This is the 116th post here at The Wealthy Accountant. The average post has been around 1500 words, meaning I have published approximately 174,000 words this year so far on this site. That is enough words to fill two average sized novels! I also write two other blogs of flash fiction adding another 153,000 words to my output. That is a lot of stuff to say in one year and it is giving me a sore throat.

Before you recoil in horror, understand I am not going away! For next few weeks to two months I am cutting my publishing pace to three posts per week: Monday-Wednesday-Friday. That is still an annual output of 156 posts or a 234,000 word pace, enough to fill three average sized novels. I would post more, but I’ve already told you more than I know. (Keep your eyes on the ball so the fast ones don’t get by you.)

There is a logical reason for the temporary slowdown. I have plenty of ideas to share, but many of my favorites are festering in the queue waiting for the necessary research. You see, many ideas I can lay on paper in a few hours because they don’t need much research or the work is already gathered and just needs organizing on the page. To give these future posts justice I need to make phone calls and research deeper. I could always throw a few basics out and let you figure out the rest, but that is sloppy journalism and robs you, the reader, of the information you expect and deserve.

I am also concerned over my current quality. I have noticed spelling and grammatical errors when I re-read posts weeks later. Without a separate set of eyes reviewing my work things like that can happen. It is important for me to say what I intend. This is communication and if I talk so fast I stumble over my words no one benefits. Also, most people don’t read as much as I publish. If I kept my daily pace of publishing I would nail over 547,000 words per year to this blog, the equivalent of nearly 7 full-length novels. Communicating solid information is worthless if people never read it.

My final excuse is I have homemade wine that needs processing and a man has to have his priorities.

Blog Work

I have an unwritten (well, okay, it is written here now) set of rules when running a blog: 1.) Build content; 2.) Drive traffic; 3.) Monetize. I broke my rules. Fortune gave me a nice push out of the gate, but I placed the poor horse behind the cart. In other words, I cheated and it shows. Because I got a free push I decided to focus on content since I started with so little; I also monetized right of the gate.

My traffic has started to stagnate because I have done nothing to promote this blog. It is time to take some active steps to increase traffic to the material already published. You can help. Share interesting articles here on social media. It is an important area of promotion and I am not very good at. The Share button at the end of each post gives several choices of social media to automatically post to. By sharing with your circle of friends this blog will grow. Always share on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the million and five other forms of social media I don’t understand.

When I publish a lot there tends to be fewer comments as people don’t have time to digest the information and then start a dialog before another 1,500 words comes barreling down the pike. I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section of each post. I may know a lot of stuff, but I have no lock on the subjects covered here. For The Wealthy Accountant to realize its full potential it needs to be a participation sport.

Upcoming Posts You Don’t Want to Miss

Finally, I want to whet your appetite with a short description of a few posts in the queue I am working on. Some may never see the light of day if I can’t find an angle that works or if my research doesn’t provide the powerful information you deserve. Most should get published soon. The extra time involved coupled with additional research might cause a few posts to get longer. I promise to edit; we don’t want a 10,000 word diatribe on any subject; solid information is all you want with a few entertaining stories to keep your mind glued.

Increase Blog Traffic Faster Than Naked Kim Kardashian Pictures: I want to share several insights into growing blog traffic. My two flash fiction blogs get close to 3 million pageviews a year. That is huge for a fiction blog! There are several online resources I want to share once I give them a run around the block. Many WA readers are also bloggers and want to know how they can amp their traffic. I’ll tell you more than I know. (Check the similar joke at the beginning of this post.)

Get Ready for Suicide Season: I am still debating if I will ever publish this one. It is waaaay too personal. It is an important topic people need to understand and the surprising people it affects. You will learn a thing or three about your favorite accountant, too, if I do hit the publish button. The best way is to pull the Band-Aid® off fast. If I don’t I may never publish the article.

Library Millionaire: This is my favorite project in the queue. I need to make several calls before I can finalize this baby. To whet your appetite: How would you like $800 a month just for belonging to the library? You can visit the place too, if you want. Investing the windfall into the S&P 500 index fund at Vanguard should turn that revenue stream into a cool million dollars in twenty years. I think I have enough to write the article, but I want more from additional libraries. I don’t want people thinking this only works somewhere else.

They Said It First . . . and Better: I want to review personal finance bloggers of yesteryear. Before blogging existed there was the Tightwad Gazette. There are plenty of additional personal finance sources long gone and frequently forgotten. The hard part is finding these people and information of their work. If I can pull it together expect a post on it.

Hidden Value in Home Owner’s Insurance: Insurance is one of those things we hate buying until we have a serious claim. Home owner’s insurance does more than protect your home. Getting the right insurance can help build and preserve wealth.

Credit Card Secrets: People use credit cards all wrong! In this post we will take a walk down the paperwork from the credit card companies that no one reads . . . except the Wealthy Accountant. Imagine all the free stuff: interest free loans without a fee; free replacement or money back if you lose, break or have an item stolen (great to know if you own a smart phone); free trip insurance; free health insurance (now you really want to read the article, don’t you?); and price guarantees. Even people who know this stuff exists rarely use it. But not after you read this post.

That is enough for one day. Enjoy your weekend; comment below any idea you would like me to tackle; be sure to subscribe, and share this blog with friends on social media.

Talk with you on Monday. If you are bored in the meantime, feel free to browse around here.

Humans are social creatures craving to belong to a group they feel is like them and will accept them. Our heroes and mentors come from this group. People big into sports find heroes among athletes and try to find life lessons from the most successful sports figures. My heroes tend to be more literary or historical because I love reading, researching, and studying.

Several years ago I started reading Mr. Money Mustache and thought Pete was the neatest guy alive. He made frugal cool and fun. I found a mentor and the mentor was never informed. We all do it. We find people who seem to exude what we want to become and latch on. Pete had it all figured out and I liked that.

When I write this blog I work hard to show my soft underbelly. It is too easy to make it look effortless or like my life is all a bed of roses, free from any problems or worries. Life isn’t that neat and clean for anyone. No amount of money or fame removes all problems from life. Deep down we all know this to be true, but it feels better when we wear rose-colored glasses. We want this perfect solution to make life all better.

As we get closer to our heroes by following everything they write or do in public we start to see the warts. OMG! Keith and Pete both had business failures in life! Say it ain’t so! But it is so. People who achieve worthwhile goals go through the same process as anyone else. There is no secret formula to success without bumps along the way.

It is so disheartening when we discover our role model puts his pants on one leg at a time. What the fuck is up with that? You mean when so-and-so farts it doesn’t smell like mint? Who would have thought? In the beginning we build up our new-found role model to a level not possible. Then reality sets in and we feel disappointed.

WYSIWYG

As regular readers know I advise Pete on tax matters and prepare his tax documents. I am lucky because I not only got to meet my role model, I also got to know him in a more intimate way than most people can. The greatest feeling in the world is discovering my role model really walked the talk. What you see is what you get.

After a cooling off period we begin to cool to our role model. They have many traits we want to possess or build upon, but now they are more human and just as vulnerable. But they also do things we do not always agree with. When the gloss comes off we can see our role model for who they really are. It is at this moment when we can really learn something of value from our hero. What originally attracted us to our role model is the end product. The process is the only way you can achieve some of those same end results.

Role models show up unannounced. They may walk into your life or may show up as a blog writer. Now that The Wealthy Accountant is growing steadily and people are following, watching, and I suspect a few, admiring me. The area I get the most rose-colored comments on is my marriage. As I approach 29 years of wedded bliss I have heard people say things like, “We can’t all have a marriage as good as Keith’s.” I’m not sure how to take the comment because you can have an awesome marriage. It isn’t easy, but it is doable.

As readers look closer and start following my life and speaking engagements they will start to see me outside the published words of this blog. Then the warts start to pop out and there are plenty. My perfect marriage is not perfect. It is awesome, for sure, but awesome for a reason. Mrs. A and I really work on it. We continually examine our relationship with each other and dissect what makes our marriage stronger. Some discussions get intense and deep.

People hear “28 years of marriage. Wow!” and forget how it really happened. People see a successful accounting practice and say the same words. (Yes, I am married to my work.) There are days that were not pretty in my business or personal life. It is so much more fun bragging about the successes, but the real lessons learned come from an honest dissection of the major fuck-ups that took place over the years.

Healthy Role Models

We all need role models. Reinventing the wheel every step of the way is not an intelligent move. Learning from the successes and failures of people who have character is a powerful learning method. I don’t have to agree with everything Pete does in life to find valuable habits I can apply in my life. Pete is a hell of a lot more frugal than I am and a lot smarter too. I also disagree with some things he does. They are wrong for me, not him. That is the moment the role model relationship turns healthy.

When the relationship starts you want to have it all rapid fire. In my marriage I always tell people when I met Mrs. A it was lust. Even when I married her it was more lust than love. Hormones ruled the day and we were more wont to go at it like banshee chickens than have a deep and meaningful relationship. Over the years I discovered I am more in love with Mrs.  A each year than the last. The love is growing! Age settled us down and the chicken behavior eased, fortunately; I wore two and half inches off the top already.

That isn’t to say it is all perfect. It never is. Love is growing and so are we as we evolve. You didn’t think I was the same man I was 28 years ago, did you? I changed. Some things for the better, some for the worse. Growing and evolving with someone for a long period of time, for a lifetime, takes a special kind of dance and commitment. Over the years there will be more than a few toes stepped on. How you handle a stepped on toe determines the outcomes.

I have had many role models in my life. Online bloggers have been part of that crowd for a while now. I only met a few personally. I still hunger for Pete’s wisdom and secretly wish his writing productivity were higher. I understand why he does what he does, but I can still hanker for powerful knowledge. J.D. Roth gets “cooler” by the day the more I read his stuff. I recently discovered another blog he writes. Stupid me. Leo at Zen Habits and Brandon at Mad Fientist are fun to read and learn from. Paula Pant is someone I never read before and am starting to warm up to.

Bloggers appeal to me (and you) for a reason. Their stories are more personal than any other media outlet. Their stories and lessons help us become the people we want to be. I have bitched for years about traveling, but admire those who can travel for long periods of time without bouncing off walls. I don’t think these people live perfect lives for one second, but have every intention of learning what qualities they possess that would make me a better person in my own eyes.

I read more blogs than ever. Once upon a time I did not even consider blogs a literary form. The quality and quantity of material has exploded over the years. I am glad it did. Bloggers offer a glimpse into living the life we want to live without a corporate editorial board censoring the content.

Do As I Do

You can learn a lot from a guy like me. I want you to have an “accountant” mindset in your personal life when it comes to money matters. I don’t expect you to open an accounting practice. And certainly don’t do so because I did! I did it because it is what lit my fire. If it did not, it would have been easy to drop anchor twenty years ago and start the real retirement thingie.

I write a lot because I think I have something important to say (what an ego) and I like talking. I really like sharing ideas and helping people. When you read things that make sense to you, feel free to emulate me. When stuff seems a bit off, call bullshit. WYSIWYG. There are warts. I promise. I will focus on the positive and the successes because that is the kind of person I am, an optimist. As often as I can honestly show my underbelly, I will, as a realist.

Rather than trying to live the way I live (or like any role model for that matter) focus on results. You don’t want to do and act exactly as I do in my marriage; you want a long-term fulfilling and nurturing relationship. You can strive for my results, but you have to get there your way. I have ideas and examples to share that will help along the journey. But please, don’t try to be me. The world has a hard enough time dealing with one of me as it is.

Have you ever made a mistake? Of course you have. Like me, you have a few doozies in the closet to air out, too, if you are honest. Mistakes come in all sizes. From the minor mishap to the really stupid to the criminal, we all have our moments of ignorant brilliance.

As luck would have it, mistakes do not define us. Maybe you were drinking and driving and got caught or have been convicted for possessing an illegal drug; maybe you ruined a relationship due to infidelity or sheer apathy; maybe you trusted someone and they betrayed you; maybe you made an investment and after it was too late suffered a major financial setback to your early retirement plans. None of these mistakes define you; how you deal with the mistake does.

The Wealthy Accountant’s Inferno

Before we start talking about you or solutions, I need to confess a great sin I once committed. Many years ago my commercial tax software provider branched into DIY tax preparation. Accountants using their software in their office were given a free license to market the online program. Needless to say, I was excited. I developed a business plan to take it to TurboTax and all the other online DIY tax programs. I would compete on price and quality.

As tax season approached I put my marketing machine into action spending $80,000 in TV, radio, and online advertising before I discovered this was not working as planned. When the dust settled the revenue from my little project netted a bit over $3,000. I took a $77,000 loss on an idea I thought really had potential.

I made one huge mistake and a bunch of smaller ones. The mistake did not define my business or me. It certainly hurt the pocketbook, but I was lucky to have an established business where the investment came from cash flow; no borrowed funds were used.
Fessing Up

The first person I had to admit I made a mistake to was me. Accountants also understand the psychological risks of ‘sunk cost’ where you keep pouring money down the drain to try to make up for previous losses. It was a major loss with a lot of lessons learned. First, I needed to stop the bleeding. In this kind of business venture the upfront spending was high so I ended up too deep, quickly. Realizing the advertizing was not generating the expected results I pulled the plug. If I did not closely monitor the traffic and revenue daily I would have been in much worse shape.

The idea was solid; my business plan sucked turnip greens. It happens to the best of us. All my experience did not guarantee positive results. It was a massive financial mistake. But was it really? I lost $77,000 in less than a month on a business idea with awesome potential. A few problems I identified were: my price was too low (people don’t always respond to price alone) and the software, while commercial grade, was still a first year program (call it a beta version because it was).

That financial loss had me tasting blood in my mouth. I might have a dollar or three tucked away, but $77,000 is a lot of money. (On the bright side, I had a nice tax deduction. (At least I can laugh about it now.)) I finished that tax season and reevaluated. Yes, I lost a pile of money. I still had the software and the software company was improving it by the day. Rather than cry I started writing articles for content farms online and putting in a plug for my online tax program wherever I could, all at no cost except time. Each year I brought in another $500-$800. Still a far cry from recouping my losses, I was at least learning as I went.

As the years passed, my software firm made massive improvements to the program until it became one of the best if you had a firm knowledge of tax preparation. Because I never quit I was always looking for opportunity. I learned my lesson from the initial loss, yet never lost sight of the possibility for gain. Remember when I said a mistake doesn’t define you; how you respond to a mistake does? Well, if it were not for that tremendous loss ten years ago I would never have met Mr. Money Mustache and this blog would never have seen the light of day. You see, I went to Camp Mustache to present an idea to Pete and instead of selling him on my idea he hired me as his accountant and plugged my DIY tax program on his site. That led to over $8,800 in revenue this year. Still not back to breakeven, it is a lot better than it was with plenty of future opportunity.

By focusing my attention after a huge mistake I gained more than I could ever have imagined. This blog is not profitable as I write, but it is growing and daily revenue went from pennies to a few dollars per day. My guess is it will have a small profit by year-end with larger future profits. I also meet awesome new people and do something I love doing, writing, which is a fancy way of saying I get to talk a lot to a large group of people. I’m good with that.

Steps to Fixing a Mistake

This is where I provide a magic bullet to fix all mistakes. Sorry. No one solution fixes every problem for every person. There is a template I can share to make the process easier, though.

  • Acknowledge the errors of your way. Never be afraid to admit you fucked up. Stop worrying about other people; you notice the pimple on your face 1000% more than anyone else. You made a mistake; join the human race.
  • Take a break. Most people have a gut reaction to realizing they made a mistake. The shoot-from-the-hip response is probably another mistake. Take a page from the book of Stoics: sit quietly and reflect on what happened. Practice negative visualization. Image the worst that can happen. For me, the loss of money made me feel poor and stupid. By practicing negative visualization I was able to close my eyes and see all the worst things that could result. When I opened my eyes I realized none of that has happened yet. There was a way out. It would take time and effort. At minimum I had a passive $500-$800 annual income. It ended up much better as time went on. Can you imagine if I would have quit in frustration? You would have nothing to do at this moment since I would not have written this. (Wait a minute; bad example.)
  • Take action. Let’s use some other examples. Imagine you betrayed the trust of someone you love and it was discovered. There are things you can do to make the situation a whole lot worse. There are also things you can do to make it better. The relationship might be irrevocably destroyed, but if you learned a lesson and do not repeat the same mistakes you will not destroy a future relationship. And who knows, sometimes the best things in life come from the greatest adversity.
  • I made a plan and it backfired. That is not a character flaw; it is life. Get over it. Maybe you did something super-stupid like drink and drive and kill someone. There will be consequences, no doubt, but you can either spend the rest of your life crying about it or you can make a difference. In open court you can apologize for your actions and take the time in jail to improve yourself. Scientists tell us most cells in our body are replaced every seven years. Seven years from now the human being who made that massive mistake no longer exists! Always make the next version of you a better one.
  • Have your pity party and then roll up your sleeves and use your experience from the mistake as a tool your do something positive. Think of it this way. Most millionaires are self-made. It is rare to see someone with an easy life doing remarkable things. From pain and loss come the greatest discoveries in human history.
  • Learn from the experience. Read good books on the subject. An alcoholic can take steps to change her life completely. Joining a support group, getting involved in civic organizations or your church, and reading good books are all ways you can grow.

I wish I had a better answer, but that would make life too easy and end all the great accomplishments achieved through adversity. Never forget mistakes do NOT define you. How you respond and react to them does.

51YfVCoRFcL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Ryan Holiday has come a long way since writing Trust Me, I’m Lying: The Tactics and Confessions of a Media Manipulator. From his personal experience and stories of great men and women from today and in history, Holiday outlines how the ego gets in the way of aspirations, success, and even failure in his latest book: Ego Is the Enemy. This book is a guide on how to live life well with a healthy dose of Stoic philosophy so you can live happily too.

This is the best book I’ve read on living right since reading A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. From the beginning to the end Holiday provides example after example of how ego has harmed great men and women over the ages. He also gives examples of ego as it applies to aspirations and success. Holiday is not afraid to expand the narrative to include his own failures in life, bringing a personal touch to the lessons taught.

At 29, Ryan Holiday has lived an eventful life filled with awesome successes and fantastic failures. His drive and understanding of human nature allowed him to become a massive success at a young age. He worked with Tucker Max, using reverse psychology to create controversy and hence, sales. Next he worked with Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and other authors such as Timothy Ferris and Tony Robbins.

In the past Holiday used his talents to create controversy around a product or book to bring attention and sales to the product. His uncanny ability to understand the media world we live in today has made him a master of the trade. He has used underhanded methods of manipulating the media in the past to generate buzz. Billboards and press releases are not effective anymore according to Holiday. Getting the media coverage needed to sell a book or a company requires manipulating blogs, both large and small.

Regrets

There is a tinge of regret in the tone of Holiday as he gives examples of aspirations, success, and inevitable failures in life. His prolific reading and writing makes his storytelling hard to put down. Each story has you nodding your head as you see a piece of yourself in the mirror. Heavy Stoic teachings are woven into the narrative so you can take the lesson taught and apply it in your life, creating happiness without anxiety or worry.

Ego Is the Enemy is a blueprint to avoid the failures of great leaders from the past. The lessons learned can help us lead a happier life without feelings of revenge, regret, or envy. By accepting you have enough you can put ego aside and live life for what it is worth.

Holiday watched up close and personal the destruction of an American company: American Apparel. The founder, Dov Charney, disintegrated before Holiday’s eyes while he worked as the Director of Marketing for the firm.  Lawsuits began to unravel a fashion empire. The in-fighting and recriminations grew in intensity. Charney could not let it go. Instead of practicing a Stoic mindset or taking honest advice, he doubled down, then tripled down on failed policies. Eventually he was fired from his own company. He filed lawsuits against American Apparel, the former CFO, and multiple board members. By the time the fighting was done the company was gone.

Ryan Holiday was there to see American Apparel fail. He advised Charney, but Charney was in no mode for sound advice. Steve Jobs lost his company in a similar fashion, but took the opportunity to self-reflect and grow. Steve Jobs was hurt when he was ousted from Apple by the board; Charney destroyed the company in an avalanche of lawsuits so there will not be a company to come back to.

Subduing the Ego

No matter how hard we try, no matter how good we are, regardless out intentions, there will be times when things go very wrong. Defeat does not define us, how we handle defeat does. Bad things happen to everyone. Preparing mentally for these difficult times starts now, when we are able to think clearly and can condition our minds to handle tragedy.

Ego is in every one of us. Ego wants to assert itself at the worst possible moments, when our pride is wounded and we want to control things we have no control over. Ego Is the Enemy illustrates the successes and failures others have experienced and provides solutions to destructive ego issues.

One of the most moving stories in the book is about Katherine Graham, the remarkable woman who ran The Washington Post for over two decades. Graham faced hardships most people would be crushed by. Graham was born into wealth and privilege and was unprepared for the hardships she would endure. Her husband ran the family newspaper until she discovered he was having an affair. He later committed suicide leaving her in control of a business with thousands of employees and no training or experience to run a company.

Family and advisors told her to sell The Washington Post and use the money to retire to a comfortable life. She could not do it. Her father started the business and she wanted it to succeed. The challenges got worse. She managed The Post through the Watergate scandal. When the board and advisors told her not to publish confidential documents she did anyway. The President of the United States made it a project to punish her for her audacity.

The Washington Post was the first Wikileaks and Graham the first Julian Assange. There is a price to pay when doing the right thing. A President was exposed and brought to his knees, but before the smoke cleared a crippling strike brought The Washington Post to the edge as millions in advertising revenue was lost. If this wasn’t enough an outside investor was buying shares of the company; Graham could be facing a struggle for control of her company.

The strike ended and The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for journalistic reporting. The outside investor was no other than a young Warren Buffett. Buffett mentored Graham as they built the newspaper into the powerhouse it is today, even in an environment where newspapers are dying.

How can we have the same fortitude and toughness of a Katherine Graham? Is there anything special about people who face defeat in life and use the opportunity to excel? Without knowing it, Graham had a Stoic determination. Most winners in the world possess the same attitudes. Here are some final thoughts before you borrow a copy of Ego is the Enemy from the library:

  • Problems make you a better person. Without problems it is impossible to learn hard lessons. As much as loss, difficulty, and challenges hurt, you must work through them. It is in this place where you are defined as a human being.
  • An easy life is a curse. Struggles will happen and the more you deal with difficult people and situations the better you become.
  • Accept you are blessed. We live in an awesome time is history where the poor are better off than ever before. A modest middle class American life is more luxurious than the wealthiest man’s life in 1930. Wealthy people today have luxury like never before.
  • Engage in negative visualization. Close your eyes and imagine what it would be like if your significant other has died. Dig deep into the ramifications it would have on your life. Then open your eyes and realize how lucky you are to have such a wonderful significant other. Use negative visualization to fully understand all the gifts you have. Imagine life without hearing, then realize how lucky you are to hear the sounds of nature and the human voice.
  • You have enough. How much stuff can one person have? You are alive; it is enough for happiness.
  • Money is not the end game; happiness is. Wealth is important, but is worthless if you are miserable. Find happiness and you are already wealthy. For some reason the money keeps rolling when you live this mindset.
  • Let go of hate, envy, thoughts of revenge or retribution, and lust. The greatest failures in history started with these negative, ego driven, emotions.

We all know people who cannot accept praise for what it is worth. Any acknowledgement of a new outfit, lost weight, or new hair style is greeted with a qualifying remark meant to downplay the praise. These people lack the self-esteem to accept praise for what it is worth. The answer to someone saying they like your outfit is, “Thank you.” There is no need to downplay or qualify your acknowledgment of the praise, minor as it is.  When your retort is, “This old thing” or “I got it off the dollar rack” you are slapping the person in the face for their praise. They love your outfit regardless how long you owned it or what you paid.

Qualifiers are the other end of downplaying praise. Some people need to qualify praise received. “Wealthy Accountant, you have an awesome and successful business.” “Why, thank you. I work really hard, sometimes seven days a week to keep this baby going. Should’ve retired decades ago.” It is hard to say “thank you” and leave it at that. Accepting praise is difficult due to low confidence and a deep seated fear we are unworthy. Lacking the ability to accept praise at face value can have catastrophic effects on one’s happiness, well-being, and financial security.

PraiseGet a Raise, Get Fired

People react negatively to praise, even when deserved. Over the years I have had employees who cried when I expressed my confidence in their work and gave an unexpected pay raise. Two employees in 30 years actually self-destructed after getting a raise. It blows my mind when I think about. In my office new employees have a probationary period. Years ago I had an awesome young lady killing it at her job. I cut her probationary period short by three weeks and gave her a raise greater than originally indicated for the end of the probationary period. You could see her fall off a cliff after receiving the praise. It wasn’t that big a deal. She did good work and I compensated her for it. But her self esteem was so low she could not handle the praise. She worked hard for two months to go from a raise and praise to fired.

41oP29YgLtL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Ahhhh! Money! Take It Away!

I see the same behavior when it comes to money. Young people more than ever are saving and investing for financial independence and early retirement. The other day I saw a young lady jumping for joy she reached her $100,000 milestone. What an awesome accomplishment for someone in their young 20s! I could also see a bit of regret. Do I deserve this wealth? You could hear it dripping from her words. I wanted to scream “Fuck, yeah!” Of course you deserve it. You earned it and acted responsibly by spending less than you earned and investing wisely. As an accountant I confess I can’t get most of my 60 year olds to take such responsible money habits.

The issues are different for people who have money. I have told stories here about people with money dealing with people trying to get a piece of the action without earning it. Starting a life together, whether as a married couple or co-habiting, money is a serious issue to deal with before the relationship gets too serious. Our minds have a regulator, a governor, if you will, that keeps you where you belong. When things start going too well we do stupid crap to put us back where we think we belong; when we lose ground the regulator kicks in, taking steps to re-attain our former position we feel we deserve.

Low self-esteem does not prevent people without money from wanting yours. If they get your money it will go the way of the dodo. The mental regulator will kick in immediately when they have access to your money and their brain will think of all the ways to piss it away.

The difference between those with financial resources and those without is a few simple habits. Since the habits are so simple everyone should be rich. The reason so few are rich is because of their mental state. They have convinced themselves, with plenty of help from marketers, they will only be happy giving up their wealth. Except they are not happy; they are miserable. Money made them unhappy; the stuff money bought did not fill the void. Money magnifies your emotions. If you are happy, it will make you happier; if you are miserable, you will end up more miserable.

Enter the Stoic

Much of my life has been shaped by Stoic thinking. The great minds of antiquity shared their insight into happiness and living right. The Stoic training drips from my work, especially when I interpret stories I tell. Before we apply Stoic thinking to praise, wealth building, and happiness, we need to define what Stoicism is. Outlining the entire Stoic way of thought is well beyond the scope of one blog post. However, we can get a solid understanding when we boil Stoic thinking down to three elements of control:

  • Things we have no control over: The weather, war, floods, the stock market, and the economy all fall into this group. A Stoic realizes he has no control over these issues so he does not worry about them. There is nothing he can do to change it and worrying about it is a waste of time.
  • Things we have some, but not complete, control over: This category covers the vast majority of events in our lives. Stoics carefully review what is happening and then determines what he has control over before taking action. Some areas you have virtually no control over; elections, for example. You have one vote only. You might support a candidate with a contribution to their campaign, canvas, or encourage others to vote. That is where your ability to affect change ends. Worrying about the outcome is a waste of time since you have no control over the outcome. You have more control over your finances. You control your spending habits and where you invest the excess; you do not control a medical emergency that decimates your finances. Stoics know you change what you can and stop worrying about the rest because you have no control over it.
  • Things you have absolute control over: There is only one thing you have absolute control over: your mind. Even your body is something you only have limited control over. A heart attack or violent assault is out of your control. You can be imprisoned without any control over your physical conditions. The only way you lose control of your mind is to give it away. Nothing is more important than controlling how you interpret and respond to what is happening. Once you find the ability to control your mind and how you respond to events around you is when you will find contentment, peace.

It all sound so logical, so easy. In reality it is much harder to practice. Attainment of complete control over one’s feeling is not the endgame. You must spend your entire life working to control your interpretation of events around you and of what is happening to you. Your response is determined by your level of mental self-control.

51XA9J-WPOL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I Can Keep the Money

How do you feel when a juicy dividend check is deposited to your investment account? Of course! It feels great; no big issue here. You earned you share of the profits in said company or mutual fund. Do you downplay it, like a compliment on your outfit or qualify the dividend by explaining it away? I hope not.

The Stoics taught us to accept our gifts and compliments graciously. How you respond to a compliment is more important than the compliment. Stoics tend to be wealthy. Epictetus was a slave. He won his freedom and taught Stoic values. Over two millennium later we still read Epictetus’s words. Everything is a gift. Imagine: two prisoners looking out the window of their cell one evening; one sees the desolate yard, the other looks up and sees the stars. The choice is yours.

Good fortune is a gift best accepted with graciousness. When we are mentally unprepared for a gift we rely on old habits. Too often those old habits are self-destructive. The correct answer to a compliment is “thank you”. No minimizing or qualifying required.

Finding a life mate is difficult in the best of situations. Back in my college days I was sweet on a young lady in Macro-economic class (this was before I met Mrs. Accountant). I slicked back my hair (I had hair back then) and made small talk. Before long we found common ground. I wanted a relationship with her so bad it hurt. Then it was time for the serious questions. Her worldview on money was different than mine. It would never work. Her spending habits would never jive with mine. We stayed friends for a while, but later we moved on. I hope she found what she was looking for in life; I did. The gene pool for people responsible with money is certainly smaller than for the spend-happy crowd. Having the discussion up front can prevent lots of problems later. I never played the field, nor did I get to jump into bed with a bevy of females (no unwanted pregnancies or STDs either). No matter. I knew what I wanted and I waited and planned accordingly. It was something I had control over.

You have the same control. Happiness comes from in here (pointing to the head), not out there (pointing to the world at large). Stuff will never bring happiness, money will not, either. Happiness comes from feeling satisfied with what you have. The feeling of ‘enough’ is where happiness comes from. Could you imagine The Wealthy Accountant wanting a younger woman because Mrs. Accountant had the audacity to grow old? Me neither. I have what I want. I feel happy where I am every day no matter where it is I am standing. You can, too.

By the way, that is a nice outfit you are wearing today; it looks nice on you.

QuestionsYou did everything right. You found a job you enjoyed, saved half your income, maxed out your retirement plans, and built a nice nest egg. You are well on your way to financial independence. Then the inevitable happens. The economy slows or the boss retires or the company downsizes and you are unemployed. The nest egg you built is now providing a cushion to live, but you are no longer running towards financial independence. Your day of early retirement is slowly slipping into the future.

The great news is that you are better off than over 95% of the people. Most people suffer severe financial hardship when life throws a curve. Today I will show you how to reduce the chances of unemployment and stay firmly on the path to financial independence and early retirement.

Life Hack: Employees

At a recent company meeting I decided to ask a few questions. If you want answers you first need to ask questions. I wanted to know if my employees, my team, understood why I hired them. If they could understand my reasons for bringing them into the fold they would be in a better position to help clients understand the same.

Does anyone here know why I hired any of you? I asked. The question was simple. My team looked back and forth to each other wondering where I was going with this. Then a litany of answers came. “To get work done.” “To make clients happy.” I shook my head with each answer. My office manager finally hit on one of the correct answers when she said, “To make you money.”

I nodded. I explained there are really only two reasons any employer hires you. They think you will:

  • Make them money, and
  • Make their life easier.

If you don’t satisfy one or both of the above answers your days are numbered. Fulfill both requirements and you are set for life; fulfill one and you might be okay.

All the other answers are correct in a manner of speaking, but it all boils down to producing a profit and reducing the problems the boss has. If you fail at either of these answers it will only be a matter of time before you are replaced by someone who can fill the employer’s needs.

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Somebody asked the wrong questions and ended up with a small home, Hummer, boat, several vehicles, and a lost early retirement dream.

You can also reverse the question. Why do you work for your employer? Is it to make you money? How about making your life easier? Hmm. The goals are similar. Your job may not make your life easier now, but all that saving and investing will certainly be nice really soon so in the end your job is about making money and making your life easier at some point, too.

Now take the next step. If you don’t get paid when payday comes around how long you sticking around? What if your boss makes life at work a living hell? Just like the employer, if the dollars stop flowing or work becomes unbearable drama somebody has to go.

I know what some of you are thinking. You did all the right things. You made your employer money and made the boss’s life easier and he still let you go. Unemployment will be a very short-term situation for you regardless the economic environment when you possess the skills listed above. Imagine an individual who makes her employer money and simplifies her boss’s life in the job market. How many job interviews will you need to attend if you say, “Ms. Employer, I know my job is to make your life a bit less hectic and make this company money. Here is how I can do that for you.” Yeah. Your early retirement fund will be rocketing to the moon in zero time. Good employees are needed in all phases of the business cycle.

You work hard saving and investing. Don’t piss it away because of a short-term setback. Losing a job should not be a crisis; it should be an opportunity. Now you have a life hack to stay on course to a life of financial stability.

Life Hack: Business Owners

Business owners and landlords also want the secret to financial security. Similar questions need to be asked. Why do your clients come to you? Each business has different answers. Clients/customers need a problem solved. You hire a plumber to fix a sink. There are plenty of plumbers out there. Do you choose the cheapest? Maybe. But not always. The reason you get the order is because the customer thinks you will get the job done best for the lowest price. The customer does not want to over spend. She also does not want to repeat the project in two weeks either. It is another form of save me money and eliminate the stressful situation (make my life easier).

Most people are looking for value over cheap. Quality is important; so is a reasonable price compared to the quality offered. Even the frugal groups of people who frequent this blog are willing to spend money if they perceive value. If your goods and services save the client money and solve a problem in their life you make a sale.

Landlords also need to ask the questions, too. What do prospective tenants want? A clean, safe place to live at a reasonable rent rate maybe?

Life Hack: Personal Life

Once you ask the questions, you start getting answers. I have been accused of having a marriage too good to be true. People miss the whole story I am telling. The first three years of my marriage were tough. I was too young and too stupid to understand why I was so unhappy. Only through a stroke of dumb luck did I start asking myself questions. It was not intentional! I got lucky. I sat down and started thinking through the problems. This was something I had to do alone. I asked: Is this really what I want? Instantly I knew I wanted to spend my life with Mrs. Accountant. There was never any doubt. Remember, I lived alone for a few years before Mrs. Accountant and I met. I had to let go and accept my world would not be constant silent solitude anymore; I had a roommate. My world would have people in it: a wife and later children. It sounds petty to my ears now, but it caused me angst twenty-five years ago. The important thing I did was ask myself questions alone and sat until I answered them

A new crisis has entered my life. Over the last few years a new group of people entered my life who feel early retirement is a worthy goal. It is, just not for me. I understand the goal, talk about it here, and have no problem with people who do retire early. I subscribe more to the Zig Ziglar’s thought on retirement, “I thought about retirement once and decided against it.” Both courses through life are correct if it is correct for you. I have been asking serious questions I never asked myself before. I discovered why I have a farm. (The family farm went bankrupt the year I turned eighteen and I needed to prove farming could be done profitably.) That itch is now scratched. I no longer have steers, only chickens. Our nineteen gardens are down to seven this year. Questions allowed me to add balance to life.

The biggest question of all still remains: Do I retire? I have to ask often because I still don’t have an adequate answer. Therein lays another truth in life. Answers don’t always magically appear when the question is asked. Sometimes the question needs rephrasing and repeating to get the right answer. It also takes time. Your mind cannot start working on the problem until you first ask the question so now is a good time to ask the guy looking back from the mirror.

So, do I retire? I don’t think so. Not now at least. I love what I do so it would be crazy to walk away from my bliss just to prove I can. But I also know at some point I have to begin a transition to preserve the company. My talents and skills will be challenged as age takes its toll. It is also selfish to keep it all to myself.  My team is capable of handling everything I can. I would miss my life’s work if I retired. So far my answers have been to keep going for now. It is an evolving answer. Such is true of so many things in life.

Life Hack: You

How many questions have you asked today? For me, I start each day with quiet meditation asking questions. By reflecting on the issues in my life I can develop answers to guide my day. The questions for getting and keeping a job are the same for all of us. The questions to a happy relationship are probably a bit different.

Questions need to be phrased in the positive to help. Why does my wife/husband never listen to me? is a terrible question. What can I do to help my wife/husband understand my feelings? is a much better question. Take time to think about the question as you ask. Open your mind to rephrasing the question so you can get a better answer. What if you really want to keep your job? Asking multiple questions can help you digest the possibilities. Sometimes the job is gone no matter what you do. By asking questions you prepare your mind for the next step. You avoid the deer in the headlights look when you ask quality questions and take the time to hear the answers. Ask questions until you get the answers you want. It will make your life easier.

Tony Robbins gesturingThere is no surprise around here I am an accountant. Before the dream of accounting set in my dream was to write for a living. My first novel was finished in high school and my second shortly thereafter, neither published. Writing was in my blood. There was only one little problem; writing does not always pay the bills. The internet changed all that.

Starting in the mid 90s a new company showed up making it easier to sell books: Amazon. Behind my office building was a company called Banta, the seventh largest book packager in the country at the time. RR Donnelley bought them out years ago. It was now easy to produce and sell books on Amazon. I jumped on hundreds of radio talk shows to hawk my wares. I wrote about everything that tickled my fancy. And I got my first taste of money from my writing skills (or lack, thereof).

Editing and production takes a lot of time, time I could be writing. Several years later content farms showed up online, eliminating most production time issues. I eventually settled into HubPages for a few years, publishing over 100 articles. In December 2009 and again in January 2010 I wrote about Tony Robbins. The articles have produced a small but steady stream of traffic and income over the years. Recently the traffic spiked and I did not know why. Research indicated Tony was in the news because some people were burned in his fire walk seminar. Traffic returned to normal after the new cycle ebbed. Now it is rocketing again due to a Netflix documentary. I guess now would be a good time to revisit our favorite promoter.

Meet Tony Robbins

I discovered Tony Robbins back when his Personal Power program was all the rage. We are talking twenty years now. A real estate agent introduced me to Tony and invited me to several of his free seminars. I was tight with money so I refused to pay for Tony’s programs. The only thing I ever bought from Tony was his Personal Power tapes and Power Talk program.

At one of these free seminars in Chicago I actually met Tony Robbins personally. It was a brief encounter, but it made a lasting impression. His energy and enthusiasm was intoxicating; he knew how to motivate people into action.

My real estate buddy attended several expensive Robbins seminars. It was easy for me to see the pattern. Once you attend a Tony Robbins seminar you are now prime material for promoting more expensive seminars. Remember, the Date with Destiny seminar costs $4,995 or $6,995 (if you want to feel special) for the one-week program: travel, food, and hotel not included. I am sure it is worth every penny just for the entertainment value. My money is still staying in my pocket.

516RRKF253L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_The Hero in Tony Robbins

My impression is Tony Robbins really wants to help people. He has developed methods to convince people to break free from their fears. The number of people helped by Robbins is significant and cannot be understated. By combining showmanship with training, Robbins creates an environment where people are so enthused they want to take action on the spot, sometimes even jumping before they look.

My personal opinion of Robbins is that his heart is in the right place. He helps people who have struggled with abuse for decades. He also helps people put their romantic and family relationships in perspective so they can grow. Business owners benefit from the motivation to take action now. Many people get their money’s worth if they are motivated into action. As with so many things in life, you need to get off your ass before you get results.

I could go on about how great a guy Tony is, but he does that very well himself.

The Fraud in Tony Robbins

Before we begin with the concerns about Robbins and his practices, understand I do not consider him a fraud; I view him as a master marketer selling as much as he can. Robbins believes in his products even if it is self-serving. Robbins has a well practiced skill at motivating people into action; the action he motivates people to do is buy more of his stuff. Normally, I would have no problem with this, but the skills he has and teaches gives him an unfair advantage. When people are most hyped (and vulnerable) his team goes into action selling more expensive programs. Too often, people are spending their life savings for regular motivation. It is really entertainment; expensive entertainment, but entertainment all the same.

Knowledge can be used for good or evil. Robbins is a showman. He is fun to watch. A lot of people want to have his ability to manipulate (did I say that) people around them. We all do it at some level; we are only less practiced at it. I am familiar with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as Robbins teaches it. When a client walks into my office and shakes my hand I can tell if he has attended a Robbins NLP training program. Neat trick, but Jedi mind tricks don’t work on me, you fool.

Robbins spends a lot of time on relationships. When he was on his first marriage he taught us the way to have a lasting relationship. Then he got divorced. His tune changed slightly, but still gives relationship advice. Not to toot my own horn, but would it not be wiser to take relationship/marriage advice from a guy still on his first marriage 28 years later? Not only do I know what works, I am walking the talk (as Tony would say).

There are few fads Robbins misses. He clings to a lot of ideas that seem crazy to me. His health, fitness, and diet ideas can get extreme. It also feels like his advice is designed to sell you more crap: supplements or exercise equipment. All this stuff is great to review, but very expensive to implement. Around here we know you can live a healthy, happy, productive life with only a small amount of spending.

Finally, we get to the meat of the problem with Robbins. He gets himself in trouble on this stuff from time to time. A decade ago he had some serious legal issues due to his business practices. Sometimes thinking is required before you take action, no matter how motivated you are.

The constant up-sell is annoying. Even attending a free seminar introduced me to the Tony Robbins selling machine. I witnessed firsthand from my real estate buddy how fast people will open their wallet in the vicinity of a master.

51lXzR+xTOL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Simpler Solutions

There is a bit of Tony Robbins in me. I tell stories, just like Tony, when writing and speaking. I do it with energy and excitement, just like Tony. And most people want what I have to sell when I use these talents, just like Tony. It is a nice set of skills to have. The truth is it is all a mindset. People tend to follow me (and Tony) because they love the feeling excitement and true dedication brings. They want to feel alive.

This is a personal finance blog so we need to clear the air. Tony Robbins can motivate you to take massive action to build wealth. His method of wealth creation is to earn and spend like a Wildman. I disagree with his method. The wheels fall off too easy. The answer is simple: save half your income; invest it in a broad-based index fund like the S&P 500. Now you can go out and play.

I will recommend one Tony Robbins product. (Here comes the up-sell. Waaaaatch for it. Look at Keith work his magic.) Robbins’s Personal Power program is awesome. I listened to is many times in my formative years. When Mrs. Accountant and I had foster children it was required listening for the kids. It made a difference.

Now go out there and get something done! Or, you can sit back and enjoy the day knowing your soldiers of fortune are working hard inside that index fund. The choice is yours.

Caveman 5Thousands of years ago humans had a more clearly defined role in society. When food ran low the men would gather for the hunt. They would leave camp for days, or even weeks, at a time. When the prey was caught, the men butchered the animal into carrying size pieces.

Back at camp the women tended the garden and gathered plants from the surrounding area. When the men returned the women scraped the hides and prepared it for clothing. The women also dried, salted, and prepared the food.

Only so much food could be stored at a time. A large animal could feed the community for months. The daily routine was more social than anything we see today. The whole village may spend an afternoon playing games. On a normal day the men would fashion more weapons in preparation for the next hunt and for defense. Women would work the hides into clothing and shoes. Children would join the adults, depending on age.

Evening was a special time. As the sun dropped below the horizon, a fire was started. Women and children frequently were separate from the men. Each group would share stories around the campfire. The storytelling could go late into the night. Every member of the community was known by every other member.

The air was clean, land pure, and wholesome food made for a healthy lifestyle. Disease or an injury in battle or from the hunt could easily turn into a death sentence. Injuries defined the remainder of a person’s life too often. Outside disease or injury life was satisfying. Modern diseases were rare. Anxiety and depression were unheard of. Heart disease, cancer, and hypertension were the exception rather than the rule. Quality food coupled with an active, community based, lifestyle made for a high quality of life.

Modern Man

Humans have not changed much in the last several thousand years with the notable exception of technology. We look the same, have the same desires and feeling, and think much the same. Religious thought thousands of years ago, used to explain the world around us, still marks a center in many people’s lives.

We live longer today because certain diseases no longer threaten our well-being. Technology changed the way humans interact, live, and eat. Modern farming techniques produce massive quantities of food, unfortunately of a low quality nature too often. Medicine cures diseases deadly to us in the past. A simple infection is just that, simple. A hundred years ago and back it was a serious concern.  Heart disease, hypertension, anxiety, cancer, and depression exist at significantly higher percentages of the population than in the past. Type 2 diabetes is turning into an epidemic; fifty years ago Type 2 diabetes was almost unheard of.

Man did not change. Our bodies are the same. Our lifestyle changed and with it came a whole host of new problems. We live longer lives, but are we healthier or happier? Not long ago we lived outside and only for meals and sleeping did we spend time in our homes. Our homes have grown multiples in size to accommodate all the things we do there. Home is where we live and spend almost all our time now. We sit and watch TV for entertainment instead of telling stories around the fire; we don’t play games as much anymore, we watch the game on TV; instead of socializing with friends, we sit in front of a computer all day and Facebook.

Socializing

The new lifestyle out modern wealth has created also hurts us. Just because we can sit around all day and still cover the bills, all our needs, and plenty of entertainment does not mean we should. We are so rich in financial terms today that most of us cover our needs with fewer than 10 hours of work per week. All the rest goes into crazy spending or investments.

Our lives are massively better, but our health has suffered. We live twice as long, but not always happier. The amount of time spent outside enjoying a sunny day has declined. We fear the sun and the damage it can do to our skin, but forget sitting on our asses in the house all day damages our hearts and sucks the life out of our minds.

Socializing too often means going to a bar and consuming unhealthy liquids. Gone are the days when gathering in a backyard and enjoying good food and good company was common. Neighbors actually knew each other in the past. We talked with each other, knew each other, and for the most part, got along well. Neighbors helped neighbors once upon a time. Socializing did not take place in a dark room in the corner of the house. When we got out and really socialized we were less likely to be offended by every turn of the word. We were not so bored with our non-social life that we felt compelled to share every minute (and disgusting detail) of our personal lives.

51VHL+ULWsL._SX371_BO1,204,203,200_Food

Because life is so easy today I decided years ago to buy a small farm and go back to my roots. The work is hard, but limited since it is a small farm. The hard work is great for the body and working with plants and animals does wonders for the mind and soul.

Quality food is important to me. Processed foods contain so many chemicals and other undesirable products it is no wonder we have so many medical problems. Modern medicine has cured most normal human diseases. With the safety net of medicine we double down on stupid eating and lifestyle habits. Smoking is expensive (bad for your wealth), stinks, and puts your health at serious risk. Why anyone would smoke is beyond me.

Processed foods, snacks, and soda are a large part of too many diets. Warren Buffett and I agree on a lot of issues, but when it comes to soda and junk food we differ. Buffett is fond of saying soda is not an obesity problem (Berkshire Hathaway, his company, owns a lot of Coca-Cola stock). He claims to drink 700 calories per day of Cherry Coke. Yes, Buffett is a healthy (and happy) older man. But that does not mean soda is okay if it replaces other quality calories! George Burns lived to 100 and smoked cigars every day. That is not an indication smoking is a healthy habit we should all take up.

It is impossible to avoid all the crap in food today. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. The goal should be to reduce as much as possible all the garbage we put into our system. Eating whole foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, et cetera) should be the center of every diet. A soda here or an alcoholic drink there is not the end of the world. Junk food, beer or soda in moderation is acceptable for most people as long as quality food and water are the overwhelming majority of food consumed.

Entertainment

Entertainment confuses me. Parks are empty compared to the increase in population. Kids do not run and play in the neighborhood anymore. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend here in the States the family and I went to Bay Beach in Green Bay. Bay Beach is an awesome small amusement park recalling a time long gone. Parts of the park remind me of a 1950s city center of a small rural town. The rides are fun and the prices low so the whole family can have fun for ten or fifteen dollars as long as you pack a picnic basket. We do.

Bay Beach was busy, but not overcrowded. What confuses me the most is how people consume/enjoy entertainment like Bay Beach. Most people had their faces stuck into their cell phone; I turned mine off (I did not want my family time interrupted). How can you enjoy the park glued to the phone? I don’t get it. I saw people using their phone to record their experiences. Several people recorded their time on the bumper cars, twirl swings, and the slide. It seems like nobody wants to experience an event for what it is. Nothing is personal. We want to record every bit of minutia in our lives and place it on social media. We don’t experience things for the sake of experiencing them. The rest of us seem to want to live our lives through the actions of others.

Something is lost when we are so concerned about recording the event. The quiet moment of reflection is lost when our mind is distracted by what we feel obligated to place on Facebook or Twitter. By focusing on recording the event we lose the real experience ourselves. Entertainment today is nothing like the past. I doubt it is healthy as mankind never evolved to live this way.

Going Back to the Good Life

Social media, junk food, and sitting are not bad in and of themselves. It’s how much of it we do that is the issue. We can have the best of the old world life humans once lived and the best of modern society, too. We can experience so many more things, live happier (and easier) lives, while enjoying a longer life.

I’ll give you my example, but since I am crazy I will end this post with more sensible ideas anyone can use. I spend most of my days futzing around my farm (unless I am at the office).I read library books a lot at night. I watch zero TV, though it is on in the background a lot. (Mrs. Accountant and the girls like to watch movies, et cetera.) I write a lot. I mean a lot! I write two fantasy and SF fiction blogs besides The Wealth Accountant. Social media is a major part of most people’s lives, except me. I have social media everywhere, just like most people. Except, my social media is set up by other people and generally auto posted by IT guys or office personnel. For the first time ever (unless my team did it) I have friends on Facebook due to this blog and Camp Mustache. The Facebook was set up by the web designer of this blog and the posts are automatically added when I publish. Social media takes none of my time; it is too valuable to waste. I would rather socialize with you in the real world.

So, I am one of those crazy guys who watch virtually no TV and refuse to use social media or even the cell phone a lot. (I don’t text either.) Not everyone wants to be a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal like me. I get it. Here is a sensible list for finding balance in your life, mixing the greatest stuff from the past with the greatest stuff of modern times:

  • Limit social media to one-hour or less per day.
  • Don’t record every last thing you do.
  • Don’t share it on Facebook either.
  • Live in the moment. The moment does not require a digital recording of the event. This is not the signing of the Declaration of Independence!
  • Turn your cell phone off for most of the day or leave it at home. Believe it or not, twenty years ago you had a phone hanging on the wall at home and you were not on call 24/7, Doctor Riley. Your cell phone has a built in answering machine. Use it. The world will not end if you do not answer every last call instantly. Make a goal to have your personal customer service on par with Comcast. (I don’t have Comcast, but I read the news.)
  • Limit TV to two or fewer hours a day.
  • Make it a priority to socialize with real people in the real world more than in the virtual world.
  • Limit your consumption of advertisements.
  • Eat good food. Limit your intake of alcohol, soda, and processed foods.
  • If you smoke: STOP!
  • Save more than you spend. Trust me on this one. Invest the savings.
  • Not all entertainment is on TV, YouTube or social media.
  • Don’t limit yourself to spectator status of social events. You can actually play a baseball game, too.
  • Modern technology gave you the gift of a luxurious lifestyle. Use it constructively. Dump depression and anxiety by focusing on the important. Stop worrying about everyone else.
  • We live longer today. You have plenty of time to sit and smell the roses or watch a sunset.
  • Did I mention social media? Of course, I did. Take a social media holiday. Facebook and Twitter are not your job. Stop providing free content to multi-billion dollar companies. Any other job would give you paid holidays. Take one from Facebook.
  • Meet people. Strike up a conversation with someone new at least once per week. They do not have to become close friends. Instead, just be a good person sharing the moment. It is an awesome feeling.
  • Leave your cell phone at home. You will not die, trust me. Honest.

If life is worth living, it is worth living well.  Accept all the gifts modern society has to offer. Closing yourself off in a room, only experiencing the world on a computer screen from the eyes of others, is a poor substitute for a good life. Enter the real world, the world that existed for thousands of years. Maybe I will see you at Bay Beach. Anyone for bumper cars?