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Posts Tagged ‘stoic’

Are You Mentally Ready for Retirement?

Retirement is more than just not working, money and investments. A real retirement, retirement at any age, should have a foundation of love, happiness and joy. #earlyretirement #stoic #happiness #love #relationshipsThe early retirement community is alive and well in one of the greatest economic booms of our age. The government is working hard to create more jobs while the people want meaningful work and more time with family, friends and for pursuing other personal interests. Except for the most hardened, retirement is a goal that will be reached eventually whether you are ready or not.

The early retirement community has a lot to teach to those racing toward the finish line. There are serious risks involved, however. Without serious planning and thought, retirement can be hell on earth. Sitting around all day without meaning or purpose saps all joy and pleasure. Retirement is meant as a tool to explore wonderful new worlds filled with beauty and awe. Dream travel and the business you always wanted to start are now possible. You’ll have time to write that book; start that podcast; climb that mountain. Or, it could be anxiety, loneliness and fear.

There is an advantage to working in the accounting profession for three and a half decades. I learned a lot and noticed even more. Without fail, paying off the mortgage takes off 5 years (you look younger). I’ve witnessed it countless times. Retirement adds the 5 years back and more all too often.

It breaks my heart when a client works a lifetime and can finally retire. He is all smiles in my office the first year as he talks about no longer going to work. (I choose those words carefully because they make a difference as you will soon see.) When the focus is on “not working” problems soon follow. A year later when the client shows up to have his tax return prepared he is noticeably older. Seriously older, like 5 or 10 year’s worth of age in a single year.

Preparing Mentally for Retirement

Retirement is more than saving and investing. You hear a lot about those two things, including around this blog. So much time and effort is expended on frugality, saving every possible penny and investing in broad-based index funds. Laser focused attention drowns out all other matters. And therein lays the problem.

Preparing for retirement is a lot more than just money. With all the extra time on your hands, what will you do? If you love fishing and plan on doing more of it when you retire; good for you. But fishing (golfing or any other activity is the same) becomes the new “job”. Worse, you end up doing the thing you once enjoyed until it no longer brings pleasure. And you keep on doing it out of habit and no other options to fill your day.

Another downside of retirement is time with family. Yes, you read that right. When you are at work you have time away from family and friends. This makes time together sweeter. But once you have no obligations you will spend more time with family and that can lead to problems.

Retirement isn’t a bad thing! It might start to seem that way, but I’m a big fan of free time. Virtually all my adult life was in business and the profession I choose allowed me serious time at home with family with the exception of the two and a half months of tax season.

A Story about Pete

Friday night is cards night in the backwoods of Wisconsin. A certain accountant and his daughter trek a whole mile to visit with family and neighbors. The reason: a mean game of Sheepshead is in the works. Except for my daughter, we are all a bunch of old guys. The usual game starts at 7 and ends shortly after 9. (Old guys need their sleep.)

A neighbor, Pete, plays every week. He retired early and found a variety of things to occupy his new reserve of time. When he first retired he had plans for loads of projects around the house. He wanted to plant several hundred trees on his property. So, when work came to an end he set to planting all those trees. It took a lot less time than planned since he didn’t have to do it in the evening or on the weekend. He got out there and before you knew it the trees were done.

Planning is required to live the retirement of your dreams. #retirementplanning #earlyretirement #FIRE #friends #dreamsOther projects around the house and yard fell fast. In a few months my buddy Pete was done with his to-do list. And life is like that. If you think you have all these projects to keep you busy when you retire, think again. Unless you have a farm or serious acres, those projects will drop like dominoes.

Pete loves retirement. It suits him well. He had a rental property when he retired and kept it. Repairs and maintenance sop up some time.

Pete gets involved in community activities, helping friends, family and neighbors. It gives him something to do. He milked cows for a local farmer for quite a while. He hitches a ride with my dad (my dad always talks about retirement, but like his son, isn’t very good at actually retiring) just to keep him company when he has a long load to deliver.

Pete keeps busy and had a plan. But it didn’t work, or rather, he had to modify it quickly. The trees were planted and even odd jobs were not enough to fill the day. Of course more time was available to drive around the countryside and check out the neighborhood. It still gets old after a while.

Pete found a litany of things to fill his life with social interaction. Friday night cards is one of those things. His rental property is another. Tagging along with my dad or helping me get a tractor tire to Ditter’s for repair (we might be doing the tire run as you are reading this) is part of his normal routine now.

Pete’s original plan short-circuited fast, but he sat down and figured it out. Retirement has been good for Pete. I can’t say the same thing for many of my clients.

Negative Visualization

The ancient Stoics had a method for dealing with issues that disturbed the mind. They called it negative visualization. It works like this. Sit back and close your eyes. Think about the thing you fear and play it all the way through with the worst possible consequences. Illness might have you visualize permanent impairment or death. Money problems might have you visualizing the loss of a job, bankruptcy or foreclosure. Whatever the issue, you have to face it head on in all its fury.

According to the Stoics (and a certain accountant), negative visualization allows you to face down your fear and then realize it’s not real. And, if it becomes real you realize it really isn’t as bad as you thought. The Stoics would fast so they could experience extreme poverty. Once they realized it is a minor inconvenience they realized they had nothing to fear.

Retirement is different than a serious illness. But we can learn something from the Stoics and negative visualization.

See It to Believe It

Visualization also allows you to strategize your future. Sitting quietly with your eyes closed planning out your day is a powerful way to organize your thoughts and focus on what is most important. The thoughts don’t have to be negative. The negative part of visualization is used to destroy fear. For most people retirement isn’t something they fear; they actually look forward to it with excitement. Until reality sets in, that is.

Like my buddy, Pete, you can have a plan. You also need a contingency when things don’t work as planned. (Things rarely work as planned.) Golf gets old fast when you do it all day long every day, week after week. Even travel becomes a drag. Sure you can see exciting places, do exciting things. But the edge of excitement loses its edge after a while. I see plenty of early retirees. This blog gives me even more opportunities to see people up close and personal who really pull the trigger early. It becomes apparent quickly they are running from one thing to the next due to an underlying anxiety.

Action Plan

Achieving your dream of retirement doesn’t have to end in tears and depression. Retirement doesn’t have to create feelings of, “Is this all there is?” Planning ahead is more than just saving and investing. Accumulating money is the easy part. By the way, it’s not money or retirement that you want. You want something else. Only you can answer what you really want. Visualization will help you discover your true desire. It will take time. Do it before you retire and after. Your desires will change. The happiness and joy you experience depends on your commitment to planning and visualization.

Here are useful tools to prepare for retirement at any age:

The most meaningful life involves friends and giving. Turn your retirement into a gift. #earlyretirement #retirement #meaningful living #giving #caring #love Meaningful Activity: Pete planted trees and helps neighbors. There is a secret hidden in there somewhere. What Pete discovered was meaningful activities.

Golf and fishing are fun activities, but not meaningful. I love my life because I know I’m desperately needed every day by Mrs. Accountant, my daughters, clients, employees and the community. When I fall over dead people will know I’m gone because they were counting on me. Clients and kind reader alike will feel an empty spot. It’s the mark of a well lived life. My work is meaningful because it makes a difference in the life of someone other than me.

TV and other mindless entertainment does not provide fulfillment. You need a reason to get out of bed each morning. I never used an alarm clock in my life! I jump out of bed early ready to take on the day. I have an exciting life filled with exciting people and exciting stuff to do. Meaningful work fills my time and I have more of it to do than time is available. Busy is a good thing and a mark of a life well lived.

If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning after you retire you probably lack meaningful activities driving you to get at it. Use visualization again. Play through all the scenarios of things you enjoy doing and people you find a pleasure to create with. A part-time job might fit the bill or charity work. I can’t tell you what you must do. You need to figure that out and the only way to do it is close your eyes and think it through.

Mix it Up: The reason work became a grind is because you did it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It got old because you did it too much.

My love of reading is legendary. But I would make a poor editor. If I was forced to read stuff (especially stuff I wasn’t interested in) every day, all day, without break, I would soon start to loath reading and want a break from it. That’s what probably happened at your occupation. The boss needed you 50 hours a week and after a decade you said {bleep} it! I don’t blame you. As the boss of my own business I like to take a break from the numbers periodically. I also pay close attention to employees to assure they are mentally healthy. I want happy, productive employees, even when stress is high. They should feel good about coming to work.

Once again we will rely upon Pete’s example. Pete planted trees and milked cows and serves as an elector when needed. He has a (as in one) rental property. Enough to provide a mild diversion without turning into drudgery. He slums with my dad from time to time and offered to help me with my tractor tire this week. He’s always doing something, something different. It keeps life exciting and that is a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Build More Meaningful Relationships: Relationships define life and provide virtually all its joy. People make life worth living. Work provided a steady contact with people. With all the extra time of retirement you might be one of those people who cocoon. This is unhealthy. I would be one of “those” people and it’s the reason I don’t do traditional retirement. When I take extended days off I tend to get less done and mope around. I’m better at formalized work. Working for someone else I don’t care for—I want to be the boss. But I like control over my time which means I fill it with stuff that interests me so I’m always up to here with stuff to do. I like stuff, I guess, as long as it doesn’t take up space.

More time with a significant other is a double edged sword. Too many people work a lifetime to achieve their retirement goal only to find themselves so unhappy with the person they love they break up or end up in divorce court. Watching this unfold is the most depressing part of my job.

You family isn’t enough! Keep repeating that last sentence until it sinks in. Family is the ultimate of importance. But if you are connected at the hip or under foot all the time it will get old fast. Work provided people to communicate with. You need to re-build your network. I can’t tell you where to go. Only you know what trips your trigger. Maybe the church is for you. Others might like a card game or helping out a charity periodically.

Find people you like to talk with (not talk to or listen to). You have plenty of time so you will need more than a few acquaintances. Some relationships need to be deep and meaningful. Some relationships will be convenient acquaintances. Both are necessary.

Start building meaningful relationships before you retire. The transition is more painful if you don’t.

Give: What is the meaning of life? Plenty of answers have been given throughout the ages, but there is only one honest answer: to give. All the advice above is predicated on giving. Meaningful relationships allow you to give to people you care about. Mixing it up allows you to help as many people as possible. Meaningful activity usually involves giving.

Giving a piece of yourself each day make you stronger and more alive. When you provide value to others you will find a burning desire to jump out of bed each morning to greet the day. Every day is awesome when you make a difference for someone who can’t pay you back. Giving is what makes communities livable.

 

Finally, enjoy your retirement, regardless the age yours started. Retirement isn’t the end of work; it’s the beginning of meaningful activity. Retirement is nirvana or hell on earth. And only you can choose which one it is.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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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.

A cost segregation study can save $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 Best Speech Ever Given

Jordan Peterson is one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

When you think of the most powerful, motivating speeches ever given, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address comes to mind. In less than three hundred words* Lincoln encompassed the issues facing the nation. As great as the speech was, it was backward looking (Four score and seven years ago) with hope to the future. Lincoln was able to clearly articulate his message in a few minutes. He struggled up to the moment of addressing the crowd as Gettysburg. It was the planning and preparation that lent to the quality of the message.

Closer to home we might consider the commencement address Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. At fifteen minutes, Jobs communicated a narrower message with significant reinforcement of his theme. Once again, serious planning took place prior to the presentation. Jobs was legendary in his drive toward excellence. He could speak before a crowd extemporaneously, but preferred formal presentations he could and did practice again and again until everything was choreographed to perfection. Errors were ironed out. He practiced so much that when he was live he could continue without missing a beat if technology failed while he was on stage. A Steve Jobs presentation was a show to behold.

Speeches that resonate come in many flavors. YouTube is filled with powerful speeches from movies and sports coaches. Speeches that cause a shiver to run down your spine include elements of life itself. “You can do it” is motivational, but when the words and emotions dig deeper we quickly realize the importance of what we are hearing.

Today I want to share a short speech (10 minutes from a longer interview) by Jordan Peterson. I’ve been reading and listening to his work for a while now. His recent rise to fame makes his plea more vital than ever.

A Typical Day at Harvard

The excerpt comes from a longer interview Peterson gave to a group at Harvard University. The video begins with Peterson asked what advice he would give students that want to make a difference in the world after they graduate. Peterson never missed a beat when he said, “Read great books!”

You can watch the video on your own and should several times to digest the entire message. What you should get on the first pass is that while Peterson was giving an interview, his responses are not completely extemporaneous. Over a long career he has developed a remarkable philosophy on how to live a good life. Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s been a while, but I’ve talked about Stoicism plenty enough in the past in this blog.

The overtones in this interview are dripping with stoic thought. Around halfway through the excerpt the interviewer even asks Peterson how to live a good life. What makes the responses so powerful is how Peterson opened the floodgate and released an articulate and passionate plea for listeners to accept how incredibly awesome our lives are today in the Western world.

A Game of Cards

Friday night is sheepshead (a card game with some (okay, few) similarities to bridge) night in the Accountant neighborhood. Since we are all a bunch of old duffers living in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin, the game starts at 7 and ends shortly after 9. (Did I mention us country folk prefer to hit the hay shortly after sundown?)

A few weeks ago one of our players, Pete, asked — as he always does — how our week was. I decided to return the favor and ask Pete how his week was. The rest of the night was shot. I don’t think we got more than three or four hands in before closing time.

My faith in the future is firmly intact. A recent sunset at the Accountant farmstead was a reminder and renewal of my faith in life, the future, the world around us and the beauty of life.

My polite interest in Pete’s prior week was all it took to open the gate and let it all out. Pete couldn’t stop talking about how awesome and great life was. Backwoods people live a frugal life due to environment. We can’t order pizza delivery. (There is no pizza delivery in our neck of the woods.) The closest shopping opportunity is 30 miles away and none of us miss the chance to be separated from our cash. (The card game is frequently brutal on the family budget. We play for dimes and a bad night could set a guy back a full dollar, dollar and a half. Like I said: brutal.)

Pete didn’t miss any of the highlights of our incredible modern world. We have internet (high speed!) here in the backwoods. Food is cheap and varied. The cost of living is cheaper than ever. We live longer and have medical technology to not only keep us alive, but to live better. A bum knee is a simple replacement today; in the past it was a permanent diminution to quality of life.

Debt is the only real problem messing up all the fun in our ultra-modern world, according to Pete and company. When things get tough (as if that is even possible today) you can reduce spending in all areas. You can cook more at home or turn down the heat/turn off the AC. You can walk or bike instead or burning gasoline. All budget items are easily reduced, expect debt payments. Those stay stubbornly locked in place regardless of events chipping away at family finances.

Pete retired fifteen or so years ago when he was about my age. He cut back even earlier, enjoying three day (or four) weekends. Now Pete is looking down the barrel of Social Security. Any day now he can pull the trigger and enjoy the influx of even more income. In Pete’s own words, he can’t spend what he already has! He has lived off an amount less than his Social Security check promises to be for years.

What Everyone Must Learn in College, But Rarely Does

Back to Jordan Peterson.

Peterson made it clear what college and a college education is all about. Most people think college is about learning a skill you can use to get a job. It’s not! College is where you must learn to think; a place where you must learn to articulate. That’s why he places such emphasis on reading good books.

Books have been a massive part of my life from an early age. I took a super early mini retirement in my young 20s to sit at home and read all day. There is no doubt the three or four years I bowed out of life to immerse myself in quality literature determined the success in all areas of my life.

My thirty year marriage has been the highlight of my life and still going strong. I learned from people who spent a lifetime together how to have that very thing. I read about raising good children, running a business, investing, personal finance, budgeting and taxes. I also took time to read novels with a powerful message.

So, if you go to college to learn how to articulate, think and speak, what are you to do with this superpower? “Stop unnecessary suffering,” according to Peterson.

Personal Mission

Money is only a tool. This is a personal finance blog firmly in the categories of tax, financial independence, early retirement and wealth building. But none of that is the underlying theme. I need to learn to articulate better, as Peterson suggests, to communicate this message. You don’t want money; you want to be useful!

The wisdom Peterson shares in a ten minute interview segment is a lifetime worth of knowledge. He shares another secret society is struggling with currently. He talks about how the 1% are not greedy bastards. He explains why you are not richer than you are. It’s because you are young! If you are a good steward of your money it will grow. Given time it will grow rather large. Your favorite accountant is a prime example. I’m currently on the top of the net worth list over at Rockstar Finance. I’m also a bit old to be telling people I’m considering early retirement. Give it another decade and I’ll be looking over the edge of late retirement (grow up, man!).  The truth is I had more time than folks in their 20s to accumulate my wealth. And as Peterson said, I’m not a greedy miser hoarding my money. I’m looking for new opportunities to reduce suffering in the world so to speak.

Life is so good today! When people whine and complain over how oppressed they are, I, like Peterson, am so disappointed. We can make a difference, but it will never happen complaining about everyone else!

The Accountant girls enjoying Frogg’s ice cream in Sherwood, Wisconsin.

My card-playing buddy, Pete, shares some traits with your favorite accountant. He doesn’t like to travel and has managed to live a life with far less traveling than yours truly has done. His wife likes to travel and does so with her friends. Pete happily drives his old truck (he recently bought a new one since the old one gave up the ghost) around the neighborhood playing with his solo rental property. He milked cows for a farmer just south of my farm for many years to pass time. If he gets bored and something pops up (it always does) he will do that for a while. Oh, and he stops at Frogg’s Ice Cream a lot in the summer.

If you get the chance to cure cancer, then do it! The suffering your will reduce in the world will be incredible! Most of us will make a smaller mark in the world. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to make a small difference. Just make a difference!  Daily incremental improvement compounds into massive results.

Pete provides shelter for a family and helps neighbors in need of fill-in help. He reduces suffering in his small way while living the life of his dreams. Maybe you prefer travel and grander endeavors. Awesome! We each need to play the role our personality allows.

I’m a lowly tax accountant. Yes, I reduce suffering by solving tax issues for businesses and individuals. I also contribute by sharing my experience and knowledge on this and other blogs.

Jordan Peterson makes it clear we need to learn to articulate because the world is in desperate need of people who can communicate a message, knowledge and information in an articulate way. I still have room to grow.

And good thing because I’m not ready to hang up my cleats yet.

 

* There are at least five versions of the Gettysburg Address, each with slight variations from the others, including word count. The Bliss copy is the most famous.

 

 

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?

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.

A cost segregation study can save $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. 

Dealing with Resentment

It happens to everyone eventually. Long hours at the office or illness or other stress leads to fatigue. Then you get behind the wheel. Distracted by your own issues, another driver cuts in front of you and you react in the nick of time. Your heart races as you speak in a foreign language consisting entirely of four-letter words.

The other driver waves a quick apology and keeps going. Angered by the mishap, you tell your co-workers about the idiot on the highway. The rest of your day is ruined. At home you tell the wife, kids and cat (if she’ll listen to your ranting and raving) about your early morning near catastrophe.

The next day you’re still irritated by the event of the previous morning. You are rightfully angry. Yet you allowed another human being to affect how you felt for over a day while they went blissfully along unaware you even exist!

Minor distractions happen all the time. A car cutting you off in traffic is annoying, but some people take to road rage. Most often the transgression is unnoticed by the offender! The manic that cut you off, causing all kinds of outrage and stress, goes merrily along without a clue of you are. Yet you still suffered an extended period at your own hands. It wasn’t the other driver who harmed you! You did that all by yourself.

Deeper Wounds

We resent careless drivers, especially if they interfere with our journey. Unless an accident is caused the transgression is minor at best. Resentment is the acid which destroys the container which holds it.

There are times we can’t shake feelings of resentment. Betrayal is worst. When a significant other has an affair the wound cuts deep. When a friend stabs you in the back it is hard to shake it off. Even if the wound can be healed a scar remains.

I recently was betrayed by two people I highly respected. I never saw it coming. I was at a conference when I received a late at night text to visit. The individual who texted had recently discussed a business venture with me so I expected he wanted to move forward with the project. I’m notorious for my willingness to work any hour of the day when business is involved. I texted my room number.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. The potential business partner brought along a friend I also knew and respected. It seemed odd but I let them in.

The two trusted friends then proceeded to destroy said trust. Mrs. Accountant was in the room as they dissected my life with accusations, demanding a detail by detail explanation. They had an incomplete story and didn’t care. If Mrs. Accountant and I had a less firm marriage they could have caused a divorce. It was that serious.

I was furious! How dare they question me? My personal life is just that: personal. And none of their damn business I might add.

All could have been forgiven up to this point. Misunderstandings happen. You hear a rumor or gossip or read something on the internet where it must all be true and act on the faulty information. Most of us have had moments where we’ve choked on our tongue, present company included. When it’s discovered it was an overreaction you apologize and hopefully move on.

That didn’t happen in this instance. The friend who texted doubled down on the stupid and destroyed the relationship forever.

Near the end of the conversation he said, “If your business and blog are destroyed you don’t care anyway with all the money you have.”

The temperature reached boiling in record time. Let me make something very clear. I don’t do this solely for money. We call that a chump’s game around here. I do what I do because I enjoy it and some second rate schmuck screwing it up isn’t going to make me happy.

Inappropriate Response

My reaction, and it was pure reaction, was to fire from the hip, all guns blazing. I was hurt and betrayed. I wrote a post about it since unpublished. It was terribly written because I was writing in the heat of anger. I was hurting everyone around me over my wounded pride.

I removed the offending parties from social media because I wanted nothing to do with them. I only use social media as part of my business, but I didn’t want to see or hear from these people again. I was cut deep and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. From an enemy I could expect this, but a friend? No, a friend’s betrayal cuts to the bone.

Now it’s tax season and the hours are long and sleep minimal. My natural defenses are weak. Sunday I went to the office for a quiet day of productivity without interruption. Lack of sleep powered with a heavy dose of coffee lit my fire. The anger bubbled to the surface.

Declining blog traffic set me off. I put serious hours in this thing and neglected any promotional efforts after the fateful night last autumn. Long hours and fatigue reached their boiling point again. Resentment rose to the surface when I started crunching the numbers. Traffic dropped from a high several months back to 44.6% lower in the last 30 days.

This blog isn’t about padding my wallet. But money is still an important factor. All the profits are destined for charities. The problem is that the profits are pretty minimal right now so any philanthropy is coming from other sources. I enjoy the writing, but am addicted to the acknowledgement of my efforts. Donations to charities (and a very coveted award I won) express acknowledgement. Without something to give I’m not feeling the warm and fuzzy lately.

For a few weeks now I started to feel like quitting. I’ve joked in the past you can buy my practice at a reasonable price right about this time of year. In August I’m happy as a clam so the price is a lot higher. Now, with constant pain from all the sitting and fatigue, I’m looking for the exit. I need a nap to recharge my batteries and the next scheduled nap is four and a half weeks out. It always hurts this time of year.

I cried on Twitter about the traffic issue. (I’m working on my presidential qualities for the next election.) And I blamed it all on you know who (the midnight visitor).

Anger and resentment set in. My visitors hurt my relationships with other venues. Jealousy happens in all fields, but I was unprepared for the vitriol from people I trusted and respected. And the resentment never went away.

I Thought This Was a Personal Finance Blog?

It is. That is why resentment is such an important topic. The traffic issue is in large part my problem. Out of anger I retrenched. I know I’ll never go back to the route of advancement I was formerly on. Still, even with other opportunities, I dragged my feet.

Writing brings me great pleasure. Even tax work! Long hours can physically hurt, but it’s all worth it in the end. I make people’s lives better and that feels better than all the pain the profession dishes out.

This is where I provide meaningful steps to solve issues of resentment. In the past I would always say something from the Stoic literature. In life I usually just let stuff go. It might bother me for a bit before it dissipates, but before long it is forgotten.

This time was different. Interpersonal relationships cause deeper wounds. Flesh is blown from the body. The wound may scab over, but a deep depressed scar is plainly visible.

What I want to communicate is that you must find ways to cope. I’ve included two YouTube videos I found helpful. It’s important! Throwing away the most valuable things in life over a slight is borderline crazy. Nix that. It’s totally batshit crazy!

There is more for me to share. Writing does need an audience to ferret out the juicy pleasure. Most successful blogs in this demographic have more traffic in a day than I garner in a month. Part of the reason is my lack of desire to use Pinterest and other resources to spread the word. Facebook and Twitter send minor traffic and search engines are just starting to notice. I spend all my time pleasuring myself, ah, doing what I like most, writing, and avoiding things I don’t care to do: promotion.

Now that I’ve written close to 1,500 words about resentment and why I’m currently feeling it, I feel better.

That is my advice. Talk to someone about what is causing your resentment. The one who caused the resentment might not be the best person to talk to about it. The guy you flipped off on Interstate 7 is unlikely to want a stimulating conversation on your feelings.

In relationships conversation is vital. Mrs. Accountant and I have always had a strong relationship. We weren’t luckier than everybody else, experiencing fewer challenges. Quite the contrary. The challenges levied against us would bring regular army to its knees. It is all about the communication.

Keep a journal. Write your thoughts and feelings. Ranting to yourself like the crazy guy who talks to himself as he walks a crowded street is not always effective. It could get you locked up in the loony bin if you’re not careful!

My Sunday at the office wasn’t as productive as it should have been as I wasted time walking the halls ranting over my resentment. It cost me money and got me further behind. Blame it on lack of sleep or whatever. It doesn’t matter! The consequences are all the same.

Writing is better than talking. Writing allows you to think about what you are saying. Writing has a way of getting it out so you finally get some closure.

If you have been cheated on, abuse or betrayed, write about it. Get it all out! The sooner you do, the faster the healing can begin. Yes, there will be scars. Yes, it will still hurt. But you will learn to deal with it and get the pain out so it can scatter to the wind.

The only thing you should never do is publish your rant. You don’t want the public to think you are that crazy guy walking the street talking to himself. Worse, you could get a midnight knock on the door of your hotel room.

Travel the World from Your Doorstep

Wisconsin’s first public school teacher, Electa Quinney.

Traveling is a real pain in the tail. Even people who love traveling don’t like the moving part. Planes, trains and automobiles are a necessary part of traveling. Without transportation you can’t get from here to there.

People claiming to enjoy travel really are saying they like to experience other places and new people. Not me. I hate the moving part and I’m always a bit uncomfortable in strange surroundings. Believe it or not, people make me nervous!

All this said, I travel waaaaaay more than I care to. I travel for business mostly. In the last five years every trip from home had a business purpose except for the eclipse this summer. That’s it. This blog has increased my travel to record levels! And as soon as I was given an excuse I cut loose and ran.

Now I’m planning Camp Accountant. Yes, it means I’ll be traveling again. But at least I have control over the flow. And when it overwhelms I’ll find an excuse to crawl back into the hole from whence I crawled from.

When I do travel I am a keen observer. While people make me uncomfortable, I find the creatures entertaining as they scramble through their lives searching for something they’ll never find.

I AM a social animal, however. It never takes long for me to roll up my sleeves and start a conversation. My work requires I know my client. My habit is to know people. I ask lots of questions and tell lots of stories. Thank god you guys reading this are only a computer screen where I can talk without the nervousness of an alien environment.

And when I talk (and sometimes listen) I notice something strange. It’s clear to me the people talking to me don’t even know what they are saying! When visiting a new area Mrs. Accountant and I check out zoos and museums. Sometimes we hike the outback or some other mentally stimulating activity. When I mention our plans the most common response is, “We’ve never been there.”

Say what!

It seems locals rarely enjoy the advantages of their own community. Travelers visit and enjoy all the good stuff a community has to offer. Yet the locals are aware of the institutions and entertainment venues, but rarely imbibe.

Call Me a Crazy Local

My ideal vacation is a twenty minute drive from my home or office. When I’m done vacationing at the end of the day I want to sit on my own couch, read a book and sleep in my own bed.

Here is the best part. There are so many things to see within striking distance of my home I couldn’t see it all if I took a five year sabbatical! And I live out in the boondocks! I can only imagine what’s available for you, kind readers.

Here is a short list of things twenty minutes or less from my home or office (and I only scratched the surface):

High Cliff State Park, Brillion Wildlife Area, and the Killsnake Wildlife Area for the outdoor lovers. My office is next to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve; I hike there several days per week; it’s an awesome park. The Gordon Bubolz Nature Reserve is about a half hour drive from the office. If I want a day trip (an hour drive) I can enjoy the massive Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Both have plenty of hiking trails. Kettle Moraine contains a large section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

There is a historical society in many of the small towns of the area with plenty of interesting stuff to examine.

Appleton is loaded with museums. Several are a part of or next to Lawrence University or the UW extension. The History Museum at the Castle, Hearthstone House (the first central hydroelectric power station to operate in the U.S. invented by Edison operated here), The Trout Museum of Art (my oldest daughter’s favorite) and the Barlow Planetarium are among my favorites. The Weis Earth Science Museum is next to the planetarium; both are worth the price of admission. Weis is free to students and once upon a time to everyone. I still swing the admission fee because it is so worth it.

Zoos are less prevalent. Menominee Park Zoo in Oshkosh is a 40 minute drive and the New Zoo north of Green Bay is awesome. It’s like living in a big city without big city problems. Mulberry Lane Farm is one of many petting farms in the area where the kids (and mom and dad) can experience farm animals up close. They also have a pumpkin patch for family picking each autumn. We live less than five miles from Mulberry.

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve next to my office. I haunt the grounds often.

Then, if you search hard enough, you’ll find the downright strange facts about your community. Cemeteries are a wealth of information, history and pride. Two miles from my home is Portland Cemetery where Civil War veterans are buried. Portland is an old graveyard next to an old currently unused church. The land to the west of the cemetery belongs to my family. I grew up working the land next to Portland. It’s always held a special spot in my heart. I am humbled when I walk past faded gravestones of children who died after only a few days or years of life. At those moments I reflect on how lucky I am and how easy life is today.

Talking of cemeteries, Wisconsin’s first public school teacher, Electa Quinney, is buried in an Indian graveyard a few miles from my home. I find these facts intellectually stimulating as it connects me to my roots.

You Don’t Have to Travel far

Immanuel Kant is one of history’s greatest philosophers. My Stoic and minimalist nature is drawn to his strict daily routines. Kant was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia and never traveled beyond the city limits during his 79 years on this earth.

Electa Quinney is buried here. Notice you have to drive through a farmers yard to get to the cemetery.

You don’t need to travel the world to be worldly wise. Kant proved that. While I have a toxic reaction to traveling, even I am willing to travel beyond the city limits! But not by far. Maybe ten, perhaps twenty, feet or so if the weather is right.

You can see the world right in your own backyard! You can sit on a plane all day and experience less history than you could if you opened your eyes where you stand.

When Jim Collins visited Wisconsin earlier this year I was willing to travel an hour and a half for Conclave. Carl from 1500 Days and his friend, Brandon, joined us on that wet and cold weekend. On the way in they found a cemetery deep in the woods a short walk from Jim’s place. It was an interesting afternoon of learning local history of the Lake Michigan shore community of Oostburg. It seems I’m not alone in these local adventures.

We close with my favorite travel of all; the kind of traveling I can’t get enough of. Best of all there are no airports or highways.  I enjoy this kind of travel nearly every day with a warm beverage. I travel thousands of miles and more and even through time to speak with the greatest minds the human race has ever known.

Books.

Steal My Stuff, Please, Part 2

Previously our discussion started with a review of Ryan Holiday’s book Perennial Seller. We covered most of the book and I provided enough information for you decide if purchasing the book was worth your hard earned money.

We skipped lightly over the marketing section of the book for a reason. I wanted to share an observation from the book I’ve been making to my clients for years and to encourage you to steal my work. You read that right. Before this post is over I’ll have you feeling good about plagiarizing me into infinity and beyond.

In Perennial Seller Holiday covers marketing well. One area stuck out for me however. Holiday states almost everyone overestimates the value of traditional PR. Not only is it expensive, it doesn’t work. I agree.

For years I have advised business owners about advertising opportunities that come their way. It is rare for these offers to have any real value and in many cases drive zero clients your way while emptying your wallet.

It is so bad that I blanket state all promotions that walk in your door are worthless while promotional idea you personally have enjoy a fighting chance of generating at least a modest profit. The stuff walking in the door comes via a salesperson. Of course they have the best deal ever. I have been warned numerous times over the last three decades I would soon be out of business if I didn’t use their offer. After all these years I am starting to hope they are right. Man’s gotta retire sometime.

What has worked? Well, a lot of my promotional ideas have worked well while costing nothing or nearly so. I walked flyers I printed in my office in the early years of my firm. Gained a large number of individual tax returns in the process and became profitable too.

Two other promotional methods I used successfully are radio talk shows and public speaking. Radio talk shows I did over the phone, rarely showing up at the studio unless it was local and convenient. Many organizations were happy to have me talk about taxes and finance. All this was free and gave me credibility and exposure. And more clients.

This blog is carrying on the tradition. I haven’t done radio talk shows for this blog . . . yet. The public speaking part is going strong, however, in a slightly different manner. I speak at conferences and provide free help (or if money is charges all the funds go to charity). Once again credibility increases and readers keep coming.

Marketing in my mind is simple. Most effective marketing is low cost and your own idea. Most people can’t market so they are glad to charge you to have them market your stuff. Oooookaaaay.

Marketing is getting in front of people so they know you exist. The rest happens by word of mouth, which happens to be the most effective marketing of all.

Steal My Stuff!

Here is where the tire meets the payment. I want you to steal my blog posts. That’s right! Steal them. Simply copy and paste to your blog when you need a filler. My gift. Don’t worry. I will not sue you or defend my copyright.

Why would I do such a sick thing; encouraging people to steal my hard hours of work? The answer is simple. Sometimes you get tight for time and need material to meet a deadline. I understand. My hope is you lift the post verbatim and do me a solid by telling your readers where the material came from. If not, no worries.

You might lift the post and leave the links in place so I generate some revenue. Once again, if you change the Amazon links to your affiliate I will understand.

As insane as this sounds it is actually a marketing ploy and a way to build my platform. Your readers will see the different writing style and ask what gives. Eventually you will tell them you got it from me. In the end it all works out fine.

It also saves time. I can write a guest post for you, but you might like something I already published. Authors have republished their work since the beginning of time. It works. Hungry writers can increase their income and create a quasi pension for themselves. In the modern world you get to republish for me! Isn’t that nice?

Once your readers know I wrote it they will be glad you published it. You have happy readers. They then read you and me. Now I have happy readers too. (Have you ever seen a wealthy accountant dance?)

Cory Doctorow is a master at this. He is a science fiction writer who also happens to run Boing Boing, one of the most successful websites on the planet. Cory is a smart cookie! He demands his publisher allow him to share his work for free online. People get to steal his stuff! And he is more successful for it.

You see, the risk any blogger faces isn’t piracy, its obscurity. People stealing my stuff spread my work around. I want people to see my stuff. A lot. So please steal my stuff. It does us both good.

When my stuff is worth pirating it means I am getting good enough to pirate. Many brand names today actually pirated their own work to get the free marketing they needed to lift from unknown to significant. Some even pirated their work under a well known brand name hoping the dupe would stick around and like what they hear when they discover the ruse.

Maybe I should try that.

Ahem! Everyone. Mr. Money Mustache and Tim Ferris collaborated to write this post.

Did it work? Dang!

It’s Starting

Last weekend CNBC had two interesting weekend reports. The reports had some significant similarities to things I’ve recently published here. Unfortunately they did not give me a plug. I accept that.

You can be the judge if CNBC lifted some of my work for their site.

Wealthy Accountant: https://wealthyaccountant.com/2016/11/08/credit-card-secrets/

CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/21/your-credit-cards-secret-perks.html

Wealthy Accountant: https://wealthyaccountant.com/2017/07/10/change-nothing/

CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/22/defy-ventures-helps-inmates-make-the-shift-from-prison-to-small-business-owners.html

The Change Nothing post had a comment suggesting I incorporate my program with the Defy organization. It seems CNBC took their article a bit further than mine. Least they could have done was invited me to be a talking head for a 30 second spot. Such is life.

You might think I’m offended by this. You might be offended if it happened to you. Don’t! I get my ideas from reading and the writers over at CNBC may have discovered a story they wanted to tell based on my work.

One thing CNBC didn’t do was lift the post word for word. I wouldn’t expect them to.

There is one final piece to the marketing puzzle: word of mouth. Nothing works better than word of mouth. People respect an unsolicited endorsement of a blog, book, song, et cetera.

Please steal my stuff. Okay? But also spread the word. I love what I do, but traffic builds relevance. Reprint a post; let your readers know where you got it from. It’s also the professional thing to do.

Tell your friends, share on social media, spread the word. I have some control over where I speak or which conferences I attend. Only you control who you tell about me.

If I make you smile or brighten your day, let a friend know. If I save you some money or help you reach your financial goals don’t keep it a secret. Share the love.

Pay it forward.

And don’t forget my platform. Subscribe. Thank you.

The Gift of Karma and the Art of Pay It Forward

endlessknot03dI settled back with a good book on a quiet New Year’s Eve back in the early days of my accounting practice. Mrs. Accountant goes to bed early and was already tucked in. We rarely party or go out on New Year’s Eve. To us it is just another day.

My tax office back then was the remodeled basement so I was always close to work. Since the accounting part of my business was many years into the future, there wasn’t much to do around the holidays except enjoy some great reading. A few preparations for the upcoming tax season were as far as they could go.

Cable did not enter our house back then and network television did not interest me. The World Wide Web was just coming into existence and wasn’t a household phrase yet. Internet service was America Online accessed by dial-up. There were fewer distractions to drag a guy away from a good book in those days.

I was reading one of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization books that New Year’s Eve as memory serves. (I consider Will Durant one of the best writers to have ever live. His 11 volume Story of Civilization series is some of the best writing on human history ever.) My cup of tea was on the table next to my recliner where I was reading.

I lived in town for a few years back then to establish my practice. The living room had a bay window looking out toward the street. It was my custom to keep the curtains open so I could see if anything was happening outside.

A blood-curdling scream pulled my eyes from my book. Out the bay window I saw a woman falling from the passenger side of a car! She fell hard. The car sped off.

The woman lay in the middle of the road. She was barely dresses, only wearing a light shirt, short Capri pants, and nylons. I threw my book on the table and raced out to the woman. I could hear her crying when I got to her side. I looked around for help and worried the driver may return with a weapon. The neighbors either had closed curtains or ignored the plea for help.

The road was covered in ice. It had rained that day and the thin ice had a sharp uneven surface with cutting points. The woman had no shoes and was in no condition to walk on the sharp ice.

“Ma’am,” I said, “you can’t stay on the road. A car will hit you.”

She just kept crying. She reached up so I picked her up and carried her to the side of the road. She was starting to shiver violently. Only an inch or so of snow/ice accumulation was on the grass between sidewalk and road where I set her down.

The road was silent. No cars. I was worried the driver would return and there would be trouble. I asked the woman about who pushed her out of the car and learned it was her boyfriend.

“You can’t stay out here. You’re cold.” I used it as an excuse. “I can take you to my house and call for help. Okay?”

She nodded. I carried the woman to my home and set her down inside the front door. Instead of standing she dropped to the floor and started sobbing again in the fetal position. She was obviously intoxicated. I told her I needed to call the police. She became agitated and begged me not to call the police and to call her brother instead. I got the phone number of her brother and promised to call him to pick her up.

By now Mrs. Accountant was awake from the noise. I left her with the woman and went to the basement office and called 911 for police and an ambulance. Then I called her brother.

The police and ambulance arrived. The street was flashing blue and red in a kaleidoscope of lights off all the ice. I explained to the police what happened. They gave her a breathalyzer and she blew a .28.  Like I said: snookered.

The boyfriend returned at this time along with the brother of the woman. The boyfriend was afraid his girlfriend was hit on the road when he saw all the lights. Before the night was over the boyfriend was arrested for DWI and assault. The EMTs gave the woman a clean bill of health and the brother took her home.

The excitement was over for this New Year’s Eve. Or so I thought.

No Good Deed . . .

Life has a way of circling back on itself. History, they say, doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes nicely. And so goes this story.

By the time tax season started in February the incident was long forgotten. Then a client came in and started telling me a story about one of their renters who was assaulted by her boyfriend and pushed out of the car window while the car was still moving. A kind man, they said, came to her rescue, helping her to the side of the road and then to his home and called for help.

I swallowed hard when I realized who the man was. I reacted as anyone would that New Year’s Eve and now the consequences of my actions were sitting right in front of me. The woman from the car, I learned, broke up with the boyfriend and was trying to get her life back in order. There was no lasting physical damage. And I never learned her name.

I asked my client where this incident took place. They said right around here where I live. Then I told them my story. Then they swallowed hard.

Full Circle

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Every action is met by an opposite, yet equal, reaction. I think a guy named Newton said that about the Laws of Motion a few years back. I could be wrong.

I have been doing this long enough to know everything I do eventually comes around full circle. Same applies to you. We are all connected. Good intentions can go wrong, but in the end we all get what’s coming to us. There are times I thought my actions were a good idea to later doubt the intelligence of my decision. It doesn’t change my intentions; it just doesn’t always go according to plan.

And then there are the times where you make a larger impact than you ever could imagine at the time. I reacted that New Year’s Eve to an event that had all the markings of a disaster in the making. If I didn’t help that woman, the next car would never have seen her. She would have been killed or worse. If I didn’t call the police the end result could have also been much darker.

None of those thoughts occurred to me at the time. All I wanted to do was keep another human being from harm. Only later did I realize the consequences of my actions. Fortunately, the consequences were all positive.

The clients who rented to this woman are still clients. They are much older now; so am I. This all happened 26 years ago. The opinions these clients have of me are molded by the events of that evening long ago.

At it Again

Ideas keep pour out of my head! I don’t know how to turn it off. It is a curse at times.

I was invited to speak at Camp Mustache SE in January. I agreed and put the event to the side. Then a brain storm struck. Why not offer one-hour consultations at the Camp for $100 (far less than my normal fee) with all proceeds going to a charity of the group’s choice? Ten consults would fit nicely into my schedule so we should raise $1,000 for charity doing what I would normally do anyway, except I would personalize it and have the facilitator of the Camp handle the money, sending it to a charity. In my mind I was getting $1,000 to a charity without a penny out of my pocket. Awesome! I thought.

Most of the slots filled within a few hours. (Who wouldn’t want to talk to me for an hour for a measly hundred bucks?) My guess is all 10 slots will fill and the charity will get a cool $1,000.

Then it hit me. My attitude of sharing was sure to have an effect on me at some point in the future. Karma would raise her head and give me exactly what I deserve. I better deliver good advice.

My intentions were to do something valuable for the community we were allowed to have our conference in. A form of Pay it Forward. Time isn’t free, I understand. Still, since I am already at the conference and several attendees might find value in a personal review of their taxes and finances by the likes of yours truly, I thought it was a good idea. It was no extra time for me. Everyone wins! Conference attendees get an opportunity to have their finances reviewed by a guy with over 30 years experience in the accounting and financial services industry, and a charity will be $1,000 closer to their fundraising goals. The community wins as a result.

I offered my services for free with good intentions before it hit me this could end up profiting me. Now, as an accountant, I have no problem with profits. But sometimes I just want to give, no strings attached. But life is not like that. There are always strings! And for every deed a series of causes and effects are sure to follow.

Who is this Karma Chick?

Karma sounds a lot like the Law of Attraction. We usually invoke karma when shit hits the fan. When you fuck somebody and it comes back and bites you in the ass and we say it was karma. I disagree. The Law of Attraction and karma are fine words with wonderful meaning, but they lead us to think some magical force out there is watching our every move, waiting to reward us for good behavior and punish us for being a dick.

Then explain why bad things happen to good people. Karma is not watching; you are. Karma is a subconscious attitude you keep tucked away deep inside your brain. No one knows you better than you do. Only you know the reason why you did what you did. And you keep a very accurate record of your values and actions.

Doing the right thing, helping a stray animal or a fellow human being does not automatically bring an instant reward! If my intentions are wholesome my subconscious will know and keep a record. In most cases when good things happen to us it is because we allow it to happen to us because we know deep down we are worthy of such an honor or reward. The same applies when things go from bad to worse. We all too often talk ourselves into the kind of day we think we deserve.

You don’t have to help an old lady across the street to build a reserve of good karma. Instead, open your mind to accepting the gifts life naturally bestows on all of us. When we hold a grudge it only serves to hurt us, not the person you hold the grudge against. The lady, karma, is not at fault when you get kicked; you are doing it to yourself.

Everyone has plenty to bitch about. The prick that cut you off in traffic deserves boils all over his body. I understand. The boss that chewed you a new one for no reason deserves a bad attitude from you. Your tax bill, landlord, neighbors and even friends all conspire to irritate you. I get it. Been there. But if you want happiness, if you want peace, if you want karma on your side, then you have to let it go. If you don’t, karma will build in your own mind until the acid burns you.

The same applies to good deeds. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Of course, you will realize the consequences after the fact. It does not matter. So good stuff will come your way and your open mind will say, “Yes, I deserve this. I am a good person.”

There is no need to keep your eyes open for opportunities to make a difference. They will come your way all on their own. Your greatest moments will be unscripted! You will react because you are the person you are. No amount of planning can change the outcome more than your values and ethics.

As for payment, I recommend allowing the warm feeling of doing the right thing as your only compensation. If offered, put up your hand and say to the person you helped, “The next person you meet who needs help, you owe them. And if they offer to pay, you must also request they Pay It Forward.”

There is no other way to live your life with meaning. It isn’t karma. It’s you. It always has been and it always will be. Now, how do you plan on living the rest of your day?

Black Pride Meets White Privilege

text-1442218_960_720There is something wrong with this community. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. My experiences and worldview didn’t allow me to see the problem. Then it hit me. The personal finance conferences I attend and even the readers of this blog are predominantly white. I felt the issue was so huge I had to write about encouraging minorities, especially the black community, to join our group. Fearful I might come across as a dick, I delayed and delayed. I started writing this post and then threw it away. It was all wrong. How can a white guy from a very white community reach out to the black community?

Then I got the wake up call. I published Overreacting Solves Nothing, where I attempt to calm the crowd after Trump won the election. A few days ago I was called out by a reader. SKG writes, “Easy for you to say not to overreact, you’re white. It’s a whole different story for people of color.” The gauntlet has been tossed and at the risk of coming across as a dick I have to reach out to this massive group of people filled with great pride in their heritage.

As white as the community I live in is, I still have a few black clients. I don’t call them black either; I call them clients. There are more Hispanic people in my community and, as a result, I have more Hispanic clients. Minorities never bothered me. My biggest problem with non-white clients is that sometimes I can’t understand them. Most Hispanics speak English just fine, but some have a strong dialect which I have to concentrate on to understand. When they see me struggle they revert to using Hispanic words because it is clearer for them.

It helps having an office manager who is Hispanic. Karen speaks the language which is a massive benefit to Hispanic clients. They and Karen really have powerful conversations while the white guy has a stupid look on his face. After all these years I have picked up a few words so I sometimes get a feel for where the discussion is going. Imagine that, the white guy was paying attention.

But what about the black community? Well, I have a few black clients, too. They tend to be business owners or professionals. Black women seem to have no problem walking into my office; the husband comes along for the ride. I serve their needs as I would any client. I don’t go out of my way to treat them better or different. They’re client! How else should I treat them?

White Privilege

It is so easy for me to sit back and watch the drama in politics unfold. For the black community it must be a serious body blow. I have white privilege and refuse to give it up. I like the benefits of white privilege. Rather than have white people give something up, how about extending the same privileges to minorities.

How can I come close to understanding what black people experience in this country? Racial profiling is real and the police seem to shoot and kill a disproportionate number of unarmed black men on a casual stroll to the local 7-Eleven for a pack of smokes because they looked like a suspect. You know, you guys all look the same to us. (I am not saying that jokingly either; I am saying it facetiously. To this day I have never mixed up the identity of a black client because they “looked” the same. They always look like individuals to me. Now my memory is a bit light and I may struggle to remember a name or prior conversation. Please chalk that up to honky getting old.)

There are advantages to being white in the United States. Those advantages should be extended to everyone, in my humble opinion. I like my clients, all of them. The color of their skin has no bearing on my opinion. The kind of person they are molds my opinion. I am concerned for minorities, especially the black community.

But this post is not as much about white privilege as it is about black pride.

Black Pride

usmc-09611At personal finance conferences I have attended there seem to be minorities in attendance, but there are few blacks. Blacks comprise 12.3% of the U.S. population, according to a quick Google search. There is no way in hell 1 in 10 people at the conferences I attended are black. And that is distressing.

The black people at these conferences tend to also be female. I experience the same thing in my office. Single black women have no problem working with a white-owned business. Married black women seem to have no prejudices against working with a white-owned business either. The husband comes along for the ride. Sure, I have worked with black men, but it seems more black women are open to working with my office in our very white community. At conferences, black women talk to me without any problem, but fewer black men. Do I look that intimidating? I shave my head. Do I come across as a skinhead or some other such asshole? I hope not. The black community is in desperate need of financial literacy. The added challenges, as SKG noted, of the black community means the need is greater.

I hope black people read this and are motivated. The added challenges of being black in America is not something I can do anything about. What I can do is provide solid information anyone can use. What I teach here, what other personal finance bloggers teach, is valuable information useful to everyone. Saving more of what you earn and investing in index funds is a colorblind activity. Your index fund investment performs the same as mine. No white privilege there.

But I am not the only place to get good information. I want my black readers to come away with something they can use to make their life better. I will refrain from giving Stoic advice; it would come across wrong. I would encourage black people to read Epictetus, a man who was a slave, won his freedom, and used his life experiences to make the world (and his personal life) a better place.

Black pride is real! My life experiences with black people have all been positive. I see the news, but have never experienced in real life what is portrayed there. I also realize black people have interests that expand beyond sports and rap music. If you don’t know it, there are really good blogs by black people too.

Barack Obama is our first black President and I think he was a good one. He could have accomplished much more if he didn’t face a Congress whose sole goal was to obstruct anything he did. I was always uncomfortable with clients who expressed their sole goal in life was to hold Obama to a single term. The black community should be proud of the President they produced. In time I think President Obama will be considered a good President and looked upon with favor.

The black community can also be proud of their work in entertainment. Our society, including white society, would be fundamentally different if black people were not a part of our great nation. To avoid the risk of stereotyping I will let the work of the great black entertainers and athletes speak for themselves.

Personal finance, early retirement, and financial independence are of interest to all. My perspective comes from my experiences. It is important to absorb perspectives from a wide variety of sources. If you didn’t know it, there are some really good personal finance and lifestyle blogs written by a black people. Here are a few you will find valuable:

Not Just a Girl in a Dress: Charell Star talks about beauty and fashion; she also talks about business and personal finance. Charell focuses on successful black business leaders. There are more than you think. We can all learn a lot from their stories.

The Frugal Feminista: Her byline is: BE HAPPY. BE WEALTHY. BE BRAVE. Kara is all those things and more. Living a good life is the goal and Kara nails it. Her writing is inviting and easy to read with loads of useful information. If you enjoy the Wealthy Accountant, you will love The Frugal Feminista.

My Fab Finance: Tonya’s blog won the 7th Annual Plutus Awards: Best Personal Finance Blog for Women. Don’t let that stop you guys. Tonya focuses on: Money, professional development, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle. She has a “never quit” attitude. I love her already.

The Finance Bar: Marsha comes across more relaxed than many bloggers. There is a Member’s Area, too. You can enjoy all Marsha’s expert advice in her blog until you are ready to use her powerful program to take you to the next level.

Amazing Black Bloggers: Rather than talk too long, I have included a link to an awesome list of black bloggers in a variety of genres. My favorites are above. You might enjoy some of these other blogs, too.

One thing I noticed is the dearth of blogs by black men. Black men! Please share! Your world experiences are needed. At the risk of sounding like a dick, channel your white-guy. Plenty of white guys write blogs. [Note to my black male friends: writing a blog is a chick magnet. I’m telling ya. The ladies think it is so hot when a man exposes himself, ah, wrong choice of words. The ladies love a man who shares his thoughts. Back to our regular programming.]

The Biggest Dick

Yes, I am playing a stereotype with words. My concern is black people will be turned off before they read this far. I hope not. I know I am coming across as a white prick. If I knew how to say this in a more appropriate way, I would.

The message is pure. The information solid. Black people must engage regardless the disadvantages. As bad as it is, there are many black people finding a way to move up. White privilege breeds arrogance; black pride does not. Your community has so much to offer; so do you. As a nation, as a people, we need you to step forward into the light. There are plenty of challenges. Nothing I say or do will change that. You still have to do it. Racism and violence will not end without effort.

Any community that can produce a Martin Luther King Jr. has a lot to be proud of. Don’t let the dream die.

 

Please set the record straight in the comments below. If I hit the nail square, let me know. Where I am wrong, equally let me know. Personal finance and the good life are not exclusive to whites. I have no problem with an integrated personal finance community. Segregation died in the 1960’s (kind of). Please do not engage a self-inflicted segregation in this vital area of living. Share. Thank you.

So Much to be Thankful For

happy-thanksgiving-greetingWe live in strange times. One day—and for most of us only one day—we take time to give thanks as we gather with family, enjoy an awesome meal, and watch football (in America; I don’t know what the rest of the world does on their Thanksgiving festival). Then the next day we kick the shit out of our neighbor so we can save a hundred dollars on a flat screen. I‘m beginning to wonder how thankful we really are.

Feelings of gratitude and expressions of thanksgiving should not be relegated to one day per year. We live in the best of times where we should feel thankful non-stop. People in times past found the expression of gratitude an admirable trait. People actually worked hard to remember to feel thankful for the gifts life has bestowed upon them. And we have it so much better today!

In my short 52 years of life the world has changed so much and for the better. One gift I still can’t get over is the one you are using right now: the internet. I have the largest library ever collected at my fingertips; I have the ultimate communication tool. Has it ever been easier to communicate with people with shared interests from around the world? Never! I think of all the people I would never have met or known all because of this awesome gift called the internet. And the World Wide Web didn’t exist 25 years ago.

Microwave ovens, camcorders, and VCRs (remember those animals?) did not exist or were cutting edge technology when I graduated from high school. Personal computers were just invented. The precursor of the internet was just starting. And cell phones were not smartphones! Cell phones were huge clunky things with a massive antenna attached on the top of your car with a strong magnet. You had a carrying case for the cell phone and it was a sizable piece of luggage.

A Medical Story

I am grateful every day I wake. There is no doubt in my mind I am the luckiest man alive. Not only do I have the greatest wife ever, my kids are awesome, too. Must be genetics.

But none of it would have been experienced by me if I did not have the most awesome stroke of luck; I was in hunting accident, shot at point blank range. Our group was hunting pheasant. I was thirteen at the time. The dog flushed a pheasant. As the bird rose high my dad had the best shot. He took it. As the bird fell from the sky another hunter not with our group turned to see the bird drop. He raised his 12 gauge shotgun and followed it down. When the bird was head level he pulled the trigger. Three members of my group fell; I was one of them. Thank god he didn’t pull the second trigger or I probably wouldn’t be here talking with you.

At the hospital the doctor removed the pellets. One pellet pierced the grove on the top of my Adam’s apple. Another half inch and the talkative accountant we all know would be mute. A little further and. . . Well, I don’t like to think about it.

The doctor found something else. In the exam my blood pressure was high in my upper body and low in my lower body. Strange. This could be something serious. A month later I was in surgery for a catheterization. They stuck a tube in my vein in the crook of the elbow. The tube had a camera. They imaged my heart and aorta. The news was bad. I had a coarctation of the aorta. This means my aorta got really narrow in one spot, restricting blood flow to parts of my body. Unattended, my life expectancy was another 10 years, max.

When school was out I was back on the operating table. I spent the summer recovering. This was 1978. I was thirteen when they cut me open. A few years later my surgeon died of AIDS.

Remember AIDS! We don’t talk about it as much anymore, at least not like we used to. Back then doctors had no idea what AIDS was. All they knew was gay men were dying of an autoimmune disease and it was spreading. Blood supplies were not tested as vigorously then as now. One nick in the surgeon’s glove and good-bye accountant.

gall-dindiDoes anyone think for even a fraction of a second I am not the luckiest man alive? I had a medical condition without knowing it. All I knew was that I could run a half mile faster than anyone in school, but could barely finish a mile. That is how my condition worked. And pushing that hard was a prescription for a heart attack at twelve! And I had to get shot at point blank range to live.

Modern Life

We all have stories about technology saving our life or at minimum making our lives easier. Food is cheaper than ever and more abundant. I can eat food (and do) from every corner of the world. Fresh grapes are on the menu in February for a buck thirty nine a pound.

Refrigeration is a fairly new luxury. Food-borne illnesses are rare today. Cooking is easier than ever. Transportation is unreal. For a modest sum of money I can be anywhere on the planet in person this time tomorrow.

Life is so good I can scarce take it in. Thinking back 30 years is one thing. What about 200 years? Once you go back 200 years, things didn’t change much for thousands of years at a time. Progress was slow until the 20th Century. Indoor plumbing is a blessed gift! Many of you readers have family members alive who grew up without indoor plumbing. Think of your ass stuck to a cold outhouse board in the dead of winter in NE Wisconsin. No need to bring a book. You’ll be finishing up soon enough.

Which brings us to sanitation. Germ theory is a very new idea. Penicillin didn’t show up until World War II and other antibiotics were later still. Strep throat used to be a life threatening illness. Look at how George Washington died. And that was the best medicine could do back then, less than 250 years ago! Are you thankful yet?

Feel It Every Day

One day of formalized thanksgiving is okay as long as we understand it is an every day requirement. Stuffing our face and overweight bodies with yet more food as our way of saying, “Fuck, yeah, I’m lucky!” as you belch and keep stuffing is not giving thanks; it’s gluttony. Then, after an afternoon of sleep we load our ass into the car and drive to Wally World to push that bitch Edna Jones to the ground so we get one of the limited flat screens a hundred dollars cheaper. That is where we came in, isn’t it? We can’t do it, folks. We can’t pretend we are thankful one day and hold the world around us in callous disregard every other day.

413kt049bml-_sx329_bo1204203200_Gratitude comes from inside. If you have it, you have it all the time. Thanksgiving is about acknowledging and accepting you have enough, you are satisfied. No matter where you are or what your condition or position, you can feel and express gratitude. It is all in the mind. You and I are lucky. We have friends around the world we can talk to at any time by phone or social media. We work less and get more thanks to modern technology. If you think minimum wage is bad, think of wages in times past and the work involved earning that wage. Image working for a dollar a day plowing a field by horse. The Amish still do it.

Imagine sleeping outdoors in the dead of winter. Imagine a house so cold water freezes indoors in January (June for my readers in the upper latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere). These things were part of daily life only a few centuries ago. Life was really hard then, and short, and painful, and filled with much more sorrow. And they managed to offer thanks for all the blessings they had. Lucky us. We can give thanks from a position of real luxury and fortune.

Remember This

Ryan Holiday is an author I admire, especially his writings on Stoicism. He recently published The Daily Stoic.  The Daily Stoic is in the form of a daily devotion used by religious people. Each day is a thought from a great Stoic for us to meditate on. Rather than plow through this book, I am reading each meditation on the day it is listed. I want to absorb the whole Stoic thought process slowly so it sinks in deeply. For today, he takes a quote from Epictetus:

In short, you must remember this—that if you hold anything dear outside of your own reasoned choice, you will have destroyed your capacity for choice.

Epictetus’ warning is valid today. Happiness is only possible when we let go of attachment. You will find you are most thankful when you don’t have attachments to stuff. If you notice, all the things I gave thanks for above, none of it was stuff. It was experiences. I didn’t plan this post that way. It just came out and only now at the end do I realize what I have said. It is important. When we let go we find true happiness and contentment. It is then when we express thanks and feel gratitude, and mean it.

Now forget about the flat screen on special and help Edna Jones up. Brush her off and wish her a wonderful holiday. Maybe even help her find what she is looking for. At the end of the day you will not have a new flat screen TV. But you will have a new friend and an awesome experience to share. Now that is something to be grateful for.

***Don’t forget to share what you are thankful for in the comments section.