My wife has lovingly referred to it as my tour. There was the Wisconsin tour, the Mississippi tour, and now the Iowa tour. Lest you get excited, there were never amps to be lugged about, press agents, or even screaming fans, no, it was my tax gig. For 23 years I have held sway in over 30 cities in three states as I taught tax law and planning to my faithful tax planning students. I hopefully educated them on at least several new tax codes, gave them some hot planning tips for managing their clients and employees, and maybe even provided a little entertainment mixed in with the lecture. Along the way, I visited multiple casinos, far too many hotels, and even learned a little Cajun. I visited at least half a dozen universities and witnessed the aftermath of two hurricanes, several tornadoes, and multiple blizzards. I met over 1500 tax planners, EA’s, CPA’s and attorneys and made friends with most of them. Today, as I sit in Ohare International Airport, I thought it appropriate to jot down a few passing thoughts as this phase of my life comes to a close.
I just finished an in-person presentation in Sioux City, a pretty little city tucked neatly in the corner of three states; Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, which in its early years, served as the railhead for some historic cattle drives. It is not my true final gig as I have one more in-person to be held in Ankeny, Ia, and then one more on-line performance in a couple weeks. When that last one concludes, it will be in fact my very last one ever. The groupies say that I will be back, but I am no Brett Favre or Tom Brady. I have been saying it was my last year for the last six years, and this time it really is. I know that a year from now, I will miss the stage, I am after all a true ham when you give me the mic, but I won’t miss all the late-night drives, many done in rain or snow, the prep work, and the nervousness the nights before and the mornings of. I may appear cool, calm, and collected, but anyone who tells you they don’t sweat a little as they take the stage, is, shall we say, bullshitting.
I started this little career back in the year 2000, when the owner of the firm I was working for, turned down the request to be the speaker for these tax schools. He instead sent one of my mentors, Phil Harris, to hit me up for the job. I still remember a nervous Phil sitting down across from me and making the most tenuous job offer ever. It didn’t help much when he started out with “you aren’t my first choice.” He went on to tell me he would offer me half what he had intended and just a two-hour slot. I, being full of myself, needing the revenue, and just plain hopeful that I would impress him, accepted the job. Two hours turned into a half day, and by year two, I was the entire second day of a two-day conference. Along the way we built a two-way trust between Phil and I, and we became the two-man show known as Tax Insight. Phil gave them the theory and the law; I gave them the planning and the practicality. We wowed our crowd with famous hits like, The TCJA, Qualified Charitable Deductions for Everyone, and the ever-popular Passive Activities and You.
Six years ago, as I was ready to hand over the mic to younger talent, Phil became ill and within a year had passed away. Thus began my run of one more year’s. I was devastated by Phil’s passing and knew I had to stay on with the transition, year one, and then the attempted sale, year two, gifting to Iowa State University, year three, Covid-19 forcing us to move on-line, year four and five, but as year six approached I had to redraw the line in the sand, With that decision, year six would be, with acquiescence to my wife, the farewell tour. We even entertained making up shirts with the names of all those cities our tour had passed through, but saner minds prevailed, and the shirt idea was nixed.
It has been, despite my whining here and there, a spectacularly great decision. I learned much along the way; taxes, business planning, the histories of people, places, and things, and even some odd tidbits, like always make sure you know where the wipers and light switches are on your rental car especially when driving through Mississippi in the dark. As I leave, I want to thank my co-workers who unbegrudgingly filled in for me back at the office while I galivanted around the countryside, my boss who not only put Phil onto me, but gave me the time off to do it, and especially to my wife, Deb, who supported me, cheered me on, and eventually even became my paid handler, coincidentally the best I ever had.
But all things do come to an end, and this will be my swan song. I am extremely proud of the work I have done and will be forever grateful for the experience. If there is a lesson here for my readers, never be afraid to take the chance. You just might surprise yourself as to what you can accomplish and where the decision might lead.