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Choose Your Friends Carefully

There is no doubt the kids are back in school. Three times a week I visit the gym midafternoon, a slow time of the day for the establishment. All summer I had the floor to myself or nearly so. Then the days got shorter and the kids went back to school. This gives mom free time to work out. I now have to share.

New members stream in at a steady pace. They notice I am there a bit so they ask me questions about the gym, using a machine or personal trainers. The conversation about trainers goes something like this:

“Which personal trainer in the best here?”

“They’re all good,” I reply.

“Yes, but which one is the best?” They always put a bit more emphasis on the word “best” the second time around.

“Depends what you want to look like.” This always brings a puzzled look.

I point to one of the thin female trainers and say, “If you are looking to lose weight I would recommend her.” Then I point to a muscular female trainer as say, “If you want to tone your body consider her.” Then I point to one of the male trainers who is solid muscle from head to toe. He is in awesome shape. “If you want to build muscle choose him.”

“Are you sure,” they ask.

“Yes, I am sure. All the personal trainers here are good. They hire the best. But the best one for you depends on what you want to look like. Pick a trainer that has the body you desire. Spend enough time with that trainer and you will slowly evolve into what they are.”

Their gaze is quizzical as their mouth is slightly open preparing to catch flies. It’s not the answer they expected, but it’s the answer the needed to here.

It’s Spreading

Studies have shown that people who hang out together tend to look and act alike. But it’s a lie. Take a group of women where all the members are 5’4” (162 cm) tall and 240 pounds (109 kg), except for one girl weighing in at 108 pounds (49 kg).

The eating and exercise habits of the heavier women will rub off on the thinner woman. The 108 pound woman will eat many of the same things with her friends; will stop and sit when they do; and share recipes with her friends. It is only a matter of time before the petite girl is less petite.

This is not to pick on the heavier women. Metabolism will alter the weight between the women when they share the same diet and exercise attitudes. This is why you want a trainer who looks closest to what you want to look like. Given enough time, their eating and exercise habits will affect yours and slowly you will begin to have the body they have.

Accidental Infection

Can we agree The Wealthy Accountant is at least a moderately successful blog? As I write my traffic sits around 70,000 page views per month with over 15,000 unique visitors, a far cry from big names in the demographic, but still respectable for a blog a year and a half old.

Many opportunities threaten to rocket near future traffic much higher. Every time I turn around another source of traffic is showing up. I would guess over the next year and a half traffic will increase to several hundred thousand page views per month. This is well within the respectable range. Not superstar status, but respectable, no doubt.

The Wealthy Accountant found life when a planned encounter with Mr. Money Mustache went in an unplanned direction. The very same day people were already asking if I had a blog they could read. I had a ready-made waiting crowd eager for my work.

The amount of work to write a blog like TWA is massive. The more traffic grows the more work is involved. Most blogs have one issue to deal with: the blog. Not so TWA. When traffic increases so do the demands for services in my practice. It takes a special set of skills to manger such a unique beast successfully; a trait I am still learning.

The success of TWA and my learning curve in managing the growth are an interesting experiment. We could sit back and watch your favorite accountant spin out of control or he could do something strange; something you should consider doing if you write a blog.

What I did was consort with seedy characters, oops, I mean with other successful bloggers. I have shared a beer over conversation with Pete (MMM), the Mad Fientist, Doug Nordman (The Military Guide), Carl (1500 Days to Freedom), Jim Collins (jlcollinsnh), and J.D. Roth (the grandfather of the blog demographic, starting it off with Get Rich Slowly and now Money Boss). And the list isn’t complete. There are many more I consorted with at conferences, camps and private get-togethers.

Then there are the newbies. Another beer was sacrificed over conversations with Gwen (Fiery Millennial), Joel (Financial 180), and Ruby (A Journey We Love).

There are numerous bloggers I communicated with online over the last two years as well and have yet to meet personally..

The point I’m making is I found a way to fit into the group of people I wanted to be like. I wanted to write a successful blog. By default I pick up habits from the other bloggers in the group as I communicate with them.

Every parent understands this process well. When your child joins a group of friends, mom and dad want to know what the kids in this group are like. If it’s part of a bad crowd it is only a matter of time before little Billy or Sally are in trouble with the law or worse. Mom knows a friend from a good family doesn’t guarantee protection from bad things happening, but it sure evens up the odds.

The same applies in all areas of life. You will become like the people you spend the most time with unless your personality is strong enough to overcome the influence.

It Pays to Have Rich Friends

You may have no desire to ever write a blog. Your friends may meet your expectations of physical health. You may be happy with your weight and your kids have friends from good families. But you are reading this blog for a reason.

The only reason to digest the hundreds of thousands of words I regurgitate onto the screen is to learn. The time commitment is too large to be here for manure and giggles. This venue now has nearly 300 posts and over 500,000 words. The time commitment means you are either entertained, educated or both when you come here. Or maybe you just think I’m a cool guy. (I am.)

Readers in the tax and accounting industry might be looking for ideas to serve their clients better; bloggers want to get ideas on what to write and to improve their writing skills; some people are looking for a side gig; others for financial independence; others to discover the path to early retirement.

None of these reasons are what this blog is about. Pete (MMM) thinks a blog should be cult-like. I agree. We are different and should be. We save at a higher rate, invest in broad-based index funds and reach financial independence at an early age. You would be surprised how many visitors to this site are under age 35 and financially at a point where they can choose their own course in life. This is where the magic happens.

When you come to TWA and read, comment and visit the forum, you are entering a group who will rub off on you. It is not if, it is when you start to gravitate towards the center of gravity of the group.

Like metabolism and weight, personal financial growth is dependent on several personal factors. Disability of major medical issues will give you unique challenges compared to the group at large. Race plays a role in opportunity. This doesn’t mean race precludes you from financial success. Quite the contrary. Race is just a different challenge from the average of the group.

When you are surrounded by people bragging about all their expensive toys it has an effect. Surrounding yourself with people who save a large percentage of their income will also adjust your worldview. When keeping up with the Joneses is replace by hyperactive goals of financial independence it is easy to fall right in.

The Flavor of the Herd

When one steer takes off and runs the whole herd follows blindly. As smart as we think we are we are manipulated by the herd mentality.

Even within our demographic there are certain commonalities. People are under pressure to hit financial independence at an early age so they can retire. I think it’s crazy to think this way and many readers come here because they agree with me. FI, as I’ve said often, is like the event horizon of a black hole; an invisible line you cross where there is no return but you can’t see it.

FI is like that, an invisible line. You don’t feel a jolt when you cross the line. You might not even know where the line is at!

Still, the pressure is on to say, Yup, I’m 37 and retired. Whatever! I’m 53 and never plan on retiring because I’m having too much fun doing what I do.

The other thing you see around the demographic is the traveling thing. People reach FI, quit their job and travel the world. Once again I say, Whatever! I don’t want to travel unless for business, so I don’t. Readers around here like the fresh viewpoint.

This is the flavor of our herd. The FIRE community has a center of gravity and readers of TWA like the outlier attitudes I have. You can have a high net worth and still enjoy the work you do while refusing to gallivant around the planet. It’s okay to stay home with the family, refuse to watch TV, never listen to radio and still have an awesome life.

I guess that makes us a cult. The fact you are reading this makes you a member of our cult.

Welcome to the herd.


Tuesday 17th of October 2017

I kinda love that you're the first FIRE-related blogger I've read who admits to hating travel. LOL! I thought that made me very un-cool in the eyes of other high-adventure FI-ers. :) I tried to like it for a while, I saw a few cool things, but I'm just not a traveler. Our big ambition for post-FI is to move up to Wisconsin and get some down-sized jobs and spend as much time as we can with our dogs and our garden and hanging out at the library and going to local cultural events. So many of your posts kinda feed into our pre-existing semi-retirement fantasy. I'm addicted. :)


Saturday 30th of September 2017

Just found your blog and I am loving it! I think taxes and accounting clarity were the key items that have been missing in the FI community until you arrived! While I am not to FIRE yet, I'd consider myself "heavy kindling" and heading in the right direction thanks to blogs like yours, MMM, etc. I can also appreciate your story and upbringing as mine was very similar, on a farm and just "over the border" in Manitowoc County. Keep it coming!!

Keith Schroeder

Saturday 30th of September 2017

We are a hop, skip and a jump apart, Jaybird. Great to have you here.


Friday 29th of September 2017

Great post Keith. I totally agree that the friends you keep impact who you become. One reason I started my blog was to easily share with my friends the frugality, investing and tax tips I've learned along the way. I figured a blog was an easier way to share the info than talking about maxing out a 401(k) over beers. There are so many good ideas out there, this tribe of personal finance bloggers are able to share them and everybody ends up better off. It's a wonderful thing.


Friday 29th of September 2017

I'm not in your demographic, (63), but I still love your blog and learn a lot.

I wish you huge success in your blog. Your ideas are fresh.

I see what you mean about a cult, but the cult idea does make me cringe. I was in one in my youth and I now follow the goings on of the Church of Scientology. It's sad what cults do to people.

Keith Schroeder

Friday 29th of September 2017

This is a similar cult mentality, Mike, to what you see on Mr. Money Mustache. Do not confuse with a religious cult. Apple is a cult; so is Elon Musk and Warren Buffett. This is the kind of cult I refer to. If people follow my work avidly and then apply it in their life all is good in my world. You keep your money. I insist. (And we let you make up your own mind and live your own life on your own terms.)

Hope you stopped cringing. And a big thank you for following my work, Mike.

Tom @ Dividends Diversify

Friday 29th of September 2017

Very interesting. Just started my blog. Something I had thought about for years and now the time was finally right. Appreciate the big picture insight on how to get on the right path and make it successful.