Last Monday I attended a one day seminar on Reading Financial Statements. While I am not a CPA, I am an enrolled agent (tax professional). Working in business my entire adult life in the tax field means I have a working knowledge of financial statements. I also took accounting, business and economics courses in college.
Having a strong background does not always mean you are good at it. Sometimes we fall into bad habits or forget some of the more esoteric details of the craft. My hope was to learn at least one new insight into reviewing financial statements that would give me a better or clearer view of the report.
Financial statements are the lifeblood of business and investing. Running an efficient company requires solid recordkeeping and the ability to understand what basic financial reports tell us. Without a firm understanding of the financial reports you are guessing when making important decisions in your company.
The same applies to investing. Warren Buffett said that accounting is the most important class he took in college. Buffett feels business classes are important, but accounting gives you the knowledge you need to run virtually any business. A firm understanding of financial reports means you understand details about the firm. You don’t need a world class business school to acquire a firm grasp of accounting. A local tech school or extension college is just as valuable.
Even in personal finance financial reports are important. If you don’t understand your own financial condition (the balance sheet) you are at risk or serious financial error and loss. The same can be said if you don’t understand where the money is all going (cash flow statement). Tracking your income and expenses (income statement) is a powerful tool for building wealth. Guessing is not a substitute for knowledge when money is involved.
Last Monday promised to be a day of review with a few additional insights. The promise took a left turn quickly.
I was the first to arrive at the class. (I am like that; teacher’s pet, showing up early.) About 20 students filled the room. Kimberly, a fine young lady from Florida, was our instructor.
From the beginning she looked nervous. I was quiet, yet attentive as she struggled to deliver the message.
A small class of 20 student should not shake a speaker. At first I thought she might have personal issues or feel ill.
Then she interspersed light comedy pieces between sections. They didn’t match the curriculum and were very out of place.
She decided not to follow the workbook, instead, using a PowerPoint of her own design as her teaching tool.
There were several glaring errors. At one point she had the accounting equation on the screen and proceeded to explain how the equation worked on the balance sheet. This is what her slide showed:
Can you see the problem? The formula is really:
Some people call Owner’s Equity Capital or just Equity. The point is that liabilities and equity are added, not subtracted, to equal assets.
Kimberly went on to explain why her equation was how accounting worked. Nothing added up. Something was very wrong!
I bit my tongue. It isn’t my place to embarrass her. However, it did bother me the other students were getting bad information. Some of the other students were drinking it in because they really didn’t know the right answer.
Some Education is Better than None
By mid-morning it was painfully obvious Kimberly was in over her head. Situations like the formula above and statements like, “accounts payable should never exceed accounts receivable” were blatantly false.
The course provider (name withheld to protect the innocent) had a workbook we did not use. By going off on her own PowerPoint Kimberly was reinventing the wheel. I still has not put the pieces together as to what was really wrong with our speaker. She has 17 years experience in bookkeeping. You don’t survive that long (and get hired to teach a course) if you are that bad at it.
The few questions asked by the class I answered. To help the group move in a more appropriate (and hopefully more accurate) direction I asked a few questions and guided the responses. I decided to gently mention accounts payable (AP) can, and in many instances should, be higher than accounts receivable (AR).
It was time to drop a golden nugget to return interest to the class. I went back to an earlier discussion on cash versus accrual accounting and asked: When should a small business use accrual accounting instead of cash accounting?
The room looked like a herd of deer in the headlights. Small businesses can use cash accounting for taxes by default. You can elect to use accrual if you choose. (The upcoming Halloween post on Financial Horror Stories II includes a story where a client made a big time mistake I fixed by understanding why accrual accounting can be a powerful tool. Be sure read it.)
Most small businesses have an accounts receivable. Not all, but a large percentage do. If your receivables are larger than payables you want to remain on cash accounting, especially for taxes. However, if your AP tend to always be larger than your AR you will want to consider accrual accounting.
The reason for this is clear. If AR are larger you don’t want to pay tax on money not yet received so cash accounting is better. If AP is larger you can deduct the expense before it is paid under accrual.
With this it was time for lunch (fifteen minutes early). Thank God.
Time for a Break
Kimberly did not join us for lunch. As some of the students ate together we talked. One student was a retired CPA from a large CPA firm. He was not happy.
I admit I expressed concerns over lunch. It is my policy to never denigrate another person pouring out their soul to a group. I am by no means always innocent myself. In this instance I was reasonably true to my policy, and as will soon become clear, I am glad I was.
A third of the class never returned from lunch. Kimberly looked worse than in the morning.
From what I gathered, she ran out of material in the morning.
The afternoon session was worse than the morning. We returned from lunch at 1:00 and by 1:30 it was getting ugly. The material was all over the map and did not make sense. Most was a glossing over of the morning material.
Either I had to take action or the class would be over on the spot.
I interjected, “I read the workbook over the weekend and would like to review some of the material there.”
Everyone, including Kimberly, was happy for me to provide some direction.
“On page 32 of the workbook there is an income statement. What is wrong with it?”
A good discussion on fraud prevention ensued. In a short period of time I was able to pry from the financial statements many details of the company presented.
I will not give a play-by-play of the remainder of the afternoon. What I will say is the discussion picked up and for the few that remained for the afternoon we had a good discussion with value.
Class ended early.
The End was the Beginning
When the curtain came down the remaining students left. Many grabbed my card (I didn’t bring my business card so I handed out my card for this blog).
The first to arrive I was to be the last to walk out with another student, a retired teacher.
Kimberly walked behind us and said, “Thank you for asking questions and moving the class forward.”
I replied it was no problem. I mentioned I could tell something was wrong.
“This is my first class,” Kimberly said. She was nearly in tears. It was a long, hard day for her.
The pieces all fell into place.
“I can’t understand what went wrong,” Kimberly continued. “I spent two weeks planning this class and practiced.”
The school teacher and I stayed for about an hour helping Kimberly improve her game and good thing. Kimberly was headed back to Illinois for two more presentations of the same program before heading home. The reviews from today’s class were brutal. If she didn’t make a comeback she was at serious risk of losing her job.
I recommended she dump the PowerPoint. The school teacher said she might want to use a meme.
I gave an example of how I would conduct the class: Use the workbook, ask students questions, get the students thinking. Tell stories. Engage the class. Find the reason they came and work it.
Kimberly recorded some of my remarks on her phone for review as she drove back to Illinois. She wanted to listen to it again and again. In less than an hour I outlined how I would conduct the class. It would be impossible to finish it all in a day. That makes for a good, fast-paced class.
Mostly, I told Kimberly, she needed to have confidence. She has almost 20 years experience as a bookkeeper. Yes, she is not a CPA, but she is very familiar with financial statements. There is plenty of material to engage and peak the interest of any group. Focus on what is relevant to the attendees. Each presentation, as a result, will be slightly different.
Kimberly looked very tired when we left. She also looked like she had hope. The company had a workbook with plenty of material to easily fill a day. Mixing in personal stories would keep the group awake and engaged.
For the Sake of One
I made it clear to Kimberly she had nothing to lose. It is unlikely she will ever see any of these students again in her life. Just give the best darn presentation you possibly can, I suggested. Give a piece of you. Make it real. Go in with the goal of helping everyone present learn at least one new thing this day.
The knowledge doesn’t have to come from you, I continued. You would be surprised how often the best insights come from other students as they ask questions and debate answers.
As I said to Kimberly, it is unlikely we will ever cross paths again. There is nothing to lose. Nothing to be embarrassed about. This was not about personal gain; it was about paying-it-forward. It is the only thing that gives life meaning; helping others find meaning in their’s.
Kimberly did not contact me afterwards. I have no idea how it turned out in the Illinois classes.
Steve Jobs asked John Sculley if he wanted to change the world. Well, I haven’t changed the world at the level of Steve Jobs.
But I may have changed the world for one. And it was worth the effort.
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.
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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.
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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.
This week’s Stalking the Accountant edition is special. We had another drawing for cash prizes here at The Wealthy Accountant and it ended up a humbling experience where dozens of people will benefit far more than the minor investment of cash would indicate.
The drawing pulled names from subscribers who opened their email of the latest blog posts. The winners of the $50 prize are:
Ben O of Essex Junction, VT, and
Jeff H of Santa Barbara
The prize is awarded as either a PayPal transfer or an Amazon gift card. Both took the Amazon card.
Here is where it got real. When I informed Jeff of his win he sent the following email:
Awesome! It’s great to be a winner!
I’m actually a blogger myself (www.themoneycommando.com) and rather than sending the money to me I’d like to propose something else.
My wife is on the board of a local charity called Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS). Basically, they provide a shelter for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. The shelter gives the women and children a place to stay while they look for a new place to live. They usually leave at a moment’s notice and don’t have kid’s clothing, a crib, bottles, etc. DVS supplies these things in the shelter and lets the families keep them to help them get on their feet.
How about if you donate the $50 Amazon gift card to DVS? You get the tax deduction, DVS gets a bit of exposure (maybe it will encourage somebody else to donate too), and DVS can use the gift card to get whatever baby supplies they need (it’s always changing from week to week).
Here’s the DVS website: https://www.dvsolutions.org/en/
What do you think?
Jeff H. from Santa Barbara
Of course I agreed! It was an awesome idea!
This was a perfect opportunity to put some of TWA profits to work. I’ve dedicated 100% of the profits of this blog to charitable causes. I doubled the award to Domestic Violence Solutions to $100. Not a lot, but a gesture of good will.
Jeff’s wife responded as such:
Thank you so much for matching the gift card! Our emergency shelter is in great need of about 25 new pillows and this will allow for us to buy almost half!
We are deeply grateful.
I couldn’t let it alone. A simple comfort most people take for granted — a comfortable place to lay your head — is unavailable to some victims of abuse. I knew what I had to do.
If $100 bought nearly half the pillows needed, another $150 should finish the job. A drawing meant to engage my readers has turned into a $250 gift to a domestic violence shelter giving dozens of people comfort.
Here is the reply:
WOW, you just made our day Keith!!!
Most of us take having a soft pillow for granted, but when a victim and her children enter our shelters (usually in the middle of the night) they arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, traumatized and thankful to be alive. Having a warm, comfortable and safe place to sleep means so much to our clients.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
Would it be OK to acknowledge your generosity on our social media?
With sincere gratitude,
Before I take a bow, let me remind you I didn’t do this. You did!
This blog has revenue because of you, kind readers. That revenue is destined to change lives for the better in our communities. You need to take the bow. I’m only the conduit. You did this. You changed the lives of those women, often times kids in tow, surviving violence.
I know you’re as moved as I am by this. It’s okay to take a moment here to reflect on what our group has just done.
Finally, if you want to add to the gift to Domestic Violence Solutions you can do so here:
Please provide comfort to a child – donate now at https://comfortandjoyforachild.funraise.org/
A child’s future is in your hands.
The Other #MeToo
In 2017 women started to speak out in waves. It was 100% necessary! It had to happen. The violence and assault of women had to be exposed before the problem can be addressed.
Even some men came forward. We sometimes forget about men who suffered sexual assaults as children.
The #MeToo movement has another side gaining ground fast. This part of the #MeToo movement is dedicated to supporting the survivors of violence in any way they can.
Guys can come across as dicks at times. We are not talking about that kind of behavior. When a man does something to offend a woman it may have been with good and honorable intentions. What we are talking about is verbal, mental and physical assault. Violence against a woman of any kind is never acceptable. EVER!
The other #MeToo movement, the movement of men determined to support the rights of women to live peaceably without threat of violence and intimidation, needs to grow more.
I’ve supported the women who have come forward (and the silent survivors struggling with the demons) from the beginning. Now, finally, I can stand up and say, “#MeToo.” Not as a survivor, but as a supporter of every woman who has had to deal with the trauma of assault.
Please join The Wealthy Accountant and me in supporting this cause.
After such a heavy start to the weekend edition it’s time to relax with some entertainment.
What I’m Reading
The stock market was tame for so long (every month of 2017 was a winner) I had to pull out an old favorite when we experienced a mild correction. Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy J. Siegel is a classic. It’s not an advice book for investing in the market. Rather, the book is a treasure trove of data on the market’s performance from the beginning. The accountant in me can’t resist.
What I’m Watching
Elon Musk sent a rocket into space the week before last with a Tesla Roadster as the payload. The publicity stunt gave Musk plenty of bang for his buck and I’m adding to the benefits by sharing the following video here. In this video we learn what space will do the Starman and the Roadster. We also learn about several Easter Eggs hidden in the Roadster traveling to the stars.
What I’m Listening To
I worked in silence most of the week. Tax season is in full swing now and time is tight. I’ll be at the office for a short day on Sunday to get some larger returns done without interruption.
Here is one album is listened to earlier in the week:
I know my taste in music can be out there. But by sharing hidden gems I uncover is the reason for the weekend edition of Stalking the Accountant.
I can clearly remember the first time I heard about the Pay it Forward philosophy. The year was 2002; the location Schenectady, New York; the event Albacon.
Back in those days Mrs. Accountant and I were groupies of the science fiction convention circuit. The insanity only lasted a few years, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. We met scores of bestselling writers. I can’t speak for Mrs. Accountant, but I drank in every word.
I had recently discovered Mike Resnick. His only novel to grace the bestseller list hooked me. Why Resnick never became a household name is beyond me.
Albacon is a science fiction convention held in the Albany, New York vicinity most years. It’s a small convention, at least it was back in 2002.
Once I read Santiago I started stalking Resnick. I read every book of his I could find. His style of Space Western appeals to me. His fast paced stories also caused me to miss more than a few nights of sleep.
I also read the few remaining science fiction magazines in 2002. Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine listed a select number of upcoming conventions. I noticed Resnick was the Guest of Honor at Albacon. The road trip was on.
Not What I Expected
Albacon was either the first or one of the first SF conventions Mrs. Accountant and I attended. My hopes were high as we packed the car and drove from northeast Wisconsin to Schenectady. For the record, that is a long drive.
My expectations were high which is always a bad sign.
I figured my literary hero would welcome guests with open arms. He didn’t. He was there and mostly stuck with his friends.
High expectations usually end with disappointment when reality meets fantasy. Mike is a helluva nice guy and the problem was more with me than him. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but my dry tongue swelling in my mouth was a barren hole in the dead center of my face.
I sat listening to Mike talk with several groups and eventually managed a few minutes to express my gratitude. I sounded like an idiot actually. Mike Resnick was bigger than life in my eyes and I had no idea what to say to the man whose writing I spent so many hours enjoying.
As disappointed as I was with myself and the opportunity I squandered, I still received a gift I hadn’t recognized.
Pay It Forward
At one point in the weekend convention Mike spoke to the small group gathered in his honor and talked about paying it forward. He explained how he helped other writers find their legs as his way of paying it forward. The people he helped would have no way of paying Mike back. He did it with a promise from those he helped to keep the ball rolling and to pay it forward when they were in a position to do so.
You’d think I’d have heard about the Pay it Forward philosophy prior to Albacon 2002. I probably did, but the skull of a Neanderthal from the backwoods of Wisconsin is thick so it didn’t sink in.
Mike Resnick changed all that. Whatever he said, it sunk in and I thought it was the most brilliant idea ever devised. For a year or so I thought he was the guy who invented the idea. Backwoods, people. Real backwoods.
The years have kept counting and my consumption of fiction of any kind has been declining. I still read a novel here and there, but the bulk of my reading in nonfiction.
It is with sadness that I report I haven’t read much of Resnick’s work of late either. His stories still resonate with me, but my interests changed.
The stories I did read are still buried inside me, bringing me continued pleasure. And I can never thank Mike enough for pounding the Pay it Forward concept into my head.
As we race to the finish line of 2017 it’s my turn to Pay it Forward. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done plenty of paying it forward. It’s just that now I want to codify the process so I can ramp up my game.
I have been blessed beyond words. I started from humble beginnings and the journey to today has not always been smooth. What I’m saying is there was no free ride for the Accountant household.
As humble as those beginnings were I have achieved more than any one man deserves. I am fortunate to have the best wife to ever live. I can prove it too! She puts up with me. Nearly 30 years now.
I have two awesome daughters who never gave mom and dad any real reason for concern. They are moral, kind and generous.
My business life has been nothing short of phenomenal! I struggled early on with finding my way and later with figuring out how to run a growing business. Through it all I survived, even when the power that be worked very hard to destroy what I was building.
Financial success is the biggest surprise. There were no warnings signs some schmuck from the frozen tundra of nowhere would amount to anything. Yet, I managed to amass a tidy fortune recently breeching $14 million. The number has grown so big over the years it no longer moves me when another milestone is surpassed. The whole experience has turned surreal. I expect this to happen some day soon.
With all my good fortune, much is expected. I could pay it back to those who helped me along the way, but I never kept a list and the number of folks who supported me is legion. Besides, the people who helped me don’t need the favor returned!
All that remains is the future.
My business continues to add to the stack of wealth. This blog is starting to make a contribution as well. And all the previous investment soldiers are hard at work reproducing. The compounding effect is mindboggling.
And this is where it ends.
This blog earns a growing profit. I need a profit as a scorecard to motivate me. Once the numbers are in and I’m amply motivated, it’s time to make the most important business decision of my life.
Writing The Wealthy Accountant is a way of paying it forward. But more is expected of one who has been blessed so mightily.
From this point on all profits of this blog will go to charity. I recently outlined one avenue of charitable work. Reach Counseling will continue to enjoy the fruits of this blog’s success so they can expand their work helping abused women and children. Previous work with Special Olympics will also be expanded.
I will update you, kind readers, from time to time on the charitable work this blog is doing. When you support this blog it strokes my ego, but all the profit goes to those in need. My way of paying it forward.
Not Good Enough
As altruistic as the above statement is, it isn’t good enough. This blog has a tidy profit, but not overwhelmingly so, at least not yet. So giving the proceeds of this endeavor is still rather small.
I’ve discussed my giving habits in the past along with ways to use the tax code to increase the value of your gift.
Above the monetary contribution of this blog’s profits I will extend a helping hand to all bloggers and podcasters in the FIRE demographic contribute in an efficient way to charities they hold close to their heart without cost.
I know it sucks, but businesses have better opportunities to maximize the value of their charitable giving. The new tax bill makes it even worse. The tax code offers opportunities for businesses to give to charity and get a deduction on the business tax return; no itemizing required.
I wish I could extend this offer to everybody. Unfortunately, I am one human being with limited time and resources.
Bloggers and podcasters who want to donate to charity in a way that promotes their blog or podcast and maximizes the value of their gift should contact me. You still write and send the check. (You don’t have to give all your blog/podcast profits!) What I’ll do is help you decide the best way to give so you can give the most without a certain uncle in Washington taking his share first. I’ll even organize the necessary paperwork so you have no problems with the IRS.
I discussed this tax strategy in the past. In short, instead of giving a traditional gift, you sponsor a program at the charity of your choice. Since your blog/podcast gets recognition, the gift is really a promotional or advertising expense.
It not exactly that simple, but you get the idea. What I will do if you contact me and give me the go-ahead is I’ll contact the charity to find an appropriate program you can sponsor. You will get the necessary paperwork for your tax record. And you write and send the check. No money goes through my account. I don’t want the extra headache.
So there is my year-end offer to end 2017 with any even bigger bang than it already has been.
Life has been beyond awesome this year! We can do this together. We can pay it forward.
So the next generation has a chance to feel the same joy we experience every day.
A clickbait title like above requires some quantification before we begin. It’s not what you think. Fewer than one in a thousand have a clue what I am about to reveal. And the personal finance ramifications are incredible. If you live the story the cost can be a million or more; it can even cost your life.
J Money from Rockstar Finance recently sold his site so he could focus on his blog: Budgets are Sexy. J’s work over the years is legendary. His work has helped countless people in desperate need. As he exited the building he had cash remaining in the community fund. I was contributing $10 per month and added $500 to the Debt Drop program in September in honor of Suicide Prevention Month. The community fund was ending as new management took over Rockstar.
J emailed bloggers asking any who would be willing to take $100 to do a good deed in their community and write about it. I answered I would, but didn’t need the $100; the $100 would be my contribution and the idea I had would require a bit more than $100. J’s original goal was to enlist 20 bloggers; he now has 21. Another example of how the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community is making our world a better place.
Before we begin, would you hand me the box of tissues next to you. What I am about to write is very personal and painful. This is a story about how I almost sold my business and walked out on life. I had the pills in my hand as I contemplated ending it all. A moment that should have been filled with joy changed my perception of life and love forever.
And it started from my misconception of sex, or more accurately, gender.
The Gift of Life
I’ve become so numb, I can feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
By becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.
—Numb, Linkin Park
Mrs. Accountant and I waited to have children. I wanted to be financially secure before bringing a life into this world. The truth is I never wanted children. Deep down I felt I’d be a terrible parent and the thought scared the wits out of me.
When we decided to have children Mrs. Accountant was so happy; I prayed to God the day would never come.
Finances were better than they ever were when I was growing up in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. I remember our kitchen table when I was a young child consisted to two sawhorses with a piece of plywood laid across them. I was too young to know how poor we were. Then I grew up.
Now it was my turn to start the next generation. Mrs. Accountant had difficulty conceiving, not that I was complaining. For this crazy accountant it was all fun without a baby bump. I was happier than a pig in, ah, you know what I mean.
Then the inevitable happened. Our first child was on the way and I adjusted to the New World Order.
Regular doctor visits indicated everything was going smooth. We attended Lamaze classes. These sessions were designed to give the mother confidence in giving birth, as if she had any choice at this point. Dad was there to learn a thing or three, too. Unfortunately, fate would exempt me using the newly acquired knowledge.
It was right after the holidays when Mrs. Accountant didn’t feel well one morning. Within an hour her water broke and we on our way to the hospital. The baby was due February 28, over a month early.
The doctor suppressed labor to give the baby time to develop more before breathing air. Eventually the wait had to end. Our first daughter entered this world early and spent 19 days in intensive care at Theda Clark hospital in Neenah, Wisconsin.
In the end it was a minor problem modern medicine could fix. Life was good.
Until we tempted fate again, that is.
The Son of Cronus Awaits the Fool
My brother and I are five years apart in age. It’s only a coincidence my daughters are exactly the same number of years apart in age as well.
Waiting to have children is a double-edged sword. I was 31 when my first daughter was born. If we wanted another child we needed to make up our mind soon.
I wanted more time before we added to the herd; Mrs. Accountant felt her biological clock ticking. I’ll give you one guess who won.
Since it took time for Mrs. Accountant to conceive the first time we needed to get to work. (It’s good work, but the pay is, well, shall we say, awesome!)
We were prepared this time around. Medical issues with our first daughter meant we needed a specialist to prevent a repeat. We found an OB-GYN with ample experience with delivery issues. What could possibly go wrong?
The pregnancy went smooth. Soon the happy day arrived and it was time for baby number two.
Due to the emergency nature of the previous birth I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room. This time I would see the magical moment my child would enter the world with my own eyes.
Our first child came cesarean. The doctor decided it would be best to do the same this time around so no labor issues could ruin what was so far a picture perfect pregnancy.
As reluctant as I was to have children I was eager to see the process in action. Three doctors were working in the delivery room as I watched. The incision was made and then widened a tad before the doctor’s hands massaged my child’s head through the opening.
Once the head was out the rest of the baby slid out easy.
The OB-GYN said, “Congratulations sir, you have a son!”
Another doctor immediately said, “Look again, doctor. Sir, you have a daughter!”
All I remember is mumbling, “It’s both.”
I actually called my child “It.” I was so numb I felt nothing. It? What was wrong with me?
The delivery room was dead quiet from that point on. Mrs. Accountant kept asking what was wrong. For once in my life I couldn’t find words.
Boy or Girl?
The doctor closed the incision as I was shown to a waiting room. I was informed the doctor needed to make some calls to figure out what to do.
I was allowed to see Mrs. Accountant. I managed to explain what had happened.
The birth certificate read:
How could I face the world? My child, my baby, was a. . . A what?
The first question people ask when you have a child is, “Boy or girl?”
I had to answer, “I don’t know?”
People think you are pulling their leg when you say it.
It was the middle of tax season (no comments on my planning skills). Mrs. Accountant needed rest so I went home to pick up my oldest daughter from my parents. My office is between the hospital and home.
Bev was still working when I stopped. I couldn’t even enter the building I was trembling so badly. All I could get out was, “I’m not coming back.” I tried to tell her to sell everything; I was done. Bev feared the worst and I wasn’t in good enough shape to tell her what happened. Even driving was a stupid thing for me to be doing.
If you think this story has nothing to do with personal finance you’re going to see how wrong you are. This story is perfect for a tax and personal finance blog.
We had insurance; thank God for that. The medical bills approached a million dollars in the first few years and the out-of-pocket was substantial, too. My wealth at the time was working toward the second million. It is a blessing I had the financial ability to make sound medical decisions without considering money.
Our child needed several surgeries the first few months. The gonads were purplish masses and precancerous. It was, as the doctors said, a “medical imperative” they be removed immediately.
The gonads hadn’t dropped so they were deep inside in the position of ovaries. They were removed when she was three weeks old. That was surgery number one.
Our baby had ambiguous genitalia. There was a distended, though not fully formed, penile structure and a vaginal opening. The urinary tract exited both and was certain to cause infection soon if not corrected.
A decision had to be made in the gender of the baby. The University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison did a genetic test. The results was X iso Yp.
In laymen’s terms it meant our baby was conceived male. After a few cell divisions the Y chromosome became isolated. Our baby, my baby, had ~15% of her cells with the XY chromosome, or male, and 85% X. XY is male; XX is female. When you only have X instead of XX it’s like have no sex chromosome at all! In such cases the human body tends toward the androgynous, or feminine. This explained the ambiguous genitalia.
In my mind X meant girl. 85% beats 15% so girl it is. The doctors also encouraged us to choose female for our child. One, it’s easier to make a female medically. Constructing male organs are usually less functional and our child would always tend to be more feminine in appearance. And two, the genetic test said girl and my analytical mind would have taken any result with greater than 50%. It’s how I’m wired.
That was surgery two. There were many more to follow.
Guilt took over. It was my fault our daughter was deformed! The Y chromosome only comes from dad and my genetics failed. The guilt was overwhelming. Get me in a corner talking about this and I still fight back tears. The wound cut deep and the pain never went away.
All the while the stuff above was happening I fell deeper and deeper into depression. One night I went out to the barn and put my head in a noose. A few nights later I emptied a bottle of pills in my hand. In either case I stopped short. Don’t ask me why. The pain was so deep there was no feeling left.
As this was happening I attended a support group from Reach Counseling. Only a few children are born each year in Wisconsin with such issues. I was told once an average of two babies per year in the state have what my youngest daughter has. A traditional support group wasn’t available.
This support group had every sex issue known to man in it. Victims of abuse and even a few sex offenders attended. (Many sex offenders are victims of sexual assault in their childhood and seek out support groups to deal with their issues.) And then there were the odd couples like Mrs. Accountant and me.
I thought the whole thing was stupid at first. There was a young woman dealing with a childhood of sexual assault while her dad was there due to assaulting his daughter. Several men were dealing with sexual assault issues from their childhood. Then there was a guy I affectionately called Dudeman. Every sentence he said ended with “Dude!” He was a good guy, just weird.
Every Thursday our group met and talked out our emotions and problems. I broke down every week. “My baby’s an abomination and it’s my fault,” I cried. It was an emotional roller coaster with the only ending a bad one. I shirked my parental duties for a pity party.
Shortly after my daughter’s second surgery I was in the support group crying when a young Asian man dealing with assault issues of his own turned to me and said, “In my culture you would be the most popular man in the village. Your daughter is special. Every man would want your daughter as his wife.”
He was from Laos. His childhood wasn’t easy. And here was this man who could only speak broken English telling me my child is a gift!
The pain and guilt have never gone away, but that was the day I stopped thinking about me and started thinking about my little girl. She is NOT an abomination! She is a GIFT! I was acting like an a$$. My daughter needed her dad and not some sanctimonious coward trying to find the courage to end his life.
The tears stopped instantly. I continued attending the support group for about a year. The young man from Laos eventually moved on. I doubt he even knows he saved my life and gave a beautiful young lady a good childhood.
My youngest daughter reaches the age of majority in a few months. She is a happy person filled with joy and dreams. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad dad after all.
Reaching for Help
Then I got an email from J at Rockstar Finance.
The moment I read the letter I knew I had to participate and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I hated Reach Counseling at the time. They symbolized my greatest failure in life, or so I thought. Now, almost 18 years later, I wanted to contribute to the organization that changes the lives of so many, changed my life.
Reach Counseling helps sexual assault victims in northeast Wisconsin. They also have programs to help sex offenders rebuild their life. The work never ends.
Even if you read the news poorly you know of all the women coming out in the #metoo movement. The Silence Breakers are Time Magazine’s people of the year. The number of people floating through my social media feeds raising their hand as also a victim of sexual assault is depressing. Most people knew back brain about the casting couch. Harvey Weinstein isn’t a total surprise.
The real surprise is the massive swell of victims silently suffering finally coming out to be heard. I’ve seen plenty in my days and know the devastation sexual assault causes. Almost from the beginning of this blog a woman reached out to me for help. She was sexually assaulted by her step dad since she was three or four years old. The assaults went on for years. She is in her forties now and struggles with the issues. She is intelligent and hard working. She is a survivor! Now I help her with personal finance issues so she can have the life she deserves, the life her stepfather raped from her.
I contacted Reach Counseling and showed them the email thread from J. I spoke with Kim Massey at Reach and explained to her what I wanted to do. Mrs. Accountant came with me. She said I was shaking as I told the story. The emotions are still there as I fought back tears. I haven’t evolved as far as I pretended.
The goal is to pay it forward. I can’t pay Reach back for what they did. Sure, I can donate money and I did: $500. But there was much more I had in mind.
I outlined a three pronged program serving victims of abuse, sex offenders and those at risk of abuse. I surmised if money is the number one reason for divorce, financial issues might pay a role in sexual assault and the healing process.
The issues people face when assaulted runs deep. Emotions run wild as the victim of crime tries to deal with what happened. And the kids still need food on the table.
Women are disproportionately affected. When I donated the $500 I had no string attached. I was informed a few hours ago by Kim Massey (I’m writing this the night before it’s published) some of the money was used to help a single mother with two children ages 9 and 12. They just moved into an apartment and have no furniture. The money was used for a Christmas tree and some gifts for the kids and even something for mom. The unspent money is in a fund for other families. I was told “. . .this gift filled their house with joy!”
J reminded me why I write this blog in the first place: to help people understand money better. I am working with Reach to build a program where I personally help people with serious financial issues. They need this advice more than anyone. I will use my experience and knowledge to make my community a better place.
In the past I’ve raised funds for Special Olympics. Now The Wealthy Accountant will adopt Reach Counseling, contributing a significant portion of its income to their cause along with my time and talent.
Please join me in this important work. Together we can do more than any person alone can. Support organizations similar to Reach Counseling in your community. Consider donating to Reach as well.
The workload is endless and demanding. You can read more about Reach Counseling and contribute here. No gift is too small. Consider an automatic monthly gift. This community is blessed with so much we can make a difference. You never know who you will help. It could be a woman fighting to survive after an assault; you might help a young girl break free from a violent and abusive environment; or maybe you’ll help a crazy accountant who needs a knock up beside the head to understand his child is a gift, a beautiful, wonderful gift.
Reach Counseling also has a crowd funding fundraiser going on right now. If you think men can’t be victims of abuse, think again. There is a moving video at this link of a man who found Reach after childhood abuse. It gave him a new lease on life.
Christmas Eve and Christmas morning I’m going to raise my glass in a toast to the single mother with two children struggling to survive.
May you have peace, my friend. May you have peace.
Note: I’ve attempted writing therapy on this issue in the past. I always cover with something different to get the true story out. You can read an earlier attempt here.