Patriotic wind catcher.


Yeah, we just had July 4th here in the states, so did you. The only difference if you live in a country outside the U.S. is we celebrated our Independence Day. Lots of fireworks were involved.

It’s not a one night affair either. Some cites shoot off fireworks a few days early over the weekend, some do it the night before, many do it on the 4th.

Neighbors have the same philosophy. For a week the crack of thunder (well, it sounds like thunder when I’m trying to sleep) can be heard until the wee hours of the morning. As long as nobody gets hurt I’m okay with it.

I don’t participate in the festivities. Laziness is the problem. Many years ago I had a year or so of insanity and bought some fireworks. Some ointment cleared that insanity right up.

Before you call me a prude, play with me. Fireworks take a lot of work! First you run around finding a place where they sell the stuff, then you crack your wallet wide (bend forward slightly—this is going to hurt) and finally you have to plan the event to shoot them off. Like I said, a lot of work and I’m too lazy for all that. It’s much easier to watch what the neighbors shoot off while I sit around my fire pit watching stars between displays.

It Started a Long Time Ago

My frugal nature has been around a while. When I met Mrs. Accountant we made a pact: no gift giving. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and bat mitzvahs (I have daughters) were out. We celebrated all these events, but gift giving wasn’t a part of the process. No struggling to find a gift someone will want; no faux gratitude for another concrete chicken we need to find a place to display in the house.

So we don’t seem like prudes to the community we found a way to feed our laziness. Whenever we need something around the house or take a trip we call that our Christmas/anniversary/birthday gift. The last several years have been easier as this blog requires more travel (and everyone knows how much I love to travel) so we pick a conference I attend and call it the appropriate seasonal gift.

The kids jumped on board early, too. They didn’t care what kids at school did. The Christmas tree (more on that later) was bare Christmas morning. There were never tears. When the kids need something, say a bike, we get them the item and tell them that is their Christmas gift. They get to use their gift when it is more practical. Riding a bike in late December in NE Wisconsin is not happening.

The rest of the family took more work. When my brother bought me a concrete chicken (I have chickens on my farm) for Christmas and followed it up the next year with a plastic chicken it was time for the talk. He took it well. My brother and I don’t give each other gifts anymore. A simple “Happy Birthday!” or “Merry Christmas” suffices. For Christmas we visit and enjoy our company. No breaking up the conversation with ripping gifts open.

My parents are a tougher nut to crack. I don’t get them gifts except for Christmas and the gifts get smaller by the year. The girls, Mrs. Accountant and I still make a haul. How do you tell someone not to do it? If they enjoy gift giving then gift give. I guess it is a way of sharing a sliver of their legacy while they are alive so I am good with it.

The patriotic wind catcher (see picture) is a birthday gift from my mother. I proudly displayed it on my front lawn. My mother knows my attitude for gift giving and dealing with junk around the house. She gave it to me with a reminder it probably will only last the summer so I can throw it out when the snow flies. {Sigh} After all these years my mother still doesn’t understand how much I loathe buying stuff just to throw it away.

Christmas is always the litmus test. There “was” a family tradition of dad picking my brother and me up and heading to the Christmas tree lot the day after Thanksgiving. A decade ago I stepped off the tradition, electing to use a massive fern we call Fronds as our Christmas tree. There are two ferns actually. The tallest one is Fronds, the shorter one his wife. Our Christmas tree is technically up all year round. For the holidays we decorate the guy (and gal) with pretty bows, candy canes and some blue lights donated to us.

For us Christmas is free.

Don’t Call Me Scrooge

At first blush you might call me Scrooge. That is 100% wrong! (Okay, maybe a little bit, but this is my story so I’m telling it my way.)

My kids are not deprived of anything. We still celebrate, only we celebrate what the holiday is really about.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts do not transfer, but we have a heck of a cookout with plenty of brats, hamburgers and hotdogs. We have great laughs as a family together.

“Merry Christmas!” Concrete chicken?

Christmas Eve the family gathers at my parent’s home for an awesome dinner followed by the Christmas program at church. It is a special night and feels special, too. We talk and laugh; the best gift anyone can receive.

It’s also about the money! Fireworks can easily cost hundreds of dollars. Considering how many some neighbors set off a $500 bill would not cover it. (Yes, I know there are no $500 bills distributed by the Treasury anymore.) Over a decade my savings are at least $5,000, plus all the profits the $5,000 would earn over the decade. Over a lifetime the unspent money with normal index fund gains could buy a small home in some parts of the country.

Christmas gifts are worse! They add up fast. Once the gift giving was traded for quality family time I had only Fronds left to complete the perfect Christmas. Christmas trees run ~$40 in my neck of the woods: some cheaper, a few more expensive.

Then there is the time of putting the darn thing up and taking it down. Vacuuming the needles from the carpet is something the missus doesn’t miss. The cost of additional decorations requires a cash investment too.

Fronds is simple and free. Fronds and his girlfriend (wife?) enjoy dressing up for the season. The limbs on Fronds are weak so only a few bows and lights close to the trunk are allowed. No injuries for the holidays in my home.

Fronds is about 12 feet tall now. Mrs. Accountant received Fronds when he was a two inch twig as a gift from the apartment association back when I had rental properties. Christmas is free in my home, as is the gift from the Son of God, if you are of the faith.

Lazy Bones

So, I am lazy. You’ll get used to it. I’d rather read a book or write than shop for stuff. Even with Amazon I don’t shop unless a loaded gun is pressed tight against my left temple, books excluded, of course. (You can shop Amazon using the link. I have to eat you know.)

4th of July fire pit.

Some people will challenge my laziness claim. I’m always doing something. Call it selective laziness. My interests are catholic (little c). Life has been rewarding for me. There is no time for wasteful things like gifting obligations (giving and receiving).

I’m not a Grinch either. I donate time and money to charities in a larger portion than most. This isn’t bragging. If I say I’m lazy to save money only, it might seem I am shallow. I might be in the shallow end of the pool, but I’m not in the kiddie pool.

Selective laziness is an advantage! When it comes to stupid stuff, be lazy. When it comes to learning, be energetic. Don’t waste your energy on unimportant stuff.

Selective laziness will help you reach your financial goals sooner. Focus on the important.

My net worth is certainly higher due to my laziness. It doesn’t change my lifestyle one iota. Life is good without all the complication.

I have Mrs. Accountant and two wonderful girls. That is gift enough for me.

Dick Proenneke

There are two kinds of stories people like to read in the personal finance community: personal finance reports and “What am I doing” stories. Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache released his spending report for 2016 this past week and Jim at jlcollinsnh provided us with a report on life in the comfortable Wisconsin south woods.

Spending reports/progress reports toward financial independence interest me, too, even though my financial situation has been solid for a few decades. Spending reports motivate me, giving me ideas to cut consumption without sacrificing quality of life. Progress reports are always interesting. The writers of such reports usually express an emotion with where they are at on the scale of financial independence. From my viewpoint it seems so obvious they are in much better financial shape than they imagine. It is intoxicating watching these good people make their way to the Promised Land.

It’s been a while since I offered my own spending report. Sorry. Spending is so boring to me. God willing, I will get my 2016 report out before the end of 2017.

Kevin has started the redesign of this blog (I’ll pay him a soon as my new bonus credit card arrives).

Collins shared his life these past few weeks on his blog. I enjoyed his story and I was there part of the time! Such are the simple pleasures of life.

Your favorite accountant has a few interesting tidbits in his life you might find of value, too. Whereas, a lot of people in this community talk about their sedentary or retired life or world travels, I am busy acting like a mini Elon Musk. Call it a sickness.

Brain Storm and the Plaque on the Wall

I was invited to attend an online training class Saturday. A vendor paid my way. A large part of the course was tax related (there is so much to learn about cost segregation) with markets and finance rounding out the day. And I could do it all from my couch.

It was my whole day. The online class was 8 hours. Continuing education credits were offered for CPAs and attorneys, of which I am neither. As an enrolled agent I received no credit for participating in the course. So why did I spend a whole day of my life listening to deep tax issues?

First off, it never felt like a waste of time to me. It was a productive use of a day! I expanded my understanding of cost segregation and the Research & Development Credit, an area I am interested in helping clients with.

Learning is never a waste of time. I have a cute piece of paper on the wall that says I am Smarticus when it comes to taxes. You can wipe your ass with it. It’s just a piece of paper. The only time that piece of paper means anything is when I represent you before the IRS. That’s it! No more.

What clients are interested in is if I can help them. They do not care if I have a fancy piece of paper hanging on the wall. They want to know if I can help. Most people don’t even know what an EA is. (BTW, a CPA is an accounting professional who may or may not focus on tax issues; an attorney is a legal professional who may or may not focus on tax issues; an enrolled agent is a tax professional who may or may not engage in light accounting or bookkeeping issues.)

Learning is the most powerful thing any human being can engage in. Much learning is gained from reading; more from experience. Conferences are places where people can apprentice for a day or three with people with massive experience they are willing to share.

Personal Gain

Not all gain is geared toward helping others. Learning helps me in all cases. Sometimes I can share that knowledge in my practice or with readers here; sometimes it is for personal consumption only.

Tuesday I am at it again, except this time it is all for me, me, me. I like me! Google has a one-hour online seminar focusing on improving results and traffic on this blog. No credits offered. The focus is on Google Analytics. In an hour or so Google will help me understand my traffic better so I can get more. Since traffic is a major stroke to my ego it is worth an hour of my life. It also educates me; worth much more than an hour of life.

Well, when somebody wants to help me grow and succeed I am all ears. I’ll find time to attend. It’s that important.

All this learning is neither selfish nor altruistic. Learning is about improving self, but also about sharing skills and experiences. Clients need my experience and skills to serve them. (And yes, serving can be fun. It’s not servitude or slavery. I serve of my own free will. There is a difference.)

After spending Saturday and part of Tuesday in formalized education, I hop on a plane Wednesday for Seattle, where I will share stories at Camp Mustache IV. My newfound knowledge, decades of experience, and finely honed skills will come into play as I serve the attendees of the Camp. It all goes round.

A Valuable Life

Why do so many people who reach financial independence early have a burning desire to write a blog on the subject? The answer is simple. Learning something is worthless until it is shared.

People like to give Mr. Money Mustache BS from time to time. The argument is he is not retired if he does a construction job on the side or writes a blog. The whiny pants don’t get it. Pete writes his blog to share his story and his experiences so others can join him. There is no value in creating a world where you are then locked in solitary confinement because you refuse to share information and experience so others of like mind can join you. None!

Most bloggers make peanuts. If you are doing it for the money I have a surprise for you. Don’t get me wrong, some make large amounts of money. Most do not earn enough to cover their costs, none the less compensation for their time. I wouldn’t be here if it was only money. I expect to do well (don’t we all), but money is not the motivator. Sharing is.

GoCurryCracker has one of the best—if not the best—personal finance/early retirement/financial independence blogs on the net. Here he shares his tax return for 2016. He’s not doing it for the money! And he is at the top of the pile. Sure, MMM earns more, but plenty earn less.

You can trust me when I say this. (Nothing good happens when somebody tells you those words.) I am one of the few tax guys in the genre writing like a Wildman. As a result I get to see (and prepare) a lot of tax returns for said bloggers. I know what they make! And it ain’t pretty. If you don’t love writing, blogging is not a place to earn some easy money.

Life is only worth something when you share it. Dick Proenneke lived alone in the wilderness of Alaska for 30 years. Yet his life only had value when he shared his story by recording his life for Public Television. Millions of people have heard Proenneke’s story and gained powerful insights on how to live life better all because he shared his story. This accountant’s life has been improved immeasurably by his story and life.

What a Waste

Learning can improve your life; teaching improves your life more. The teacher always gets more than the student. You owe it to your family, friends, community, the species, and yourself to learn every day. You are also required by an unwritten code to share this knowledge far and wide. It does not create competition; it creates a vibrant community.

Read widely every day. It is as important and eating, sleeping and breathing. Share. I write a lot on this blog. You are not required to go to such extremes.

You must share to increase your own learning! Never be selfish with your knowledge and experiences. Life is wasted by never engaging; you can also waste your life by learning everything and sharing none of it.

Smart people take every opportunity to learn. True leaders learn at every opportunity. If you want financial independence, if you want early retirement (any retirement at any age for that matter) you must focus your life around learning. And sharing.

Wednesday I get on a plane and head to Seattle and return the favor by teaching some of the most intelligent people walking the Earth. No credit; only lots of learning and fun. Sharing my story with friends new and old. I am Smarticus.