Keith Schroeder roams his 10-acre farm in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin with his wife, two daughters, Pinky the cat and farm animals. He has published over 1,000 articles in the tax, personal finance and special interest arena for over three decades. He even managed a novel or three along the way. When he isn’t walking the back 40 or reading he is planted in his tax practice where he has served his community since the 1980s. (God, that guy is old!)
1. Can you tell us about your blog and what Plutus Award you won?
Sure. My blog (one of them at least) is The Wealthy Accountant. Last year my blog won the Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year.
2. How did you feel winning the award knowing it was from your peers?
Oh, that is a difficult question to answer. It was a lot more emotional than I expected. From the nomination to the moment they called my name it was like walking in a dream. The event still hasn’t completely sunk in.
I’ve been writing for a very long time. I completed my first novel in high school (never published). Writing has always been a large part of my life and a way of organizing my thoughts. Past recognition came in the form of a check (publication) and/or acknowledgment (winning several contests on a content farm comes to mind).
The emotions run deep with anxiety topping the list. Many people are aware I advise Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) on tax issues and prepare his taxes. There have been times when I’ve seen arguments online in forums and Reddit involving me where the players are unaware I’m watching. The final argument is: He does MMM’s taxes so he must be right.
Advising important people or winning awards doesn’t mean I’m right by default! Winning such a prestigious award as the Plutus requires I step up my game because people will assume credibility. Taxes and personal finance aren’t that easy. I constantly worry readers will misinterpret my words or worse, I get it wrong. My goal has always been to make a positive difference in the lives of people I touch. Since blood flows in my veins—the last time I checked at least—the possibility of error exists so I must always take great care in what I say or do.
And I break out in a cold sweat when even the possibility exists I got it wrong. I am well aware that living, breathing human beings are on the other side of the digital billboard. They trust, and I work hard to earn that trust each day.
3. Where are you now? Are you still doing the same blog? How has it changed?
As a homebody my tail is still planted in the same places it was before the award. I live on a ten-acre farm in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin with a wife, two daughters (one currently teaching in China), some chickens, a pond filled with fish, my cat Pinky and books piled to the ceiling. (Am I still considered normal?)
The Wealthy Accountant is still alive and well. The Plutus Award drove traffic, but that has since tamed down to my dismay. I cut back from publishing three/four days per week to two. I want to write more, but the blog has generated a massive amount of consulting work. Slowing down also allows me to write higher quality material. (More on this below.)
4. What advice would you give someone looking to grow their blog today?
Love what you do! If you blog (or write anything for that matter) for money or recognition I have some bad news for you. Excellence comes from consistent effort. There is more work than you can imagine. Previous writing provided a modest revenue stream and new clients for my practice. However, once I reached a certain level (MMM and the Plutus) the rules changed. Instead of being easier, it got harder! Not only did the normal stuff continue, people wanted a piece of me. People want your attention! The Wealthy Accountant mixed with my tax practice requires me to be more visible. Rather than a local audience wanting my services, I now have demands from all across the country and even overseas. It is overwhelming for a country boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin.
Focus on quality content first. You can build a pretty blog later. Write stuff people want to read. Put a piece of yourself into the conversation. Cry when you write. Your readers will feel your emotion. They will tear up with you. Don’t be afraid to monetize once you have an adequate corpus of material. Tell your story and share your world. It’s all you have; anything else is fantasy.
5. Blogging can be tough. How do you keep up with motivation?
Another difficult question. Tax season is very hard on me since The Wealthy Accountant showed up. The workload is higher than ever and it’s wearing me out. Deep down I know the truth. One will have to go; it’s only a matter of time. I drag my feet because I know which one will lose. I spent a lifetime building a practice and it hurts killing your children. If I can pull off the stunt I will partner (I’m accepting offers) with qualified tax and accounting professionals/financial businesses who share my love of the work. Rule #1: The client must always come first. If I find qualified partners my practice will survive and I can continue serving clients and keep consulting. The blog is my future. Too many people are served by it. (Leave it to your favorite accountant to want his cake and to eat it too. Well, why else order cake unless you plan on devouring it!)
The motivation for blogging is different. I write constantly. Not writing would require motivation for me. I became very concerned about my quality after the Plutus win. Tax season stressed me further and I suffered a serious crisis in confidence. Eventually, I cut the publishing schedule so I could improve the quality of what I spackle onto the digital page.
I took a page from Warren Buffett’s book. He tells a 20-slot story where you should act like you get only 20 investments over your lifetime. This forces you to choose carefully. I did the same thing with a countdown clock on my blog. With over 400 published posts I started a countdown clock to 500. I told the world when I hit 500 the game is over, light out.
The truth is it might not be over. By placing a limit on what I can say I’m much more aware of what I am saying. I pass on some ideas to make way for better posts. (I’m not so arrogant as to believe every word I write is dripping with gold!) I think it has helped me up my game. My posts are getting better, I think. Readers will have to decide if my efforts were worth the pain and suffering.
In the back of my mind, I have set goals for The Wealthy Accountant. If I hit those goals the blog continues. Since the blog is another of my children I will fight with blood in my eyes to reach those goals. These are hard and fast goals, too. If I want to continue writing for a larger audience then I better roll up my sleeves and get to work. I don’t need motivation to write; I need motivation to promote the blog (traffic). Stay tuned.
6. Where do you see yourself going from here? Any plans in the works you can share with us?
I’m testing some course ideas. At some point, a course will be offered. Dealing with every step of an IRS audit is something I’d like to produce, but the blog may not be the right venue. Building a tax practice side gig has merit. When the market research says go for it, I will.
Finally, this is a really big secret so don’t tell anyone. I plan a YouTube channel where I have simple videos of my public appearances and other short videos on ideas I can’t flesh out on the blog. As that audience grows I’ll add pretty graphics and stuff. To start, the videos will be simple and informative. We’ll see how it goes.
Oh, and one more thing. Camp Accountant (another secret soon to be revealed) is coming to Colorado in October! All proceeds go to the local Boys & Girls Club. The Wealthy Accountant and my social media will have the announcement. The group is limited to 30 so register quickly when registration opens.
7. What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging?
I’ve been married for 30 years (to the same woman!). Mrs. Accountant gets all the credit. I’m the crazy accountant guy wandering the wastelands of Weesconsin. She saved me!
My oldest daughter is 23 and living the life in China as I write. She enjoys traveling, unlike her father. My youngest daughter recently reached the age of majority. Like her older sister, she will achieve financial independence in her 20s. I am very proud.
My middle child is a grave disappointment. I knew there was a reason for digging a pond on the farm. (For the record, I only have two children.) (That I know of.)
My family is my greatest achievement. My girls (Mrs. Accountant and daughters) are my life. No matter what happens I have won. My life has been awesome!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story.