Not Interested

Posted February 25, 2010 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

Tags: ,

If the interest rate on my student loans was in the 1% range, I’d maybe think twice about paying them off at a much accelerated rate.

But 6.8% makes the decision easy.

And the grace period is up, which means that 6.8% is no longer just a number. It’s a monster:

“Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours. . . . Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.” (J. Reuben Clark)

In all, we took out $33,500 of student loans.

In November, we paid off $11k.

This month we paid off another $6k.

And next month, we plan to pay another $8k or so.

That will leave only $8,500, which we plan to eliminate by May or June.

Getting rid of our high interest student loans is our financial priority #1. We’ve limited our spending in almost every way conceivable. From what we eat to what we buy, to what we do on the weekends, we’ve been trying not to spend money unnecessarily.

TheFieryOne and I don’t want money working against us, but FOR us. And now that the grace period is up, and that rabid, persistent thing called interest has been let out of its cage, we’re that much more dedicated to paying off these student loans asap.

Busy Season – A New Associate’s Experience

Posted February 18, 2010 by frugalcpa
Categories: Accounting, Auditing and Taxes

Tags: ,

I’m in the middle of my first busy season as an auditor at a big four firm. Exciting times.

For some auditors, busy season is winding down about now. It usually goes from about the second week of January, when companies with 12/31 fiscal year-ends are closing their books for the year, until the last week of February or the first week of March, when companies release press releases and file their financial statements.

I’m one of the lucky auditors whose schedule was somehow filled with busy-season hours all the way through the end of March.

Brilliant.

As a new associate navigating busy season for the first time, I’ve recognized it has its pros and cons. Here they are:

The 3 Main Cons to Busy Season

1 – Long hours: The expectation is at least 10 or 11 hours per day. The reality is often more, depending on the assignment, the deadlines, the budget, the senior’s or manager’s preferences, etc. I’ve arrived home as early as 6pm on a Friday, so I have no room to complain.

2 – Pressure: Auditors must meet deadlines. The auditor who says “I’ll do it later” to a public company client (or any client, for that matter) is an auditor without a repeat engagement. Oh, and there’s a budget of hours to work with. Going over that budget is stressful to senior associates and managers, which means there’s pressure to finish your assigned testing quickly. But quickly and thoroughly aren’t always the easiest balance.

3 – Life Passing You By: The obvious result of working long hours is missing out on life. Coming home at 8pm every day leaves very little time to spend with family and friends, or to pursue hobbies and interests. When I get home, I have time to eat, do the dishes, discuss the day with TheFieryOne, and go to bed. I have to “make” time for anything else, which means not getting enough sleep. Like tonight.

Busy Season Has Its Pros, Too

1 -Accelerated Learning: They say it takes about 10,000 hours, or 10 years, to become an expert at any one thing. If every season was busy season, I’d be an expert auditor in less than 4 years.

2 – Network: One of the best parts about working is building relationships with coworkers. Busy season offers plenty of time for teams to get to know each other better. Just today, I learned a coworker of mine spent a semester abroad in London. So did I! Busy season is also a time when new associates get to work more with higher-ups such as managers and partners when they come out to review the audit work performed.

3 – Exposure to Clients, Industries, and Job Roles: Busy season is generally busy for clients, too, so you have a lot of people bustling about, trying to get things done, and auditors are in a unique position to see the inner workings of all sorts of companies. In addition to getting to know your client’s industry and business, as an auditor you get to know client personnel and observe them in their various job roles. If you ever jump ship, you’ll have a good idea what you might want to do.

4 – Free Dinner: When you work late, you can generally order in or get take-out. I’d rather eat dinner at home with TheFieryOne, no doubt. I could just as easily call her TheGoodCook. But every now and again it’s just nice to get a free meal.

5 – Work Experience – Big four firms tend to judge your audit experience upon how many busy seasons you’ve worked. You’re not considered an “experienced” associate until you’ve worked at least one busy season.

CPA Exam Is History

Posted October 24, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: CPA Exam Prep and Progress

Hey Friends,

I’m done with the CPA Exam ! I passed the final section (87 on AUD), which means I’ve been able to move on with my life and focus on work, family, fun, and frugality. Good times, eh?

frugalCPA

CPA Score Report – 3/4 Passed!

Posted August 20, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

I passed REG and BEC (sections 2 and 3 of the CPA exam)! It was a huge relief to find that out since I had serious questions as to whether I passed REG.

Now I just have a month to wait for my AUD score. I’m fairly confident I passed, which would mean that I’m just a few months away from being a Certified Public Accountant.

Updated Score Report (Predictions are based on how I felt coming out of the test, not subject matter)

FAR – Prediction: 85, Actual: 95

REG – Prediction: 75, Actual: 83

BEC – Prediction: 95, Actual: 88 (I think the absence of simulations actually brought my score down from what it might have otherwise been since they seem to be my strongest area)

AUD – Prediction: 82, Actual: Still waiting (’til mid-September)

Finishing, Waiting, and Changes

Posted August 12, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Accounting, Auditing and Taxes, Career Progress and Ideas, CPA Exam Prep and Progress

Lots of things are changing.

CPA Exam: I took the fourth and final section of the CPA exam! Now I’m just waiting to find out the results of the last three. Here are my scores and score predictions based on how I felt coming out of the exams:

FAR – Prediction: 85, Actual: 95

REG – Prediction: 75 (this could easily go either way, as I mentioned in a previous post), Actual: ?

BEC – Prediction: 95 (maybe this is an overly generous estimate, but I felt better about this than FAR), Actual: ?

AUD – Prediction: 82 (I’ll be surprised if I don’t pass, but it’s certainly possible), Actual: ?

According to Jeff over at Another71.com, score reports are predicted to be released fairly soon for Wave 1, which, for me, means I’ll probably see my BEC score within the next few days and REG at the beginning of next week.

Unfortunately, AUD will be Wave 2, so I won’t know how I did until mid-September.

That means I have no more CPA exam studying! It has been a serious chore for the sheer quantity of information covered. If I don’t pass any of the sections (REG?), it should be much easier to study the second time around just considering my familiarity with the topics. I certainly hope I passed all of the sections, but I’m not overly worried either way.

Moving: Saying goodbye to friends is proving to be more difficult and saddening than ever before. We LOVE our friends and don’t want to admit that we’ll probably never spend much time with many of them again. I’m confident we’ll make new friends where we’re moving, but that does little in terms of comfort.

Graduating: I’m within days of finishing my master’s degree! It’s just two final exams away, after which you may call me Master frugalCPA.

Money and Getting Out of Debt: I’ll soon be making money. It’s almost unreal, Friends! TheFieryOne might be even more excited than I am! We have over $30,000 in school loans. We’ll both be working full-time, so we should be able to get rid of our debt fairly quickly (possibly even during 2010). I’ll definitely document the journey.

A New Career – As you know, I’m super excited about starting a new career as an auditor at a “Big Four” firm! I’m curious to meet the people I’ll be working with, and I’m looking forward to being part of a team.

More Time for Future Posts Such As: Score results, ways I can start my career on the right footing, our choice of apartment, things I learn at work, business book reviews, and more.

BEC – More like B-EZ

Posted July 21, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

I took BEC the other day. After feeling crushed by REG, I had studied night and day for this one so I wouldn’t risk feeling similary beaten.

And I emerged victorious (at least that’s how it felt)! I was shocked at how simple and straightforward most of the questions were for BEC. I’m not saying I would have passed without studying, because I probably wouldn’t have. But, having studied quite a bit, the answers seemed to jump right out at me.

Of course, I don’t really know if I passed yet since my score won’t be available until at least next month, and possibly not until September. But I CAN say that I FELT like it was much easier than FAR or REG. Which was a very welcome feeling.

I have one more section of the CPA exam to go, friends, assuming that I receive a passing score on REG and BEC (which very well may not be the case for REG). Up to this point, I’ve finished 2 of 5 Becker lessons for AUD, and so far it seems fairly straight forward. I’m really glad I saved it for last because it’s soon going to be the most applicable to my day-to-day life. It’s really starting to sink in that I’m going to be an auditor next month at a “Big Four” firm, and I’m truly excited about it!

Apartment Hunting

Posted July 11, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

TheFieryOne and I have been discussing what we want in an apartment when we move next month. The questions we ask ourselves include

1 – How much extra is it worth paying per month for laundry facilities inside our apartment?

2 – Are we willing to sacrifice how nice the apartment is for a couple hundred dollars of savings per month?

3 – How far should we really be from public transportation, knowing that we’ll use it more than our car?

4 – Is it worth it to purchase renter’s insurance?

5 – Are we willing to get rid of some of our furniture to be able to fit into something small?

Our answers have made it clear that we’re willing to make some sacrifices to save money on an apartment. Certainly, we don’t want to live in a hole, but we’re willing to live without a dishwasher or a washer and dryer. It’s likely that the apartment we choose will be either a house or a small complex. The bigger apt. complexes seem to be charging a premium that the smaller, one-off units don’t charge. Fortunately, craigslist makes finding the latter possible.

In the end, we want to live a comfortable, happy life, but we also want to save money where we can. If that means doing a little extra work up-front to find the right place, and sacrificing a few conveniences, that’s okay. We can think of a lot of good uses for the $2400-$3600 we’ll save. Namely, paying off student debt. Or perhaps European vacations. We’ll see.

REG Is A BEAST!

Posted July 1, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

Many people say that FAR is the most difficult section of the CPA exam. For me – whose academic focus has been financial reporting and assurance – that was not the case. I walked out of FAR feeling like I had passed it. And, thankfully, I had.

But when I walked out of REG today, I had no such feeling. Not even close. I mean, I may have passed, but if I did, it won’t have been with flying colors. Not even close.

That’s okay, though! All I need is a 75! Come on 75! Big money, big money, big money . . . (apparently, in my mind, it’s a lot like gambling, which, btw, is includable in gross income while gambling losses are only deductible as a miscellaneous itemized deduction up to the amount of the winnings, but I digress).

The one thing I feel comforted by, having just begun studying for BEC today, is that there seems to be some overlap of the things I studied for REG on BEC. And like I always say, any overlap is good overlap.

I’d complain about the long wait time for my REG score, but considering all the other things I have going on (selling my house, finding a new apartment, finishing classes, studying for BEC and then AUD, etc.), I probably won’t worry about it too much. If I have to retake the beast, I’ll retake it.

[My actual inner dialogue? “Please, oh please, be a 75! Don’t make me take the beast known as REG again!”]

I Passed FAR!!!

Posted June 25, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

Couldn’t be happier about it!

REG has me worried, though, and I’m taking it in 6 days! No time for worries — back to the books and practice problems I go.

Wish me luck!

FAR Down, AUD, REG, and BEC to Go!

Posted June 11, 2009 by frugalcpa
Categories: Frugal Living

At least I hope so. I don’t actually get the FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting) results for something like a month, which seems like quite a long time to me. But that’s not as long as CFA takers have to wait (more like three months, so I’m told) for their results, so I won’t complain.

I’m not supposed to say anything about the test content, but I can say it didn’t seem incredibly difficult. I studied quite a bit, went through all of the Becker Review materials, memorized the flash cards, and did a healthy portion of the practice problems – many of them multiple times. So I felt prepared, went in there swinging, and came out feeling like I passed. We’ll see relatively soon if that truly was the case.

In the meantime, I’m taking my last few classes before graduating, and I’m also studying for REG, which is a bit shorter than FAR, and not quite as all-encompassing. Then again, it has a bunch of regulatory material that I’m less familiar with since I’ve only taken one business law class back in the day. Fortunately, Becker has come to my aid again by organizing and presenting the material in an easy-to-digest format. I promise I’m not a Becker marketing guy, I’m just really grateful to have review materials to guide my studies and make my review more effective and focused. Plus, you can’t beat FREE stuff. Many thanks to my future Big Four employer for footing the bill.

There is one thing I’ll mention about studying: It’s often difficult for me to stay focused and to keep pushing through review materials. After a few hours of studying (sometimes after only an hour), I get tired of it and want to stop and do other things. But I take courage in knowing that passing all four of the exam sections this summer will be a huge blessing to my future self’s life, and I’ll kick myself if I don’t take full advantage of the time I have now to prepare thoroughly for each section. I doubt I’ll ever have as much “free time” to study like this, and I know I won’t feel like studying after long days at work in the future.

So now is the time to push through the material and pass these exams (I’ll watch the 5th DVD lecture for REG as soon as I publish this post). Best wishes to any others out there studying! Here’s an excerpt from CPAreviewforFREE that strongly resonated with me (I like to dream, but I also recognize that real work is what accomplishes goals and makes dreams come true):

“There is something exciting about planning to win. There is something stimulating about envisioning the winning score and the glory of being the champion. However, at some point, you have to switch over from dreams to reality. That usually means doing some hard work and doing it on a very consistent basis.

Dreams are fun. Hard work can be tedious.
Dreams feel good. Hard work can be very uncomfortable.
Dreams can get you excited. Hard work is best done at a slow and meticulous pace.

But, dreams alone GET YOU NOTHING.

I love dreams and I always encourage everyone to dream. At some point, though, dreams can be addictive and lead to nothing. You have to break through and push yourself to actually achieve success.”