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How to Retire Happy with Lots of Money

What is the secret to a happy retirement with lots of money? Here are a few who actually did it.
What is the secret to a happy retirement with lots of money? Here are a few who actually did it.

What is the secret to a happy retirement with lots of money? Here are a few who actually did it.

When I started this blog a primary goal was to share the worldview from my side of the desk. Over the years I’ve seen things I would never have seen if I were not in the profession I am in. And now I’ve seen things in the early retirement community I can no longer keep secret.

Many secrets have been shared over the last few years while new secrets have emerged as I sit smack-dab in the middle of the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community. In many regards I represent an anti-FIRE philosophy. I espouse frugality while venting disdain for travel and anything that echoes of retirement.

As an odd apologist for the FIRE community I watched on as Suze Orman set the community on fire when she exclaimed she HATED! the FIRE movement. While card-carrying members were up in arms I muttered under my breath, “I know what you mean.”

Yes, you heard that right. I actually agreed with Orman on something, a rare occurrence. Orman’s insistence you need $5 million to retire is absolute rubbish. But there is something deeply disturbing about the FIRE community and it has the power to rip it apart.

To make matters worse, I may be the only one in the community who understands what is happening under the surface. And how I know this is due to my unique position in the community.

As readers may know (and they will now if they didn’t), I prepare taxes or advise a number of A-list bloggers within the FIRE community. I also consult with several people each week from this blog. And a concerning pattern has taken shape.

Feelings of Failure

It didn’t exactly start with Mr. Money Mustache, but the FIRE community solidified around Pete and his work. Pete retired at the ripe old age of 30 and set a new standard in early retirement.

News feeds have a litany of stories of 30-somethings living the good life as they travel abroad. Coupled with the stories of people paying off a gazillion dollars in debt in four and a half minutes and it starts to look easy.

Except it isn’t that easy! It’s actually damn hard. Personal circumstances play a vital role. Where you live, your health and education opportunities determine at least a part of the outcome.

I’ve been consulting with members of the FIRE community for close to 5 years now. At every personal finance (PF) conference I’ve attended I conducted consulting sessions. Tuesdays and Thursdays are consulting days at the office and I’m usually booked months in advance. (Okay! Sometimes I get caught up because I say “no” for a few months to every request.)

You would think consulting sessions with a “wealthy accountant” would focus on taxes. Au contraire. Personal finance issues and retirement are front and center as well.

People pay a lot of money for what frequently turns into a therapy session. Fully half of all consulting sessions start with an apology that sounds something like this: “I’m 37, but I haven’t retired yet.”

WHAT!

Your 37 and and haven’t retired? The inhumanity. But I have to take their words seriously! The words come out as contrition. These people feel like complete failures because they were still gainfully employed the day after their 30th birthday.

The steady stories of early retirees living the good life, traveling the world and loaded with cash has warped the worldview of many young people.

Another 15% or so of consulting clients already reached financial independence and partook of early retirement. Traveling grew old or they didn’t care for running around any more. They need guidance to get back into life.

Which leaves at best a third of my consulting clients who ask what I would consider normal questions of a tax guy.

Tears in Heaven

On more than one occasion it came to tears. Earlier this year a young man needed a consulting session bad. He started the session with an apology; he was 32 and still was working out of necessity. His voice broke and then the tears came.

This is why I felt somewhat the same as Suze Orman said she HATED! the FIRE community idea of frugality and early retirement. There is more to it than that. Some people take it to heart and experience depression when the extraordinary doesn’t come to pass.

Orman is wrong on many levels. She is too much of a self-promoter for me. But she does get it right often enough. That is why she reached the position she has as a trusted (by many) financial resource.

Orman is also right on a few things. A singular goal of early retirement smacks of narrow-mindedness. Exactly what do you plan on doing with all that time if not engaged in creating value? (Now you know why I’m an outlier of the FIRE community. Many stay far away due to my opinions concerned they may rub off. A recent visit to the doctor confirms I’m contagious.)

But if a community causes depression in some people it might be time to rethink the mantra. I’m only one guy and I have only so many therapy session time slots. There has to be a better way.

 

Publicly Speaking

A few weeks ago I was talking with Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) when I shared these facts with him. He was aghast. He had no idea people were experiencing these kinds of negative emotions due to the FIRE movement and his work.

Family, friends and loved ones are the true meaning of a happy and joyful life. Money and wealth don't make for an incredible retirement; you do.

Family, friends and loved ones are the true meaning of a happy and joyful life. Money and wealth don’t make for an incredible retirement; you do.

But it’s not Pete’s fault! Like many people Pete had the opportunity. Unlike many people he went for it and succeeded! His story resonated and for a reason. The MMM story provides a template for how it can be done.

Saving hard and investing gives you an advantage. If others are distressed it isn’t your fault!

I wish I had an easy answer for people struggling with FIRE community concepts. If you reached your 40th birthday, or God forbid, 50, before you retire there is no shame! Even if you retire at 70 or older there is no shame.

But the older guys are not the problem. When a 70 year old asks for a consulting session he doesn’t worry about early retirement; he wants guidance on financial issues, legacy planning, investments, taxes and medical problems. The pressure to retire early left the station long ago. And thank God for that. Pity is not a good place to begin a PF plan.

For the younger guys feeling the weight I need to convince them retirement isn’t the issue; financial independence is. Clients in their 20s want a firm game plan to reach the finish line no later than their 30th year. It’s an insane request.

Up to this point I just said what needed to be said, but the only way to get the message across is with an allegory. And I start with a joke so their minds open to options.

Here is what I say:

I’m not afraid of public speaking; I’m afraid people might actually believe what I tell them.

Public speaking is the number one fear for most people. People would prefer a root canal than to speak before a group.

Not me. I’ve never had an issue with speaking to a group of any size. I guess I’m weird that way.

What does scare the living bejesus out of me is that someone in the crowd may actually listen and take my words to heart. And that too is a bit strange. (It seems your favorite accountant is often half bubble off center.)

 

Easy Peasy

From the inception of this blog to today I’ve worked hard to outline where I failed and how I dealt with the issues. But no matter how hard I try people seem to think it was easy for me.

History seems preordained to future readers. The same applies to me. Readers know the outcome even when reading the struggles I faced and anguish I felt. There was no chance of failure. The outcome was known.

It was never easy and it certainly wasn’t a sure thing at the time. The nights I lay awake in bed in a cold sweat trying to figure out what to do did not guarantee an acceptable outcome. There were a few times when I thought I was finished for good. Business can mete out some bloody lessons.

And that is why public speaking doesn’t scare. I faced far worse deaths than dying on stage.

But what about my fear that people might take my words to heart?

That is where the real fear lies. When I accept a podcast or speak to a group (or even when speaking to a client in a consulting session) there is no guarantee my best advise will work. Like everyone else, my past is littered with good ideas that went bust!

My concern when working with any client is to prevent further harm. A victim of assault (yes, I’ve had a few sessions where personal safety was the primary issue) needs good advise, but the risks already exist and it is imperative I weigh my words carefully to prevent further harm.

Even when it comes to business, money and taxes I take great care. The mistakes I’ve made over the years are legend and a reminder of how fallible I am . Yes, a tax professional with my experience can get it wrong. (I know, it blows my mind, too!)

But it happens. The best laid plans often go awry. Standing in front of a group of people doesn’t cause the fear. The fear is later when I realize some of the attendees will take my words and use them. Using history as a guide I know some of those concepts will not work as designed.

Lots of Money

By now alert readers will point out the title of this post promised a happy retirement with money; lots and lots of cash.

I didn’t forget my promise and it wasn’t a click bait title either. Before I could deliver on the promise I had to expose you to the riptides under the surface of the FIRE community; a riptide even the fearless leaders of the community are probably not aware of.

Then I needed to share an allegory to illustrate the problem the leaders of the community face. The winners have a jilted view. They made it happen. They saved, invested and it worked. It is hard at times to see what is happening on the ground floor when sitting at the peak

There are many with serious medical issues not so lucky. Educational and business opportunities also play a key role.

Still, nearly anyone (I leave room for the possibility some have little to no chance of living the FIRE fantasy) can reach the goals espoused by the FIRE community.

Suze Orman was wrong to HATE! the FIRE community when she later admitted she didn’t fully understand the movement. (I think Suze Orman is a very smart lady and knew exactly what the FIRE community stood for. She also understands human psychology. She said exactly what she wanted and the FIRE community promoted her most recent book better than $100 million of advertising. We need to be smarter than that FIRE community and not be so easily baited.)

She did get one thing right. The FIRE community leaves many feeling empty when the bar is set so high that only a few can reach it (retire by 30 that is, not financial independence which is attainable by the vast majority).

The pursuit of financial independence and attaining said goal at any age is awesome! Feeling bad because some 30-something has his/her picture in the news feed enjoying another adventure around the world is the wrong impression to take.

Remember who I am! I consult with many of these people and speak with them periodically even if they aren’t clients. More than you think return to a “normal” job or start their own business after the shine comes off the bauble of early retirement.

So how do you reach financial independence? How do you get the loads of money I promised?

As my old friend Doug Nordman once said, “Your net worth is a product of

  1. your savings rate,
  2. investment fees and
  3. time.”

It’s as simple as that. The more you save and invest the better off you are, just give it a little time. The larger the percentage of your income you invest in low-cost index funds mixed with time determines your net worth. To reach your goals you only need to plug in the numbers and wait a bit.

If you want to retire sooner you have to increase your savings rate. The earlier you start the earlier your reach financial independence. Then you can toy with retirement until it gets old and you decide to start creating value again.

Of course your income will also plays a role. The higher your income the easier it is to save a larger percentage of your income. A good six-figure income can take you from zero to FI within 10 years. Minimum wage will take longer.

Retire Happy

The most viewed post of this blog was published years ago in April of 2016. In that post I share how I met Mrs. Accountant and how our relationship grew. I concluded the best way to have a rich, happy life (the best kept secret of early retirees, the wealthy and happy people) was to have a nurturing relationship with the one you love for life. In other words, I stayed married for over 30 years now (to the same woman, if I need to point that out!). This one fact is largely responsible for my level of wealth, happiness and contentment with life. (Every morning I wake and feel stunned by level of awesomeness my life has been. That same moment every morning I realize the relationship with the woman sleeping next to me is the most valuable asset I have.)

Early retirement gets all the press, but how you retire is what really matters. Retire to the life you will love at any age.

Early retirement gets all the press, but how you retire is what really matters. Retire to the life you will love at any age.

Money is the easy part! This blog and many others provide plenty of ideas to get rich. Even when I speak to a group and I fear someone might think I actually know something, I still utter a few golden nuggets you can use to have a better than even chance at knocking the ball out of the park.

Happy is the hard part because people don’t listen to what I say. There is no fear on my part when I explain what has made me happy in life.

And it’s more than happiness! Happiness is an event and fleeting. Winning the lottery or having a child or achieving early retirement at age 29 (eat your heart our mustachioed man) will bring happiness. Happiness creates a giddiness. And it is fleeting. Once the newness of the experience begin to fade, so does the happiness.

Instead, I encourage joy. Joy is much more than happiness and not dependent on an external event. Joy comes from in here (pointing to my head and heart) not out there. I imagine I will feel joy on my deathbed as I say goodbye to my children, family and friends. This isn’t happiness. I’ll miss the people I love and dying doesn’t sound like fun. But I will feel joy.

Joy is a more powerful emotion. In a world where people are brought to tears over a delayed retirement (delayed to some age less than 50 especially) it is important to spend less time on happiness (retiring at 30 brings happiness for a while) and more time experiencing joy. You can feel joy in any situation in any location. The choice is yours because joy is internal.

Joy is contentment, a coming to terms with oneself. Joy is gratitude for the gift of life. Even if it means a life of hardship and poverty.

Pete did a good thing when he set a goal of retiring by his 30th birthday and reaching said goal. His example can provide us with tools to achieve our own goals. (All those young people in the news feeds telling their story of early retirement provide the same material: a blueprint to help us design our own goals. Our goals; not their’s.)

If for some reason you manage to retire by the time you live 30 years on this planet I’m sure you’ll feel happiness. At least for a little while.

If you want to know the secret of happiness then you need to feel gratitude for whatever life has dealt you. Then you feel something even more powerful than happiness: JOY!

And nobody can take that away from you.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

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?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

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.

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.

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

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

 

The Easy Way to Wealth: Deferred Gratification

 

Sometimes it is hard to wait.

Instant gratification is the hallmark of a good economy according to the government wonks and marketers. It is also the hallmark of the impoverished souls forced to work forever in a soulless job to cover the debt payments.

Watching clients for decades has made it clear there are only a few golden rules to wealthy. Automatic investing is one; deferred gratification is the other. Deferred gratification is what funds the investment account so I think deferred gratification is by far the more powerful of the two traits.

Instant gratification is sometimes hard to see. Today I will point out all the signs you are satiating your lusts a bit too quickly for your own good. By recognizing your overzealous spending habits you can delay gratification to your benefit. You give up nothing, but gain plenty of freedom, less (or no) debt and financial independence. It is a stress-free way to conduct life.

Signs You Are Not Delaying Gratification

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway, said in a recent CNBC interview, he believed in “deferred gratification”. Munger is 93 years old. And he still believes the best way to live life is by deferring gratification. Does he know something most of us miss? Perhaps the secret to wealth AND happiness is delaying gratification, if not outright ignoring certain gratification permanently.

Even frugal people are guilty of instant gratification. The most obvious tell-tale sign someone is not deferring gratification is debt. Spending more than you earn is a direct result of satisfying lusts without proper thought. Every pretty trinket draws your credit card from its nest without regard for consequences.

Then we have the so-called “good debt”. Try to run that one past Dave Ramsey. Common practice says business and mortgage debt are good debts, along with student loans. Wrong! Debt is the acid which destroys the vessel which holds it.

Before anyone goes and accuses the friendly accountant writing these words of hypocrisy, I confess I have a small loan on my personal residence. Let me give you the excuse first. I have the cash to pay it off and the interest rate is so low my investments earn more. Now let me tell you a story about why my theory is 100% wrong.

Back in 1978 inflation was rocketing higher. Banks convinced farmers borrowing more money was wise because interest rates were lower than inflation and commodities were moving higher. (Interest rates would soon catch up to reality.) It’s the same argument I make today with my home. Inflation is 3% and my mortgage rate is 2.375%. Back then inflation was 8% and interest rates 7.5%. Same BS story when you think about it. Heck, dividend yields were darn near as high as the interest rates around 1980.

My family bought the line. We were dumb farmers and dumb farmers go broke. Interest rates moved higher, the economy stalled and commodity prices collapsed. The family farm went into bankruptcy in 1982. Here is why.

No matter how bad things get you can always cut costs. You can grow your own food, sew your own clothes, turn down the heat and eliminate any spending not 100% necessary. You can live on almost no money if you really have to. The one thing you can’t cut the cost of is debt. Those payments are due each month and there is no way to reduce the cost without coming up with the cash to pay the debt in full. And the money to pay the debt off in full has been spent long ago on something you don’t care much about anymore.

Student Loans and Mortgages are Required

No they are not! I understand most people starting out can’t pay cash for a home. I get it. However, once a home is secured, mortgage retirement must be a priority. No one ever lost their home to the bank without a mortgage. It sounds like a stupid comment, but I keep making it at the office and people keep ignoring the advice and losing their homes. Trust me, it’s not a crime to retire your mortgage. And don’t get me started on the tax deduction argument. I do not have to explain giving the bank $10,000 in interest to get $3,000 back from the IRS is industrial strength stupid.

Student loans are the other popular debt today. Gotta get a student loan so ya can get smart and earn mo money. It’s just another error in judgment and refusal to heed Munger’s advice: defer gratification. Spend today to pay it back later with interest. Dumb.

The first test of going to college is getting there. Putting it on the credit card is not earning the right to attend. Scholarships would qualify.

Stop! Think about what you are doing before going into debt.

Debt as a Cash Management Tool

By now you must think I am cold and callus. I get it. My attitude can rub some wrong.  But I have watched for too many decades client after client suffering the consequences of not following this simple advice, to live debt-free.

But debt can be a tool. Short-term use of debt in business frequently makes sense. If the money is there but using it would cost more than borrowing, then debt is the proper course as long as you retire the debt in short order.

Just like a mortgage, cash management debt is acceptable if a shoulder is put into killing the debt as quickly as possible. The same applies to student loans. If a modest amount of debt is needed to finish a degree it is usually the proper course to do so. But if you have no scholarships or personal cash to fund the bulk of your education expense you are engaged in instant gratification at the future’s expense. Student loans lingering five or ten years later is a problem. If you have to change your lifestyle to deal with the debt you might need to rethink the reason behind acquiring the debt.

Don’t get suckered into the leverage argument either. Of course leverage increases the rate of return on an investment. It also magnifies the losses when thing head south.

Defer Without Pain

Deferred gratification only hurts if you let it. Munger is 93 and still talks about delaying gratification for something he will never live long enough to see. That is the mindset that made him rich, mentally well adjusted, happy, and never feeling like he missed out on anything. Munger has enough money to buy anything he wants. But as Buffett said, more homes would not make him happier. In fact, it probably would make him less happy.

The only path to wealth is deferred gratification. If you buy everything you want when you first want it you will be broke. And miserable! Use an old trick when you see something you want. Sleep on it for three days. If you still want the item you at least can rest assured you want it enough to use it for an extended period of time.

Practice poverty, as Cato and Seneca recommend. It’s not that bad. Spending every penny you earn is the part that causes lasting pain and loss of freedom. You will find owning less stuff an important part of freedom. It’s not only the debt and lost opportunity cost of money you could have invested, it’s also the burden of storing, using, protecting and managing all the stuff you have. The weight of buying every trinket the moment you see it is quite a stressful lifestyle.

And you will not miss the stuff you don’t buy! All the toys and electronics are a distraction at best; a distraction from the truly awesome things life offers. When you buy something you also feel an obligation to use the item at least for a while to justify the purchase. Instant gratification is a harsh mistress. She demands your soul long after the transaction is finished.

Happiness is in less. The only time more is better is when basic human needs are unfulfilled. You need a minimum amount of quality food and water, clothing to keep warm and shelter. The shelter does not need any fanciness; the clothing can be old and plain to meet your basic needs. If you are not happy at this point more stuff will not fill the void as marketers would have you believe. After the basics, additional stuff is a job weighing you down. Only you can decide how much of a load you plan on carrying around for decades.

Charlie Munger still preaches deferred gratification for the country and himself. He refuses to buy just because he can. He knows buying will not make him happy or feel better. Munger enjoys good books daily and prefers a good deal over crazy spending even though it would make no difference to his wealth at this stage of the game.

I hope CNBC keeps the article up for a long time. You can read it here if they do. Munger’s comments were about the nation preserving natural gas resources while waiting for other parts of the world to exhaust their supply. His advice will not come full circle in his lifetime. It does not matter to him. Doing the right thing does.

This is an important topic people must hear. Please share, like and comment. Your small effort could make a difference in our modern world.

Decluttering

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Okay, this is not my living room! It is a side of my home office. In my defense I did not put all that stuff there.

There is a genetic defect in The Wealthy Accountant’s family. It is so serious it threatens to overrun everything we value, costing us money and health. No one doubts grandpa accountant possessed the genetic mutation back in the farming days. Dad accountant followed in grandpa’s footsteps and a brief look around my home will erase any question in your mind the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

When I was a wee tyke my grandfather had a special job for us on rainy days. Rather than take a day off he sent us kids to the old shed where all the nails and screws from assorted jobs were thrown into a wooden bin. Our job was to separate them. Lest you think I am pulling your leg I have a sworn affidavit in my drawer, god forbid I would throw that away.

Nothing was wasted on the farm. The Great Depression left an indelible mark on my grandparents as they saved everything “just in case”. When we talk frugal today we have nothing on my granddad. Nothing. We worked hard for the sake of working. The fear in the back of our minds was the hardship of the Great Depression would return. It did in 1982, the year I graduated from high school. The late 1970s put the family farm in debt and the inflation and interest rates of the early 1980s ended several generations of farming.

I live in a county with a current population under 50,000. I live more toward the center of the county. If you exclude the heavy population in the northwest corner, the county is very rural. I grew up in one of the ruralist (is that a word) parts of the state. We never spent money on anything unless absolutely necessary. The milkman would deliver dairy products when he picked up our milk. Grocery shopping was a major event. I was a senior in high school when I left the county for the first time. My uncle did not leave the state until he was in his 40s and it was to cross the Illinois border by ten miles to pick up his oldest daughter when her car broke down. He left the state one other time in his life for his honeymoon several years later (he enjoyed a cruise).

The Diagnosed Sickness

The genetic disease I speak of is clutter. My grandfather’s house took months to empty after he died. It boggles the mind the material a guy can collect over 90 years when nothing gets tossed. Of course, most of the garbage, I mean belongings, ended up in a dumpster. One of the items we struggled to part with was a vintage home-made jar of thistle wine from 1976. It was a good year for thistles.

When do we finally say enough is enough? My grandparents ran from a monster that never existed. Some things need to be discarded. Quality of life was sacrificed to satiate the demons. I am better than most in my family but the photos in this post attest to a few minor issues I need to deal with.

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Progress has been made over the last few years. There are tricks to reducing clutter in your life without the emotional response of parting with a loved one. (Okay, it’s junk. Junk! You bought it for twenty-five cents at a rummage sale fourteen years ago and it has been collecting dust for all those fourteen years. Junk.)

If you read this far you are all for decluttering your life and living a more minimalist lifestyle. I have seen all the different internet challenges to create a minimalist lifestyle. They don’t work for people who need an intervention. Taking a 100 item challenge (get rid of everything except for 100 things) is meaningless when you have 42,611 pieces of crap lying around the place. I have a farm. Do you know how much the local landfill would expand if I tossed all but 100 items in my life? Geesh!

Steps to Declutter Your Life and Take Back Control

Clutter destroys quality of life. Taking control of your life requires downsizing. If you have a storage unit to hold all the stuff you can’t fit in your home/apartment there is a great place to start downsizing and saving money. There are few reasons to have stuff in a storage unit. If it does not fit in your home then maybe you should have keep your money in your wallet.

Here are some ways I have reduced the stuff cluttering the house or office:

  • For every item brought in the house one has to go. It’s a simple theory until you realize you need to choose something in your arsenal to sell/donate/junk if you want a new item. Want to make it a bigger challenge? If a family member brings in something and refuses to choose what goes, you choose one of your things. A month or two of that and you begin to realize you have the ability to preach.
  • Start with one room and put everything in that room in boxes, you know, the boxes you can never throw away. Anytime you need something from the boxes feel free to take that item out. Stuff you did not use after a month goes to Goodwill. You might even get a deduction. Tell’em the Wealthy Accountant sent ya.
  • Get honest. I love my books and as frugal as I am I have way too many books I could have borrowed from the library the one time I wanted to read them. Movies are worse. A decade or so ago I got the crazy idea I would buy movies since I did not waste money on cable. It did not take long to build a pile of shit, I mean movies. One day I got serious and donated over half to the library. (I can always check them out if I want to see them again. So far, never had the itch to check out one of my donated movies. Go figure.) It is time to get rid of half the remaining half this year. I call it ‘The Garbage Bag Declutter’. Get a garbage bag and fill it with stuff for Goodwill. You know who to them sent you. Right?
  • Books are a different story. I have parted with few of my children, ah, books. Well they treat me better than my kids! Okay, I jest. But bibliophile knows exactly how I feel. Some day, when I am strong, I will part with two, maybe three of my cherished books. I may not post for a while as I go through the stages of grief, but no one can say I don’t walk the talk.
  • Act like you are moving. Want to make decluttering easy? Simple. Act like you have to pay to move all your sh . . . junk by the pound. You will figure out real quick how important that rummage sale bargain beanbag chair is. I know. It was a good idea at the time.
  • Paper party. One of the worst offenders of clutter is paper: newspapers, mail, letters, magazines, et cetera. Take time to sort the piles of paper. Tax documents should be saved in a filing cabinet and disposed of after the statuette of limitations runs out. Be sure to keep important paperwork like the deed to your properties. And the marriage license. Don’t throw that out. Yikes! Mrs. Accountant would have my neck if I tossed that. Paperwork that seemed important six months ago might be candidates for recycling or shredding. Old magazines have to go.
  • Don’t forget the basement, attic, side rooms, and closets. If you have a big mess, start with one room at a time, tackling one per week, or one per month if you need more time to recover from the shock of the previous room. Yeah, you might find some moldy stuff back there. Good thing you finally cleaned that corner out after a decade.
  • Don’t let people dump stuff on you. A portion of my clutter comes from well-intentioned people giving me something they thought I needed and now I feel obligated to keep. Christmas is a no-gift zone in my house. No Christmas tree either. We have a plant we call Fronds we decorate with whatever we can find. It looks strange, but then again look who is giving the advice.
  • Set a date/have a plan. Packrats with genetic issues have a hard time starting the decluttering process. I find setting a date to free a room from bondage works for me. Trick yourself into doing it. The clean, decluttered, minimalist room is the one you will spend most time in afterwards because there is room to move.
  • Don’t forget the bathroom either. Clean out all old medications and first-aid supplies. Bandages from 1974 might need a refresh. Brill cream after fifteen or so years is nasty.
  • Uncluttered/minimalism is sexy. A room is inviting and alive when there are few items in it. Act like Steve Jobs. He never found the perfect furniture so he never bought any; he sat on the floor. Put off until tomorrow what you want to add to a room today. Most of the time on second thought you will take a pass.
  • Don’t stop now! Your computer looks like a hurricane went through it. Pack stuff away in folders. Your computer desktop should be neat and clean with a slant toward efficiency.
  • Personal life. Your cluttered personal life needs some cleaning too. All the demands and commitments are making a mess of your time. You only get so much of that time stuff so you better be careful or you will run out before you learn to enjoy life. Declutter your social life and you will appreciate what you have more.
  • Learn the meaning of enough. I get offered stuff all the time. I say no a lot. It takes a while to learn how to say no without hurting feelings, but it is a valuable skill once learned. Many times my decision to pass on a beer or other stuff allows the other person to say no too. It empowers you and them!

I dream of living a minimalist lifestyle. Three seconds in my home, office, or barn and you will know I am nowhere near completing that goal. Reaching the perfect decluttered, minimalist life is not the goal; it is all about the journey. Freeing yourself from clutter a bit at a time extends the great feeling of freedom when you realize you have less stuff to take care of or worse, protect.

I gotta get going. The garage needs some work.

Camp Mustache III Roundup

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Always something to learn at Camp Mustache III.

There is a raggedy band that gathers in the hills east of Seattle every year over the Memorial Day holiday in the States. From around the planet they gather, each with their own unique story. I was one of those stories.

Camp Mustache III was a resounding success again this year as Joe, Kristin, and Emma put together a hell of a program. Camp Mustache is a gathering of like minded people focused on financial independence and early retirement. Pete Adeney is the guest of honor as Mr. Money Mustache.

Attendees ranged from the young (two impressive young ladies, age 23 and 25 were there) to the less young. Each had a life story to tell on their journey to financial independence. Meal time allowed ample opportunity to catch up with old friends from previous Camps and make new friends. You had to work hard to have alone or quiet time. There was so much to do!

 

Venue

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Our home for a long weekend.

Our group stayed at the Rainbow Lodge in North Bend. The secluded retreat offers ample opportunity to reflect on life and unwind. Cedar wood added to the calming environment. The rooms were simple with twin beds; the restrooms communal. The design encourages spending time outdoors and meditating. The main resort building has several meeting areas. The landscaped grounds have a chapel, plus walking trails.

Food

Okay, the food was awesome! I gained two pounds in a weekend even after climbing Mount Si and walking the facility all day. Every meal was home cooking at its best. The food alone was worth the trip.

Weather

It rained nonstop this year until Sunday morning, just in time to climb Mount Si. Temps were a bit chilly, but a t-shirt was fine most of the time. A long sleeved shirt did the trick for evenings.

Schedule

13325684_10154222549681552_3775249241108110433_nThere were too many breakout sessions to attend them all. Three tracks were running all the time. Yours truly presented on “Should You Do Your Own Taxes or Hire a Pro” and tax issues affecting the audience.

A few of the notable presentations I attended include: a retired NCIS investigator, Hunter Post, discussed gaining clarity while working for and living in financial independence; Doug Nordman shared ideas on early retirement for military personnel (his ideas work for non-military people too); Travel hacking (travel the world for free; it’s easy and fun). I missed sessions on Solar 101 (dang it), real estate investing (already have serious experience in this area), and books and blogs (good thing they wrote all the great blogs and books for us to read on an easel).

The greatest lesson I came away with this year is “One More Year” syndrome. As a business owner I love what I do and don’t want to quit. However, I discovered I can start the transitioning process now. No more “One More Year” thinking for me. I already have enough; it is time to step back. I will provide a post soon on how I am partnering with an employee to transition (sell) my firm to her while retaining the option to prepare some returns during tax season and consult. Clients will see no changes. Everybody wins!

Elevated Financial Independence

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Mr. Money Mustache himself taking the last step to the summit of Mt. Si.

Climbing Mount Si is becoming a rite of passage for many attending Camp Mustache. The four mile hike takes you over 3100 feet higher in elevation. It also provides an opportunity to bond with fellow hikers. The climb was muddy this year with all the rain, but the rain stopped about a half hour prior to starting our climb. The temperature was perfect for climbing. The greatest part was the summit. The clouds broke for about ten minutes just as we reached the peak; something we did not get last year.

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Our awesome climb up Mt. Si.

While climbing Mount Si other climbers noticed our Camp Mustache t-shirts. As a climber passed us going down he said to his friend, “There is another one of those mustache people again. And they don’t even have mustaches!” I could not resist. I replied, “We are a cult.” The man stopped and stared. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We don’t want your money. In fact we insist you keep and invest your money so you can retire early.” He turned away and said, “Sick.” You can’t win them all.

                                                                                                           Friends

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Friends are everywhere you look.

I made so many new friends from around the world at Camp Mustache III. It is hard to keep up with everyone. My mind wanders as I gaze over the fields at home now, wondering what our small group is enjoying today in their personal lives.

Best Said in Pictures

I started downloading pictures from our group and forgot to tag where they came from. Therefore, I am using photos unattributed. Some are mine; some belong to members of our group. Sorry. I’ll take any photo down if it is yours and you request the deletion.

 

Honors

Several people were disappointed they could not attend my session. I worked all weekend answering all the tax questions I could. Emma took a note to contact me in advance next year so I can guarantee attendance at Camp Mustache IV since it fills within a day or so. All the speakers are popular, but my unique message (taxes) is not covered by anyone else (Brandon covers taxes within retirement planning only) so I get to feel loved. Hope to see you at Camp Mustache IV.

Camp Mustache III

Our group performing the Mr. Money Mustache salute.

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The clouds cleared at the summit of Mt. Si for ten minutes as we reached the top.