The Secret Life of Accountants
What do you think of when someone says the word “accountant?” You probably think of some old guy wearing a green visor with a pencil behind his ear and mounds of adding machine paper piled on the floor. Or do you think of the more modern version of an accounting department at a large firm as a bunch of suits with their noses in a computer terminal endlessly toiling away on spreadsheets, taxes and financial compliance?
Those stereotypes of accountants are quite incorrect and incomplete. In fact, accountants throughout history are more like superheroes. In the past, accountants have also shown their skills in areas like fashion, innovation, acting, music, crime fighting, and even espionage. Hardly boring and stuffy, accountants may lead secret lives while performing all the tasks required for your business to assure you maintain financial compliance and best accountings practices.
Everyone knows that Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper.” During the painting of that renowned masterpiece, da Vinci’s friend, Luca Pacioli – mathematician and accountant - was by his side as an advisor on perspective. Pacioli is remembered more as the “Father of Accounting” and inventing the double-entry bookkeeping system. (Although, admittedly, you must be an accountant to fully appreciate the significance of that invention!)
Accountant Matthaus Schwarz is known for creating “the world’s first fashion book.” Schwarz performed his accounting duties for a wealthy merchant in Augsburg, Germany in the early 1500’s. Since he was fascinated by clothing, he spent a great deal of his income on fashion. From 1520 to 1560, he commissioned artists to make accurate watercolor paintings of the styles he wore to various events he attended, and the compilation of those paintings became known as the “Book of Clothes.”
Most people know the notorious gangster, Alphonse “Scarface” Capone. Al Capone controlled a vast criminal empire through murder, extortion, money laundering and racketeering. However, he was never convicted on any of those crimes. He was convicted on the crime of tax fraud. Frank Wilson, a forensic accountant working for the U.S. Treasury Department, brought Capone to justice. In a two-year investigation, Wilson’s dogged determination and unparalleled skills in forensic accounting netted Capone an 11-year prison sentence. And speaking of crime fighters, 15% of the agent force of the FBI are special agent accountants.
Bob Newhart, the famous comedic actor, began his career after World War II as an accountant for United States Gypsum. However, he later admitted that he didn’t have the temperament to be an accountant and went on to stand-up comedy and television.
How about musicians? Robert Plant and Mick Jagger both studied accounting. And take Kenny G., that famous smooth saxophonist. He graduated magna cum laude in accounting.
John Grisham studied tax law and if weren’t for the “complexity and lunacy” of it, he may have been writing suspenseful novels about tax attorneys instead of trial lawyers.
Accountants have been a part of history even before numerical systems were invented. Whenever or wherever commerce took place, accountants were there. There is even archeological evidence dating back to 5300 B.C. showing that Egyptian accountants were tracking inventory by making marks on bone shards. So, when it comes to keeping track of our records, assuring financial compliance and maintaining best practices, it’s those ”boring” accountants that keep us out of trouble.
There’s a saying that goes, “accounting is possibly the most boring subject in the world and it also could be the most confusing. But if you want to be rich, long term, it is the most important subject.” So, talk to your accountant. shake their hand and try to figure out what secret life they may be leading while helping you with your business practices and compliance.
Numbers by Victoria offers virtual bookkeeping services and other financial options for individuals and small businesses. Since our services can be performed virtually, we’re able to work with people all over the United States. To contact Numbers By Victoria, or to learn more about our bookkeeping services, please visit: www.numbersbyvictoria.com.