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I Preempt Our Regular Programming (Can We Talk?)

Sitting in a darkened room at 2 a.m. searching for words to type seems like an adventure for Don Quixote. Will anyone read the post? Will it matter? All questions, and doubts, every blogger faces daily.

Of course we can take solace in our traffic statistics. Numbers keep stair-stepping higher, salving our fragile egos. But each step higher is followed by a slight reduction in traffic before finding a floor, waiting for the next exposure sending traffic another notch higher creating more doubts.

Then we have revenue streams. Young blogs building traffic to acceptable levels see modest income. The heart flutters with delight when a batch of good news arrives. People are “buying” into my ideas. Readers become fans and start their Amazon shopping from the blog and consider affiliates listed or shared as part of a post. A surprise upswing causes the heart to sink when the follow-through is weak.

The comments offer consolation.  Each comment reminds me a reader is engaged. Of all the things a reader can do to remind the blogger he is not alone in the darkened room at 2 a.m. is to comment. The message at least got through far enough to encourage an intelligent response.

Many more readers contact than comment. The contacts come to me via email. I read them all. Answering each is impossible. I send many to my office manager for further review. She then decides which ones to contact for possible consultation and which to consider offering our tax services.

I see everything from the contacts. Some are almost impossible to understand as the commenter is venting recent events. Some want to thank me for my efforts and to encourage my work. Many ask for advice or to be a client. Then a voice comes from the wilderness and I stop in my tracks. Someone, close to home, has had their life changed for the better because I was alive today.

The Blessed Voice

Like most bloggers I watch my traffic intensively. There are clusters of readers around the country and the world. The cluster surrounding my office is one of the smaller ones. Part of the reason is the smaller population of the area. Another reason is many people viewing this blog on mobile devices show up as traffic from a distant location. The local cluster is probably much larger than Google Analytics indicates.

Every so often I get an offer for lunch, coffee or a beer. I am open to this. Unless the request contains scary verbiage I am happy to meet readers and talk shop to just talk about life. (For the record very few people have ever contacted me with scary verbiage.) I enjoy meeting readers and sharing stories. Some things I share in real life I would never share on a public blog so there are some advantages to meeting me in the real world.

Last week I received an email from a young man who asked I keep his name private. I also made a slight change to the email to conceal his identity. Here is the email I received:

Hi Keith,

I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally felt compelled to reach out. While we’ve never met, you have had a great impact on my family’s path to financial independence. I am a CPA and after leaving a large public accounting firm (I was on the audit side but looking back I wish I chose tax!) two years ago, I started working in the finance department at an *redacted* in the Valley. Since that time I’ve driven by your business each day during my 15 minute commute. I think we even use the same library!

If memory serves me correctly, you once had “Mr Money Mustache” on your sign. I drove by each day wondering what the heck that meant. My first thought was some kind of a payday loan store, but boy was I way off. I gave in and Googled it and was instantly hooked. I devoured the archives and my wife and I officially began our path to FI. Discovering the early retirement community has truly changed my life philosophy. I’ve spent the last two years reading as many blogs and books (from the library) and listening to as many podcasts that I can fit into the day. Even though we didn’t know about FI, my wife and I are naturally debt averse and paid off $60k of her student loans and our car purchases the first few years after graduation. Two years into our financial independence journey the only debt we hold now is for our home, and we have a net worth north of $300k at ages 29 and 28.

Despite being immersed in this community for two years I have stayed behind the scenes. I like to learn, but feel that I don’t really have anything unique to contribute. Between you, Pete, the Mad Fientist and JL Collins, all necessary topics are covered in greater detail and more eloquently than I could ever aspire to. However, I’d like to pay you back in some small way for helping me fall down this rabbit hole that has changed my life. That could be buying you a beer or coffee someday and talking about personal finance, proofreading your posts before they come out (I read them all anyway!), or just sending you this email to express my gratitude and you don’t have time to respond.

Best wishes

Let me clarify a few items. My office is in Menasha, which is part of the Fox Cities, which is also sometimes called the Fox River Valley, or just the Valley. We are located about 40 minutes south of Green Bay.

What my friend has done is nothing short of incredible! He and his wife destroyed debt and have a $300,000 net worth before age 30. Folks, you do realize most Americans never reach this level. Ever! At any age!


Wednesday 19th of July 2017

Keith, what a great article. If it helps in those early morning moments, never forget that you have an international audience. 2am in Menasha, USA is 5pm in Melbourne, Australia. While the rest of your country may be asleep, we're with you. And we're proud to do so.

My favourite line from this post is "What counts, what matters is the stories. We all have stories to share." I've been debating how much time and value I could contribute to the FI discussion from the antipodes. Our financial systems are different; our frames of reference are different; our costs of living are different, and yet...our first principles are the same. Our goals are the same. Our stories are the same. We're all humans striving for a better life for our families, and for ourselves. So maybe that's a story worth sharing.

Keith, you just gave me the reason to start sharing my story. It may have been early o'clock in Wisconsin, but on the other side of the world our evening was just starting, an evening full of people with stories to share. Thank you. See you next time at 2am.

Keith Schroeder

Wednesday 19th of July 2017

You make so many great points, Adam. First, I am aware of my Australian audience. Google Analytics shows a nice following from your neighborhood. This has always confused me because I spend enough time on U.S. tax issues to feel I alienate most non U.S readers. I am also aware of the time difference. It brings a smile to my face to see traffic from my friends in a far away land (but it is close, it is home, to you). And for the record, I am also proud to have you. No, that is wrong. I am humbled to have you read my work and find value in it. Thank you.

For people familiar with the old Star Trek television series, the Vulcans had a philosophy called IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We are different, Adam. There are similarities, too. It is out differences which make us strong. I work hard to tell stories because most people relate to a story. A far away land like Wisconsin can seem like a nice place with wonderful people struggling with the same issues you have. It makes the world a smaller, and hopefully, better place.

My greatest challenge is here at home. You mention Wisconsin and time zones. I bet you could point to Wisconsin on a map. All too many Americans have only the vaguest idea where Australia is. Even fewer could point to Perth or Melbourne on a map and if I said New South Wales or Victoria there is a good chance an American would glance toward the wrong continent. That is why it is so important to keep telling the stories. All of us.


Tuesday 18th of July 2017

Keith, That's such an encouraging post - and reminder. I started a blog for the same reason you describe, to share personal stories that connect with people, encourage them, and help them lead better lives. I realized that I'm carrying a lot of stories about finances and life that might help encourage others to do better in their own lives, and that's my main asset.

It's the changing of lives that makes it all worthwhile. I spoke with a friend recently who's now fully committed to financial independence/early retirement (and nearly there already) in order to live a more fulfilling life. That's worth more to me than anything else I could do here, and why I want to keep at this. (Plus, being an influence for good is simply part of who I am made to be.)

Thanks for the reminder - and love your blog!


Monday 17th of July 2017

Oh how many times I have thought that everything has already been written before. But you're right, it's about the connection, you never know who might stumble across a post and it can change their life.

Side note: when hearing about the WA locator, I immediately started singing, "Where in the World is The Wealthy Accountant?" sung to the tune of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego".

Keith Schroeder

Tuesday 18th of July 2017

You crack me up!

Working Optional

Monday 17th of July 2017

Keith, Found your blog recently, and after subscribing, I find that a lot of your posts end up in the "To Read Again" sub-folder. Thank you for what you do, and for being available. Your recent post on the program for convicted criminals and then victims was laudable.

M Bowden

Monday 17th of July 2017

Thank you Keith. With how prolific of a writer you are it helps to have one these posts now and again regarding your process.

I am one of the number of people that sent an email regarding a consult. Your article creates the impression that when you send the email to your office manager she decides whether to even respond. Does this mean I may not even get a response?

Keith Schroeder

Monday 17th of July 2017

No response is a "no". However, I would send another request. When volume gets high we tend to pull back. We are one office and I am one guy. That said, I recently found a tool to increase productivity by a large amount. This will open more opportunities to help more people without stressing your favorite accountant out. It is in the testing phase, but so far it looks really good.