This book is banned and I own it.

For thousands of years in the Western world the best way to be noticed was to have your book banned by the church. Intelligent modern authors would welcome such attention as it guarantees their work will be lifted from obscurity into the light.

Every year books are banned. Sadly, your favorite accountant has never made the list.

Until now.

If I can help it.

Deserving Exposure

Censorship doesn’t work well with me. If you tell me I can’t read something I’ll not only read it, I’ll buy it and keep it on my shelf. When a warning is issued to avoid knowledge my suspicion is raised as to the warning. The government and self righteous people are motivated by a personal agenda to hide the truth and it is a sure way to get people to look, including me.

Book banning isn’t something limited to the Dark Ages. Books are banned every year by various organizations for a variety of reasons. Personal bias may cause me to agree with the ban. For example, Twilight was banned back in 2010 by some groups. I think we can all agree the book was bad (play with me on this one) and should have been relegated to the dust heap of history. Instead, Stephenie Meyer enjoyed a bestseller as the hate erupted and grew.

Yeah, I own these too.

Another book I should have saved my money on was The Satanic Verses. Salman Rushdie’s book was destined for the remainder bin until the Ayatollah, in his infinite wisdom, made sure the entire planet knew of the book with his banning and fatwa. The Satanic Verses went on to become a bestseller and Rushdie’s work is relevant because of name recognition. Rushdie’s work was likely headed into the abyss, known by only by the most dedicated of scholars until his work was banned. Rushdie now is a guest panelist on a variety of television programs such as Real Time with Bill Maher. Why couldn’t the Ayatollah keep his flap shut? Rushdie’s net worth is estimated at $15 million. I guess banning Rushdie’s book really showed him.

Oodles of years ago I was reading a news magazine when a small article listed a book used by man to murder was forcing the publisher to pull the book off the market. The book is called Hit Man by Rex Feral. The author used a pseudonym for obvious reasons. It was later learned the author is female.

I immediately purchased a copy of Hit Man before it was pulled.  The book is a how-to guide on how to start a side gig killing people, aka, a hit man. Always keeping my mind open to all possibilities (one never knows when such information might be needed) I read the book. It’s not the worst thing I’ve read, but it is toward the bottom. The information is suspect but might provide a good resource when writing fiction.

I still have my copy of Hit Man. A few used copies still float around for anyone curious what all the ruckus was about. Used copies fetch $75. I’m still not selling mine.

Encouraging Outrage

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction writer who insists his work be available online for free. He makes it clear an author’s greatest risk to their work is not theft; it’s obscurity!

In the crowded field of fiction standing out from the crowd is near impossible and without sticking out from the crowd you are guaranteed a front row seat in the loser’s column of the obscure.

I would never have heard of Cory and his work if it weren’t for his digital policy with his work. As he expected, it lead to a certain someone, perhaps a certain accountant, who ended up separated from some of his cash for a hardcopy of the material.

What Doctorow did was tame compared to what one of my favorite authors did. Ryan Holiday is a bestselling author now, but he had to start somewhere.

 

Early on Holiday was an assistant to Robert Greene as he was writing The 48 Laws of Power. Holiday was indoctrinated in the Machiavellian methods employed by people serious about success. While not in agreement with every piece of advice offered by Greene, his points are solid and backed up with examples from history. You don’t have to like it as long as you are aware it does work!

Even this is child’s play compared to the work Holiday did for Tucker Max. Max’s work is vulgar, even by my standards. I have an extremely open mind when it comes to publishing. Attempts at censoring my work will not go well. That said Max really grosses me out. His work encourages (in my opinion) abusive behavior towards women. It’s one of the few things I couldn’t finish reading. I could only take a few pages before I backed down as I fought back the wretching.

Max’s first book was I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell. He later made the book into a movie. Max enlisted the services of Holiday. Holiday knew he had to pull out all the stops. Holiday orchestrated a reverse psychology campaign where he organized pickets against the movie and vandalized movie posters himself and then reported it to the media. What Holiday was trying to do was get the movie banned so everyone would have to see it to know what all the commosition was about.

The movie bombed at the box office, but don’t feel too bad for Tucker Max. The book sold over a million copies.

Controversy

I was only banned (censored) once in my life. In the past I wrote flash fiction in the transgender genre. My youngest daughter’s medical issues introduced me to a demographic I never knew existed. Always wanting to conquer flash fiction, I rolled up my sleeves and started pounding the keyboard.

Flash fiction is stories of only a few hundred words. It’s harder than it sounds. Writing a story, a real story, in two hundred or so words is brutal. And each story had to have a transgender theme! Determined not to succumb to vulgar writing I made it a point to keep the stories uplifting. Many TG blogs sparked traffic with nudity. This wasn’t going to work for me. I had Google ads and Amazon on the two TG blogs I wrote so it had to be clean.

I was also motivated by something else. I laugh and joke about my TG flash fiction days and how every story had to end. But this was serious business to me. The cold hard facts are transgender people commit suicide in alarming numbers! Estimates range as high as 60% of transgender people attempt suicide and it’s the highest demographic of people who succeed in ending their own life.

This is not a world I wanted my daughter to grow up and live in! My stories were my way of making it normal for people to be different. My baby, my child, my girl was born intersex. She will be grouped in with the TG community because she MUST undergo the same medical procedures a transgender person does transitioning. The only difference is my daughter has no choice. She can’t “just live with it”. She either undergoes the medical procedures or she dies. What would you do?

Keeping material fresh when my average story was two hundred and some words grew more difficult each day. I wrote two TG blogs (double the blog, double the income) every day for about four years. That’s over 2,500 flash fiction TG stories! Even I find it hard to believe I produced so much material.

I covered every topic imaginable as I wrote the flash fiction. I, of course, wrote many stories to appeal to the erotic portion of the demographic. I also researched the genre looking for fresh material. And I found a whopper.

I discovered the sex change capital of the world is Iran! Yes, Iran! It seems homosexuality is a sin against Allah and sure to get you killed. But, if you get a sex change you are technically a woman and no longer an abomination to god. So Iran leads the world in sex change operations. Mostly due to the fact it’s chop it off or die. We can laugh, but for homosexual and transgender men reading this it’s no laughing matter.

Well, I used this information to write a very mild TG story based in Iran, Yes, I pushed 250 words together and caused a ruckus. TG flash fiction is generally captioned, meaning a picture is captioned with the flash fiction. I used a picture of a Muslim woman wearing a niqab. All you could see was her eyes and her feet.

I was immediately banned by Google! The offense? You could see the woman’s ankle and it would offend some countries around the world. I was not impressed. I removed Google ads and republished. Like I said, censorship doesn’t work well with me.

Ban This Blog!

I looked. There is no list I could find of banned blogs! That’s too bad. I really would have enjoyed making the list.

My marketing sickness has caused me to write some modestly controversial topics on this blog. Maybe I need to turn it up a notch. I once claimed I died and I begged readers to steal my stuff. It gave me great pleasure to write my obituary. (Maybe I am sick!)

As a masterful stroke of marketing genius I propose we use Holiday’s tactics to Tucker Max this blog. No misogyny or encouraging the abuse of women. I support anyone’s right to publish what they want; I reserve the right to not read or promote it. We don’t need to encourage the harm of others to get noticed.

If you haven’t found anything to feel righteous indignation about in who I am and what I write here you haven’t been paying close attention. No one is exempt. Everyone has something you can be offended with. Don’t waste a good opportunity. If you meet someone of impeccable character, make something up. The media and the government do all the time.

And I want the controversy. Controversy causes people to talk! As Doctorow said, obscurity in the greatest danger to any author’s work!

Traffic here has been growing nice the past year. But to get the numbers into the stratosphere we need people to start talking. And nothing spreads like juicy gossip! The more solicitous the better. To get banned by anyone or any group requires offending certain groups of people who will teach me a lesson by encouraging the media to call for my banning. These outraged folks will contact other bloggers to spread the rumors. They need to want to hurt me and I love it!

How can you start the rumor mill? How can you get the media to put this blog (and me) into crosshairs? How can you get the gossip flowing with a life of its own?

Well, I read naughty banned books listed above. I even own a how-to book on how to kill people for a side gig. Not good enough?

Tell them I’m a questionable person of questionable character! Ah heck, not good enough either. We elect people like that every year.

I know! Hit’em where it hurts. When with your Republican friends, tell them I think Sean Hannity is a weasel and Fox News is fake news. Tell your conservative friends I think Hillary Clinton would have made the best President in U.S. history. Heck, I even called Trump an idiot!

Still not enough? I agree! We still have close to half the population we need to offend. Gather your Democratic friends and tell them I think President Trump is the most productive President ever. Tell them I said Bernie Sanders is a light weight.

Now I understand some people have stepped off the political train long ago to retain their sanity. Well we can take care of them!

If you have an atheist friend, tell them I said atheism is a religion. Around your Christian friends say, I know this blogger who thinks you’re nuts.

Don’t worry none of it’s true. This is marketing! People will stick around if they like your stuff, but they come back more often if they hate you with a passion. They want to watch you fail. They want to slam your head (actually, my head) against a wall with every word I utter.

Nothing generates traffic like a zealot! And traffic means money. And since this blog is a business enterprise we like traffic for obvious reasons.

In honor of Buy Nothing Day (the day this post is published in 2017) you can spread the wild rumors. Contact other blogger and tell them to ban me. Get people talking behind my back and protesting I cease and desist! I demand it! It costs you NOTHING!

What? Wait, kind readers. I have a phone call coming in.

Uh-huh. A fatwa you say. Lynch mob? Really? Is it helping traffic? I see. Then I’ll be a martyr for a good cause. No?

Okay, I’m back. I’ve decided to take the day off and not publish since it’s the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday).

But for the record, I did say that thing about the President.

This post idea was rolling around in the queue for a while. I started a few months back with the first two paragraphs. Later I fleshed the idea out a bit more and finally had enough material for a humorous post with serious implications. I double spaced between entries of this outline as I expanded it. 

Readers may find my writing process entertaining. Bloggers and other writers may find it instructive. When my notes seem to add to the story I publish them below the corpus. Enjoy.

 

Bloggers hide a truth they may be wrong. It’s an occupational hazard.My tax advice includes limited situations. Facts and circumstances can change the outcome so additional thinking/research might be required.

And the post title is perfect for marketing. Tell someone not to read something and they will do it anyway.

 

Ryan Holiday marketing ploy of starting a boycott of his client to get attention. Cory Doctorow demanding his publishers allow him to post his stuff online for free (theft is not the issue, obscurity is), Hitman book when someone used it and it made the news (how I heard about it and bought it).

In honor of Buy Nothing Day I ask readers to find something around here to feel indignation about and spread the word. Demand a boycott. Don’t read this blog!!! Tell the news. Use Ryan Holiday tactics.

Then internalize the hatred, coming back often looking for any chance to jump down my throat.

Consider it your early Christmas present to me.

And it didn’t require you to spend a penny to give it!

 

Funny stuff: Talk about politics and religion a lot. People like that. When with Republicans tell them you heard I think Fox News sucks, Sean Hannity is a weasel and Hillary Clinton would have made the best President in U.S History. With Democrats tell them I think Hillary buys used pant suits, we are finally getting stuff done with Trump as President and liberal policies died with LBJ.

On religion, when with atheists, tell them I think anybody who doesn’t see the truth of God’s existence deserves to spend eternity in hell. Tell your atheist friends I think atheism is a religion. With your friends of faith expound my astounding logic on the lack of evidence for a god, any god. Tell’em I fish Sunday morning instead of going to church.

Don’t worry none of it’s true! This is marketing. People will stick around for a while if they like your stuff or hear good things about you. Get them to hate you and they’ll live on this blog waiting for any chance to jump  down my throat. They’ll also glean every word I write looking for indications of misfortune in my life. Indignant people love to gloat. You get’em here and I’ll give’em a reason to stay. I’ll intersperse moments where I need to hammer the Jack as the biting liquid spills from my glass as I fall into a drunken stupor.

 

Life is good.

It’s easy to forget to feel grateful for all the awesomeness in our lives. We get lulled into a false sense of superiority in our abilities when the blessings flow unfettered. Only when the boom is lowered do we begin to look around and notice how lucky we have been.

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States on Thursday. Families from around our nation will gather at the dinner table for good food and stories. Anticipation of the mouth-watering food means we quickly recite a prayer and quickly dig in to the abundance displayed on our table.

As soon as we stuff our face we waddle to the couch for football and a nap. A guy has to work hard to make room for the pies and ice cream later.

Forgotten Blessings

I’m not immune to whining. When I think I’ve been treated unfair or my life has experienced a minor inconvenience I quickly bitch about the inequalities of life. I forget too easily how good I have it.

The question really is: How bad is my life? Has it ever been really bad? Am I really so unlucky or inconvenienced? Let’s examine.

Our darkest hour is where we can shine most. We have plenty to be thankful for. Tragedy is were we learn how fortunate we are. The most satisfying life is one where you pay-it-forward and live a life of gratitude. #death #loss #tragedy #pain #thanks #thankfulness #ThanksgivingWhen I was thirteen years old my dad took us hunting often in the early autumn. I wasn’t a big sportsman, but walking the outdoors in autumn is always a welcome pleasure.

Back in those days we were religious. My parents still are. It was pheasant hunting season and we belonged to the Eastshore Sportsman’s Club. The club rented land from various farmers and planted pheasants. Our hunting party consisted of my uncle, brother, dad, our church’s minister and his son.

Our party walked a fence line of farmland northeast of Chilton rented by the club and planted with pheasants. Our dog worked the fence line like a pro. As several fields came together the fence branched off in the shape of a T. Our group took the fence line to the right.

Another lone hunter came from the other direction and walked the opposite side of the fence line we were on slightly ahead of us.

Our dog flushed a pheasant in front of my dad. My dad let the bird get in the clear, raised his gun and fired. Score!

My dad was a good shot. As the pheasant died it flopped a bit as it fell so that it would land between the sole hunter on the opposite side of the fence line and us. The sole hunter turned, saw the pheasant falling and raised his gun. He followed the bird as it came down and when his gun hit head level he pulled the trigger.

Can You Hear Me Now

Our minister, his son and I went down. The sole hunter had a double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. If he’d have pulled that second trigger you would never have known I existed.

BBs from a shotgun are unlike a rifle wound. We went down, but didn’t stay down. We were peppered with BBs but relatively unharmed.

I have the world’s greatest wife and kids. They are as crazy as me (I trained them well). There were no complaints or hesitation when I asked them to play-act funny-dead.

We were rushed to the hospital. The doctor took forever being we were at Chilton’s Band-Aid Stand as our local hospital is sometimes called.  The doctor and hospital really did do a good job. No speed is fast enough when suffering a gunshot wound.

God was watching out for us that day. He allowed stupid to happen, but protected our rag-tag band from permanent harm. He also left several warning calls to remind us how fortunate we were.

Our pastor wore thick glasses. A BB broke one of the lenses. If his sight were true he would have likely died that way. There is a blessing in needing glasses sometimes.

Our pastor’s son was a friend of mine until we graduated high school and he moved out of the area. His name is Aaron. Aaron was the luckiest of the injured having the fewest BBs.

All the BBs in me we superficial injuries save one. A BB hit my Adam’s apple dead center. If you feel your neck you will notice a groove in your Adam’s apple. The BB hit that spot on me perfectly in that groove and stopped less than ¼ inch (one centimeter) from my larynx. Just a bit more and the talkative me would not exist.

Thank God I was Shot!

The doctor removed the BBs without any problems. My vital signs were taken. The doctor heard a strange heart murmur. Another odd thing, my blood pressure was high in my upper body and low in my legs.

The doctor suspected heart issues and ordered a cardiac catheterization to see what the heck was wrong with me. Time was of the essence because of the suspected high risk to my life.

Cardiac catheterization isn’t that big a deal. It makes you sick when they push in the dye, but otherwise it wasn’t bad. The surgeon cut a vein on the underside of my elbow and inserted a tube with a camera at the end.

I had what is called a coarctation of the aorta. In laymen’s terms this is a narrowing of my body’s main blood supply. The fix was simple in theory, but major surgery in 1978. All the doctor had to do was cut me open, stop my heart, clamp the aorta tight on each side of the coarctation, cut the narrowed portion out, pull it together and sew it up. Simple! Oh, and restart my heart before closing the door.

And hope there are no leaks.

The narrowing was serious and would become a greater problem as I aged. It was decided I could finish the school year before going under the knife. I was shot in the fall of 1977 and had surgery the first days of June 1978.

Back them they separated my ribs to get in there and change the oil. If you ever see me shirtless (unlikely since I don’t like running around half dressed) you will see a scar starting under my left armpit and ending above the shoulder blade. The scar is J shaped.

I spent my fourteenth birthday in recovery.

Gifts Never Stop Coming

Back in 1978 there was a disease going around doctors had no what it was. The CDC worked frantically to figure out how the disease spread. Today we call this disease AIDS or HIV.

Blood wasn’t screened back then and even if it was the medical profession had no idea what to look for. All doctors knew was an autoimmune disease was striking down homosexual men and drug users.

My surgeon died a few years later of HIV complications. All it would have taken is one nick of the glove.

Pass a Tissue Please

When I start to count my blessings the minor annoyances of life begin to pale. My life growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere was a generous gift it took me decades after the fact to realize. Now that I appreciate the blessing I would like to go back and do it again. Right this time.

But it doesn’t work that way.

We are all lucky. Never forget to give thanks for the abundant blessings life has sent your way.

I was always lucky in business. I’ve had plenty of failures and times of acute anxiety. Business can do that to you! In the end it always worked out. I work the job I love as the boss and make an above average income.

Before the FIRE community was cool I learned to save and invest with intensity. Grandma and Grandpa Accountant lived through the Great Depression so saving was ingrained in us kids from little on. Those were hard times! Another tissue please.

Today I had the brainy idea of checking how much the stock market has climbed during my adult life. I turned 18 in the summer of 1982. The DJIA was around 800 back then and is approaching 24,000 today! Gawd, my life is hard. The market “only” increased 30 times in my adult life. A measly 3000%. What do I have to be thankful for? Really?

I worry people may talk behind my back spreading rumors, true and false. I complain of too much work in my business due to the unexpected success of this blog and the kindness of other bloggers sharing my story. Like really sucks!

Less than two years into this blog and its won an award for Best New Blog of the Year. Just hand me the box of tissues. I can’t take it anymore.

Humility and Gratitude

Life has been good to me and always has been. I bet its been darn good to you too.

I came this close to losing my life to AIDS without even knowing the name of the disease that would have killed me. My business took hard work, but always kept the family fed.

If I were not shot my heart condition would have gone undiagnosed. The doctors estimated it would have caused a heart attack by around my 30th birthday. Good thing I took lead.

Simple mutual fund investments have been straight to the moon for 30 years! Sure, I made dumb decisions and lost money and paid the price. I wouldn’t change any of it for all the money in the world.

You, kind readers, are a special gift. I never expected you’d be stopping by. It was only a fluke that forced me to write this thing for two years. It’s hard to believe I published 600,000 words here already. Your support has been overwhelming. I am humbled and filled with gratitude.

I am human. I make mistakes; I have feelings and emotions. Perfect I am not. Through it all my heart was in the right place even when I swung and only caught air.

Any day above ground is a good day!

All the things I mention above I am thankful for; the glorious successes and the educational failures. But more than all those things I am most blessed with the most wonderful woman to ever walk the earth and the two best kids any dad could want. Some of you might want to disagree. Protest all you want. I know how good I have it and always did. (Give a shout out to the greatest mate and children in the world in the comments section, guys.)

My life has been a litany of things to be grateful for. I can barely grasp the scope of my blessed life. It takes my breath away.

You also have as many things to bow your head in humility for. You’ve had challenges and problems. Nelson Mandela could have given up hope in prison. Instead he kept hope close and eventually brought democracy and a voice to his people. Stephen Hawking could cry and people would understand. Yet he continues to excel without complaint. He is grateful and thankful for his blessings of family, friends, modern technology and his mind.

You are as lucky as I am no matter where you are.

You are alive reading this right now. Excluding the level of my writing skills that is a gift! You are on a piece of technology only a mere two decades old. I am reaching out over space and time to touch your mind and leave a message of hope. We are all very blessed.

I give thanks for my family, health and mind. I give thanks for awesome clients and forgiving readers.

Thank you.

Now please pass the gravy.

My oldest daughter did some art at the office on a large dry-erase board. I added my flair which is the drawing on the right. My daughter named our cat Marimar so I started to walk around the house saying, “Marry me, Marrimar!” What can I say? I’m a crazy accountant. She is very pink so I started calling her Pinky and the name stuck. So Pinky she is.

Once I reached the age of majority I discovered something I learned to really hate. Money was tight in those days. I didn’t have a reservoir to draw from for basic expenses. Buying my first home required the purchase of my first furniture. There were always extra expenses to waste money on.

It also seemed like society was intentionally trying to keep me poor like the farmer I grew up as. Farming was part of my history shortly after my 18th birthday, but income was thin and I refused to dip into reserves.

Then came holidays, birthdays and other events. It seemed like every time I turned around there was another event I was supposed to spend money on. Every month had at least one birthday or holiday where the media pressed hard on the weak minded to squander money they didn’t have on stuff people would soon neglect.

A financial crisis was a wedding or milestone anniversary. The budget was stretched to the breaking point when a wedding arrived requiring yet another monetary outlay.

Christmas was the worst! Here was a time of the year to celebrate love and hope and instead every free moment was squandered thinking about what gift to buy whom and then running around purchasing said gift. There was no time to reflect on love, hope or family. We were too busy assuring the profits margins of retailers.

The hardest part for me was age. The starry-eyed feel of the holidays made way for the reality of exploitation by large corporations brainwashing the masses into believing Christmas was really about spending money. They never advertised the greatest gift you can give is you. No money in that. To suggest something so insane was un-American. (So my non-American readers don’t feel left out, just replace your country’s name in the last sentence where you see American. It’s not an exclusively American sickness. It exists where you live, too.)

The bright lights and decorations of the autumn and winter holidays (spring and summer for my Southern Hemisphere readers) were overwhelming as a child. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day always had a special feel to them. And marketers wasted no time raping the consumer of their money.

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day is traditionally held on the day after Thanksgiving in the States: Friday, November 24th this year. It is recognized as the busiest shopping day of the year. It amazes me we can spend a day giving thanks and the next pushing our neighbor to the floor screaming, “Get the f*ck out of the way! It’s mine!” Love and thanks evaporate into mindless demand for self in less than 24 hours. The good news is retailers open early now on Thanksgiving Day to get an early start on the selfishness.

Our family Christmas tree outside the holiday season.

And it all costs money! An electronic gizmo marked down 20% will cause normally sane people to spend what they don’t have. Thank God banks invented credit cards so you can deal with the fallout later. Of course, the marked down gizmo will be passé in a year or less, selling for nickels on the dollar in the remainder bin.

Last year I wrote about Buy Nothing Day on the actual day. This year I want to get a jump on the more important holiday of spending nothing before people are out the door and trampling old women and children early Friday after the day of thanks.

Now I know you are better than what I’m describing. All readers of this blog are. I attract the best readers in the blogosphere! Instead of trampling wild women with credit cards in outstretched hands, you casually shop Amazon or some other online source. If Friday doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can rob your employer by shopping at work the next Monday. (If business is going to benefit from crazy spending they encouraged, you should have the right to screw them back. Right? All in the holiday spirit, of course.)

And if you are serious about financial independence you either have stepped off this madness long ago or need to right now.

The Reasonable Way to Gift Give

I get it. Some of you think I’m acting like the Grinch who stole Christmas. All I have to say to you is, “Bah! Humbug!”

I didn’t steal Christmas, I promise. What I did do is develop some responsible gift giving policies in my household. Shortly you will see how my children demanded they give Mrs. Accountant and me a Christmas gift. Giving is very important.

I have nothing against gift giving. I don’t have anything against buying stuff for yourself, either. As long as your spending is responsible for your personal financial situation I am okay with it. My concern is overspending and over gift giving until the meaning of the holiday is lost. Holidays, birthday and other important life events are times to reflect, not digress into spending madness. Keep the occasion special is all I’m saying.

In my household gifts aren’t exchanged or given for any birthday or holiday, except Christmas (with exceptions). Weddings and anniversaries are one-time events (or should be) so a monetary gift is usually given.

We buy a small amount of candy for Easter (a very small amount). We decorate the home (and yard sometimes) for major holidays. We don’t go crazy on decorations either.

Kids are different than adults. We bought our girls Christmas and birthday gifts when they were younger. They received their gift on Christmas. We don’t do that now that the girls are older.

When our girls need something during the year we may buy it for them and indicate it is for their birthday and/or Christmas. This year my oldest daughter had her college tuition paid and my youngest has a cell phone courtesy of mom and dad. No large boxes of regretful spending will grace the space below out Christmas tree.

We decorate a fern we affectionately call Fronds for Christmas. Our Christmas tree costs nothing and stays green all season long.

My girls were aghast when Mrs. Accountant and I pleaded they don’t buy us gifts this year. Their response, “You mean we can’t make you something?” Oh, my God, girls. No! Of course you can make us something. The cost of making us a gift is really small compared to a retail purchase. And more important, giving mom and dad a piece of you is more important than any gift available in stores. Yes, you can make us something. My girls are artistic and I value every piece they give us. A gift filled with thought is the only gift that counts.

Mom and dad also have a different form of gift giving. I can gift my girls money. ($14,000 this year; $15,000 next.) If they have earned income and spend every penny, I can still gift them money to fill a Roth IRA up to their earned income limit. Also, remember, tuition paid for children doesn’t count toward the gift limit.

I think a gift that keeps giving a steady and increasing stream of dividends is better than the latest over-priced gizmo.

My parents are the only holdout. Holiday gift giving has decreased to zero. Mrs. Accountant and I stopped exchanging gifts decades ago. The gift giving thing died almost before it began between us. Our relationship is built on something more solid than trinkets.

My parents still give my brother and me gifts at Christmas. It is an awkward moment as we want for nothing. We have all we want and hunger only for intimate family time during the holidays. We have the family time, but my parents still believe in the traditional Christmas where gifts are given. I apologize to my non-Christian friends, but God gave his Son out of love. That is the real meaning of Christmas. That is the only gift that counts. The gift of hope.

Gifts will still exchange at my parent’s home Christmas Eve. This year we have an electronic gizmo I’ll use as this year’s gift. I don’t know what else to give. I received the gizmo as a gift and will re-gift. (I have no problem with re-gifting.) I’ll never use the gizmo. Contrary to popular wisdom, I’m not much into technology. I’m always a little late, if ever, adopting new products. The gift value is around $50. I see no reason to spend more on gifts for people who have everything they could want. My real gift this year? The ladies in my house will accompany me for some quality time with family sharing stories and a warm cider.

Final Advice

Please don’t read this and try to follow my advice to the letter. It takes time to get people to adjust to less gift-giving. Maybe you enjoy giving gifts and have plenty of money to do so. Then gift give!

What I will ask of you is this. Keep it simple and personal. A gift should be a part of you. You can create your gifts. They mean more. If you lack talent (as I do) you can buy a gift or re-gift. But it should have meaning. Fewer gifts with thought are worth more than a room piled to the ceiling with gifts given out of obligation.

The best gift of all. Mrs. Accountant and I share time together often. It costs nothing, but lasts a lifetime.

My gift to you is this blog. My words come from the heart. I pray every day you find value and meaning in my work. Your satisfaction is the greatest gift I can receive from you.

You can give me another gift. Leave your words in the comments section below. I know it’s become so passé to say that in YouTube videos and blogs. I don’t ask often, but this one time, humor me, even if it is only to say “Merry Christmas”, Happy Hanukah”, Happy Holidays” or “May peace be with you, my friend.”

If you still want to buy loved ones a physical gift, go ahead. It’s not wrong as long as you are not trying to buy love.

If crowded stores of crazed people pushing each other to save a few bucks doesn’t appeal to you, you can shop online. If you buy from Amazon you can use the link here. It doesn’t cost you a penny more and it supports my work. (Humor me.  This blog is a business and a profit does thrill me. All I ask for is responsible spending. I don’t need the money and this blog will survive regardless.)

I’ve neglected to tell you what I get Mrs. Accountant for Christmas. I’m sorry, but that’s none of your business. But like I said, the best gift is to give a part of yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to every one of you, kind readers. May you find the perfect gift.

The Gallup World Poll publishes a report on their findings involving the happiest people on Earth every year. This year National Geographic magazine has an article in their November issue discussing the results, written by Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones of Happiness.

Certain nations top the list every year. Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore report more happiness than other nations. The United States, a nation fond of bragging about its freedoms, isn’t all that happy.

Money isn’t the overriding factor either. Costa Rica, for example, is relatively poor compared to the U.S or Canada. There has to be something other than money causing people to report unusually high levels of happiness.

The National Geographic article starts with a Costa Rican who socializes virtually every day with a select group of friends, sleeps seven hours a night, walks to work, eats healthy foods, loves his job and the people he works with, volunteers weekly, attends church services and enjoys soccer. It sounds like an awesome life! I encourage you to buy the November 2017 issue of National Geographic to read the details yourself (or see your library).

Before we get too excited (or defensive) we need to examine what criteria are used to determine happiness. Five questions were asked about social life, financial health, community, physical health and purpose in life in the poll. The poll asked about positive and negative experiences.

For most nations (and people), Western views of happiness (having a lot of stuff, early retirement, travel) are not overriding determinants in happiness. Yes, free time makes a difference in the level of happiness people experience, but total retirement doesn’t lead to overall happiness if your life isn’t already in balance. Having lots of “stuff” is considered something which makes people happy. In reality it appears the opposite is true. Once the basics are met, more stuff makes us less happy.

Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore top the list while not always recognized as First World nations. They are! I’ve been to Costa Rica and personally experienced the happiness the people of this nation experience.

Denmark and Singapore are small nations based on geography. Both nations have a relatively high level of income and standard of living. Taxes are high in Denmark, providing a safety net which seems to reduce economic levels of stress. In Denmark when the water rises all boats float higher, unlike in the U.S. where there are decided “haves” and “have-nots”.

The Happiest Place in the U.S.

Even though the U.S. is modestly happy, some areas of the country are happier than others. My good friend, Pete Adeney, aka Mr. Money Mustache, would be happy to know Boulder, Colorado is listed as the happiest place in the U.S. Pete lives a hop, skip and a jump from Boulder and continuously espouses the benefits of living right and happiness.

What makes Boulder, Colorado and the surrounding area such a great place to live? First, you have to credit the people and the way they chose to live. Biking, walking and other outdoor activities are an integral part of life around Boulder. Outdoor activities lead to better health and more positive interactions with neighbors and the community.

Buildings are limited by law how high they can be. Rather than fund more roads and parking, taxpayers voted for 300 miles of additional bike routes. How many communities are so enlightened?

In some parts of the nation the soda tax is contentious. Chicago eventually ended their soda tax after so-called negative experiences and reports of lost sales by retailers to surrounding areas. Boulder didn’t have such issues with a soda tax. Boulder voted in a soda tax and kept it, using the funds raised to provide resources for health programs for kids.

Another hotly debated issue is food stamps, aka, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The city of Boulder, not the state of Colorado, pays recipients of SNAP an equal amount compared to the federal benefit, effectively doubling the payment. This allows the poor to eat better quality food which leads to better health and a greater opportunity to secure gainful employment sooner. No wonder Colorado led the nation out of the 2008 economic crisis. What blows the mind is how stubborn other regions of the U.S. fight such obviously successful programs. And Colorado does all this with a below average tax levy.

A Man of Our Times

Pete Adeney is man ahead of his time. He retired at 30 and still provides massive benefits to his community and the world. He has preached many of the fundamentals of happiness in his blog.

His message is relentless even in the face of opposition. He believes people should bike or walk virtually everywhere. Living close to where you work, shop and play are vital in his philosophy. Only rare travel outside one’s city is the only time a carbon fueled vehicle should ever be used.

On the surface most people think this means Adeney is encouraging human powered transportation to save money. While this is true at some level, his attitudes are based upon “living right” and maximizing happiness, as well as environmental concerns. Walking and biking are healthy activities which allow people to enjoy life. When you are limited due to health, happiness declines.

Recently Adeney bought an old building in downtown Longmont, where he lives, and remodeled it as his blog’s world headquarters. It serves as a community center where people can meet and educational programs are provided. Of course the venue will contain heavy doses of his philosophy. And it should. When one of the happiest guys I’ve ever met has something to say, I listen.

The community center is only the start. I’ve noticed a change in tactics recently from his Twitter feed. No longer is he satisfied with preaching the good word, he now encourages people to become active in their local community by voting and attending meetings where elected officials discuss issues with the public. He acknowledges he doesn’t always get his way, but is always optimistic. He should be. He is a happy guy in the happiest place in the United States.

How Happy Are You?

Now we get to the real issue of this post. Maybe you don’t live in Boulder, Colorado or anywhere near all the wonderful people of the surrounding communities. Maybe you never had a chance to break bread with Pete or his kind.

I hear the complaints already. Our community doesn’t have bike paths or that you live 38 miles from work. There are two things you can do about it: keep complaining or change the circumstances.

Guys like Pete are smart. They are not disillusioned. Progress is slow even in the great state of Colorado and the happy communities of Boulder and Longmont. Pete recently reported attending a public meeting with officials to present his ideas. The results were mixed.

He didn’t give up! In the last week he tweeted a local voting guide. Adeney knows national elections get all the press, but local elections are where you can make a real difference! Your vote has more punch in a local election. Fewer votes mean your vote is a bigger piece of the pie. And every decision a local official makes affects you locally. National politicians make decisions that may have nothing to do with your community at all.

Happiness is between the ears. Several factors contribute to how happy you feel. Belonging tops the list after health. If you are healthy and feel wanted by family, friends and your community, you are well on your way to feeling happy.

Weather, incidentally, has only a marginal effect on happiness. I live in a cold part of the U.S. (NE Wisconsin) and it has some effect on my well being, but only a small amount. Outdoor activities are different where I live. Skiing and other winter sports occupy several months of the year. Biking is difficult in January (even dangerous), but hiking and walking are possible in almost any weather. Those who partake in seasonal outdoor activities report higher levels of happiness.

Doing Something about It

You can complain or do something about your level of happiness. When you are actively involved in the solution, even when results are limited, you feel better about yourself. Demanding someone else do something about it still leaves your opinion unheard!

You have significant control over your spending, even if income control is somewhat limited. Side gigs can fill the income void if necessary. Keeping spending reasonable compared to your income is your choice only, with the exception of people with medical issues.

Socializing makes people happier. You can always find a group who welcomes you. Groups who exclude others are less happy as they need to justify their negative behavior. I recommend a social life with people who energize you.

Purpose in life is something you must find through personal examination. Once you determine what juices you, pursue the dream! No one can stop you except you. There is always a way as readers of this blog will soon discover as I share a personal story of redemption and growth. Hardship isn’t the issue either; it’s the opportunity to expand beyond what you dream possible.

Physical health is largely a product of your eating and exercise habits. Eat good food; walk, hike and bike. The secret formula to a long happy life.

Finally, community provides an environment for you to live in. Make it a good one. All the members of a society compose a community. Your active involvement makes all the difference.

Never let anyone put you down. You will fail. That is not a character flaw; it is life. Failure doesn’t define you. How you deal with failure does!

Happiness is partially a choice. Many of the happiest nations are happy because they choose to be. Your active participation is what determines your level of pleasure and happiness. Climate and current conditions are only minor obstacles of the way to a happy life.

You can choose to move to a happy community, but you still need to be active in the new community or it will be just like the one you came from for you.

Or, you can make your community a better place to live. The choice is yours. Because the happiest place on Earth is in your head.

Recently I discussed selling tradelines as a way to generate extra income. If you are unfamiliar with tradelines, read my prior article first.

Today I want to expand on the idea of using your tradelines to improve the financial position of the people you care about. Selling tradelines is an easy way to earn money, but there are issues of concern. There is another way to benefit from your tradelines, no selling involved. The banks are less than enthusiastic if you sell tradelines, but what I will suggest below is far more acceptable to the banks and falls under their terms of use as I understand them.

A quick recap: Tradelines are bank accounts. In this case we are talking about your credit card accounts. You can add an authorized user (AU). Adding an AU to a credit card account in not unusual by any means; the credit card companies encourage the activity. Selling tradelines (adding an AU you don’t know so they can increase their credit score) is gaming the system in the opinion of the banks. The reason selling a tradeline to a complete stranger is frowned upon is that fraud can take place. You may be completely unaware of the fraud, but the banks have risk so they don’t like it. There is nothing in it for them except risk so they close accounts they suspect of selling tradelines.

Adding an AU to your account is not unusual. The credit card companies actually encourage the activity. You may be familiar with the emails they send you recommending you add AUs.

Friends and Family

Starting out is hard for young people as they cross the threshold of adulthood. One moment they have no legal authority to sign loans or make important financial decisions and the next day, on their 18th birthday, they are thrown into the mosh pit of life where they are expected to know all the rules and are responsible for every decision they make financially. Good thing the education system doesn’t prepare them for the fateful day. That might hurt bank profits and we all know how terrible it is for Wall Street when people actually understand a thing or two about finances. Witness the whining of actively managed funds and hedge funds complaining about index funds.

My youngest daughter is months away from the above mentioned mosh pit. My oldest daughter has enjoyed the benefits of adult responsibility for a few years now. From an early age I pounded financial information into their heads. Money wasn’t/isn’t a taboo subject in my household. Money discussions are common and decisions Mrs. Accountant and I make with finances are easily viewed by the younglings.

Life starts without a credit score. Normally I would say credit scores are worthless and not being able to borrow money is more blessing than curse. Unfortunately, credit scores are used to determine auto insurance rates and even can prevent you from finding a place to rent. Your credit score affects your finances even if you never borrowed a plug nickel in your life. A ‘good’ credit score is valuable as it can reduce your expenses without effort, i.e. lower auto insurance premiums.

Adding junior as an authorized user to your credit card can remedy the situation. For the same reason people want to buy tradelines, you want to add people you care about to your tradeline AU list. Have three kids in college? Add them to several of your credit cards. You decide if they actually get the card to use. You can also limit how much they spend or even have the credit card company never send a card in their name.

An important point to remember is to only add the kiddos on accounts you actually use (so it gets reported to the credit bureaus). One small purchase will cause most cards to report to the bureaus. For the kids to benefit, keep the balance low. Once the balance reaches above 15% or so of the credit limit the benefits are diminished. The best way to do this is to put a low level of spend on the card/s you have the kids on and pay it in full each month.

The large amount of unused credit your children now have from being your AU increases their credit score. This in turn lowers their auto and renter’s insurance rates. If they ever need a loan (auto, home, education) they will qualify for lower rates without the need of you co-signing the loan (hopefully).

For the same reasons you want to add the wife/husband or significant other. They do NOT have to use the card or even have access to it! Just by being on the list benefits them. I would caution against giving the kiddos free reign with your credit card or you might end up in the market for credit score improvement yourself.

The Good Boss

The same principles can be used by small business owners. Adding valued employees as AUs can be a powerful tax-free fringe benefit for employees. When an employee experiences a higher credit score she may end up paying less for insurance and may be able to refinance loans at a lower rate. It doesn’t cost the employer a penny while the employee experiences lower costs without additional taxes owed on the lower expense (unless it involves lower deductible mortgage interest).

A few things to consider for employers. Business credit cards usually don’t report on individual credit reports. However, many small business owners use personal credit cards and in my opinion should to avoid a nasty tax surprise connected to basis issues.

Adding employees to a credit card doesn’t mean the employee gets to walk around with said card. It is convenient for certain employees to have access to the tradeline while others will have modest to no access. As long as the balance is low compared to the credit limit and the card is paid in full monthly, the employee should experience a credit score lift.

Selling tradelines have one serious problem. Add more than two or three AUs outside your geographic area and the problems start. The banks sniff out the behavior and consider it a breach of their term of use and cancel the card.

A business owner is in a different situation. I would call the credit card company and tell them what you want to do. Tell them you have a certain number of employees you want to add as AUs to your account. You can set up how much access each employee has. For example: Let’s say you want an employee to hold the card for business use. You can set a lower limit for that employee in case they go rogue. You can also add AUs and request a card not be sent until necessary. The banks like this as it does fit the terms of use for most credit card companies.

More Uses

Adding an AU to your account is easy. The banks hate it when someone games the system selling tradelines, but tend to like it when you add AUs they consider legitimate. Family and employees are natural AUs for your account. Your credit is not harmed while they benefit.

The service can be extended to friends as well. If you have concerns, call your credit card company and ask them if it is acceptable to add a friend or extended family member to the account. The worst they can say is no.

Tradelines are recognized as a valuable resource. That is why there is demand to buy temporary tradelines. Selling tradelines requires the constant adding and subtracting of AUs, a real pain in the tail and an indication to the bank you are gaming the system. Selling tradelines could get you blacklisted, a serious occurrence, while adding friends, family and employees generally have the blessing of the credit card company.

Selling tradelines are generally limited, but, with the bank’s permission, you can add a serious number of AUs without incident.

I hope you find this personal finance/credit hack valuable. Use it responsibly and it will serve you well.

You can help the kids without putting yourself at risk by co-signing a loan. The kids can have lower borrowing and insurance costs, too.

Teach your children good money skills and you reduce the risk they’ll return home from a financial catastrophe to live in your basement. In the end, it’s about preserving your peace of mind.

Yeah, I’m the coolest kid in school with a car like this.

Hey, everyone! My dad took off for a conference I think he said is called FinCon. That would make me a junior accountant, or, as “dad says”, a junette, since I’m a girl.

As luck would have it my dad left his computer on (as if a password would stop me). I’m pretty good at IT so I figured I could write a post while he was out. Besides, how will he find time to write when he is sooooo busy doing important stuff like talking to people about money? And he left his computer at home! Sucker!

Anyway, I kinda had this whole thing planned out. I more like helped dad forget his computer so I could spread my gospel, too. Dad has the platform and I have the brains. The plane couldn’t leave the ground fast enough for me.

You see, last week dad started giving me crap about driving the car to school. We live out in the boondocks and I am the first one on the bus and the last one off. That means three hours of my life evaporates into smoke every day I ride the bus. There is only so much time a kid needs to think and play video games.

Anyway, dad asked if I showered at school after gym class. I told him we don’t have time to shower since the bus comes about five minutes after class ends. He whined about me not showering when I take the car and DO have time to shower. Truth is, I don’t like the school showers.

My dad says I should take a shower at school so we save money at home from heating water. What a tightwad! Did he ever tell you guys he saved a few nickels over the years and did pretty well for himself? Well, you wouldn’t know it if you saw this place. (Or the car he has me drive. I’ll include a picture so you can see for yourself how much I suffer.) Poverty, folks. Sheer, unadulterated poverty, is what I live in. How do I do it?

It ended up in a fight when I refused to budge. I’m not taking a shower at school! When the fight was over I cussed dad out, kicked him in the shins and stormed out. No! Wait! That’s what I was thinking.

What really happened is I rolled my eyes and said I’m going write a book titled: My Dad Says . . . .

I’m seventeen and I figure if that Money Mustache guy dad always blabbers on about can retire by 30, I can beat him by twelve years. I’ll plagiarize all dad’s advice and put it into neat little packets, each beginning with: My Dad Says . . . . It ought to be worth a few bucks, right?

I’ll package the whole thing in a book, sell a few million copies and live the easy life before I graduate high school.

Grandma!?

To make this whole situation worse, dad took mom with him and my sister is off to college so I looked forward to the house all to myself with our cat, Pinky. Except, at the last minute, dad seemed to lose faith in me as grandma walked in the door to spend the week with Pinky and me. And where grandma goes, grandpa goes. Did I mention they both have their concealed carry? If I try to sneak out of the house with that awesome car dad provided me I’ll be winged by grandma before I get twenty feet!

This unsavory turn of events left me with plenty of time to pound out a post for dad he’s sure to be proud of.

Wisdom

Hey, would you guys like to hear some of dad’s golden nuggets? Thought so.

Before you get too excited, I intend on using these examples as marketing material. Let me know what you think.

1.) My dad says I’m as smart as I’ll ever be. It’s all downhill from here as I discover all the stuff I don’t know.

You know, my dad can be a real boob sometimes.

Wisdom my father shared with me. #wisdom #dad #family #familyfinance2.) My dad says he walked uphill to and from school every day. Even the weekends, just for practice. In snow! Fourteen feet deep. On the good days!

My dad really thinks I’m stupid sometimes. I know there is no school on the weekends.

3.) My dad says reading is one of the most important things I can do. He says there is a direct correlation between what I earn, my net worth and the amount of TV I watch. The more TV, the poorer I will be.

Thanks for the advice dad, but I don’t watch much TV. Video games!

4.) My dad says I should save a minimum of half what I earn.

Yeah, yeah, dad. Heard it before.

5.) My dad says I should invest in either a total market index fund or an S&P 500 index fund at Vanguard and leave my fingers off it.

Yeah, dad. I know Vanguard has low fees. Yeah, I know you can’t beat the market consistently if you trade. Yeah, I know if I leave it alone it will turn into a really big amount over time. Well, dad! You forgot your youngest daughter has a book deal and I’m borderline diva.

6.) My dad says I should never stop learning.

This is related to the reading thing. I’m not the biggest fan of school like my older sister, but now that I’m a senior I’m starting to think the tech school might give me an advantage. I enjoy working outside and work for grandma doing landscaping and such. It’s fun work I enjoy. If the book deal falls through I think I’m going to work with my hands outside. Come to think of it, I might work regardless what happens with the book deal. You have to do something with your time. It may as well be something you enjoy. Right?

7.) My dad says to find friends who challenge me.

He also says I should hang around people who are doers. If I hang with buds who don’t accomplish anything I’ll never be forced to push my bounds. People who get things done are the kind of people you want to socialize with. They end up business partners, friends, clients and leaders. Good friends make all the difference. It can make or break a girl. Got it, dad.

8.) My dad says to socialize with good people.

Kinda like number 7, I think. What I think dad means to say is ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Well, last I checked I wasn’t a boy, but the rule still applies. Enjoy free time with good friends.

9.) My dad says to be deliberate in everything I do.

Dad can speak in Coptic at times, but let me spell out what he’s getting at. What he means to say (and needs an intelligent child to translate) is that I should eat right and get enough sleep. To not worry about the little things, or anything I don’t have control over for that matter. He means I should vote, but not get pissed off when my candidate loses or when government officials let us down. If I can do something to change the situation, I should; if not, then there is no need to waste precious time worrying about it.

This deliberate thing always concerns me. I see dad think things through a lot with business decisions. He intentionally talks about money, family, relationships, politics, his love for mom, sex (Eww! Old people sex.) and anything else that comes to mind in front of my sister and me. Dad’s a pretty open guy with the whole family.

Dad is right. Family is all that matters.

Dad thinks a lot. He researches. When he decides what steps he wants to take he finds the right people to surround himself with to get the best results. It takes a lot of time when the issues are big.

Most of all, dad is deliberate about money. He saves and invests, of course. But it’s more than that. He thinks long and hard before spending money. He knows the smallest part of the cost is the purchase price. Keeping, storing, insuring and using a thing consume more money and TIME. Time is the most precious commodity we have, dad says. Use it wisely.

Dad says we must always be good stewards of our gifts. Our money, our family, friends and time are precious resources never to be squandered.

My dad says the richest man on Earth has the exact same amount of time each day I have. They are successful because of what they did with that day.

10.) My dad says to make time for family every day.

Dad is also very deliberate in expressing his love for us. He can really be a dork at times, but mom, my sister and I never doubt dad loves us. He makes us feel wanted all the time. No matter how bad I screw up I always know dad will be with me.

You know, it’s kinda strange having a dad who cares so much. Not all the kids at school are so lucky. He may walk around the house singing crazy songs and telling stupid stories, but he really is okay.

Anyways, I got to go. This is getting long and my dad says I should turn things off when not in use to save energy and money.

If you see him down at FinCon, let him know I took care of his blog for him while he was gone.

Also tell dad grandma winged Roger when he came over to buy a dozen eggs. (Grandma is itching for someone to “Go ahead, make my day.”) He should be out of the hospital by the time they get back. Roger is sure jumpy when he drives past the house now.

Go figure.

Once again, here are my notes as I prepared this post. Writers may find value in my writing process so I include my unedited notes periodically. My daughter’s name is redacted for security reasons. And yes, my parent’s are lurking about when I am out of town and yes, they do have their concealed carry. Please, for your own safety, do not startle them.

 

I asked [redacted] about showering at school after gym so she wouldn’t have to do it at home, saving dad money. She said she isn’t given enough time to shower, but it’s her last class. She would miss the bus if she showered, drives  to school a bit extra because the bus ride is a solid 1 1/2 hours to get home.

I started teasing her she could shower at school after gym is she took the car. The utility savings would pay for the gas to drive to school.

I then said [redacted] will start every story she tells her friends with, “My dad says . . . ” It morphed into, the first book [redacted] writes will be titled: My Dad Says.

This could be a fun post playing on all the things “Dad Says” from [redacted]’s perspective. It would be funniest written as if [redacted] were the author. A fun piece with loads of meaning on living right.

This is all a lie; none of it is real. Everything I told you is an untruth, an illusion to get you to do what I want. And even that is an illusion.

For nearly two years now people have followed and watched and read this blog. Nobody, until I pointed it out this moment, knew it was one big, fat fiction. The worst part is you are as much an illusion as I am.

Nothing you or I say matters. Deny if you must, but I will expose you in the next thousand words as I reveal my greatest fault.

The evidence is all around you. Clues are everywhere! You probably missed them. But as I explain each piece of the puzzle you will know I am correct.

Oh, who am I fooling? You aren’t even real! A character in a video game is more real than you. I write this for me. Only for me. There is no one else to listen; no one else to care. Nothing matters and never has.

I lie naked in a room typing these words desperate to find meaning in a universe where I am the only thing that exists. The ghosts that walk these halls evaporate in the morning sun, leaving me alone with my dreams.

The Guinea Pig

How can I live in such a gilded age? History books speak of a hard life and myriad lessons learned by mankind over the eons. Still, I do not die.

Everything seems to work for the best. A heart condition in my youth was cured my modern medicine; a cure only a few years available. Lucky me, I guess.

The doctor died of AIDS, but never infected me. Lucky again.

Hard lessons in finance growing up on a farm where the family is bankrupted just as I entered adulthood still didn’t stop my progress. Go figure.

I mentally wander for years and find the woman of my dreams and she loves me back. What are the odds?

I start a business involving something I love and am addicted to. It seems the miracles never end.

Now I write a blog, another dream I needed fulfilled. I scratch frantically at the slate chalkboard of life looking for recognition my work has purpose, meaning. And then, after a few years of work, it is all coming together. The recognition I crave is happening. There are thousands and thousands of blogs and somehow, like cream in a bowl of fresh milk, I rise to the top.

One of these things I might have bought, but not all of them? No way can there be that many coincidences. Luck? If I were truly lucky I would win the lottery or inherit a massive sum. Nope! No such luck. Yet everywhere else it is all golden.

There is only one explanation. I am a game of some vastly more intelligent creature examining my every move. This is a cage! A CAGE!

The brutal truth is some child has created a game, a game with a sentient creature, me, to test and examine. If only she would not have programmed me for pain.

Clues

The alien child tests me. She gives me great fortune to see if I handle it with poise or if I turn tyrant and cruel. Questionable politics is a test of my endurance to do good. If only there were clearer clues.

It took a while. When I realized this was all an illusion, even my beautiful wife and children, I began to cry. Solomon was right: Vanity, oh, vanity! What does it profiteth a man to gain the whole would and lose his life. Oh vanity!

The whole world is mine. The universe in its entirety is mine for the taking; to enjoy as I see fit. But I am just a child’s plaything. Still, the nagging clues.

The child tests me as she giggled at my Neanderthal responses. She is too subtle.

The child sent Stephen Hawking to reveal a truth of the universe. Hawking discovered the information contained in a black hole is in direct proportion of the inverse square of the event horizon! The ghosts I walk through life with might not understand, but the child examiner gave me the capacity to realize the implication of this discovery.

The event horizon of a black hole has no signposts or markers. It is an invisible line in space you don’t even know you crossed, but once you do there is no return! To the outside universe you just disappear.

But how can an invisible point in space contain all the information within a black hole? There was only one explanation. The universe is a holographic projection!

Space is expanding. Scientists have said it for years. Space isn’t expanding into anything either; it’s just expanding. At the current rate the universe will double in size in 12.2 billion years. And the bigger the universe gets the colder it gets.

If the universe is a holographic projection from this so-called edge of space, then the information contained within this universe is expanding as more space is created! Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe the experiment continues elsewhere.

Still, the truth eludes me.

Elon Musk was sent to hit me beside the head to get my attention. Musk said there is only a 1 in 1,000 chance any of this is real. I get it. The child’s school experiment needed to see my response to such obvious facts. How would the sentient being react to knowing he was only an illusion? The guinea pig must be prodded further.

Seduction

The victim, me, does not know what to do. If only any of you were real I could ask for help. But we are all only projections from the edge of space; a non-real entity. I am the reason all this is here. Soon it will end. The child wants only to spend a bored afternoon watching the wild accountant struggle with existence. To me it is an eternity, a lifetime. To her, a way to pass a rainy late summer day.

How can she make me dance? Add more clues!

My insatiable reading has educated me to a great many things outside the normal realm of someone in finance. For example, I know the emptiest of space really isn’t exactly empty!

Like a computer game there are pixels comprising the smallest areas of space. In my world it’s called Planck space or Planck length. This is the smallest piece of reality, shortest distance possible. The distance can no longer be divided. Just like a computer game.

Things to the side are fuzzy until I turn to look. Things beyond my horizon don’t exist until I either go there or look in that direction. The child’s computer seems to have an upper limit of computing power.

But what about this empty space that still has energy? There is no zero energy space! None. This non-zero energy is called dark energy in my world and is pushing my universe apart, expanding space.

The detail piques my curiosity until I realize it is all a projection, unreal.

I am provided great leaders and thinkers to read and listen to. Some mesmerize me. Business leaders especially.

Steve Jobs is an interesting projection I can’t seem to shake. In his commencement address to the 2005 graduates at Stanford he said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

I close my eyes hard until tears form at the outside edge. What if it is real?

Steve also said to, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

How can I reconcile all the facts? The evidence is irrefutable! I am alone in a universe of vast size. Probably part of a multiverse. In each of these bubble universes I can imagine another experiment happening. Another victim just like me.

Truth Revealed

For the longest time I felt the alien child a cruel tormentor. But why such an elaborate game?

There is no doubt I am writing to myself to ease my mind; a form of therapy. I am no more alive than the pictures on a movie screen. Nothing is real.

The clues don’t make sense. A grand universe with so many wonders just for me? It seems such a waste.

What can I make of Jobs and Musk and Hawking and pixilated space made up of Planck units with non-zero energy? What about all these wonders! Just for one illusion! One. Me!

Then I finally figured it out! This is a ruse. Yes, my world is a projection and you don’t exist. To you, I DON’T EXIST! We all have our own world.

In the end I will die, as Jobs declared. I have nothing to lose. There is no excuse to not try. There is no excuse to quit. In the end it doesn’t matter. The projection will end, the experiment over.

There is nothing to be afraid of. I can live my life by my terms. I can do what gives me meaning. I am naked. On the verge of death as the projector runs low on film.

I will do great things because that is who I am! When I do it for you, I do it for me because you don’t exist. You are an illusion.

The child’s toy is running low on power. The program needs to recharge so I sleep. The world disappears when I sleep.

As I lay my head on the pillow I dream of things I can do. Important thing. As I drift into slumber I mutter:

STAY HUNGRY. STAY FOOLISH.

I have nothing to lose.

Notes: When I write something as surreal as you just read it requires a minimum of an explanation. There are hidden messages laced throughout this post. No hidden codes, but many, many messages underneath the text. The links are required to unravel all the meaning. Below are my original working notes. If you can figure out how I got from my notes below to the post above, let me know. I can’t figure it out.

Elon Musk says there is only a 1 in a 1000 chance this is real and not a computer simulation.

Stephen Hawking discovered the information contained in a black hols is the inverse square of the event horizon, a non point in space.

Steve Jobs told the Stanford graduates the most humbling thing he knows of is that someday he will be dead.

If this is all an illusion, you have nothing to lose by trying: business, family, life.

No zero energy even in empty space.

Planck space is smallest size possible for space; a pixelated space, like a computer game, is granular.

Universe is like a video game. Only stuff in view is clear. All else is fuzzy or is created when needed.

 

My last post on questions wealthy people ask their accountant struck an unexpected cord. It also uncovered a serious problem that has plagued this blog since the beginning.

The majority of bloggers come from one of two camps: they write a blog while in retirement or write while working for retirement.

Blogging is a lot of work. Writing is the easy part. Promoting the blog so somebody actually sees your work takes time. This blog does more than simply generate affiliate income. Aside from the passive income, readers discover there is more available from the right accountant. Not knowing a local accountant offering what I suggest they turn to the only place they can go: the contact page.

And as I said before a million times, I am one man. In the last two days if I would have said yes to every offer, I would have filled my calendar until tax season. It’s just not possible to serve all the readers who seek my help. Or is it?

It’s time to stop whining and start implementing opportunities already in place. Many of the comments over the last two days went something like this: Do you know of a tax professional you can recommend in [fill in the blank]?

It hurt as I deleted each request without a response. Even responding to each inquiry would consume more time than exists in a day. So far I am able to read most of what hits my email. It’s the best I can do.

Then I received an email that was firm, yet polite. It was an obvious answer and it would solve a significant problem for you, kind readers, and for your favorite accountant. The email said, “Why don’t you promote your forum more? You told me earlier in the year to use the forum to offer my services as a tax professional since I read your blog and use the strategies you suggest. You know, if you promoted the forum more, guys like me could help your readers while offering you minor respite.”

All I could think to say was, “Duh!”

Help is on the Way

The forum has a category: Wealthy Accountants in Your Area. I started the category because tax professionals wanted to know where they could find clients and I mentioned I have a load of un-served people.

I want more tax professionals to advertise their wares in this category of the forum. If you think it would be helpful for me to add a category for taxpayers looking for an accountant, I can add the category easily.

This is the time of year where you really need to consider consulting. The tax savings can far exceed any consulting fee you pay. There are tax pros out there who are as good (some even better) than me.

Now through tax season I will provide periodic reminders to check the forum. But let’s start today. If you send me a request and I don’t respond you know what my answer is. It is an awful part of this process; ghosting people. The laws of physics (maybe it’s relativity; you know, the time and space thing) forbid me to accomplish what I want. I can do anything, just not everything.

If I can’t take your account, consider one of the fine tax professionals just as good as I am, except they don’t write a blog generating massive amounts of workflow. I love you guys, you know that. If I could do it all, I would. Reality demands I delegate. What better place to find a qualified tax pro than in the forum here.

Before we move on the next piece of business before I let you settle in for the weekend, don’t get hung up on locality. Modern technology eliminates the need for a local accountant to serve your needs. Half of my clients are outside my home state of Wisconsin. Faxing, scanning, secure web portals and email can handle all your communications with your tax pro.

Accountants offering services in the forum should understand a few things. Unlike most traditional tax offices, you will do a lot more out-of-state and multi-state tax returns. You will also receive more unique situations. Readers here want more than a basic prep. They want consulting inside and outside of tax season. What I am saying is, don’t overextend as I too often do. The clients you get from here will demand more of your time and services because they want to utilize your knowledge for their benefit. You get paid to do this, so do it. You will get tough cases. Spread it out so you get work done faster than your favorite accountant. Take it from someone with experience.

Readers, if you need a tax pro who understands a bunch of the stuff I write about you now know where to find them. Don’t expect every tax pro on the list to be the same. Most tax offices specialize when they start handling difficult cases. The only reasons I do so much more is because I have a blog to write and keep researching for your benefit and because there is ample evidence I am mentally unstable. (Stop laughing.)

Readers, vet the tax pros in the forum. A short conversation can determine if it will work for you. There is no need to waste time for either party. There are plenty more tax professionals out there and plenty more clients. Spend a few minutes to determine if it is a good fit.

Back to the accountants. Answer questions in the forum. I don’t spend much time in the forum for obvious reasons. Discuss what I write about. It’s even okay to say I’m full of BS on my own blog. (More on this in Monday’s post.) Help readers seeking solutions. Some of these fine people will want to engage your services. This has to be a team effort. I provide the portal and a slight nudge with each post. You guys—tax pros—have to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s the only way the readers will be served.

Only one warning: Never share personal information that could lead to identity theft in the forum. If discovered by a moderator, your post is toast (for your protection). And no personal attacks. The tax code is huge and there is plenty of disagreement. It’s okay to disagree; it’s not okay to do a character assassination. Be firm without being rude. Respect the opinions of others. It’s also okay to be wrong from time to time. It happens to the best of us, especially me. That is why I am always learning.

Need a Job?

My tax office is actively searching for a full-time, year round CSR/Administrative Assistant and another full-time tax preparer for tax season. The Admin job is full-time all year. The tax prep job is for tax season only with some part-time outside of tax season work, if desired.

I am unwilling to outsource tax work at this time so you have to want to live in NE Wisconsin. You will work in my office on my secure equipment. If you want to work in a unique tax practice with real opportunity to see tax issues most tax professionals don’t see in a career, consider applying. I will also consider two part-time tax preparers as well.

If you work in my office you get famous whether you like it or not. I’ll know when Dawn reads this post. Count on it.

The tax professional I hire MUST be comfortable with S corporation issues. Pay is $20-$35 per hour, depending on experience. If I find a qualified candidate I will open my doors to new clients, so please apply using the contact form on this blog.

The admin position is a support job. Other accountants and the boss (me) need somebody to keep us in line, ah, I mean to keep work flowing smoothly. It’s a hard job during tax season and reasonably normal the remainder of the year. This position is a bit different than what you normally expect in a traditional tax office. This is why it is hard for me to fill the position. It doesn’t fit a traditional model. The work is interesting, satisfying and challenging. Pay is $12-$18 per hour depending on experience with opportunity for advancement.

The pay scale is wide, I know. I am willing to pay more for an exceptional candidate. I hate paying less to take a flyer; it seems to never work. You know a bit about me and my office from my writing. If NE Wisconsin sounds like a fun place, consider submitting your resume.

And last, if the forum really explodes due to my promoting it, I will need a moderator or three. If you want to be on the moderator list, let me know. We’ll let my site manager, Kevin, handle the moderating for now, but if it grows at all I will need some help. Unfortunately it’s an unpaid job. Moderators do it for love.

If the moderator/s job gets too much I’ll consider some forms of monetization for the forum to provide funds for paying moderators. But that is in the distant future.

Now, before you leave to enjoy your weekend, go check out the forum and have some fun. Introduce yourself and share ideas. Readers of this blog are very intelligent and educated. Ask questions. I’m one guy again. I don’t know everything and my opinion doesn’t trump all. You’d be surprised at the awesome people haunting this place. Get to know each other.