
When she opened her eyes and looked at me I received the greatest gift of my life.
I talked quietly to her all day, recalling stories of our life together. I confessed to her all my fears and how I felt like I let her down. I told her how I wanted to show her the world, how she could have had a better man than me.
I kept reliving dreams long suppressed when I noticed Linda had drifted off to sleep.
Each day was worse than the last. I couldn’t understand how her body had anything left to give.
Soon I was praying to whatever god would listen to allow my beloved wife to live to the New Year.
New Year’s Eve Linda slept all day. The sounds of the machines keeping her alive were the only sound in the room. In the distance I could hear hospital staff working in hushed tones.
At 9:30 Linda stirred.
“How are you, honey,” I said as I gently wisped the hair from her eyes.
She smiled. “Keep telling me your dreams.”
I started to speak, but broke down sobbing. I lowered the bed rail and gently snuggled my head in her neck.
“I don’t want to lose you.” My mouth was so dry the words barely made it out.
She patted the back of my head. “It’s okay.”
She fought to gain her breath. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, honey.”
I lifted my head and sat back. I pulled the chair as close as possible to the bed and laid my head next to Linda’s. “I wish I could have taken you to see the world.”
“I was always where I wanted to be.”
Minutes later Linda’s breath slowed to an even crawl. Soon after I feel sound asleep next to the woman I loved more than life.
The next morning Linda was gone. The grief was so deep I was numb.
We were married twelve years, three months and six days. Three days later I laid my beloved wife to rest.
“Tom, Linda wanted me to give you this after she passed away,” Linda’s mother said as she handled me a sealed envelope.
I sat in the church pew and opened the envelope.
My Beloved Husband,
I know you are grieving if you’re reading this. I am gone from this world, but I’m still in your heart.
Don’t be sad, Tom. I loved you with every fiber of my being and know you loved me the same. My life was short. But we have nothing to complain about. I lived more in my short life than most people who live a hundred years. And all because of you.
Grieve. Take the time you need to heal. Remember to move on, as well. I am gone; you must accept that.
Your love is too strong to suppress. Someday you will find someone else to love. It’s okay! I want you to be happy.
I’ll always be in your heart so I am always there in a way. Tell her about me. Don’t hold back your love either. Love as you loved me.
I was sick most of our life together. I know how much you wanted to go out in the world and fly. I know why you stayed with me. For that I can never thank you enough.
Now you need to let go and live the life you deserve. I will always be with you.
I wiped the tears from my eyes as my mother-in law hugged me. “What is it?” she asked.
I held up the letter and said, “It took me twelve years, three months and nine day to understand I was always where I wanted to be.”