Earlier this week I had the opportunity to extend my Thanksgiving holiday by attending a few days of continuing education training. Northeast Wisconsin isn’t a bad place to get an education as long as you can get to Green Bay or the Fox Cities. But when you live in the middle of nowhere it takes planning and strategy to git er done.
Well, the plan was fine; the strategy could have used a bit more work. It’s been a while since I weaseled my way to Green Bay where the training classes were. The fastest way there was to take side roads the whole way.
My memory has started to slip these past years as the birthdays add up. Not having to visit Green Bay in a bit, I knew the trip was a straight forward drive with one exception; at Wrightstown I had to make a loop to get on the bridge to cross the river.
The first day I started early and relied on memory — you know, the thing starting to go with age. It was a good thing I started early.
If you don’t cross the bridge at Wrightstown you have to take a longer, slower route deeper into Green Bay before swinging hard west to head out to the casino where the class was held. Confident as only an American can be, I went off memory. It was a gamble I was willing to take.
Sitting in a classroom all day listening to tax law is grueling. As soon as class was over I wanted to get home. Now less willing to trust my normally reliable brain, I decided to use the phone’s GPS. The last thing I needed was to miss the turn at Wrightstown. Then I’d end up going all the way to the Fox Cites to get home and that would add twenty minutes or so to the ride.
The GPS worked swimmingly at Wrightstown. GPS loves highways and it loved the route turning off at Wrightstown. But it didn’t want to take the side roads the way I wanted!
I followed the GPS directions and knew I was going off course. The darn thing wanted me to take highways as much as possible so I ended up on Highway 32/57. It wasn’t a terrible distance out of the way, but added ten to fifteen minutes to the drive.
Such was Day 1.
I was ready for Day 2! I used the GPS to get to the casino for class in record time. I was even able to use side roads, too.
Day 2 is always brutal. Day 1 wears you out and Day 2 grinds you into putty. Sixteen hours of intense tax law review has that effect on normal humans.
I wanted the fastest way home and hoped the GPS would be as kind on the return trip as the morning drive. Once again things went swimmingly at the Wrightstown turnoff. Then the GPS wanted me to keep going east until I hit 32/57.
I was ready.
Suspecting the ruse from the GPS I took note of how the squirrely turn at Wrightstown fed to the side road I wanted to take. When the GPS said to go straight I made the loop I made that morning and found my true heading home.
Rather than turn the GPS off now that I knew the way home I decided to leave it on and focus on my driving. There are a lot of deer roaming and it gets dark early this time of time. I wanted to get home and was in no mood to tenderize some venison.
The GPS kept telling me to hang a left at every cross road until I was only a few miles from home. The GPS didn’t care the side roads were a faster route; it wanted to get to a highway, any highway, as quickly as possible.
The Day the Sun Went Out
This past August we had a total eclipse of the sun. A new friend from this blog, Bernie, invited the Accountant family to stay at his place only a few miles from totality in Kentucky.
It was an awesome experience and included a new friend. But that isn’t the interesting part of today’s story.
When the eclipse was over our plan was to head to the Interstate and back to Bernie’s. Except seven quadrillion other people had the same idea.
The GPS loaded where we watched the eclipse, but once we got on the interstate coverage died. And so did the traffic.
The highway was wall-to-wall cars and weren’t moving. It took an hour to move a mile! I don’t see stuff like that in the backwoods of Wisconsin. Where I live a car coming down the road is an event. Either one of the few neighbors I have is up to something, we have visitors or someone is lost. Now I saw cars as far as the eye could see!
After a few hours some people were getting in trouble as their gas got low. Good thing I was smart enough to fill up after the eclipse before we headed back. Okay, maybe luck had more to do with it.
Cars were pulling to the side and some were stranded. If emergency services were needed you were SOL.
I’d had enough. Mrs. Accountant wanted to drive back so I studied the map. Without GPS the map was incomplete. Sick of the traffic and with evening fast approaching I wanted an alternative before it got dark and our gas started getting low.
I told Mrs. Accountant to take the next turnoff a half mile ahead.
“Are you sure?”
Mrs. Accountant trusted my instinct. It took another hour to travel that half mile to the turnoff, but we eventually made it.
Some people had the same idea, but it was a serious minority.
Traffic on the side roads we light. We still had one problem. We needed to cross the interstate to get home. And like the crazy loop in Wrightstown, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Cell service was spotty but did click long enough to expand the map in the phone. As we traveled toward home we noticed every approach to the interstate was backed up for miles. Crossing the interstate could take half the night!
I searched the map for a side road crossing under the interstate without on-ramps. It was a gravel road, but there was only one other car on the road and we were moving just fine.
Once on the other side of the interstate we drove at the speed limit all the way back to Bernie’s place. It was dark by the time we got there.
Mrs. Accountant and I still think there are people out there on that interstate in Kentucky still waiting to move a few more feet.
The Best Choice Isn’t Obvious
The two stories above reveal the same lesson: the obvious choice isn’t always the best one. The GPS in Kentucky showed massive traffic issues and still demanded we stay on the interstate! I think people were staying on the interstate because they were preprogrammed to take the most obvious course home and their presupposed assumptions were affirmed by a piece of technology. If my GPS was giving bad advice; the same must be said for the rest of the crowd.
The interstate is frequently the right choice. Unfortunately it’s also the crowded choice. The side roads and lesser highways might be slower, but the traffic is generally lighter and the scenery better. The interstate doesn’t allow much opportunity to meet locals. State highways wind through small towns where you can get out and chat with folks. In my opinion it’s the only way to travel.
Other areas of life face the same dilemma. Technology wants us to always run for the nearest highway when that is the worst possible choice! People, unfortunately, react the same way the technology does.
Wealth experiences the same issues. Everyone is a genius right about now. The stock market has been straight up for nine years. Virtually every other asset class has also enjoyed heady gains. Bonds have been higher as interest rates declined. And now we get cryptocurrencies to add to the growing list of assets turning everyone into Einstein.
History is an important guide. Following the crowd doesn’t lead to riches. At best the crowd leads to mediocrity; at worst it leads to the poorhouse.
I don’t trust what technology always tells me. Right now technology (and the experts) tells us to pile into bitcoin and the stock market. Weeeeeeeee!
What could possibly go wrong?
Like the interstate in Kentucky after the eclipse, we might find it hard to move anywhere or even get off the crowded road. Before long we end up with real problems as night approaches and gas is running low with the kids in the back seat.
Heading for the highway sounds like the smart move. Sometimes it’s not! It can extend the drive a few minutes like my trip to Green Bay for a class or create serious problems like it did after the total eclipse in Kentucky.
The side roads are seldom crowded. Sometimes you get behind a tractor for a short distance or have to navigate twisting roads and frequent stop signs.
But at least you have the road to yourself and a whole lot less stress.
The Gallup World Poll publishes a report on their findings involving the happiest people on Earth every year. This year National Geographic magazine has an article in their November issue discussing the results, written by Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones of Happiness.
Certain nations top the list every year. Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore report more happiness than other nations. The United States, a nation fond of bragging about its freedoms, isn’t all that happy.
Money isn’t the overriding factor either. Costa Rica, for example, is relatively poor compared to the U.S or Canada. There has to be something other than money causing people to report unusually high levels of happiness.
The National Geographic article starts with a Costa Rican who socializes virtually every day with a select group of friends, sleeps seven hours a night, walks to work, eats healthy foods, loves his job and the people he works with, volunteers weekly, attends church services and enjoys soccer. It sounds like an awesome life! I encourage you to buy the November 2017 issue of National Geographic to read the details yourself (or see your library).
Before we get too excited (or defensive) we need to examine what criteria are used to determine happiness. Five questions were asked about social life, financial health, community, physical health and purpose in life in the poll. The poll asked about positive and negative experiences.
For most nations (and people), Western views of happiness (having a lot of stuff, early retirement, travel) are not overriding determinants in happiness. Yes, free time makes a difference in the level of happiness people experience, but total retirement doesn’t lead to overall happiness if your life isn’t already in balance. Having lots of “stuff” is considered something which makes people happy. In reality it appears the opposite is true. Once the basics are met, more stuff makes us less happy.
Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore top the list while not always recognized as First World nations. They are! I’ve been to Costa Rica and personally experienced the happiness the people of this nation experience.
Denmark and Singapore are small nations based on geography. Both nations have a relatively high level of income and standard of living. Taxes are high in Denmark, providing a safety net which seems to reduce economic levels of stress. In Denmark when the water rises all boats float higher, unlike in the U.S. where there are decided “haves” and “have-nots”.
The Happiest Place in the U.S.
Even though the U.S. is modestly happy, some areas of the country are happier than others. My good friend, Pete Adeney, aka Mr. Money Mustache, would be happy to know Boulder, Colorado is listed as the happiest place in the U.S. Pete lives a hop, skip and a jump from Boulder and continuously espouses the benefits of living right and happiness.
What makes Boulder, Colorado and the surrounding area such a great place to live? First, you have to credit the people and the way they chose to live. Biking, walking and other outdoor activities are an integral part of life around Boulder. Outdoor activities lead to better health and more positive interactions with neighbors and the community.
Buildings are limited by law how high they can be. Rather than fund more roads and parking, taxpayers voted for 300 miles of additional bike routes. How many communities are so enlightened?
In some parts of the nation the soda tax is contentious. Chicago eventually ended their soda tax after so-called negative experiences and reports of lost sales by retailers to surrounding areas. Boulder didn’t have such issues with a soda tax. Boulder voted in a soda tax and kept it, using the funds raised to provide resources for health programs for kids.
Another hotly debated issue is food stamps, aka, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The city of Boulder, not the state of Colorado, pays recipients of SNAP an equal amount compared to the federal benefit, effectively doubling the payment. This allows the poor to eat better quality food which leads to better health and a greater opportunity to secure gainful employment sooner. No wonder Colorado led the nation out of the 2008 economic crisis. What blows the mind is how stubborn other regions of the U.S. fight such obviously successful programs. And Colorado does all this with a below average tax levy.
A Man of Our Times
Pete Adeney is man ahead of his time. He retired at 30 and still provides massive benefits to his community and the world. He has preached many of the fundamentals of happiness in his blog.
His message is relentless even in the face of opposition. He believes people should bike or walk virtually everywhere. Living close to where you work, shop and play are vital in his philosophy. Only rare travel outside one’s city is the only time a carbon fueled vehicle should ever be used.
On the surface most people think this means Adeney is encouraging human powered transportation to save money. While this is true at some level, his attitudes are based upon “living right” and maximizing happiness, as well as environmental concerns. Walking and biking are healthy activities which allow people to enjoy life. When you are limited due to health, happiness declines.
Recently Adeney bought an old building in downtown Longmont, where he lives, and remodeled it as his blog’s world headquarters. It serves as a community center where people can meet and educational programs are provided. Of course the venue will contain heavy doses of his philosophy. And it should. When one of the happiest guys I’ve ever met has something to say, I listen.
The community center is only the start. I’ve noticed a change in tactics recently from his Twitter feed. No longer is he satisfied with preaching the good word, he now encourages people to become active in their local community by voting and attending meetings where elected officials discuss issues with the public. He acknowledges he doesn’t always get his way, but is always optimistic. He should be. He is a happy guy in the happiest place in the United States.
How Happy Are You?
Now we get to the real issue of this post. Maybe you don’t live in Boulder, Colorado or anywhere near all the wonderful people of the surrounding communities. Maybe you never had a chance to break bread with Pete or his kind.
I hear the complaints already. Our community doesn’t have bike paths or that you live 38 miles from work. There are two things you can do about it: keep complaining or change the circumstances.
Guys like Pete are smart. They are not disillusioned. Progress is slow even in the great state of Colorado and the happy communities of Boulder and Longmont. Pete recently reported attending a public meeting with officials to present his ideas. The results were mixed.
He didn’t give up! In the last week he tweeted a local voting guide. Adeney knows national elections get all the press, but local elections are where you can make a real difference! Your vote has more punch in a local election. Fewer votes mean your vote is a bigger piece of the pie. And every decision a local official makes affects you locally. National politicians make decisions that may have nothing to do with your community at all.
Happiness is between the ears. Several factors contribute to how happy you feel. Belonging tops the list after health. If you are healthy and feel wanted by family, friends and your community, you are well on your way to feeling happy.
Weather, incidentally, has only a marginal effect on happiness. I live in a cold part of the U.S. (NE Wisconsin) and it has some effect on my well being, but only a small amount. Outdoor activities are different where I live. Skiing and other winter sports occupy several months of the year. Biking is difficult in January (even dangerous), but hiking and walking are possible in almost any weather. Those who partake in seasonal outdoor activities report higher levels of happiness.
Doing Something about It
You can complain or do something about your level of happiness. When you are actively involved in the solution, even when results are limited, you feel better about yourself. Demanding someone else do something about it still leaves your opinion unheard!
You have significant control over your spending, even if income control is somewhat limited. Side gigs can fill the income void if necessary. Keeping spending reasonable compared to your income is your choice only, with the exception of people with medical issues.
Socializing makes people happier. You can always find a group who welcomes you. Groups who exclude others are less happy as they need to justify their negative behavior. I recommend a social life with people who energize you.
Purpose in life is something you must find through personal examination. Once you determine what juices you, pursue the dream! No one can stop you except you. There is always a way as readers of this blog will soon discover as I share a personal story of redemption and growth. Hardship isn’t the issue either; it’s the opportunity to expand beyond what you dream possible.
Physical health is largely a product of your eating and exercise habits. Eat good food; walk, hike and bike. The secret formula to a long happy life.
Finally, community provides an environment for you to live in. Make it a good one. All the members of a society compose a community. Your active involvement makes all the difference.
Never let anyone put you down. You will fail. That is not a character flaw; it is life. Failure doesn’t define you. How you deal with failure does!
Happiness is partially a choice. Many of the happiest nations are happy because they choose to be. Your active participation is what determines your level of pleasure and happiness. Climate and current conditions are only minor obstacles of the way to a happy life.
You can choose to move to a happy community, but you still need to be active in the new community or it will be just like the one you came from for you.
Or, you can make your community a better place to live. The choice is yours. Because the happiest place on Earth is in your head.
Recently I discussed selling tradelines as a way to generate extra income. If you are unfamiliar with tradelines, read my prior article first.
A quick recap: Tradelines are bank accounts. In this case we are talking about your credit card accounts. You can add an authorized user (AU). Adding an AU to a credit card account in not unusual by any means; the credit card companies encourage the activity. Selling tradelines (adding an AU you don’t know so they can increase their credit score) is gaming the system in the opinion of the banks. The reason selling a tradeline to a complete stranger is frowned upon is that fraud can take place. You may be completely unaware of the fraud, but the banks have risk so they don’t like it. There is nothing in it for them except risk so they close accounts they suspect of selling tradelines.
Adding an AU to your account is not unusual. The credit card companies actually encourage the activity. You may be familiar with the emails they send you recommending you add AUs.
Friends and Family
Starting out is hard for young people as they cross the threshold of adulthood. One moment they have no legal authority to sign loans or make important financial decisions and the next day, on their 18th birthday, they are thrown into the mosh pit of life where they are expected to know all the rules and are responsible for every decision they make financially. Good thing the education system doesn’t prepare them for the fateful day. That might hurt bank profits and we all know how terrible it is for Wall Street when people actually understand a thing or two about finances. Witness the whining of actively managed funds and hedge funds complaining about index funds.
My youngest daughter is months away from the above mentioned mosh pit. My oldest daughter has enjoyed the benefits of adult responsibility for a few years now. From an early age I pounded financial information into their heads. Money wasn’t/isn’t a taboo subject in my household. Money discussions are common and decisions Mrs. Accountant and I make with finances are easily viewed by the younglings.
Life starts without a credit score. Normally I would say credit scores are worthless and not being able to borrow money is more blessing than curse. Unfortunately, credit scores are used to determine auto insurance rates and even can prevent you from finding a place to rent. Your credit score affects your finances even if you never borrowed a plug nickel in your life. A ‘good’ credit score is valuable as it can reduce your expenses without effort, i.e. lower auto insurance premiums.
Adding junior as an authorized user to your credit card can remedy the situation. For the same reason people want to buy tradelines, you want to add people you care about to your tradeline AU list. Have three kids in college? Add them to several of your credit cards. You decide if they actually get the card to use. You can also limit how much they spend or even have the credit card company never send a card in their name.
An important point to remember is to only add the kiddos on accounts you actually use (so it gets reported to the credit bureaus). One small purchase will cause most cards to report to the bureaus. For the kids to benefit, keep the balance low. Once the balance reaches above 15% or so of the credit limit the benefits are diminished. The best way to do this is to put a low level of spend on the card/s you have the kids on and pay it in full each month.
The large amount of unused credit your children now have from being your AU increases their credit score. This in turn lowers their auto and renter’s insurance rates. If they ever need a loan (auto, home, education) they will qualify for lower rates without the need of you co-signing the loan (hopefully).
For the same reasons you want to add the wife/husband or significant other. They do NOT have to use the card or even have access to it! Just by being on the list benefits them. I would caution against giving the kiddos free reign with your credit card or you might end up in the market for credit score improvement yourself.
The Good Boss
The same principles can be used by small business owners. Adding valued employees as AUs can be a powerful tax-free fringe benefit for employees. When an employee experiences a higher credit score she may end up paying less for insurance and may be able to refinance loans at a lower rate. It doesn’t cost the employer a penny while the employee experiences lower costs without additional taxes owed on the lower expense (unless it involves lower deductible mortgage interest).
A few things to consider for employers. Business credit cards usually don’t report on individual credit reports. However, many small business owners use personal credit cards and in my opinion should to avoid a nasty tax surprise connected to basis issues.
Adding employees to a credit card doesn’t mean the employee gets to walk around with said card. It is convenient for certain employees to have access to the tradeline while others will have modest to no access. As long as the balance is low compared to the credit limit and the card is paid in full monthly, the employee should experience a credit score lift.
Selling tradelines have one serious problem. Add more than two or three AUs outside your geographic area and the problems start. The banks sniff out the behavior and consider it a breach of their term of use and cancel the card.
Adding an AU to your account is easy. The banks hate it when someone games the system selling tradelines, but tend to like it when you add AUs they consider legitimate. Family and employees are natural AUs for your account. Your credit is not harmed while they benefit.
The service can be extended to friends as well. If you have concerns, call your credit card company and ask them if it is acceptable to add a friend or extended family member to the account. The worst they can say is no.
Tradelines are recognized as a valuable resource. That is why there is demand to buy temporary tradelines. Selling tradelines requires the constant adding and subtracting of AUs, a real pain in the tail and an indication to the bank you are gaming the system. Selling tradelines could get you blacklisted, a serious occurrence, while adding friends, family and employees generally have the blessing of the credit card company.
Selling tradelines are generally limited, but, with the bank’s permission, you can add a serious number of AUs without incident.
I hope you find this personal finance/credit hack valuable. Use it responsibly and it will serve you well.
You can help the kids without putting yourself at risk by co-signing a loan. The kids can have lower borrowing and insurance costs, too.
Teach your children good money skills and you reduce the risk they’ll return home from a financial catastrophe to live in your basement. In the end, it’s about preserving your peace of mind.
Credit cards are one of the most powerful wealthy building tools in existence today when used properly. They get a bad rap because irresponsible people rack up massive quantities of high interest debt and spend decades digging out if they ever get out. Still, credit cards can put a lot of ka-ching in your pocket if you understand the rules and never run a balance on the card.
If you are in the accumulation phase of your wealth building cycle, looking for a high income compared to the time invested or love gaming the system (your favorite accountant is guilty as charged), then you need to learn about tradelines.
To play this game you need a credit card at least two years old. The longer you’ve held the card and the higher the credit limit the better. This game requires you use said credit card and pay it off in full each month. The more credit cards you have the better.
Setting the Table
So what is this tradelines thing anyway? A tradeline is what a bank calls a line of credit. Your credit card is a tradeline.
A “seasoned” tradeline is at least two years old meaning it has a history. If you have no late payments on a seasoned card there is an active market for selling your tradeline.
Still confused? Me, too. It works like this. A credit card is called a tradeline. You can add authorized users (AU) to most credit cards at any time. People with poor credit pay to be an authorized user of your credit card so the bank reports the high unused credit limit on their credit report. This increases their credit score fairly quickly.
You know who they are, but they haven’t a clue who you are! A big concern surrounds risk of having your card cancelled. What if someone buys your tradeline and runs off spending all your money? No worries mate. It’s impossible. When you use a company acting as clearinghouse the buyer never knows who you are and a credit card never gets sent to the AU.
There is no need for you to spend effort looking for people willing to buy one of your tradelines either. There are a multitude of companies out there doing all the heavy lifting for you. They find the buyers, background check them (to prevent fraud), collect the money and send you the information. You add the AU to the card they purchased a tradeline from and sit back enjoying a cold one. Several months later you remove them as an AU and a check is mailed to you (direct deposit actually).
People buy tradelines to increase their credit score to get better loan rates and to reduce their insurance costs. This isn’t repair credit! If you went through a bad patch, buying tradelines can give your credit score a lift as long as you are not adding more negative marks to your credit report. A medical disaster is no longer a lifelong financial death sentence.
Car and homeowner’s insurance can be higher when your credit score is poor. It’s like kicking someone in the face when they are down. A medical emergency can destroy a life without hope of financial recovery. Buying tradelines can lower the interest on a mortgage or car loan, but also lower insurance premiums. Some people enjoy major benefits investing in tradelines.
Time for a Walk
The best way to understand selling tradelines is to walk through the process. By the end of the walk through you will know how your credit cards can add $1,000 or more per month to your pocket for an hour or so of your time.
Step 1: You need a clean credit history. No delinquencies in the last year or so. Your credit score doesn’t matter. If you’re like me you collected more than a few credit cards over the years and only use certain ones.
Open an account for free at Credit Karma. Credit Karma should list all your open and closed accounts. Each credit card should list the account open date and credit limit.
Step 2: Research companies brokering tradelines. You will need to vet each company for quality; most will not make the cut. More time will focus on finding the right tradeline company for you than the actual process of earning money with tradelines. The most important questions involve account verification. The banks generally don’t like tradelines being sold. Their biggest concern is fraudsters increasing their FICO score, getting a credit card or other loan and defaulting. Without adequate fraud control criminals can cause losses for the banks and that ends the party. Ask before selling your tradelines with any company. Better yet, ask for proof they are collecting all required documents and running a LexisNexis background on each client.
Step 3: Once you sign up with a tradeline company, you choose which credit cards you wish to sell tradelines on. Your tradeline company will tell you what their firm pays for each tradeline per card. You should try to get your credit limit raised on all your cards to increase the potential income from each tradeline sold.
Step 4: Your tradelines are listed by the tradeline company. In short order you will get an email explaining you sold a tradeline! It’s not money time yet. Follow the instructions for adding the AU to the card listed.
The credit card company will send YOU a card for the new AU. You don’t have to activate the card.
Step 5: The tradeline company will send you another email in two to three months informing you to remove the authorized user. Follow the instructions on how to remove an AU from your credit card.
Step 6: Keep an Excel spreadsheet listing all AUs, when you added them, which card added to, when the AU is removed and when you get paid. Record-keeping is important! You need to know what you have and where.
Step 7: Collect a check.
Step 8: Repeat.
It is possible to have more than one AU per card. In fact, it is likely. This is good for you. The more AUs, the more income. There is a limit, of course. Each credit card has a limit on the number of AUs you can have at a time on their card. My opinion is no more than two AUs per card ever. If you already have numerous AUs on a card for your business you probably should keep that card separate and not use it for selling tradelines.
Is this legal? Another question people have is the legality of doing this. My research indicates it is legal, including remarks from a spokesman from the FTC. The illegal issues lay with tradeline companies not doing adequate background checks. This is why it is important to vet any tradeline company before signing up with them. My understanding is this cannot be listed as credit repair and money can’t be collected up front from the client. You get paid after the fact so reading FTC reports indicate there are no legal issues with selling tradelines. If you vet a tradeline company and later the company takes a shortcut there is liability risk to the tradeline company. Having your due diligence in order protects you.
A Few Rules
Tradeline companies will have some rules to follow. I want you to follow those rules and add my more restrictive rules to their list if necessary. The more restrictive rule applies to protect you from account closure.
When your tradeline company tells you to remove an AU from a card, DON’T DO IT, unless at least two months have passed, preferably three. If you slap additional AUs on and off a card too fast the bank will cancel your card. Selling tradelines may not be illegal, but like counting cards in a casino, the bank will not like it if they know what you are doing, cancel your card and tell you to not come back.
All AUs stay on my cards for 90 days minimum!
You will be told to spend a token amount on the card. BS!!! Every card with an AU should have meaningful charges. You do the spending. The AU is not around to spend on your card. But meaningful spending on a card with AUs is a must. Don’t game the system with the card issuer getting a few pennies.
I’m lucky. With a business I can find plenty of things to put on the credit card. A typical paper order (in our paperless office) runs 250 reams. You may wish to consider previously published alternatives to spending, too.
If you are frugal (like me) without a business (unlike me) with few expenses to charge, there is a low limit to selling tradelines. Still, a couple hundred a month for less than an hour of time is a nice addition to the mad money account. One account handled properly can be worth $300 or so every couple months.
One Last Caution: There are plenty of companies brokering tradelines. I spent serious time reviewing multiple companies to verify I am with a “seasoned” firm and still discovered it wasn’t as seasoned as I would have preferred. There are other good tradeline companies out there. The real work is in finding them.
Vet several tradeline companies before committing. I use a tradeline company and am aware of two more who run a tight ship. The additional two companies I know of are doing it right so they don’t have much supply. Still, slow and steady wins the race. The company I am using was originally listed in this post and I edited them out until I can verify further. I want happy readers. The last thing I want is a mob of angry people who had their credit card cancelled. A background check on all clients is an absolute MUST!
This is a process. Consider adding to your credit card portfolio to increase future income. Go to the TWA Recommends page and scroll down to the recommended credit cards. Pick a card that matches your needs. Travel miles or cash rewards, et cetera. A good plan might be to add one card every three to six months or so for you and a significant other. Max out the bonus rewards and keep the card until it is ready for use selling tradelines. Don’t cancel the card. Keep it for future personal use too. Of course you will have a favorite card, but I use different cards for different situations as I suspect you will.
While I don’t recommend any tradeline company, I use the below company for my personal tradeline sales.
2534 State Street, Suite #433
San Diego, CA 92101
[sc_fs_multi_faq headline-0=”h2″ question-0=”Is buying and selling tradelines legal?” answer-0=”Like counting cards at the blackjack table, buying and selling tradelines are legal, but the bank can kick you out, just like the casino. Selling a tradeline could cause the bank to close your account. Generally, this only happens when you sell a tradeline too often.” image-0=”” headline-1=”h2″ question-1=”How does buying a tradeline affect your credit?” answer-1=”Buying a tradeline is like piggybacking on some else’s credit. Buying several legitimate tradelines is a viable way to increase your credit score. This can lower your borrowing costs.” image-1=”” headline-2=”h2″ question-2=”How much do tradelines cost?” answer-2=”Each company selling tradelines set their own fees. Tradelines can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 per tradeline. You can expect to pay $500 or so for a good tradeline (one that improves your credit quickly). ” image-2=”” headline-3=”h2″ question-3=”How long do tradelines stay on your credit?” answer-3=”That all depends. Most sellers of tradelines keep the tradeline open to you for 60 days. Some will stay longer, a few shorter. When buying a tradeline, verify the length of time a tradeline will remain on your account. ” image-3=”” headline-4=”h2″ question-4=”How long does it take to get a tradeline?” answer-4=”Generally, most tradelines will report within a week to slightly longer. Then it is up to the banks to report to the credit bureaus. ” image-4=”” headline-5=”h2″ question-5=”How much can I earn selling tradelines?” answer-5=”It is not uncommon for a small number of tradelines to generate $1,000 per month. It takes less than an hour per month to mange a small number of accounts. Earning $1,000 per hour in not unheard of.” image-5=”” headline-6=”h2″ question-6=”How fast will my credit improve after buying a tradeline?” answer-6=”Buying a tradeline usually affects your credit score in less than a month. If you buy a tradeline of a large bank you can see results in less than a week. Under no circumstances should it take longer than 30 days. If it takes a month or longer you need to verify everything is in order.” image-6=”” count=”7″ html=”true” css_class=””]
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.
A cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.
I am a simple man with simple tastes living in a complex world. Once upon a time the world was a simpler place. We knew the food we ate and the road we traveled. We trusted the news and those who brought it to us. But simple is not in the nature of man.
Take the United States for example. The premise in the beginning was simple: freedom. But it wasn’t simple as soon as the words left the Founding Fathers’ mouths. Men wanted to be free while holding slaves. It led to Civil War. Women waited until 1920 for the right to have their voice heard.
But this story isn’t about morality. This story is about complexity and how quickly it enters life. A simple thought—freedom—was not as simple as it sounded. The nation needed to declare independence, fight a Revolutionary War and write a Constitution. And that was the simple part.
The Tax Code is the same. A simple concept—raise money to pay the government’s bills—turned into a colossus might quickly. For those reading thinking the tax situation was mucked up only recently, let me enlighten you.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt struggled with preparing an accurate return in the spring of 1938 (preparing his 1937 return) so badly he gave up and sent the Bureau (this was before the IRS) a check for $15,000 with a note that said, “I am wholly unable to figure out the amount of tax for the following reason:”
The President then gave an account of the income he didn’t know how to put on the return. He concluded his letter with, “As this is a problem in higher mathematics, may I ask that the Bureau let me know the amount of the balance due? The payment of $15,000 doubtless represents a good deal more than half what the eventual tax will prove to be.”
Try to pull the stunt President Roosevelt pulled with the IRS and see how far it gets you. Needless to say, penalties would be applied by today’s kinder and gentler IRS.
To top it off, this was back in the days when taxes were simpler! Sure, Form 1040 was four pages, but there were no schedules or additional forms to attach. The instructions for the entire return was two pages! It was so simple even the President of the United States couldn’t figure it out. And he signed the tax bill into law!
The Growth of Complexity
Nature is simple in its most basic components. Keep chopping stuff into smaller bits until you get to the smallest indivisible piece of matter, the atom. But, wait! The atom can be chopped up smaller still into electrons, neutrons and protons.
Whew! That could have gotten out of control with complexity. Oh-oh! Scientists have been busy busting up the itty bitty parts of the atom into even smaller elementary particles. Now it get complex.
Humans love adding complexity, too. It must be in our nature. (Go ahead and make a face.)
Complexity isn’t always a bad thing. Building an automobile or airplane is complex. Modern medicine uses complex procedures to find novel cures to disease.
But complexity can get out of control. When nature gets too complex we end up with cancers.
When people get too complex we get the modern Tax Code, economic system and monetary policy.
Original ideas start very basic, dare we say, simple. Within seconds the complexity is mixed in. This isn’t a character flaw. Riding a horse to church is a fairly simple process. Once automobiles entered the scene complexity followed. Not only are cars complex pieces of engineering, society now needs to deal with the millions of vehicles on the roads. Traffic lights are not there to annoy you, but to keep traffic flowing. How else do you get endless traffic to all its destinations?
I have made a living in the imaginary world of tax complexities. It’s paid the bills and gave me a good life.
At first it might seem a waste of an intelligent man’s life. Before you go down that road, consider: How would the government function without tax revenue? Our national defense, roads, bridges, public works projects and schools need funding to function.
I don’t work for the government; I work for you, protecting you from overpaying the government. And complexity is my greatest friend. The Tax Code is such a massive muddled mess you can drive a Mack truck through it. Given enough time you can find the answer to pay no tax for virtually every situation. Major corporations do.
Taxes aren’t the only area where complexity works in your favor. Machines and computers have made our lives so much easier that nearly everyone could work half the hours and not notice a change to their lifestyle.
You can see this in action within our own FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community with the plethora of side gigs and people retiring in their 30s. Our society is so rich a large number of people with very little effort can retire really young and travel the planet.
This brings up another complex area we can exploit: travel rewards. Once upon a time it cost money to travel. Today you can hack the system and get massive travel rewards to see the world for pennies on the dollar.
Get Rich by Getting Complex
You would think adding to the already complex mix would be your ticket to wealth. It isn’t. The trick isn’t more complexity; it’s breaking down the complex into small, easy to understand, components.
Complexity leads to error. How many product recalls do we hear of? How many times have governments and corporations been hacked? We can be too complex for our own good.
Take investing. You can go through all the hoopla trying to be the next Warren Buffett. You could be the next one! Or something as simple as an index fund can work miracles for your net worth without any effort on your part.
Credit card rewards are a massive mix of options sure to cause problems for those less than astute in the tracking of their credit card activities. Don’t pay the bill in full each month and trouble is sure to follow.
Yet, a simple spreadsheet can solve the problem. Several credit cards can be tracked simply to serve all your financial needs. Travel rewards are only the beginning. In a few weeks I have a side gig you are sure to want to hear about. I will show you a program where your credit cards could sprinkle $1,000 or more every month on you. You have to come back to learn this little side gig nugget. (Notice my talent at creating a cliffhanger? Hahaha!)
Taxes are the ultimate in complexity. Even this can be segmented into easier to understand parts. Maximizing retirement accounts is a simple and easy way to lower your tax burden. Investment property owners can take advantage of new tangible property rules to modify their tax outcome. Business owners can expense certain assets versus depreciation.
Play the Game
It’s all a game. The Federal Reserve manipulates money supply to manipulate the economy and prices. Congress can’t keep its fingers off the Tax Code for more than fifteen minutes.
Since life is a series of complex systems, both natural and manmade, why not use this to your advantage? Complexity isn’t going away. If anything it will get worse. Those who can break the whole thing down into the simplest parts will control the pot of gold.
Diet and exercise is a simple way to benefit the complex system called your body.
Investing regularly into broad-based index funds is the only proven way to match market returns over long periods of time. Forget Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett. Yes, you could be the next guy to perform miracles in the investment world, but odds are strong you will end up another schmuck who massively underperforms the markets with his dazzling displays in Fibonacci programs of complexity.
The index fund wins.
When I consult on tax and financial matters people always want more. The simple answer isn’t satisfying. Complexity always seems to be the right choice. It looks better. Lots of moving parts must be better. Complex must trump simple.
And then it ends in tears.
Complexity isn’t better. We live in a complex world. Simple solutions solve most problems.
The simplest answer—to stop worrying about things you can’t control—doesn’t seem right. But it is!
You will do wonders for your net worth when you find a way to break down the complex into simple components. This is where you will find massive financial opportunities.
When you get right down to it: I am a simple man who happens to enjoy seven layer cake.
There is no doubt the kids are back in school. Three times a week I visit the gym midafternoon, a slow time of the day for the establishment. All summer I had the floor to myself or nearly so. Then the days got shorter and the kids went back to school. This gives mom free time to work out. I now have to share.
New members stream in at a steady pace. They notice I am there a bit so they ask me questions about the gym, using a machine or personal trainers. The conversation about trainers goes something like this:
“Which personal trainer in the best here?”
“They’re all good,” I reply.
“Yes, but which one is the best?” They always put a bit more emphasis on the word “best” the second time around.
“Depends what you want to look like.” This always brings a puzzled look.
I point to one of the thin female trainers and say, “If you are looking to lose weight I would recommend her.” Then I point to a muscular female trainer as say, “If you want to tone your body consider her.” Then I point to one of the male trainers who is solid muscle from head to toe. He is in awesome shape. “If you want to build muscle choose him.”
“Are you sure,” they ask.
“Yes, I am sure. All the personal trainers here are good. They hire the best. But the best one for you depends on what you want to look like. Pick a trainer that has the body you desire. Spend enough time with that trainer and you will slowly evolve into what they are.”
Their gaze is quizzical as their mouth is slightly open preparing to catch flies. It’s not the answer they expected, but it’s the answer the needed to here.
Studies have shown that people who hang out together tend to look and act alike. But it’s a lie. Take a group of women where all the members are 5’4” (162 cm) tall and 240 pounds (109 kg), except for one girl weighing in at 108 pounds (49 kg).
The eating and exercise habits of the heavier women will rub off on the thinner woman. The 108 pound woman will eat many of the same things with her friends; will stop and sit when they do; and share recipes with her friends. It is only a matter of time before the petite girl is less petite.
This is not to pick on the heavier women. Metabolism will alter the weight between the women when they share the same diet and exercise attitudes. This is why you want a trainer who looks closest to what you want to look like. Given enough time, their eating and exercise habits will affect yours and slowly you will begin to have the body they have.
Can we agree The Wealthy Accountant is at least a moderately successful blog? As I write my traffic sits around 70,000 page views per month with over 15,000 unique visitors, a far cry from big names in the demographic, but still respectable for a blog a year and a half old.
Many opportunities threaten to rocket near future traffic much higher. Every time I turn around another source of traffic is showing up. I would guess over the next year and a half traffic will increase to several hundred thousand page views per month. This is well within the respectable range. Not superstar status, but respectable, no doubt.
The Wealthy Accountant found life when a planned encounter with Mr. Money Mustache went in an unplanned direction. The very same day people were already asking if I had a blog they could read. I had a ready-made waiting crowd eager for my work.
The amount of work to write a blog like TWA is massive. The more traffic grows the more work is involved. Most blogs have one issue to deal with: the blog. Not so TWA. When traffic increases so do the demands for services in my practice. It takes a special set of skills to manger such a unique beast successfully; a trait I am still learning.
The success of TWA and my learning curve in managing the growth are an interesting experiment. We could sit back and watch your favorite accountant spin out of control or he could do something strange; something you should consider doing if you write a blog.
What I did was consort with seedy characters, oops, I mean with other successful bloggers. I have shared a beer over conversation with Pete (MMM), the Mad Fientist, Doug Nordman (The Military Guide), Carl (1500 Days to Freedom), Jim Collins (jlcollinsnh), and J.D. Roth (the grandfather of the blog demographic, starting it off with Get Rich Slowly and now Money Boss). And the list isn’t complete. There are many more I consorted with at conferences, camps and private get-togethers.
There are numerous bloggers I communicated with online over the last two years as well and have yet to meet personally..
The point I’m making is I found a way to fit into the group of people I wanted to be like. I wanted to write a successful blog. By default I pick up habits from the other bloggers in the group as I communicate with them.
Every parent understands this process well. When your child joins a group of friends, mom and dad want to know what the kids in this group are like. If it’s part of a bad crowd it is only a matter of time before little Billy or Sally are in trouble with the law or worse. Mom knows a friend from a good family doesn’t guarantee protection from bad things happening, but it sure evens up the odds.
The same applies in all areas of life. You will become like the people you spend the most time with unless your personality is strong enough to overcome the influence.
It Pays to Have Rich Friends
You may have no desire to ever write a blog. Your friends may meet your expectations of physical health. You may be happy with your weight and your kids have friends from good families. But you are reading this blog for a reason.
The only reason to digest the hundreds of thousands of words I regurgitate onto the screen is to learn. The time commitment is too large to be here for manure and giggles. This venue now has nearly 300 posts and over 500,000 words. The time commitment means you are either entertained, educated or both when you come here. Or maybe you just think I’m a cool guy. (I am.)
Readers in the tax and accounting industry might be looking for ideas to serve their clients better; bloggers want to get ideas on what to write and to improve their writing skills; some people are looking for a side gig; others for financial independence; others to discover the path to early retirement.
None of these reasons are what this blog is about. Pete (MMM) thinks a blog should be cult-like. I agree. We are different and should be. We save at a higher rate, invest in broad-based index funds and reach financial independence at an early age. You would be surprised how many visitors to this site are under age 35 and financially at a point where they can choose their own course in life. This is where the magic happens.
When you come to TWA and read, comment and visit the forum, you are entering a group who will rub off on you. It is not if, it is when you start to gravitate towards the center of gravity of the group.
Like metabolism and weight, personal financial growth is dependent on several personal factors. Disability of major medical issues will give you unique challenges compared to the group at large. Race plays a role in opportunity. This doesn’t mean race precludes you from financial success. Quite the contrary. Race is just a different challenge from the average of the group.
When you are surrounded by people bragging about all their expensive toys it has an effect. Surrounding yourself with people who save a large percentage of their income will also adjust your worldview. When keeping up with the Joneses is replace by hyperactive goals of financial independence it is easy to fall right in.
The Flavor of the Herd
When one steer takes off and runs the whole herd follows blindly. As smart as we think we are we are manipulated by the herd mentality.
Even within our demographic there are certain commonalities. People are under pressure to hit financial independence at an early age so they can retire. I think it’s crazy to think this way and many readers come here because they agree with me. FI, as I’ve said often, is like the event horizon of a black hole; an invisible line you cross where there is no return but you can’t see it.
FI is like that, an invisible line. You don’t feel a jolt when you cross the line. You might not even know where the line is at!
Still, the pressure is on to say, Yup, I’m 37 and retired. Whatever! I’m 53 and never plan on retiring because I’m having too much fun doing what I do.
The other thing you see around the demographic is the traveling thing. People reach FI, quit their job and travel the world. Once again I say, Whatever! I don’t want to travel unless for business, so I don’t. Readers around here like the fresh viewpoint.
This is the flavor of our herd. The FIRE community has a center of gravity and readers of TWA like the outlier attitudes I have. You can have a high net worth and still enjoy the work you do while refusing to gallivant around the planet. It’s okay to stay home with the family, refuse to watch TV, never listen to radio and still have an awesome life.
I guess that makes us a cult. The fact you are reading this makes you a member of our cult.
Welcome to the herd.
When I first discovered the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community I didn’t even know it was a community. Always eager for a good read, I mentally grazed on the offerings of blogs around the internet.
Intrigued by frugality I was naturally drawn to these blogs and news articles. Poverty was well in my past, yet habits die hard. My reasons were many. I wanted to leave as light a footprint on the planet as possible as good steward of the world I inherited. My natural competitive nature also drove me to compete against myself in lowering my consumption and needs.
Before the FIRE community caught my fancy I was living a frugal life and had attained FI. It was common to see me turn out light not is use and to turn the water heater off except for the times of the day when hot water was needed. Keeping my house 60 degrees F in the winter doesn’t appeal to Mrs. Accountant or the girls, but dad sure loves seeing if he can lower this year’s heat bill over last year. Every heating season is a competition to find a way to cut energy costs.
Eventually I ran across Mr. Money Mustache (Pete). Other blogs were interesting, but Pete roped me in like no other writer. Before long I introduced myself to Pete, ended up his accountant and discovered our philosophy had a few areas of disagreement.
Today the newsfeeds are stuffed with articles on people who retired by 30 or 35 or 40, quit their job and traveled the world. When I started this blog I became an apologist for people who loved the work they did and didn’t care about retirement.
Making excuses about why I am 53 and still not retired got old fast. Eventually I used some colorful language (read: cuss words) to punctuate my desire to continue running my tax practice. If I retired I would end up filling my time doing exactly what I’m doing now. So why retire!
Blame it on Pete
This post was in my queue for a long time. I am finally writing the post the night before it is published (unless I am murdered by the Illuminati before I can get the thing formatted and scheduled in WordPress).
When I came up with the idea and saved it in my queue I emailed Pete to ask him if he would edit the post to avoid offending him with my “retirement sucks” shtick. He agreed he would edit the post. (I kept the original title and decided to publish without Pete’s blessing or awesome editing skills.) My original intention was for this to be a very edgy post with many of the aforementioned colorful language. Time (and a promise to refrain from my tendency to write very dark essays with four-letter words) healed some of my original fervor, but here goes anyway.
You are NOT a failure if you don’t retire by 30, like Pete! Get it. Stop introducing yourself to me with an apology for not retiring yet at the ripe old age of 37. Remember who you are talking to.
True to the original concept of this post, I blame Pete and his blog for starting the whole darn thing. It wasn’t actually his fault. Early Retirement Extreme came before Pete and I’m sure there was somebody before that. Hey, we all came from someplace; all started as something different.
Yes, Pete retired at 30. No, he is not lazy. He does a lot of other productive activities vital to a better community. He writes his blog (he doesn’t write much anymore, but most of his work is still available at his blog and he graces us with a post or two each month), has a new HQ in his hometown and performs the most important task any man can: he spends quality time with his son and wife. His new headquarters hosted a business school recently to great acclaim if social media is any indication. I call that a productive retirement.
Pete did make one very serious mistake, a mistake so huge I’d kick him in the tail if he weren’t a client. His mistake was to convince people they can retire young. Many people took that to mean they had failed if they didn’t repeat what Pete accomplished.
Knock it Off!
You are NOT Pete! You’re not the Wealthy Accountant either. Stop trying to live in either of our shoes!
Of course, my life is awesome. So is Pete’s. But you can’t have my life! You don’t want it either. The price I paid to have what I have is a price you are unlikely to enjoy paying yourself. When I hear readers tell me they want a farm (just like mine) and a tax practice (just like mine) and a blog (just like mine) I want to scream, “Live your own life!”
Don’t take it personal. It’s not you; it’s me. You will be unhappy living my life. My life juices me. You need to find your own way. Pete and I can provide plenty of fodder in your thinking process when building the life that juices you. But you can never be Pete. There is only one Pete. There is only one me. (And thank God for that.) For fans of Vin Diesel let me quote from the Chronicles of Riddick: “Sister, they don’t know what to do with one of me.”
People sit across the desk from me after reading Mr. Money Mustache and The Wealthy Accountant in tears as they explain how much they failed in life because they are 32 and still punching a clock.
Let me add one more piece of perspective. You probably ran across this demographic from a newsfeed blaring yet another story of some guy who retired at 30 something and is living the good life. To keep readers clicking—and paying the bills—they have to keep upping the ante. One guy retires at 40, the next guy at thirty. The next guy better blows the rat race at 28 if he wants a slot on Business Insider or MarketWatch. I fully expect any day to see an article scroll through my newsfeed of some kid from Tupelo who retired at four months old and started traveling the world. To keep the article family friendly the infant helped mom and dad retire and travel with the little snot-nosed kid. Remember, you heard it here first.
How do you top that?
WONDERKID RETIRED BEFORE VACATING THE WOMB
It’s sensational journalism and I hate it. There is nothing wrong with a productive life.
People have been BS’ed into thinking they have to hate their job. Not all jobs or work is that hated! I love my job even on a bad day. Sure, there are days that make my head hurt. I work with government, for Christ’s sake! But I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world.
Work is fun. It gives us something productive to do. It allows us to earn a living. We have a build-in social network to communicate with at work. Side gigs are work, a job. And there is nothing with that.
Traveling is something I hate. As FinCon gets closer I know I have to sit on a plane again and I talk about it more. It’s something I do as part of this blog, even if distasteful. Then I have a great time with readers sharing ideas.
Traveling for traveling’s sake is something I don’t care for. But does that mean readers should be like me? Heck no! If you want to travel, you should. If you want to retire early, go for it. Let me warn you I have seen plenty of people in this demographic retire early only to work more at their business or side gig later than when they were formally working. I find it poetic.
It’s not fair to Pete, me or you to expect or have you do what any of us did. These blogs are to share ideas in reaching financial independence; to retire early if you desire; to start you own business if it lights your fire.
One Good Reason Not to Retire
It breaks my heart when a client sits in my office apologizing for not reaching FI by a certain age. Then they explain medical issues threatening the life of a family member and feel like a failure because they didn’t reach retirement or FI early in adulthood.
Nothing is more important than your children and significant other. Nothing. If I had a choice between money and my family, my family wins hands down. There is no competition. I’d rather live poor with Mrs. Accountant and my beautiful children than have money without my family. If the demand is made, my money would be gone instantly to share more time with the girls I love more than life.
Retirement is not a goal! Finding meaning in each day of your life is what matters. Family tops the list. For those of faith, God tops the list followed closely by family.
Money is only a game, a scorecard. More stuff will not make me happy. You either.
My grandfather worked until he was in his late 80s. He enjoyed the work and had plenty of money. He enjoyed the company of co-workers and helping people. Someone explain to me what he was going to retire from.
My grandparents traveled a bit in their younger day. Good thing because my grandmother died of a stroke at 70. Granddad filled his day with meaningful work helping people. Younger people hated the job; he found happiness in all his activities, including formalized labor.
I travel now too. Mrs. Accountant isn’t as healthy as I am. That is why you see me connected to the sexy Mrs. A at conferences. We are madly in love after 29 years of marriage. Maybe the newness of marriage will wear off eventually. You know, by the time we have 80 or so years under our belts our youthful lust might abate a tad. Nah!
I live my life my way. I invite you to live your life your way. Don’t be Pete; don’t be me. Learn from both of us and other bloggers sharing their story. Learn and adopt what works for you.
Pete didn’t get a chance to preview and edit this post. He doesn’t have a clue it’s coming. Hope he’s not offended. Hope I still have a client.
WAYWARD ACCOUNTANT FINALLY RETIRES AT RIPE OLD AGE OF 53
Many accountants will not work with doctors. Doctors as a group can be difficult in the best of times, demanding an instant response to their every whim. I disagree completely.
My firm has serviced accounts for doctors nearly from day one. The value doctors provide society is vital and I have always felt they deserve extra latitude. The stress level doctors face daily supersedes anything I deal with. If I make a mistake, money is at risk; when a doctor makes a decision, lives are at risk.
My personality meshed well with the mindset doctors have. As a result, I have been a value added service to my doctor clients. Many hair-raising situations were resolved successfully because I understood the doctor’s situation and was able to integrate their issue into the problem solving formulas of my firm. It also allowed my doctor clients to get very rich.
Getting It Done
One of my first doctor clients has stayed with me all these years. When we first met he was reluctant to hire a small firm with a young owner. He needed someone responsive. After a short talk he decided I was worth the risk.
The situation of our good doctor included two jobs. He worked at two clinics at once because working 80 hours a week offers a young man way too much free time to dilly dally. Income was generous for our doctor. But our story is not about money today, at least not all of it.
Working at two clinics should have filled every available minute of time. Unfortunately there is this really stupid thing called vacation time and weekends. With a few spare second at hand, our good doctor found excitement in researching a medication already on the market. Within a few years he was the expert on the therapy, even more so than the company that produced the medication!
Research requires quiet time. Our doctor built an awesome office in his home to continue his research. The pharmaceutical company by now hired him as a consultant. As our doctor suspected, there were several additional beneficial uses to the said medication. My firm, by providing back office support, was an integral part of bringing these additional indications to market. I was part of the team making the world a better place. My head swelled a quarter of an inch.
Three full time jobs was the breaking point for our doctor. One clinic job was eliminated; at the other hours were curtailed. Research was getting intense and it was consuming all available time. My office invoiced the pharmaceutical company for the time the doctor put into researching and testing their medication for multiple additional indications. Soon I was also knowledgeable on the medication involved.
Working Beyond Home
Working from home is the greatest thing. Unfortunately too many distractions can occur. The wife and kids can pop in any time they want and no matter how hard you try you can still hear some of the activity going on around the house. It can be hard to concentrate.
It was time to move the business out of the home. The clinic jobs were now history. Our doctor now consulted for several firms, including the clinics he previously worked for. He also filled in when the need was pressing for a while.
An office building wasn’t the best choice. He didn’t have clients the way most businesses have clients. His clients were few and scattered around the planet. He was on the road endlessly, traveling to Europe and Washington D.C. frequently. He also worked with firms in Asia and traveled there several times.
It was a unique business that needed a unique accountant advising him. In the end he did move the business out of the home. He bought a beautiful home in Neenah, Wisconsin with some acreage. Our doctor now had the quiet time he needed to do his job better than ever before.
When research got intense he could sleep there overnight. When he needed to recharge his mind he could spend time walking among the apple trees on his land. Good health requires exercise so our good doctor did some work around the place from time to time as a form of therapy.
It worked well and always has. The doctor used the office until recently until he moved to a better location. He has since reached full retirement age and promises he will slow down soon, but he keeps getting requests for help from pharmaceutical firms. He has since helped bring several medications to market and increased the number of indications for use.
You and I Have Some Doctor in Us
Retirement is a misnomer. Just when you think you have it made life throws so many interesting opportunities your way you can’t possible get them all done. Full retirement leads to a side gig; the side gig starts earning some coin; then the side gig takes over, earning more than you did when you were working; then the side gig fills a large part of your time and you need a quiet place to study and think.
The earlier you start at retirement the worse it is. I went straight to retirement, if you will, by starting my own seasonal part-time job from day one. Then life screwed it up. You don’t run a sideline tax prep service without massive additional opportunities dropping in your lap.
Like our doctor, I had an office in the home when I first prepared tax returns. The first year I remodeled an unused bedroom. It took one tax season to outgrow that.
For the next year I remodeled the entire basement except for a small portion for the laundry area and utilities. I laid a new sidewalk around the side of the house to a back entrance. This worked fine for about four years.
By the time I had five years in my client list had grown to around 800 and I had employees. April 15th had cars lined up and down both sides of the street around my home for two blocks. The city politely recommended I get an office outside the home. (They were polite, but clear I was pushing the limits of the city code for running a business out of my home.)
I hated moving out of the house. If I couldn’t sleep I could always go downstairs for a few hours and knock out a few returns. In the middle of the day when it got slow I could go upstairs and take a nap. It was a great arrangement. Unfortunately, my success removed that option.
I bought the office building I am currently in the same year and moved my practice. The good news about owning an office building on a main highway meant many more clients. My client list exploded to over 2,000 in a few years. I was busy, but it was seasonal, so I lived with it.
It is no secret I love writing. I also love research. The doctor and I had something in common.
Over the years my firm maintained a fairly large client list and a good number of employees. My firm expanded services to include bookkeeping and payroll, something I only did in a minor way prior. Consulting, public speaking and writing assignments played a larger role, too.
Several years ago I had this great idea for a blog. I didn’t know a thing about building a blog but was determined to give it a shot. I secured the url and hooked up with Bluehost. And there it sat; a great idea with nowhere to go.
I was still publishing on multiple other platforms and writing for other firm and publications. There is something about pushing nouns up against verbs in a variety of ways that is addicting. And still the dream of a “real” blog, a “real” website written and run by yours truly was intoxicating. It was an itch I had to scratch.
A few years ago I met Pete, the venerable Mr. Money Mustache. The blog had to start now! I broke rank and paid to get it done.
Like any new business it can occupy a serious percentage of waking hours. If you love doing it you tend to do it a lot.
I have an office in the home. It has been overrun by some of the animals who roam my house. I call them the wife and kids.
I read and write wherever I can find a spot. Distractions limit the value of any personal brainstorming session or reading time, however.
At my “real” office I always promise myself some quiet time to read and study. It never works. The phone rings, a client comes in and sees my car parked outside, or an employee has a “quick question”. After the 904th interruption I may as well set the book down and open my door.
Reading and studying are a major part of what I do. I am good at what I do not only because I have done a lot of it for a long time, but because I compulsively researched and read on the subject matter. And quiet time is required to increase those skills.
I’m just going to come out and say it. I quit! No, no, no. Sorry, my fantasy barged in.
No, I am now considering the same step the doctor did. I started looking for a home to buy near my office where I can go a day or two a week and just read, study, learn, research, write.
The good news is that real estate is fairly cheap yet in NE Wisconsin. There are several very nice homes for under $100,000 within walking distance of my main office. I am considering it, doing what the doctor did.
Sometimes you need to get out of the house and into a different environment where you can let the creative juices flow uninterrupted. It is a magical place. I will keep the location a secret. If life intrudes into this sanctuary it loses all value.
Sometimes it is healthy to get out of the house and go to the office.