THE S&P AND ME | PART 4

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Why did I choose this profession?

When I started college in 1983, the S&P 500 index was hovering around 150. So was the heat index in Mississippi that summer. At least it felt that way. I had made my decision to go to MS State University. I choose a general business major by the process of elimination.

The architecture students had to work on projects on Saturday. This meant they would miss SEC football and dove hunts. No, thanks. The engineers had calculators that were a whole lot different than mine, both literally and figuratively. I enjoyed the outdoors, but agriculture at my house meant cutting grass, weed whacking (that’s an ag econ term) and picking the garden, none of which I fancied doing for a lifetime. The business building was named McCool Hall, but was more affectionately known as “The Country Club”. The people were nice and social, the girls were cute, and the calculators looked familiar. I had found my home.

Unbeknownst to me, this academic establishment required you to declare a specific major and curriculum during your sophomore year. I discovered this as me and a buddy stood in line to sign up for classes. He had thought through his decision, while I didn’t even know there was a decision to be made. He suggested I choose accounting because that is what he was in, which meant we would be in classes together. We were on the same flag football team, so why would we not be in the same major, my thinking went. Accounting it was…for three more long years.

Back in the day, there were the “Big Eight” accounting firms. They generally had two divisions, tax and audit. I liked tax, but the laws seemed to change a lot. I thought that I would wait until they quit changing and then learn it. Thirty five years later, they are still changing. I knew people needed help figuring out those complexities, so they could enjoy SEC football, go on dove hunts, or partake in whatever else they would rather be doing than income tax preparation. The consultant was born. Audit was the other division. Unfortunately, our audit professor was extremely sick the semester he was to teach all of us aspiring auditors. Our class learned more about coffee shops than we did about audits during that critically important semester.

One of those “Big Eight” firms hired me, and I went to work for them in the fall of 1987. My first employer was keen on workers attaining their CPA license in a relatively short period of time. This is when I discovered a couple of things about myself. First, I may have been wiser had I chosen another major that day in sophomore year. Second, I discovered I was a determined lad. If there is a job that needed to be done, I had the “whatever it takes” blood in my veins. Those long nights and weekends of studying for the CPA exam were worth it the day I went to the mailbox and saw a letter that started with the words, “Congratulations, you have successfully passed the CPA exam.” I didn’t read the rest, but I wish I would have. Somewhere near the bottom was a statement that read something to the effect of: In order to keep this license that you have sacrificed so much of your time to achieve, which keeps you away from your family (as well as SEC football and dove hunts), you will be required to attain 40 hours each year in professional continuing education.

It’s unfair to blame my flag football buddy who suggested accounting that day in line. Some days, I would like to kill him. I still am required to get 40 hours a year of continued education to maintain that CPA license. Other days, I realize that I really didn’t choose my profession, it chose me.

All of that background and foundational knowledge of companies, how they work, what makes them successful, and how to understand their financial statements would turn out to be very useful to me in my professional calling. I should thank my buddy. That base of knowledge and how it has grown has been very beneficial over the years in helping the clients we serve. I don’t know if your thing is SEC football or dove hunts, but I am glad I can share what I have learned so that you can Live Your Life.

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