In April of 2011 a young Canadian man decided to share his philosophy on work, living life well and early retirement by publishing his first blog post. His message of fiscal responsibility and frugality landed with a thud at first. 

Prior to starting his blog and before claiming the early retirement mantel, our young hero moved to the United States. The first year of blogging was brutal. He published a massive load of very useful information without the traffic or revenue matching his efforts. 

And then it hit. The right message at the right place at the right time struck a chord and the Mr. Money Mustache blog was no longer an internet backwater blog, but on a destiny to change the world.

It is only proper at this point I provide full disclosure. I served as the tax preparer/consultant for the Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) blog and its owner, Pete Adeney, for a few years. It was in a conversation with Pete and his wife at the time that I learned the first year of blogging was not all roses for Pete.* The first post didn’t automatically attract traffic. That came later.

If you produce good material they will come, and so it was for our hero. Pete kept telling his story. It was real so it resonated. He retired at 30 by design. Of course, if you retire at 30 you do not necessarily spend the remainder of your life planted in a chair. And that caused the largest complaint Pete faced in his blogging career: that he really didn’t retire.

Once you reach a level of success there will always be a few who want to tinkle on your shoes. Pete was not exempt. Once retired, Pete entered into a partnership, starting a construction company with a friend. As so often happens with partnerships (ask any seasoned accountant), it went south. You can hear the story straight from the source. It wasn’t pretty. It also placed a real risk in Pete’s retirement plans.

Pete also bought a property to fix and rent. That went much better. Pete loves working with his hands and building stuff. Working on a property at a casual pace (to assure quality and avoid burnout), Pete manged to hone his carpentry skills. From a failed construction company, to a rental property to the MMM headquarters in Longmont, Colorado, Pete found the prefect path to engage his passion.

Then we come to the MMM blog. Pete once again filled his time with something constructive (pun intended). Retirement is not short-hand for death! Pete decided to share his accumulated wisdom. But some were not having it.

 

That is NOT Retirement!

It didn’t take long before it was pointed out Pete didn’t actually retire since he was running a business for a while, remodeling/renting out a property and kicking out a massive quantity of material on his blog. Some of his readers were calling BS. 

A certain wayward accountant from the Northwoods of Wisconsin noticed our hero about this time. When the two met Pete instantly took to this wayward accountant for about 15 minutes. As good fortune would have it, the sickness passed.

I love Pete’s work and philosophy of living the good life, financial independence and frugality. But when it comes to retirement we are about as far apart as any two people can be. The 15 minutes we connected was limited to such a short time due to my attitudes about retirement. 

Climbing to the top is worth the effort.

The good news is that neither of us are right for the entire crowd. Some want a Pete style retirement and some, like me, start a business doing what they like and refuse to stop. (What am I supposed to do? Something I like less just so I can brag I retired?) I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out differently if the partnership Pete had with his friend had actually worked out.

My argument with Pete’s philosophy was not about living a productive, meaningful life. Rather, I always felt Pete’s encouraging others to retire just like him had a timing issue. 

April 2011 was a really good time to retire. Pete actually retired a bit prior to that which made it an even better time to retire early.

You see, we had a financial crisis that smacked the economy and stock market around pretty bad in 2008-9. If you had enough money to retire at the market low I would be far more comfortable with you taking said retirement than with all the fine folks who followed in Pete’s footsteps who wanted to push the retirement envelope to the limit when the market and economy were on a sugar high. Retiring on the edge financially when the market is pulling 10 years of near straight-up gains is not the best idea.

 

The Best Time to Retire is Now

Right now, this very day, is the best time to retire since Pete took those same steps! If you have the resources to retire when things are down you have an excellent chance of staying retired. 

True, the economy is still declining from the pandemic while the market has regained much of its losses. And the market is likely to get cranky when the reality of the economic damage done sets in. Still, it is during these trying financial times when you learn if you really are ready for retirement, early or otherwise.

Pete found the sweet spot in picking his early retirement date; he just happened to be 30 at the time. Many considered it a challenge to retire younger than Pete without remembering Pete still maintained financially gainful activities. 

Retiring younger than 30 will take some luck. Skill is unlikely to get you there much faster. 

Many claim they have retired in their 20s, hoping to strip Pete of his early retirement mantel. Deep down I think they hope they will be bailed out by publishing a profitable blog before anyone notices the emperor is not wearing his skivvies. 

How would I know all this? Because people pay me a lot of money to talk to them about their personal situation. And the theme is recurring. I don’t think Pete has a full grasp of the effect he has on some people. They are not really listening to what he said. They pick what they want and forget the rest. It turns out as expected. 

If you have thought of retirement, now is the time you can practice the process. The pandemic has left many forced to deal with a retirement lifestyle whether they like it or not. It takes talent to have a meaningful day when there are no pressing demands.

Pete retired after the bottom of the economic collapse of 2008-9. It was the perfect time to make the transition. If you can do it when all your assets are at or near lows, the chances of retirement going as planned increases dramatically.

Maybe today isn’t the ideal time to take the early retirement you planned. But the day is fast approaching. The pandemic will pass, economic activity will increase and the market will travel to new highs. Beginning retirement when the economy is at the beginning stages of a bull market allows for the longest period of growth before your budget is seriously challenged with declining asset prices.

Disaster Planning

Many clients have bent my ear the last few months as the financial pressures have increased. Discussions of taking early Social Security, and the consequences thereof, are common. 

Another frequent discussion involves people who took retirement too early. Instead of following the Pete plan and building multiple sources of income, they retired as soon as they thought they could get away with it and took up traveling. That fantasy came to a screeching halt.

Retiring at 28 just to say you beat Pete to the finish line is insane! Some of these early retirees are now looking to reenter traditional employment and it isn’t by choice. 

When planning early retirement with clients I use a formula for determining if you are ready to retire, assuming you are mentally prepared. In my formula I ask clients to consider a really bad economic decline where the stock market declines by 50% and real estate is hard to sell at any price. I also assume a decline in rent, interest and dividend income. If we can map out a serious economic disruption and it is nothing more than background noise in your financial plans you are probably ready financially for retirement.

This should not be confused with what I do, which is never retire. My plan is to work at my preferred tasks (taxes, accounting, business planning and consulting) until my body can no longer cash the check. Not everyone has that luxury. I’m lucky I found what I love doing at a young age and feel compelled to keep doing it. 

Most people want a designated time in life where they don’t have the stress of a job or of running a business. Many want to travel or explore other avenues of living. Those goals are no less valid than mine.

What I am saying is that the two ends of the spectrum have Pete on one side and me on the other. There is a large amount of middle ground for you to consider. 

There is no competition! There is no prize for retiring younger than Pete! And for crying out loud, don’t try to be like me. God knows the world has a hard time dealing with one of me. 

Find your path. Pete and I have provided excellent templates for the extremes. Finding what fulfills your life is what is important. You only live once; don’t waste it.

If you have been planning, saving and investing for retirement — and getting close — now is the time for a serious look at taking that step. Today (the day I’m publishing this) might not be the exact perfect day to pull the trigger. But the sweet spot is coming soon; probably within a year to year and a half at most.

There will be no bragging rights if you planned wisely and are now ready to make the transition. If the numbers still work when the markets finally move on from the current economic issues, you should be ready for a smooth entry into retirement.

There will be no excitement, but that is what you are trying to get away from in the first place with traditional work.

 

* As an insider I cannot share everything I know as it is confidential. Friends of Pete will know I have left out parts, as I should. The important parts for this story are all publicly available so I mention them. The links to the MMM blog provide greater details if you want to know more. In some cases there are multiple blog posts, but I don’t link to all of them. I leave it to you, kind reader, to take a deep casual dive into the MMM blog if you already haven’t.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

  • Following the 4% rule is not enough when accumulating wealth.
  • The recent market decline brought on by the pandemic requires around a third more index fund shares to be sold to maintain spending patterns if you are in retirement and are fully invested at all times.
  • How much money you should keep in cash depends on where you are in the wealth building cycle. How close you are to retirement, or if you are in retirement, determines the appropriate level of cash that should be held.
  • The 4% rule fails too often if not coupled with appropriate cash levels.

 

Rules of thumb are an easy way to quickly see where you stand financially. Once you reach 25X your spending in liquid net worth (the 4% rule presented as a multiple of spending) you are assumed to have enough to retire under the 4% rule, regardless your age.

However, as we are seeing with the current market turmoil, the simple rule of thumb has one fatal flaw. If you reached your 25X goal a few months ago and decided this was the time to step away from traditional labor, you now face a withdrawal rate from your index funds a third higher than expected. This will reduce the account value early in the distribution phase, lowering the total amount you can get from the investment over your lifetime.

Another rule of thumb is to keep 6 months of spending in cash in case you become unemployed. Under a normal job loss or economic decline this would be a reasonable policy to follow. Unemployment insurance can provide additional cushion to the 6-month cash reserve.

Black Swan events (unexpected negative economic events such as the housing crisis or pandemic) throw the whole rule of thumb out the window. Black Swan events do not happen often, but they do occur every decade or so. Looking back at U.S. history, it seems something always happens every decade to knock the markets lower and slow economic activity. The 2010s are the only decade to avoid that fate and 2020 seems to be making up for the oversight.

Black Swan events are impossible to plan for, but you can manage your investments with the understanding something unknown will shake the market’s confidence every so often.  You can prepare contingencies to deal with unexpected market breaks, or take your chances and hope you get lucky… this time.

 

Determining Your Proper Cash Level

One of the hottest topics of discussion in consulting sessions with clients involves how much liquid net worth be held in cash. Emails and even social media requests from followers press on how much cash is the right amount of cash to keep on hand as a percent of investable money.

The 4% rule doesn’t consider a cash position. It just assumes you take 4% every year from your portfolio to live. If the market declines, the 4% rule says you either need to cut back on spending or risk running out of money before death. Cutting spending enough isn’t always possible. And when markets are down many goods and services become cheaper so you should be stocking up at these times.  The 6-months cash rule also falls short in many cases. A down market can last for years and selling at a low to fund living expenses is a painful exercise.

Where you are on your journey to retirement determines the amount of cash you keep on hand. Many times readers of this blog, and those who follow me on social media, think I am timing the market when I carry a substantial cash position. But that isn’t true. I have no desire, nor skill, at timing the market and do not waste any time trying to do so. I do, however, increase my cash position when the sun is shining and decrease my cash position when it rains. This isn’t a timing issue. As I near retirement and have substantial financial resources, I have no desire to maximize my returns. I already made it. No room for heroes anymore.

You are probably at a different part of the wealth creation cycle. Maybe you are older and well into retirement, collecting a pension and Social Security. Or just starting out.

The advice I give clients is based on their specific facts and circumstances. I will give you the same advice here based on where you are on your journey to retirement, early or otherwise. I will finish with my advice to clients already in retirement. You can use these guidelines to prepare for your retirement. Knowing the appropriate way to invest at each stage of the wealth creation cycle is helpful; looking to the next step in advance can be very motivating, knowing you will have plenty of financial resources once you do retire.

Before we start I need to define some terminology. When I say cash I mean money market accounts, bank deposits and CDs. Everything else is invested, meaning broad-based index funds, most notably Vanguard’s S&P 500 Index Fund (VFINX or VOO for the ETF) or the Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTSAX). 

 

Starting Out: When you start out you have the fewest resources. Time is your best friend, however. The sooner you get money invested the sooner it can start growing. And time invested determines your level of wealth. Cash reduces the level of wealth years down the road, but keeps an unexpected expense from turning into a disaster that sends you back to square one. It is a delicate balancing act between investments and cash.

The problem with too low a level of cash is twofold. First, any minor emergency (flat tire, furnace repair, medical bill) and your financial plan is in crisis. Second, job loss or disability can destroy all the work done to-date.

Starting out is the riskiest place financially. By default you will be closer to the red line; income and savings are generally lowest when you are young and starting out. Six months of spending in cash is probably impossible. And if your employer matches contributions to your retirement account you need to find a way to contribute at least to the matching level.

If you are at day 1 you want to take a page from Dave Ramsey’s book (and workbook). His Baby Step #1 is to get $1,000 into a bank account for emergencies. It’s a good plan I agree with. If you have an employer retirement plan with matching, try to invest at least to the matching level as well. A good way to start is by adding $50 every paycheck or per month to your emergency fund until it reaches $1,000. When an unexpected bill shows up you have the funds to deal with the issue. Then start adding $50 or so each pay period to restore the emergency fund to at least $1,000.

The balancing act would be reasonable if all you had to worry about is building a reserve while you are earning starting wages. Add to that the expenses of starting out (furniture, transportation, home furnishings), a mortgage or rent and it can quickly become overwhelming. 

There is one advantage you have when starting out; you are young. With youth comes resilience. Starting a family, paying down a mortgage, building a retirement fund while working many hours to achieve these goals takes the vigor of youth. It can also wear you down.

Regardless your level of energy, financial problems can wear you out. That is why even a modest emergency fund, Dave Ramsey style, can be such a powerful tool to keep you on track. The real risk is job loss, medical issues and disability before you build your finances to a level where you can withstand larger financial assaults.

That leads us to the next level.

 

Building Wealth: You will spend more time at this level than the starting out phase. A $1,000 emergency fund really isn’t enough, especially as you grow older and medical bills have a greater chance of messing up your plans. Job loss is a strong possibility at least once in your working career. The 6-months of living expenses rule now comes into play. The truth is, 6 months still isn’t adequate. An extended economic decline can put you into a bad position where you are tempted to add more debt or tap into a retirement fund to pay for day-to-day expenses.

In the wealth building phase you want to secure your finances to withstand as much as possible. Many people don’t keep an official emergency fund once they build a modest net worth. (This accountant never had any funds earmarked for unexpected expenses.) However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a tidy stash of money tucked away to get you through an income drought.

These are the priorities in the wealth building phase:

  • Pay down and eliminate debt
  • Build a cash reserve for surprise expenses and to tide you through a reduction in income
  • Grow your retirement savings
  • Invest outside your retirement account (non-qualified accounts)

There is no fast way to accomplish these goals, but there is an easy way. Consistency wins the race. Paying a bit extra each mortgage payment will eliminate the mortgage years early; every paycheck should add to your retirement fund in good or bad stock markets automatically; merge your emergency fund into your other non-qualified investments and make investments automatic.

I use Vanguard. You can use Vanguard or any similar investment house. Retirement and non-qualified investments will grow as the years peal away. The tax advantages of retirement plans are the best deal in America for the middle class. Adding to your retirement funds with each paycheck is about the easiest and most painless way to dollar-cost-average there is.

Once you fill your retirement account it is time to build some non-retirement funds. Non-qualified investments can be an appropriate surrogate for an emergency fund. A modest $1,000 worked when you were starting out. As you build your wealth $1,000 is inadequate; you are no longer interested in borrowing money to buy a car or anything else for that matter. You need larger sums of liquid money to replace a car or repair a roof. Investing in a broad-based index fund is the perfect way to grow your non-qualified monies. 

This is where common sense comes in. As you grow your non-qualified account some money will be held in a money-market fund or bank deposit. When a planned, budgeted or surprise bill shows up you will have the resources to pay the expense immediately. To reach this financial position you need to add consistently, just like with your retirement account. You can make the investment automatic in your non-qualified account, the same as with your retirement account. Set up automatic investing with monthly contributions. Part of each payment should go into the index fund and some into the cash portion of the account. When the stock market is acting like the world is about to end again, put most of the new money into the index fund. If you are uncomfortable with the high level of the stock market, put most (not all) of the new money into the cash account. It isn’t a crime to have a lot of cash! Sleeping well is better.

If the economy sours you can always move cash into the index fund. Once you determine your income is not at risk and will remain steady or climb, you can lower the cash position. This is more art than science. There is no exact level of cash you must have. Rather, if you feel uncomfortable, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines. In fact, the more wealth you have the less likely you want to be 100% in equities all the time. Cash is always nice because it gives you the opportunity to invest when the right investment comes along. It is hard to buy a cheap income property if you can swing the purchase. And cash is always available for spending needs without worry about selling in a bear market.

My point is that you decide what is best for you. Almost everyone should have at least some portion of their portfolio in equities in the wealth building phase. The first goal should be to increase your liquid funds to around 6 months of expenses. This should provide an adequate cushion if things go south. Then get serious about growing investment accounts.

The greater your wealth the better able you are to weather a storm. As your non-qualified account grows, the 6 months of living expenses in cash are supplemented by dividends if the need become great enough. Dividends and capital gains should be reinvested into your index funds. However, rather than selling an investment when the market is down, consider diverting dividends and capital gains distributions into your cash account when the cash account begins to deplete. This will provide added cushion while you decide the best financial move if a recession hits the family income stream.

 

Nearing, Entering and in Retirement: The last phase of your financial life is when you approach, enter and are in retirement. The following advice works regardless the age you retire. Early retirement still requires a proper financial plan. My clients pay me a lot of money to tell them what you are about to read.

The 6-month rule is nowhere near acceptable once you enter retirement. Side hustle income, pension and Social Security keep cash flowing into the budget, but your maximum earning years are now part of history. And besides, even if you can go back to work, is that really the goal here? The goal now is to structure your finances to keep your financial life simple with as low a level of risk as possible.

There might be times when you still add to investments once you enter retirement. We will assume retirement is a consumption of wealth phase. This doesn’t mean your accounts lose value! Your level of consumption can, and ideally should, be lower than the rate of the investment growth. 

Outside cash, investments will fluctuate in value. Only the fluctuating investments provide a potential acceptable return. Cash provides a low, or even no, return and is earmarked for expenditures in the relatively near future. Selling index funds at or near market highs and consuming cash when index funds are not at a high is an easier strategy than you might think. 

Market timing is a sucker’s game. Dollar-cost-averaging when you were growing your wealth was not a market-timing call. The opposite behavior when consuming your wealth is also not market timing.

The stock market is always climbing with short down periods lasting from a few months, to a few years, to rarely a decade or longer. Selling at a market high does not mean the market will not be higher in the future. What I am saying is that selling at or near a current market high is easy to do. Look at the index level. Is it at or near a high? Then it is an appropriate time to sell if it meets the criteria discussed below.

Your cash position in retirement needs to be at least two years of spending! Preferably 3-4 years of spending. With 4 years of spending in your cash account you have plenty of money available to live without consideration for the economy or stock market levels. If the market declines, use the cash account to fund spending. If the market is at or near a high you can sell enough to cover your needs on a monthly or some other schedule. You can rebuild the cash position when the market returns to new highs if the cash account becomes depleted.

When the stock market has one of those wonderful moments where it predicts yet another zombie apocalypse, you have several options. Rather than reinvesting dividends and capital gains distributions, you can divert those to your cash account instead. This effectively stretches your cash account to cover more than 4 years of market decline. Only as a last resort would you be forced to sell below a market high and/or cut back on spending.

The stock market rarely goes down and stays down for more than 4 years. Anything is possible. With dividends mixed in, your cash position can extend to 6-7 years or more, depending on the amount of your investments in index funds. Virtually all situations become background noise then as you enjoy your retirement.

 

As you can see, a simple rule that works for everyone does not exist. When you are starting out it is unlikely you have the resources to have even 6 months of liquid cash available to cover a job loss or serious expense. The goal is to move from that risky early position to a more stable and secure level. Eventually you will reach that 6-months cushion. But then you need to keep pushing because your needs will change as you approach retirement. 

The more wealth you accumulate, the more comfortable you become with cash earning a meager return. Many people lose interest in remaining 100% invested all the time once they enter the 7-digit net worth arena. As the 7 figures keep climbing, cash looks better and better. Of course, virtually everyone should have some invested in an equity index fund at all ages. What I want to impress upon you is that in the early days of your wealth accumulation journey you will be nearly 100% invested all the time with a modest sum available for an emergency. As you approach and enter retirement it is not uncommon to have 20% of more of your investable funds in cash. Find your comfort level and enjoy the well-deserved retirement you worked so hard to attain.

 


 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

The debate has been played out many times on social media. What is the best personal finance book of all time? What is the oldest really good book on money, personal finance and wealth? 

Many titles get a nod. The same names crop up again and again and for good reason. But one book is always missing from the list; a book brimming with massive advice on money and wealth. It amazes me people in the personal finance community always miss it.

Of course, I’m talking about the Bible, and what better time to discuss personal finances and the Bible than Christmas?

Before you click away, reconsider. I know some of you are not people of faith. I get it. I know some of you are devout. I get that too.  For both groups, and everyone in between, you might want to take a seat and digest the following information. You might be surprised at what you have been missing. There is at least several dozen Ben Franklin’s worth of money advice in the Bible. And you have a front row seat this evening as we engage a brief review.

 

A Proper Reading

There is a reason many people have lost faith and why people of faith have missed so much good stuff in The Good Book. They have been reading the Bible wrong. 

There are three ways to read the Bible: as a historical record, devotionally and as Living Literature.

People of faith dig in for the devotional inspiration and faith building. People like me want to pick apart the historical record and get lost sometimes on the difficulties between secular discoveries and Biblical teachings.

While a devotional and/or historical reading is appropriate, the Bible is best read as Living Literature.

So what is Living Literature? Living Literature is a way of reading a book where you search for significance applicable today. Archetypal stories are a perfect example. The story of Cain and Able and the first murder resonates with people throughout time.  Contemporaries understood the meaning. So did folks in the Dark Ages all the way to modern times. The same can be said for virtually every story in the Bible. If you read carefully you will see how it still applies as much today as it did to people at the time it was written down.

Lutheran Study Bible I use regularly for wisdom and financial advice.

Money tops the list! Stories about wealth and money are everywhere in the Bible, but piled high in the gospels of the New Testament and Proverbs in the Old Testament. 

All the books on money and wealth we claim are best on social media surveys all find their roots in the Bible.  

The book of Job is about having massive wealth—like being the richest man on the planet wealth—and losing it, dealing with the emotions and eventually winning it all back again and more. Not only did Job lose his wealth, he lost his health and family. He was one hurting dude and through it all he kept his head up and his wits about him as his friends chastised him. Unless you never faced a money challenge in your life, Job might be a good book to read. I recommend a Bible with plenty of notes so you understand what was meant by their actions as it pertained to them back in their day. Might I suggest the Lutheran Study Bible. It’s my favorite study Bible to better understand what I’m reading. Consider it a good investment.

 

Money Wisdom

Time for money advice that has stood the test of time. 

I will start with Proverbs. (Know that all I share here is a small example. Proverbs is brimming with financial advice for living a better and wealthier life. I only scratch the surface in this post.)

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gather little by little will increase it. Prov. 13:11*

Get-rich-quick schemes have been around since the beginning and this might be the earliest warning against such foolishness. And what do you know, dollar-cost-averaging made the list! Slow, but steady is the only way to accumulate wealth that lasts.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave to the lender. Prov. 22:7

Looks like Dave Ramsey didn’t say it first. I rail against debt often enough on these pages and for good reason. (Boy, I caught heck for publishing the post linked.) Almost all money problems start with overspending and debt. Debtors will do things to keep the lender happy normal people would never consider doing and Solomon knew it all those thousands of years ago.

Financial independence is a worthy goal; poverty does not bring the best out of us; debt is an acid that destroys the vessel which hold it. The wording in this passage is brutal: we are slaves to the lender. Now you know why the root of mortgage is death pledge.

Know the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure generations? Prov. 27:23-24

This is why you need an annotated Bible. People without a farming background may not understand the significance of these words. “Know your flock” is like saying “Pay attention to your investments.” Wealth is fleeting. Many things destroy wealth and quickly. Wealth accumulates slowly through consistent effort, as we saw above.

The last part (does a crown endure generations?) is more about wealth than money; it’s about your legacy. Dynasties make the historical headlines and they all have one thing in common: they end. They usually end because later generation took their wealth for granted and therefore lost it.

Proverbs has a lot to say about leaving a legacy, as well. I’ll let you read Prov. 13:22 on your own.

 

One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor. Prov 17:18

and

Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you? Prov. 22:26-27

Both these verses tell a similar story: don’t co-sign a loan except in the rarest of instances and only if you have the means to cover the entire debt yourself! 

Co-signing a loan IS a personal debt! As long as that debt is outstanding you are liable. My study Bible has this note for the first verse above:  While God’s people should be generous, especially in matters of forgiveness and love, we are to exercise wisdom and prudence in temporal affairs.

Isn’t this what virtually every book on those social media lists say? When you really think of it, it is exactly what personal finance bloggers (including this one) say continuously. The message hasn’t changed in 5,000 years! This stuff works and always has!

 

Modern Financial Advice

Now we get to move a bit closer to modern times, relatively speaking. Time to talk about all the money advice Jesus gave.

This may surprise the bejesus (a carefully selected word for this instance) out of you, but over half of all Jesus’ parables were about money and/or wealth. That’s right. Jesus spoke more about getting rich than about prayer or faith. The message is clear: God wants you to be rich right here on His green earth!

Once again I encourage you to grab a Bible to read all the stories because we only have space for a tiny fraction of the good stuff. If your library does not have a copy, a local church is sure to be excited to help you out. 

 

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Matt. 13:44

Of course there are many layers of meaning to these words of Jesus. I’ll let you explore the additional, more spiritual meanings, on your own, as we focus on the earthly lesson involving wealth accumulation.

This parable, like so many, seems to encourage bad behavior. Did Jesus just tell people to use secret knowledge to our own benefit? In a way, yes!

Think of it this way. If you find a hidden treasure in a listed stock, would you buy it? Or would you tell the world first so they bought it up, leaving you with crumbs? 

If you discovered oil under a tract of land you might be tempted to sell everything you have to purchase said land. And there is nothing wrong with that! No more wrong than doing the same thing to gain everlasting life!

Notice Jesus did not tell you to steal the treasure. If you discover buried gold it is okay to buy the land to get the gold. Stealing is not allowed. 

The same applies to business. If I discover a new tax break the IRS did not recognize, I am free to exploit that to my benefit and that of my clients. If Elon Musk invents a new way to produce electric cars he is free to patent his invention to secure his discovery and make oodles of money off it. 

The Biblical terminology is different from today because the world when Christ walked the earth was different from today. Replacing farming terms (fields, animals) with technology and inventions brings clearer understanding. 

In other words, Jesus gave you solid advice to take steps to secure your wealth, including the accumulation of wealth. It is no different than the behavior you should have when you discover the blessing of Christ and his promise of heaven.

The best personal finance book ever written!

Now we turn to my favorite parable about money. It is a bit longer so I want to tell it in modern terms with comments interspersed. You can read Matthew 25:14-30 for the original.

This is a story about a business owner with three employees. The boss had to leave on an extended business trip so he decided to leave some of the company resources with his team. 

To the first employee he gave $50,000 to manage, the second he gave $20,000 and the third $10,000. He determined how much he would entrust with each employee by their level of experience and skillsets.

Now the employee given $50,000 started to invest the money. He put some in an index fund, but most was used to buy quality investments that were priced very reasonably, if you know what I mean. Through hard work, research and shrewd planning, the first employee knocked it out of the park and turned the $50,000 into $100,000.

Likewise, the second employee invested and traded, turning the $20,000 into $40,000.

The third employee took a different approach. He placed the $10,000 he was entrusted with into a napkin and buried it in the ground so he would not lose any of it.

Then the employer returned from his business trip.

He visited with the first employee. “Well, boss,” the employee began, “I took the money you left with me and put a bit into an index fund so we could at least track the broad market. The rest I used to buy assets that were worth more than the seller was asking. A few additional business investments, along with dividends, has turned the $50,000 you gave me into $100,000.”

The employer was delighted! He sang praises to the first employee, and said, “That is remarkable work, my friend. You have performed so well I want you as a permanent part of my business. I started a new division in my company while on the recent business trip. You are the perfect person to run that part of the business. The salary is quite large with plenty of benefits.” The employer patted the employee on the back with a huge smile. “Welcome to the team, son.”

Then the employer visited the second employee. “Well,” said the second employee, “thing were not easy. For a while I thought I might suffer a loss and somebody tried to hack our computer system and steal our assets. But, I kept at it, found good talent to help me get the problems solved and, can you believe it, I turned that $20,000 into $40,000!”

“Believe it!” said the employer. “I had no doubt in your abilities to rise above challenges. For your honest and faithful work I want you as a permanent member of this company. You will get the full package: stock options, pension, massive salary, the works, for this management position.”

Then the employer turned to the third employee. “Well, ah,” started the third employee. “I know you are a hard man, sir, working diligently for your money and would take no risk of losing money, so I buried your money in the ground for safekeeping.” He held out the dirt covered napkin with the $10,000 wrapped in it.

“You idiot!” screamed the employer. “If you know I am such a hard man you would know burying money in the ground is losing money due to lost opportunity cost.” The employer turned, yelling, “Security!”

When several members of security ran in the employer said, “Take the $10,000 from this man and give it to the first employee. Then throw this man out into the street to live with the vermin.

The parable ends with:

For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Matt. 25:29

I think this parable is a powerful statement on our world today as we deal with and complain about income inequality and fairness. I recommend you read and re-read this story again and again and how it neatly fits as much in our world today as that of 2,000 years ago.

Yes, I know I used small amounts of money to tell the story. That is the point! If you do not act diligently with even small amounts entrusted to you, how can you expect to be entrusted with much? 

If this story were not in the Bible and instead in the latest book from a guru in the FIRE community, all of us would be tripping over ourselves to sing the praises of such an enlightening and informative message. Those that have will be given more, and those who don’t even try will lose what little they have.

People want to gamble with their money (time the market) for a quick buck, but refuse to start and maintain an adequate retirement funding plan with accounts that offer tax incentives. Is it really that hard? Do you really want to be the third employee?

 

Final Words

Perhaps the most important financial advice in the Bible comes from 1 Timothy 6:10:

For the love of money is the root of all evil. (KJV)

Money is not bad; greed is. Working to have money is of vital importance and God places money and wealth front and center. I see so many people suffering financially because they believe “money” is the root of all evil, when that is the furthest thing from the truth. It is the “love” of money that is the problem. Avoid that and you are golden.

There is so much more financial advice than that just in the four gospels and Proverbs. Of course, if you are serious about wealth, you might want to read the entire Bible as Living Literature. The stories still resonate and for good reason. They are archetypal stories dripping with significance. Virtually every bestselling novel and movie can be traced back to some story in the Bible. You just didn’t know it.

Money and wealth are important. And yes, God wants you to be rich. Really rich! Not just in financial terms, but in physical, mental and spiritual terms as well. 

Be the first or second employee. Never succumb to the temptation of the third employee

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

 

And God bless us, every one. 

 

* All quotes are from the English Standard Version, except where noted.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

Camp Accountant is officially in the books and there was money to be made and taxes to be cut.

There were lots of smiling faces and new friends made. It goes to prove you do not have to be a tax professional to enjoy this stuff. (Anything that keeps money in your pocket automatically generates interest.)

Randy Lappla and Chris Dudley were our guest speakers; I talked (and talked and talked and talked) all afternoon. Let’s break down some of the day’s events.

 

Outlining the best retirement plan for you.

Turning Real Estate into a Cash Cow

 

Randy started us out with a powerful program involving real estate. 

There are many ways to build passive income. Real estate can be one of the best when handled properly. Randy showed us how you can supercharge deductions with income property. 

I’ve published on cost segregation studies in the past. Most people’s eyes gloss over when the topic arises, but that is a huge mistake. That is why I invited Randy to speak with the group.

There are several ways cost segregation tax rules can cut your tax bill. First, you can get outsized deductions up front. If you have owned the property a few years you can catch up past deductions in the current year. Second, with a cost segregation study you can deduct more when you improve your property. We even had an example of how a $100,000 new roof can lead to $150,000 in deductions. Legally, I might add! And third, cost segregation sometimes allows for some tax arbitrage. 

The tax code has changed a lot when it comes to real estate. The advantages are becoming so great you might want to consider adding real estate to your investment portfolio. Real estate was always a powerful wealth creation tool. Now you keep more of your gains than ever.

Randy Leppla’s contact information:

randy@rjl-equitysolutions.com

608-852-6772

 

Sharing ideas at TWA world headquarters.

Taking Your Side Hustle to the Next Level

 

After a short break and snack we had a short presentation by Chris and me. What I wanted people to know is when they need to transform their side hustle into a tax savings tool. 

I talked about when you want to switch from a sole proprietorship to an S corporation and the taxes saved. That requires you get paid a wage instead of just drawing any and all earnings.

Chris is a payroll specialist from ADP and provided details on how ADP can help facilitate the options I suggested. If you think this may benefit you, I can help iron out the process. I’ll help you determine what you want to be paid to maximize tax benefits.

Chris Dudley’s contact information:

Christopher.Dudley@adp.com

414-502-9884

 

Nature walk at Camp Accountant.

Fun Stuff

 

After the morning sessions I broke out in song for the group. Or maybe not. (Had you thinking for a moment, didn’t I?)

All work and no play is really bad for the soul so we filled the middle of the day with a pleasant nature walk to The Wealthy Accountant’s tax office. You could not have asked for a better day to walk the Northwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. For the record, it has snowed twice in less than a week since Camp. Yes, that would make it a record snow total for the month of October in these parts.

We got bogged down at the office as people asked questions about how I live in my natural habitat. A photo op ensued. 

I shared future plans for the blog and courses soon to be announced. 

We took a shortcut back to Camp for nourishment..

After a long walk and tummies full it was my turn to speak while others slept. (Not a single soul nodded off.)

 

Choosing the Best Retirement Plan for Maximum Tax Benefits and Wealth Accumulation

 

The keynote address was a play on a recently published blog post where I said investing in a traditional retirement account is like taking out a loan. I felt the topic needed deeper discussion.

I started with a word and number play from the book Thinking, Fast and Slow (Amazon affiliate link) to prove how we frequently make poor financial decisions. Once we saw how psychology affected our thinking we were able to see the same mistake/s played out in our retirement plans.

The reason we make financial mistakes is because it seems so simple while it is really complicated.

Where should we put our money first? It was decided the pecking order for investing is as follows:

  • HSA
  • Roth 401(k)
  • Roth IRA
  • Traditional 401(k)
  • Traditional IRA
  • Non-qualified accounts

We gave deferred compensation plans a short hearing, too. 

Then I showed why the ordering is wrong, especially on the last three entries. 

The math proved out, which is always good if you are an accountant. Just as we saw at the beginning of class, we sometimes think “fast” and make the wrong choice. My hope is the room left with a better understanding of when retirement accounts are the right and wrong choice.

 

Wearing an awesome Wealthy Accountant t-shirt in the hot seat (while standing) for Q&A.

Q&A

We ended the day with a Q& A session where attendees could ask anything they wanted about yours truly. 

Tax and money questions soon turned to more personal issues. Folks wanted to know what happen with the Mr. Money Mustache thing. (There really wasn’t much more to add.) People wanted to know why I have distanced myself from the FIRE community. (There wasn’t much more to add to what I have already published.)

I shared several projects I am working on. Then we wrapped it up and called it a day.

I was exhausted. Whew!

 

Housecleaning

 

Many people wanted to attend but could not. All the sessions (and some open mic moments after some sessions) were recorded and placed in a private Facebook group. Attendees get free access. I will be adding several short videos over the next week or so to the Facebook group, providing a short synopsis of each session. (The internet was slow at the venue so video quality is poor. The new videos loaded in the next week or so should remedy that.)

It was decided that anyone could view the sessions, but that would be unfair to those who paid to attend. Therefore, I am granting access to the private Facebook group for $20 for non-attendees. Use the link below. Proceeds go to charity. 




Wealthy Accountant t-shirts.

Finally, I bought extra t-shirts (intentionally). I will use t-shirts as a promotional item in the future with courses offered. Every attendee received a t-shirt. If you can’t wait you can also get an awesome Wealthy Accountant t-shirt for $15 while supplies last. Tax and shipping are included. My total cost for the t-shirts is $9.44. If shipping and sales tax does not bring the cost to $15, the remainder will also go to charity. (The three charities I love to support are: Special Olympics, Bethesda and Doctors Without Borders.)

 


Size

 

I hope all had a good time and learned a lot. This was special for me too. You are all the greatest.

Here is a photo of our alumni.

 

 

Camp Accountant 2019

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

Build goals that motivate you, allowing you to live your dreams. Dream big, but follow these steps to keep balance in life. #Life #work/lifebalance #success #goals #motivationWhen I was a child I wanted to be President of the United States and an astronaut. At the same time, if possible.

My uncle, Kev, wanted to be the first person to farm on the moon. 

Growing up poor in the backwoods of Wisconsin caused us to dream of a life like that on our old black and white console television. The world looked so much more exciting on the glass teat (a term from the days when the television screen was a protruding bulb) than in our settled rural lifestyle. 

Such are the dreams of youth when our imagination knew no limits.

Many children dream of growing up to be a doctor, policeman or fireman. The visible (and exciting) occupations all make the list.

Some keep the extraordinary dreams. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are modern examples of people who created a whole new world we all live in. 

A hundred years ago it was Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla creating the world people lived in. Amazing how a century can turn incredible technologies into mundane necessities of life we only acknowledge when the electricity goes out or the car refuses to start.

 

Big Dreams

Dreaming big is what made our modern world. It is hard to believe electric vehicles would be where they are currently without Elon Musk.

In the past few days Richard Branson is reported to be floating the idea of the first publicly traded space tourism company. 

A hundred years ago industrialists gave us the airplane, automobile and a host of household conveniences. In one century we went from horses and wood stoves to space travel and computers. Space launches are becoming so common few get excited anymore when a rocket lights up unless Elon Musk has something exciting for us.

But you, like me, probably don’t have dreams quite as big as Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin). And even if you did you probably don’t have the resources, or access to the resources, to have any chance of realizing the goal.

Branson, Musk and Bezos are in a unique position of possessing the resources to realize the space dream. 

For the rest of us with fewer resources, we find goals that large the equivalent to Don Quixote chasing windmills.

 

Appropriate Goals

Goals of space travel are good to have. The space cowboys in the private sector must have had these dreams long before they could reasonably undertake their projects. Their dream of space travel, and more to the point, people living in space and permanent colonies on the moon and Mars, evolved from dream to goal. And once a dream reaches goal status it takes on a life of its own.

Most of us understand large goals are a step-by-step process. In other words, smaller goals are needed to attain the significant. 

You might not get a star if you reach for one, but you sure will not come up with a fistful of dirt. Dream big! Create goals that motivate. Create goals that make your life better. Create goals you will use to better your life. #life #goals #stars #goalsettingStarting a business and planning for retirement are large goals. The business doesn’t have to be a S&P 500 company to be significant. A local company is just as important as the big guys. Communities are more vibrant if there are more local businesses. A one-company town lives only as long as the board of directors thousands of miles away don’t decide to downsize or outsource. Small business does provide stability.

Retirement planning is something we can all understand. If your ultimate goal is to build a $1 million nest egg you don’t start by investing $100,000 per week until it’s done 2 1/2 months later! No, you plan. Each paycheck half goes to the retirement account. This allows tax advantages over several years so you can save even more.

A decade of investing in low-cost index funds leads to serious sized retirement accounts. Each pay period is a goal. Increasing contributions annually is a goal. 

Big goals require consistent smaller goals. Early retirement is a process you start at an early age. If you decide to retire at 45 you better have taken steps before you turned 44. Unless you are already loaded or a trust baby, one year is not enough for that large a goal.

We see the same practices in massive firms attempting the near impossible. Elon Musk has a goal of putting humans on Mars. But first he needs a reliable rocket! Musk has pushed the envelope with interesting reusable rockets that land themselves. It is a sight to behold. Then he needs to figure out. . . 

Ultimate endgame goals often require more time than anticipated. Musk may not get humans to Mars as soon as he wants. (He has a hard time keeping to his delivery promises at Tesla.) He will get a lot closer if he focuses on the task (goal) at hand.

 

Shooting for the Stars

We used to call lofty goals “shooting for the stars”. Today we are actually shooting for the stars. For real!

The advantages to society will be even greater than those provided by the Apollo program. In the 1960s the government (NASA) ran the program for the U.S. The only competition was the Soviet Union. Today many private firms are vying for a piece of the space market. More enter every year.

One of these new space ventures will succeed. Probably more than one. More competition will keep coming assuring humans will call more than Earth home. 

If you share the space dream it can be disheartening. Most people reading this will not lead a company blazing a trail into space. Most will not even be lucky enough to work for such a company.

But there are lessons we can all learn from these modern pioneers. Life on earth has never been so grand. Steven Pinker has done the research. We live longer and better than at any time in history. There is even less war. Check the data. Fewer of us die of violence than ever in history! And by all accounts it looks to be getting even better!

Small goals can motivate for a short time. A goal to visit Spain next spring is a good goal. If you had to plan for 30 years for that one trip and everything else was sacrificed, you might not hold interest in said goal for long.

Large goals hold our imagination. Financial freedom and retirement occupies the majority of adult thinking. It never gets old dreaming of retirement, or planning accordingly once retired, so we can continue enjoying the life of luxury. 

 

Goals that Motivate

Like my uncle, Kev, you might have extreme goals like farming on the moon. These massive goals will change mankind forever (when achieved) and have the ability to motivate, especially if you can take steps (smaller goals) toward achieving the large goal today.

However, life is a series of smaller goals. We want to pay off the mortgage, building a plan (goal) to do so. Starting a business is a serious undertaking many want to explore. And retirement is always looming (time keeps counting). 

Yet, before we can pay off the mortgage we must save a down payment and buy the house! 

This illustrates today’s message. People waste time thinking about paying off the mortgage when they should be thinking about saving as large a down payment as possible. You need a mortgage (or will have one soon) before you can plan to pay it off. Or as we say on the farm: putting the cart before the horse.

Retirement is the same. Too many spend time thinking of all the awesome things they will do in retirement and forget to actually plan to have a retirement. (Saving and investing.)

As an accountant I have several examples of clients who died shortly after retiring. In the last year a business-owner client died three days after retiring. He wasn’t that much older than your dearly, not yet departed, friendly accountant. My staff has reminded me of this with my recent personal health scare (not yet resolved). 

Goals should help you live better. Yes, grand goals of jet-setting around the galaxy with Captain Kirk is fine as long as you don’t forget to live while still walking God’s green earth. 

Musk and all the others are working to make space quotidian. They are also making the world a better place now in our everyday life with electric cars and with new ways to buy and sell goods and services.

 

Goal is a Four-Letter Word

The word goal has taken on dreaded status. Over the decades I’ve attended several informational and motivational seminars. Whenever the topic of goals comes up, heads duck. It shouldn’t be that way.

I think people dread goals because they feel obligated once they are on paper. There is also some fear of stating your goals because they entail your deepest desires. 

Sometimes the best thing that can happen is for someone to throe sand into the gears. Learn how to properly set goals for business, financial independence and retirement. #retirement #goals #financial goalsThe thing is, goals should change. Not every goal deserves consideration. It would be nice to skydive. Sure it would. But after careful consideration other goals might interest you more. More family time might be the goal you wish to pursue instead and the rewards (in your mind) might be better than falling from 10,000 feet.

Goals can take on a life of their own, taking you where you don’t want to go. A wise person will notice the subtle course change and review their direction to ascertain they are heading where they want to go.

For a decade now I’ve worked hard on a course change for my tax practice. I dived head first into the DIY tax preparation opportunity. The first foray was a disaster costing me nearly $80,000 in loses. (Tax deductible, I should add.)

My second attempt was rebuffed and fundamentally changed the normal part of my practice. What was a quiet tax office turning a reasonable profit erupted into a madhouse ending with burnout and health issues. 

My goal took a different direction and I felt obligated to more people than I really was.  The goal turned into a four-letter word. And a goal should never be treated as such.

Goals are guidelines you set up so you stay focused. When the telescope is moved you need to reevaluate. 

Sometimes the best thing that can happen is for someone to throw sand in the gears. You can get comfortable (I got comfortable). Then things can go really wrong which causes bitterness and loss of direction.

Yeah, you might have fewer clients and less income, but you will have a more satisfying life; you might have to work one year longer before retirement , but you can slow to a reasonable pace instead of trying to beat the record earliest retirement among your friends. Always, quality over quantity.

When used properly, goals are the most powerful force on earth. They can take us to the moon and make electric cars mainstream. 

Goals should help you manage dreams and help you live a better life. Maybe all the way to the stars.

And sometimes a quality goal is to quietly read a good book (or blog). To slowly absorb the story.

Take the time to live, kind readers. We only get one go at this. May as well enjoy the journey.

Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together. (Red Green)

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

Today I want to think out loud within earshot of readers. The benefit to readers is they get a better understanding of how I think about business, investments and life/work balance. It also allows me to crowdsource my thoughts  where readers can provide advice I can use to make a better decision. And, of course, readers have skin in the game as will soon become apparent.

Before we begin we need to know how we got where we are before we can move forward. 

 

How We Got Here

This blog is very important to me and I want to continue growing and improving the venue. I also own a tax practice since 1982 part-time and from 1989 full-time. There is a lot of history and memories.

When this blog started a piece of my childhood was still with me. Growing up on a farm in the boondocks of Wisconsin is like no other childhood. While running my practice I enjoyed raising beef and chickens. . . until a few years ago. 

Saving your business when illness strikes. Build and grow your business in the toughest of times. Guarantee your business lives on long after you do. #business #illness My first writing started in high school, but it took until the early 1980s for anyone to bother publishing what I wrote. Publication was rare, yet enough to encourage me to keep honing my craft.

Before The Wealthy Accountant (TWA) I wrote in a variety on genres. The last gig was flash fiction. The contract required 4 flash fiction stories per day, seven days a week. It sounds like a lot, but flash fiction is a few hundred words at best so it wasn’t a heavy load. And no research was ever required.

Once this blog started it was time to phase out the flash fiction work.

TWA was more demanding than any prior writing. Much more response from readers kept the workload heavy. Things that I loved doing had to go to keep up. With heavy heart I bid my boys (the steers) goodbye. The price was heavy for this country boy.

Still, I wanted a successful writing career along with my tax practice. Writing in my preferred field was a huge bonus. Unfortunately, the demands are more than most of my kind readers understand. Reaching a decision to stop farming illustrates the seriousness of my commitment.

While TWA enjoys a modest readership, a massive percentage of those readers need more than a short post. They have unmet tax and financial needs. So I accepted more clients; too many, in fact. To help those I couldn’t take on as clients I consulted with. And still I was only serving a tiny fraction of those crying out for help.

Tax season no longer ends on April 15th for me. Extensions stretch well into summer with clients not always understanding the toll this was taking. In between I consulted and wrote more blog posts. The goal was always to elevate my work higher and higher so readers enjoyed the greatest value.

And then life stepped in.

 

Boy, Interrupted

As the weight started taking its toll I adjusted as best I could. First the other blogs were cancelled. Then my farm was sacrificed. The weight of my choices extracted a serious penalty.

I have always been healthy. I did have a heart operation in junior high, but outside that I’m like a machine. I enjoy life and take the largest bite I can chew. If life is worth living it is worth living to the max.

It was easy to brush off the first warning signs. Yes, I was working long hours, but I enjoyed the work so why not.

To compensate for fatigue I started devising ways to increase my productivity. Two years ago I started building daily goals, especially when I worked weekends and holidays, to complete a certain amount of work. 

Surviving tragedy in business. Survive flood, fire and natural disasters. Keep your business alive when things are darkest. #business #tragedy #disaster #flood #fire #health #medicalVisualizing my goal allowed me to increase my production a fair amount. But every action has a opposite, yet equal, reaction.

Last summer I never snapped back from the prior tax season. The growing workload even from current client’s expanding (blog clients do that a lot) real estate holdings, investments and businesses gave me no time to rest. 

Spin down had begun and there was nothing left to give up. 

When the last returns were filed last year I tried to take time to relax. It didn’t matter. My system couldn’t recover. And then another tax season arrived.

My entire office reached burnout trying to keep my pace and eventually left. I picked up the slack because I gave my word to my clients. I couldn’t let them down.

Even without accepting new clients (and a few clients leaving) the workload increased. Clients from the blog always had significant issues. I never anticipated that accepting a 4-hour tax return client might end up taking 40 or more hours, as sometimes happens. 

The new tax law (TCJA) added to the tax season workload. It was my goal to speak with every client so they knew how the changes affected them. I was exhausted, but motivated and excited to serve clients.

Then the inevitable happened. Around the middle of February a nasty cough returned and refused to relent. Within a few weeks I could barely speak. Working with clients expended more energy than ever due to my health.

By the end of tax season the well was dry. My voice completely collapsed. Employees were concerned I might die I looked so bad. Nothing seemed to help. There were no options left to force more out of this country boy.

I blamed it on the long and cold winter followed by a cold spring. When the weather improved so did my health. . . temporarily.

Many tax extensions are still on my desk and it seemed every return I touched I couldn’t finish it. It was mentally draining. Something always came up. Information was missing and/or extra work required. Without any reserves I struggled to have any productivity.

The 4th of July holiday was a chance to catch up some without interruption. It was the final straw. An all-nighter is not what my body would allow anymore. 

The cough which never really went away reinforced and worse than ever. My voice collapsed again and this time it really hurt (as if it didn’t the first time around). 

The extra hours were for naught. Monday I left the office at noon barely able to drive home. The level of burn out I was experiencing caused a high fever. Tuesday I left early and again today. 

After tax season I went to the doctor to see if there was anything for the cough. There was nothing physically wrong with me. 

I was pushing past burn out toward a nervous breakdown; the doctor made that clear and warned me I needed to slow down. I was working at an unsustainable level and had been doing so for so long there was a real risk of permanent damage. 

With a desk still piled with extension I am back in the pit. 

No matter what it takes I will finish the work I promised. But one thing is certain; I will never survive another tax season business as usual. Changes must be made or it will all crumble to dust.

And this is where you come in, kind readers.

 

New World Order

I know my body will not allow another year or tax season the way I’ve been doing things. At the same time this blog is something special, helping countless people.

Once again something has to go. The blog is more important because it helps more people than working one-on-one in the tax practice.

Transitioning your business. Take your business to the next level. You worked hard growing your business. Make sure it lives on after you leave. #business #transitioning #growth #sale #sellingBut I can’t let go of my baby. I have run my practice for so long it is like a body part. This is what I am. Letting go is as impossible as cutting off my right arm with a dull butter knife. It just can’t be done.

And if I push one more time I may not live long enough to see the long days of next summer. 

My options have narrowed. The current breakdown after the 4th of July weekend scared even me. My throat swelled so much from the cough I had a hard time breathing. I might be slow, but I eventually get the message.

This is an existential threat to the tax practice and employees would like for me to change while I still can.

The office started throwing around ideas to deal with my health. Everything was on the table. And I mean everything.

You, kind readers, need to help us with this. Consider it crowdsourcing TWA’s tax practice. You actually get to help decide the future of the practice and this blog.

My practice is unique in many ways due to this blog. Over half the clients have multiple state returns. Almost all returns are complex requiring research. This isn’t the easy way to run a firm, for sure.

Now I will run down the ideas we had in the office with the pros and cons. Please add new ideas we haven’t thought of in the comments and give your opinion on the ideas we did have.

Remember, everything is on the table.

 

Complete Sale

My first reaction was to just throw in the towel and quit. With over 30 years in the field and my 55th birthday only a few weeks history, it might be time to finally do what the FIRE community always recommends: retire. 

It is not something I want to do. To walk away completely is alien to me. Once I recover from the stress I know where I will want to return and it will be gone. So much has been sacrificed already. Not this, too.

Pros: The biggest benefit is it would be over. I could return to health reasonable fast if the damage isn’t permanent. 

Cons: Do you kill the patient to kill the disease? What about my clients? Employees? Community? These people count on me. People don’t hire a tax pro 3,000 miles away because there is an equal choice two blocks away. My work is not done! Walking away would be such a waste after all the progress made.

 

Partial Sale

I checked around my community and found it will be hard to sell my practice. My clients require special accountants and if they were available locally I would have hired them by now. I also placed an ad on Indeed with a starting wage for a tax preparer of $26 – $32 per hour, plus benefits. So far not a single candidate. (A few accountants working A/P or A/R applied, but they didn’t read the listing requiring letters after their name and at least 5 years tax experience. My clients are not for the faint of heart.)

There is the possibility another firm may want to buy or merge with mine. However, most tax offices are working long hours already and don’t need an influx of extraordinarily difficult tax returns.

That leaves the option of a partial sale where I either sell part of the practice, keeping maybe 125 clients for myself, or just letting all but 125 clients go if a partial sale isn’t possible.

Pros: This half measure brings the headcount low enough where I still can enjoy plenty of tax work, still write this blog and have a life. (Oh, and remain healthy.) I would also keep two write-up (bookkeeping and payroll) clients, too. Consulting and the blog added to these 125 returns and two write-up clients would give me a very good income. I am seriously considering this option.

Cons: The biggest drawback is the office will be a very lonely place. Most clients live far away so very few will walk through the door. Every day I’d work alone in silence. Summer will be eerie, indeed. I will miss the tax office I once had and might end up with more solitude than I’m able to bear.

And how do I let go of so many clients? It would break my heart.

 

Hire Remote Employees

This is an appealing idea to me. It works like this:

I would hire people from various Facebook accounting and tax groups I belong to. I’ve noticed many tax professionals willing to work remotely in these private groups. Most have experience and I can vet them by just watching how they ask and answer questions within the group. 

There will still be work finding qualified employees, of course, but the gene pool will be much larger and I’m casting were the fish are swimming. 

The best part is I can hire more tax professionals than I ever could locally. Some semi-retired, very experienced, tax pro might want to take on maybe 25 returns a year. Another might want to handle 80; another maybe 50. No one employee will do so many that if one gets sick or quits the house of cards collapses.

Pros: Hiring tax professionals from around the country allows me to send tax returns local to the remote employee. Office space in not an issue. Many can be hired so there are plenty of skilled tax people on the team. This is my favorite idea to date and will be pursued regardless just to understand how it will work. It is also the best solution allowing all my clients to stay and get better service going forward and even add new clients.

My office is set up for remote employees already. I work from home often and it’s just like sitting at my desk. New remote employees will work the same with full security, like having their own desk in my office.

Cons: Herding employees around the country (they must all live within the US) could be like herding cats. Only time will tell. Secure remote setup costs money. Adding 10 or 15 new remote users could get expensive. Not prohibitive, however.

Another risk is taking on too many client because I think I have people to handle the work. Future growth must be controlled to avoid a repeat of what I’m going through now.

 

Selling Chairs

One of my accountants came up with this idea. It would work similar to beauty salons where the owner leases out a workstation to people owning their own hair care business.

I have never seen this done in a tax office before. There will be some technical hurdles. Each room would need new doors with security locks as each tax professional is their own business. They could piggyback my EFIN with some updates and modification on my part with the IRS. 

The front desk could be a shared expense. I could keep my 125 clients as listed above under Partial Sale and shift remaining clients to employees now running their own practice. Clients will have the exact same environment they are used to with the same support structure. No client would be let go under this plan!

One current accountant and a CPA employed by me years ago might be interested if the terms can be worked out. (I will make the terms work out for them.) 

Pros: I like this idea as it cleans my desk and allows me the freedom to explore other business ideas while serving all my clients in a respectful manner. My income goes down, but it’s like selling my business and renting my office without selling my business. Each tax pro can work with others in the building, helping each other (at their regular rate) wherever needed.

I don’t want to do bookkeeping or payroll so I can keep some clients that require such services by hiring another tax business in my building to handle that facet. 

My current employees will earn more and own their own business so they should be happier.

Cons: The building will need some remodeling and updating. The parking lot is too small and will need to be expanded. Upgrade costs will top $50,000 easily. I have the benefit of the partial sale as listed above with a steady stream of rent income. However, income will be less than managing it all myself.

The same issues exist as with remote employees. The entire office can rent usage of my server and the software. Printers can be shared. Real effort will be needed to structure this properly and there may be regulatory issues.

 

TWA World Headquarters

The choices listed above are what I have. If you have a better idea I’m all ears. 

If I sell 100% of my practice I will keep the office building and use it as TWA World Headquarters. Classes, training and other activities will be offered to the community. 

If I decide on a partial sale the building will still be re-purposed as TWA world headquarters. 

There are advantages to focusing on the blog. Financially, focus should allow the blog to equal and exceed what the blog and practice combined produce now within a year or two. 

If the tax practice fills the whole building I may decide to restructure the businesses. The tax practice would not have a sign out front anymore as TWA takes a more public image. Local clients will understand the name change. 

The future is this blog. Still, I always want to spend time in the trenches so I continue growing experience in tax application as well as theory.

I will share with you, kind readers, as this evolves.

 

Camp Accountant

As you may have guessed, Camp Accountant is on hold until my health improves. Sorry.

 

Decision Time

Realistically I need to make a decision on my practice before the extension deadline (October 15th). I will explore each idea to see what might work as some ideas might not be what I expect. 

The unique nature of my firm makes it hard to sell or merge. Someone willing to manage my firm would allow me to expand (another option). Unfortunately, I can’t do it all. 

What my experience shows is that there is a massive need for good tax professionals around the country.

I don’t want it to end here. Before I do something I regret for the remainder of my life, I need to make good decisions for the future. 

In our brave new world we can crowdsource ideas like never before. I don’t have to solve every problem. One of you readers might actually have the solution to my problem.

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas in the comments. The future of this entire dreams depends on you.

 

Update: A lot of you are commenting. I am reading all the comments, but lack the energy to thank and answer each comment separately. Thank you, everyone. You have no idea how much you motivate me. You are the best.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

Traditional retirement plan contributions come with a loan attached to it with a variable rate of interest, to be determined at a later date by the tax code and your income level. #interestrate #interest #loan #IRS #taxesEver since the FIRE (financial independence/early retirement) movement hit the scene I started to question conventional financial wisdom. 

Most of the advice preached was re-purposed from generations past. A penny saved is a penny earned turned into a variety of frugal anecdotes. You can’t read Proverbs (from the Bible) and not recognize the many similarities in advice. Sound money principles have ancient roots.

For a time the FIRE community welcomed me as one of their own before I stepped back a bit to cut my own path. (No sense in another voice calling out the same message.) I’m still part of the community, but gave myself permission to question the dictums of said community. The hope was to build a bridge from where we are to a higher level.

It also became clear my net worth was near the top of the demographic. This bothered me and caused me to conclude something was wrong.  How could a backwoods farm boy with nothing more than a high school education, a few college courses and a full personal library do better than virtually all within a community so dedicated to wealth?

I don’t trust luck to carry me that far. It had to be something else.

Then I started reading what was published in the tax field and felt a great disturbance in the force. While the advice was fundamentally sound, it also lacked in effectiveness if brought to task. All too often blogs were using IRS publications as their authority. (The IRS is NOT a tax authority; they are a bill collector.) If people followed this advice and the IRS ever challenged (likely with so many people tempting fate) there was a real risk of loss. (If you go to Tax Court and say you used an IRS publication as your substantial authority you lose automatically even of you a right! IRS publications have zero authority in Tax Court.)

Sometimes the math was fuzzy. A blogger might claim a certain level of frugality when it didn’t add up. Some claimed a level of wealth that also didn’t add up. Either the rules of mathematics were suspended or someone was trying to pull the wool over their reader’s eyes.

The biggest area of concern involved retirement accounts. The mantra of filling retirement accounts to the hilt for long periods of time has some obvious issues

Some retirement account problems are less apparent. Everyone keeps saying this is the best thing since sliced bread. But is it? 

So I started running some numbers and it wasn’t as clear as most are led to believe. There was something fundamentally wrong with the advice.

 

Numbers Game

The issue is with traditional retirement accounts (IRA, 401(k), 457, 403(b), Keogh, profit-sharing and cash balance plans); Roth type retirement plans don’t have this issue.

Don't lose your retirement account to hidden taxes. Current tax savings are dwarfed by future taxes on all the gains at the highest rate allowed by law. It's your money! Don't give it to the IRS. #retirement #account #hidden #taxesRoth style retirement plans don’t get an up-front deduction, but grow tax-free. Most financial blogs consider this the best animal in the yard. I agree.

A close cousin — if you qualify for it — is the health savings account where you get a deduction and tax-free growth, to be used for qualified medical expenses. The biggest drawback of the HSA is the amount you can invest annually is relatively small. 

Roth retirement plans are limited in many cases based on income on if the employer has the option in their 401(k) . The maximum Roth IRA contribution is also relatively small. (Exact limits are excluded from this post so changes in the limit don’t distract from the evergreen content.)

The mega-backdoor Roth (a favorite of the FIRE community) allows for sizable Roth contributions with one caveat: it’s probably illegal (according to the IRS). The IRS hasn’t attacked the mega-backdoor Roth because there is no current revenue to be raised by taking such action; Roth investments are not deductible.

However, once these accounts grow in size the IRS could come back and disallow the tax-free advantage, plus interest and penalties. If the IRS has a kind heart (ahem) they could forgo the excess contribution issues which would certainly mean penalties several hundred percent of the entire investment. You decide what course you wish to take. 

The safest retirement plan route means traditional retirement plan investments after you maximized your Roth contributions. Or is it?

 

Loan Document

Traditional retirement plan contributions come with a loan attached to it with a variable rate of interest, to be determined at a later date by the tax code and your income level.

All you debt-free warriors should feel a bit nervous at this point. Just as a mortgage-free home still has loan-like obligations (property taxes, insurance, maintenance), a traditional retirement account has an unannounced interest-like expense and it is a big one.

And this is what disturbed me so much that I had to publish a post on it. 

We all know that traditional retirement accounts get a tax deduction at your ordinary tax rate up to the retirement plan contribution limits. We should also know that these accounts grow tax-deferred and that all distributions are taxed at ordinary rates.

This is a real problem if your goal is to maximize your net worth. In the early years the tax benefit makes it seem like it is the best deal on the planet. But as time passes the math tells a darker tale.

Let’s start with a simple example to get a fundamental understanding of this matter:

Joe contributes $10,000 to his t401(k). This is subtracted from his income on the W-2 and never reaches his tax return. His tax bracket is 30%.

We will disregard actual tax brackets as they change over time and we are more interested in a workable formula for determining the best course currently and for future readers as well.

The good news is Joe saved $3,000 on his taxes this year. However, in 40 years, when Joe retires, he discovers his investment in a broad-based index fund performed as index funds have over long periods in the past: around 7% per year on average. Joe is a very happy man! He now has $149,744.58. 

If Joe were to take the entire amount in one year it would be a fairly large tax. However, Joe decides to take the money out over a number of years. As a result his ordinary tax rate is only 15%. (We will disregard taxes on Social Security benefits and other similar issues to make calculations easier.)

Joe now has a tax bill of $22,462. (Numbers are rounded.) That is $19,462 more in additional tax! Call the 19 grand a tax or anything else you want, but it looks like interest on the $3,000 to this accountant.

Even though Joe saw his tax rate decline by half in retirement he still saw his tax bill increase over 700%. His interest rate would be slightly less than 5.2% annualized in this situation assuming Joe never saw his account value increase after he started taking distributions, an unlikely event.

 

Early Payments

If I approached you and said I would borrow you $20,000 at 5.2% would you take it? Unless you have bad credit that is a high interest rate, especially since it in not deductible. Worse, you can’t make early payments to get out of the deal! You can’t jump ship until you are at least 59 1/2 years old. And if you are stubborn I’ll kick you overboard at 70 1/2. 

The good news is I’m a nice guy and will not do that to you. On the other hand, Congress has passed laws the IRS carries out doing just that.

And we haven’t seen the worst part yet! Retirement plan distribution included in income can cause more of your Social Security benefits to be taxed and can also increase the premium you pay for Medicare once you reach age 65.

A small tax deduction today can do real damage in the future. This is why I say I want multiple tax benefits before I get excited about a tax deduction

All this assumes your tax bracket drops when you retire. Considering the massive government fiscal deficits during a strong economy, it seems to this accountant taxes will go up in the future. And if your income remains high in retirement your tax bracket will also be higher.

Consider this: If Joe had a 30% ordinary tax rate on his retirement plan distributions his taxes would have climbed to $44,923, a full 7% annualized rate. For people with good credit this is a massive interest rate and almost nobody is thinking about this.

 

The Cold Equations

Joe’s example is unfair. First, Joe will put a lot more into his retirement plan over his lifetime, therefore, the damage will be much larger.

Second, retirement plan distributions happen over a number of years. While this might sound like a solution to the problem, it actually makes it worse as the investments continue to grow over time.

Third, smaller account balances experience the same issue only with smaller numbers and that tax rates might be lower due to the lower income level.

Fourth, early retirement does not solve the problem. Yes, you can take a limited amount of money from a traditional retirement account before age 59 1/2 without penalty under Section 72(t). This only reduces the amount of time the money has to grow; it doesn’t resolve the issue.

No matter how you cut it, traditional retirement accounts are best viewed as loans from the government, due in retirement. If you don’t pay the piper, your beneficiaries will.

 

 

Alternatives

Your experience will differ from that of others. You can use the simple example above to determine your implied interest rate assessed as tax in the future. You may discover this isn’t an issue for you. Or, you might need a moment for reflective prayer.

We saw that greed for a current tax deduction produces a 5%+ interest rate loan from the government, payable in retirement. So, what alternatives are there?

The best comparison is doing nothing at all (investing in a non-qualified account). You still invest in the same index fund. Dividends and capital gains are taxed at the lower long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax rate (15% or less for most taxpayers) instead of ordinary rates later (up to 37% federal, plus state income taxes). 

Since the money is outside a traditional retirement account you don’t have to worry about early distributions or required minimum distributions. And if you die your beneficiaries get a step-up in basis the retirement accounts don’t get. Gains on these investments are also taxed at the lower LTCG rate. 

 

Matching

I can hear the complaint already: What if my employer matches?

A valid argument. We’ll go back to Joe again and assume his employer matched his contribution 100%.

Joe invested $10,000 of his own money and his employer matched his retirement plan contribution with another $10,000. 

Joe still gets a deduction worth $3,000 for his contribution. The employer’s match is free money and not taxed until Joe takes the money out.

In total, Joe has $20,000 invested in his retirement account. His account grows to $299,489 in 40 years. The tax on this at a 15% tax rate is: $44,923. 

The initial tax benefit to Joe is $3,000, plus $10,000 from his employer, for a total of $13,000. The implied interest rate in this situation is around 3.15%.

The lesson of this part of the story is that using your employer’s retirement plan up to the match maximum is still a good idea for most. After hitting the matching maximum you might be better served putting the rest into a non-qualified account, however.

 

Smart readers will also be quick to point out the extra tax savings means you have more to invest which mitigates any of the extra taxes owed in the future. This would be true if people actually did that.

When was the last time you invested your tax savings from a traditional retirement account investment? Where did you invest it? Uh-huh. Thought so. You spend the tax savings as most do.

(If you are one of the few who actually pull the tax savings from the family budget and invest it in a non-qualified account my hat comes off to you. You still need to run the numbers to verify the best course of action.)

 

Facts and Circumstances

You can’t read tax law for more than a few minutes before running across the words “facts and circumstances”. And this situation is no different.

The IRS has hidden interest-like charges on retirement accounts. Here is how to avoid them. #avoidtaxes #taxes #retirement #IRS #interestI gave you the tools to build a working plan based on your facts and circumstances. Use a future value calculator to determine the interest rate the tax code is forcing you to pay if you use traditional retirement accounts. 

Employer matching is a real benefit that is diminished by the tax code after very long periods of time. (I would focus on the employer match closely as real value can be found there.)

After the employer match and available Roth retirement plan contributions allowed are exhausted you might find non-qualified accounts the best course of action, for you

The important thing is that you are reading this. That means you are more likely to run your numbers for the best options, for you

There are a lot of factors at play. Index funds still kick out dividends and some capital gains which are currently taxed. This slightly reduced the implied interest rate of the traditional retirement plan if you are prone to investing tax savings. It also assumes you keep your fingers off the pile until retirement. 

The one thing to remember is that deferred taxes frequently come with an implied interest rate paid as a higher future tax.

This is the kind of stuff I think about in the dark of the night. It might also be the prime reason I top the net worth list at Rockstar Finance.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

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

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

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

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

Bulls make money. Bears make money. Pigs get slaughtered! —Old Wall Street Adage

 

Back in the early days of my career the investment industry and the tax/accounting industry tried to merge. To be fair it was the investment industry’s idea. Tax offices were the perfect partner to sell securities (usually mutual funds with a respectable dose of insurance thrown in for good luck). Virtually every small accounting firm took the plunge.

Accounting offices are prime for solicitation. Tax professionals have a powerful relationship with their clients. Accountants also know a lot about their clients due to the data collected to file an accurate tax return.

Before someone got the idea to enlist the tax profession, it was common for insurance and securities salespeople to wine and dine the accountants in the area to build a relationship where the accountant fed ripe clients for plucking. (Did I say that?) Then H.D. Vest Financial Services changed the face of the accounting, tax and investment industry in one fell swoop. The world hasn’t been the same since.

As many firms did, I joined the herd of lemmings to the cliff. It wasn’t a bad choice. I learned a lot from my tenure in the field. I also discovered things I found revolting.

H.D. Vest Financial Services contacted me and I was a willing accomplice. The money was very nice, but I also had a massive interest in securities. If the opportunity in securities would have presented itself before taxes I’d probably be writing The Wealth Broker. (Sounds more like an oxymoron to me.)

H.D. Vest required we attend two major seminars around the country each year. (They had me with the traveling schedule.) Every December we met in Dallas (not far from the FinCon hotel last fall). The other event floated around the country.

A Story from the Brickyard

The keynote speakers at H.D. Vest events were influential members of the community. The one speaker who stuck out the most for me was Nick Murray.

Murray cut his teeth in an earlier age when hawking mutual funds took some effort. By the 1990s selling mutual funds in a roaring bull market was easier than taking candy from a baby. Murray’s advice and stories always stuck with me.

The age-old question was front and center: Where is the stock market headed? Clients are always nervous about investing. They’re afraid the market will tank the moment they buy. Murray had the perfect retort. He said he had no idea which direction the next 20% move in the market would be. He didn’t know the direction of the next 50% move, or 75% move or even 90% move. It could go either way. Up or down. But he guaranteed his clients the next 100% move in the stock market is up, not down. He ended by saying if he was wrong there wouldn’t be anyone around to sue him or complain.

A Story from the History Bin

Murray was on to something. Using the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) as a yardstick we can check how well Murray’s advice stood the test of time.

Charles Dow published his first index, a precursor to the DJIA, on February 16, 1885. The current industrial average was first published on May 26, 1896. We will use the May 26, 1896 start date for our history lesson as before that the average was more a transportation index and in fact is the basis of the current Dow Transportation Average. The DJIA started with fewer stocks, but by the late 1920s had the familiar 30.

One thing we are familiar with is the sound of the business news broadcasts saying, “Today the Dow Jones made a new high . . .” It happens a lot. There are certainly lulls between new highs periodically, but the upward pace almost seems to be persistent.

With so many “new highs” in the DJIA (and broader indexes) have you ever wondered when the last time was when a new low was made? Well, I have the answer if you’re interested. On August 8, 1896 the DJIA hit its all-time low of 28.48. We haven’t heard a new low in the Dow for over 100 years! The last time a “new low” was made was in the late 19th Century. 19th Century!

The chart in this post illustrates the relentless climb higher of equities. Notice the pimple about an inch from the left side of the chart. That’s the 1929 Crash and Great Depression. The scab about an inch to the left of the year 2000 is the 1987 market crash where we shaved 22.61% off the market in a day! It was a good day to buy stock in Fruit of the Loom. Now I know why Warren Buffet had to buy the company with guys wearing fruit costumes.

The most telling trait of the chart is the parabolic look the closer to the right you get. But if you pick any time in the past it usually has a similar look! In the 1980s it looked straight up. Same in the 1960s. Same in the 1990s. You get the drift. As the market ratchets higher the older areas of the chart look smaller and smaller until even major fluctuations (from the viewpoint of people living through the event) are pimples on the chart if they can be discerned at all.

Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say. Once again we are enjoying market highs. The market has been up a very long time. We’re due for a correction, prognosticators say. Then we get a mild correction, but we still fear every shadow. We’re due for a bear market!

To top it off, your favorite accountant mentioned what he thought was an interesting fact. He moved to his highest cash position in his adult life at 52%. Half his, ah, my money went to cash in late January. How lucky can a guy get!

I got lucky because I wasn’t timing the market. Another significant business prospect (a non-public company) came my way. I don’t like borrowing money so I liquidated some serious positions. If all the money isn’t needed some will find its way back into the market. Regardless, my retirement money is still going into Vanguard index funds 100% as it peels off my paycheck. I also automatically deposit money into my non-qualified (non-retirement account for non tax people) Vanguard index funds every month on the 7th. It’s the law!

Now, with my idiotic profession of good luck earlier this year, we must focus on the only way to invest in the market. Like Nick Murray, I have no idea which direction the next 20% move will be. Same goes for the next 50% move, 75% move or even 90% move. But I guarantee you, as did Murray, the next 100% move will be up! The stock market has been doubling again and again from the beginning.

Is it any wonder the DJIA made an all-time low a bit over two years after the average began reporting without ever digging lower? Even the Great Depression couldn’t break to new lows! Yet again and again we hear news of a new high. Maybe this time is different, but I wouldn’t count on it. Business and the economy keep growing with minor hiccups along the way. Bear markets are scary from the inside because somebody is in the corner crying, upsetting all the nice people milling about.

Bear markets are temporary; bull markets are forever.

Final Argument

There is one final argument to stay invested in broad-based stock index funds no matter where the market is at. It involves the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

For 13 days (always a lucky number to make you feel comfy when playing with nuclear weapons) the United States and the Soviet Union came within a whisker of a full scale nuclear confrontation over imminent deployment of nuclear weapons in Cuba.  President Kennedy went on television to inform the American people (and warn the Soviets watching) the U.S. had target 50 Soviet cities with nuclear weapons. It was assumed the Soviet Union had targeted an equal or greater number of U.S. cities.

The DJIA only lost a mere 1.2% during the nuclear crisis. That didn’t mean panic wasn’t under the hood. There is the story of a young stock broker who started screaming to sell when an older, more seasoned, broker in the office told the young broker to calm down. The young broker yelled the world could end at any moment and he had to sell. The old broker put a hand on the young broker’s shoulder and said, “Buy. If the nukes don’t fly the market will rally.” (The DJIA added over 10% by the end of 1962.) “If the nukes do fly the trades will never clear.”

The same is just as true today. Could President Trump really cause the end of the world? Maybe. But if the world doesn’t end you’re going to look mighty foolish.

Human history is marked by perpetual growth for many thousands of years. The growth trend has been marred by periodic declines, even extended ones. In the end it was always a losing bet to bet against humanity. Progress has been unrelenting for a very long time.

It always looks like a top. Always! But then we go higher. And if I’m wrong the trade will never clear. (Or at least nobody will be around to tell me how wrong I am.)

And for the record, bulls make money. Bears and pigs both get slaughtered.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. —Winston Churchill