Art of Accounting: Advising Cheapskates

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IMGCAP(1)]Accountants get unusual views of human frailty and baseness of character. Most of our interactions are stimulating and propel us to growth, but some expose others’ weaknesses and extremely poor personal judgment.

Three situations stand out. In one, the husband provided his wife with a stingy allowance to run the household and for her personal spending. In a second example, the husband scrutinized every credit card charge, while castigating his wife’s spending, no matter how little or how essential. In the third instance, the parsimony applied also to the husband, causing the family to live on subsistent spending.

Well, as the money-hoarding husbands died, the wives found out the truth. They were rich! Not just wealthy, but rich! And then they started to hate the memory of the cheapskates who caused them to suffer mostly uncomfortable, unhappy days fraught with denial, continuous challenge and bickering. Not fun, and not good memories.

Psychologists can have a field day considering the reasons, and I really do not care why. What I can offer as a lesson is that legacies are established by how people live their lives, not by how much they leave behind. As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

A benefit of our profession is that many times we see the whole picture. The beginning, middle and end. We are confidential advisors who keep what we see to ourselves. But with certain clients we run out of energy trying to get them to reconsider the misguided ways they lead their lives.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

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