Although it’s Fall here in the northern hemisphere and the deciduous tree leaves change color and fall off in preparation for new growth, this is not about a favorite season. There may however, be some similarities and I will trust you will be able to see what those are between the shedding of leaves and the shredding of papers.
My bookkeeper, roommate, wife, co-pilot, and associate (five roles filled by one person) gave me a job recently of shredding 4 years of records, 2010-1013. She saves 7 years back; my brother, a retired accountant, saves only the past 3 years of records. Files of every kind imaginable. There were contracts, correspondence, bills, statements, checks, receipts, taxes (Federal, 2 states and local) deposits, and expenses. There were numerous real estate transactions. There were several drawers of manila folders containing thousands of pages. Susie is meticulous about record keeping and has been our CFO for some 24 years. I am enormously grateful.
Our shredder is in the garage and as I stood there and watched these years of business and personal papers turn into tiny, narrow shreds of paper I thought about not only what they contained but also what they represented. Lots of work, travel, meaningful connections and relationships, income and outgo, balancing budgets, making everything work together for professional, personal and financial health. Every once in awhile I asked what this or that was and without looking, she could remember. I have trouble remembering last week let alone 7 to 10 years ago.
Here’s what I learned:
1 – Get rid of what you don’t need in order to lighten the load and create new space for what is needed. In our case, we need and want less now than we did then on many fronts.
2 – Letting go of stuff is cleansing and creates the sense of a clear opening.
3 – Being self-employed, whether as an independent, sub-contractor or as an LLC or as a sole proprietor adds a dimension of organization that working as an employee does not require. Not working full time is a gift.
4 – Years filled with meaningful and productive work was personally and professionally satisfying in spite of challenges along the way.
5 – Doing things right takes time, talent and a commitment to being sure you have dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s with little or no room for errors that could complicate matters.
6– If you can’t do something yourself or have no interest, even if it’s required, make sure you have a partner who can take up the slack, or if necessary, hire the extra help.
7 – Being solvent helps in sharing with others via gifts and contributions to those things you care about the most.
8 – Following the rules and living up to expectations is a value as well as a practice.
9 – As Thos. Jefferson is alleged to have said, “The harder I work the more luck I have.”
10 – Gratitude for opportunities to be of help fulfills a personal and professional mission.
We have other people (tax & financial advisors, consultants, family, and friends) who are helpful as we continue to navigate our way through the maze of requirements and expectations for staying on course. It has been and continues to be a worthwhile journey. The benefits accrue over time.
I remembered complaining to our tax accountant about having to pay so much in taxes and he said, “You should be glad to pay a lot because it means you made a lot.”
“Oh really?” I said, “then where is it?” Of course I knew because we had all the records of income and expense. This part is simpler now partly because it’s less and it is indeed a case of less is more. Now I am hoping that more of those in the highest income brackets will begin paying their fare share too.