Wray raises foster kids and files tax returns
Wray Rives is a CPA based out of Texas with over 20 years of experience in public accounting. He currently owns an accounting firm that provides virtual accounting and tax services to cloud based businesses. Wray is a part of the American Institute of CPA’s and the Texas Society of CPA’s.
Wray received a BBA in Accountancy from the University of Mississippi.
In this episode, Wray shares his experiences in raising foster children, how it influenced him to be more open of his foster care experience in the workplace, and how it affected his own children growing up. Wray also shares a story of how he attended a Lynryd Skynyrd after party!
• How Wray got into raising foster kids
• How his experience in being a foster parent helped him become more empathetic
• Being open about being a foster parent in the workplace
• Why he feels it is standard to not share your passion in the workplace
• Why Wray feels it is on the individual to be open about your passions in the workplace
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Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 174 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. They’re shattering what people think of the stereotype. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise, what we’ve learned in school and certifications and all that. I’m here to shine a light on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned just that way. Sometimes it’s our experience and passions outside of work that will make us better at our job but only if we share them.
Really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute anonymous survey about Corporate Culture, about how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please go to greenapplepodcast.com. Click that big green button there. Answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help. Thanks so much to everyone for hitting subscribe so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Wray Rives. He’s the CEO needacpa.com. It’s a virtual CPA firm that services clients all over the world. Wray, thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Wray: Glad to be here, John.
John: Yeah, I’m super excited to have you on especially after you reached out after Jennifer Warawa was a guest talking about her foster parenting. You’re like, “Hey, I do that.” I was like, “That’s so fantastic, man.”
Wray: Yeah. It’s great to know that there’s two accountants that we both share the same passion for taking care of foster kids also.
John: Right. Exactly. I always like to start the episodes out with my 17 rapid-fire questions, so we’re going to get to know Wray on a new level right out of the gate. I’m going to fire this thing up here. All right. The first one, I’ll start out easy for you. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Blue. Nice. How about a least favorite color?
Wray: Probably a green.
John: Green? Interesting. Okay. All right. What’s a typical breakfast?
Wray: Typical breakfast is oatmeal.
John: Oh, okay. Nice. Do you put anything in it or just straight oatmeal?
Wray: Pretty much just straight oatmeal. I might throw in some walnuts every now and then or a little bit of honey. That’s about it.
John: Yeah, yeah. All right. How about you have a favorite adult beverage?
Wray: A mojito.
John: Mojito. Nice. Okay. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Wray: I’m definitely a Sudoku guy. That’s the reason I get the Sunday newspapers to work the Sudoku.
John: That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Wray: Shoot. Gosh. I like George Clooney. Most of his movies sort of kind of hit me.
Wray: Yeah. He’s probably one of my more favorites.
John: Great answer. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Wray: I’m definitely an early bird. I get going early in the morning. I’m ready to go to bed by 9:30, 10 o’clock.
John: Okay. Great. Yeah. Well, I’m glad we’re recording early then for you.
Wray: That’s right.
John: How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Wray: Gosh. They’re both pretty even in my book.
Wray: I’m not about both of them. I’m not one of those weird people that loves one and hates the other. I love them both.
John: Both. Okay. Nice. That works, man. How about when it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?
Wray: Because of the software I use, I’ve got to go with PC. I’ve got a Mac laptop. I use it. I love it. I’m probably more of a PC guy just because I’m also a tax guy and they just don’t make a lot of good tax software for the Mac.
John: Right. Mac is just a little too cool for the tax software.
Wray: It’s way too cool for tax people, yeah.
John: Right, and the software that comes with it. Yeah. For sure. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Chocolate. There you go. How about would you say you’re more suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Wray: Oh, I’m definitely jeans and a T-shirt. You either got to be dead or getting married for me to put on a suit.
John: That’s great. Oh, my gosh, that’s so funny. That’s hilarious. Very funny. Do you prefer things more hot or cold?
Wray: Oh, I’m definitely a hot guy, that’s why I live in Texas.
John: There you go. It’s hot all the time. Since you’re an accountant, I got to ask, more balance sheet or income statement?
Wray: I’m a cash flow guy. I like the cash flow statements.
John: Oh. Nice. There you go. Yeah. I don’t even know how to do a cash flow statement anymore. I don’t think I ever did.
Wray: It’s the ugly stepsister of the financial statements but it’s the best one.
John: It’s the hardest one, man. I remember in school, I was like, “I don’t know.” I just don’t know. There’s computers for this now. How about when you’re flying on an airplane, more a window seat or aisle?
Wray: I’m an aisle guy.
Wray: I don’t want to have to crawl over anybody to get to the restroom.
John: There you go. Three more. How about a favorite number?
John: Thirteen? Why is that?
Wray: That’s my birthday, because I was born on the 13th. Everybody always told me it was unlucky but I said, “Hey, you know, it was lucky for the rest of the world. I was born then.”
John: Yeah. Nice. I love it. All right. Two more. Do you have a favorite band or musician?
Wray: Man, I’m going to have to go old school here but it’s probably Lynyrd Skynyrd because I actually got to see them back when I was in high school and we were getting on the elevator and they were staying in our same hotel.
Wray: Not only did I get to go to the concert but I got to go to the after-party too. That’s kind of cool.
John: That’s amazing. In high school, too, man.
Wray: Oh, yeah. I saw stuff that I probably shouldn’t have seen in high school.
John: Right. That’s some life changing moments right there. The last one, the favorite that you own or the favorite thing you have?
Wray: Gosh. Possessions? I guess, are dogs possessions? I’ve got two dogs.
John: Yeah. That’s works. Yeah. Whatever favorite thing you have. What kind of dogs are they?
Wray: They’re mutts.
John: Mutts, very good.
Wray: Yeah. I just got them from the local Humane Society.
John: Well, that’s fantastic, man. Really fun. I love that answer, you got to be dead or getting married for me to put on a suit.
Wray: That’s the way I roll, yeah.
John: That’s hilarious.
Wray: That’s part of the beauty of having a virtual CPA firm. I don’t have to see people a lot. As long as I look good on email then I’m happy.
John: Right. That’s perfect, man. That’s perfect. But I love how you reached out about the foster parenting and after hearing Jennifer’s story but for you, like how did you get into that and want to start doing that?
Wray: It was kind of something that my wife and I always had talked about that we might do and we had young kids at the time. We were actually living in Houston, Texas. We didn’t want to do foster kids because until our kids we didn’t want it to be a thing where it was going to be a problem for our kids and they were young. There was a thing on the news that the police in Houston picked up a little six-year old boy walking down the freeway carrying his six-month old brother. They hadn’t seen their mom for three days. It was one of those big heart-wrenching stories and the news media carried follow ups with the kids. It turned out that they had put the six-year old in a foster home but they had had to take the six-month old and leave him at the hospital because they didn’t have foster parents that would take infants.
My wife and I just kind of, when that news story ran we looked at each other and just like, “Wait a minute, we can’t do the six-year old but we could do an infant.” We deliberately called the next day and went through the training and got signed up to be foster parents and been doing it for 27 years now.
John: Yeah. Wow. That’s really fantastic. I guess, do you have any cooler, more rewarding stories I guess?
Wray: Oh, gosh, yes. I’ve had a 105 foster kids.
Wray: Yeah. We’ve had some really amazing stories. I mean, we’ve had some great experiences. Everybody always says, “How do you let go of them? Don’t you get attached to them?” You do. If you do it right, you do get attached to the kids but there’s kids that come along, they really fit your family and they’re just great. There’s kids that come along and years later, when it’s time for them to go, you’re like, “Okay, go have a good life. You’ve been hard.”
John: Well, you’re doing really great work. You’re impacting them even if they don’t want to admit it.
Wray: Oh, yeah, yeah. It’s great. It’s been a great thing, having our kids grow up with that, always having kids around. My youngest now is 30. My oldest is 36. They’ve always grown up having kids around and they’re good with kids now. We laugh about my daughter-in-law but when my son and his wife were dating in college, she agreed to come and stay with the kids. We had three foster kids at the time and she agreed to come stay with them all. We were going on a trip for the weekend. She calls my son about two hours into it and says, “Oh my God, Josh, what have I gotten myself into? I’m sitting here with three kids.” He, having spent his entire life growing up taking care of foster kids, he was like, “You’ve only got three, what’s the big deal?”
John: No, totally. I mean, I have no kids but my brother has three. When I go over there, I go from like zero to sixty just walking in, you’re like, “What?”
Wray: Yeah. If you don’t do it, it’s not a big deal but if you do it all the time, having a bunch of kids around kind of sinks like, “You know, okay, it’s just normal.”
John: Right. No, that’s fantastic though. Really cool. I mean, just all the lives that you’ve touched. That’s really fantastic.
Wray: We get more out of it than sometimes I think than the kids do. I mean, it’s been very rewarding for us. It’s been a really amazing journey, I think for our kids too. We live in an affluent community. Our kids grew up in a bubble. The foster kids in a lot ways kind of pierced that bubble for them. They weren’t able to see that, “Hey, you know what, there’s people that are living a different life. They have different issues.” I remember, my oldest was 12 I guess and we got a little boy. His mom was 13. My 12-year old, you talk about when they get to that age, you have to have talks about premarital sex. Well, that was just a slap in the face to him. He was like, “Oh, my God. Why does someone want to have kid when they’re 13? That’s just crazy.”
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Wray: We’ve had kids that were drug addicted that you’d think you need to have talks with your teenagers about, don’t do drugs.
Well, when they spent the night up because you got a kid that’s going through withdrawal and they see how miserable that is. Sometimes I think you do your kids a favour by exposing them to some of the harsh realities of life.
John: No. I mean, yeah, I mean, that’s amazing. I mean, yeah, just the basic things. I mean, yeah, when I was 12, I mean, I was playing Nintendo and soccer.
Wray: There you go.
John: It’s just like crazy. That’s great how it does show them when they’re complaining about maybe something that they don’t have. It’s like, “We’re doing all right. Things aren’t so bad.”
Wray: Yeah. They appreciate what they got in life, I think, better. Now, the downside to it is that my three boys, only one has ever gotten married and have kids yet. I don’t know. We may have totally ruined them.
Wray: All three of my boys definitely used it to their advantage when they were in high school because we had an infant especially. They called him chick magnets because they were coming, we were in a high school sporting event. One of my boys would come down and go, “Where is the baby? I want to take the baby,” because they would walk down to the student section and every girl in the whole arena would come down, “Oh, look at the baby. Look at the baby.”
Wray: They used it to their advantage, too.
John: That’s pretty funny. Yeah. That’s fantastic though, man. It’s so touching that you guys did that and continue. That’s really fantastic. Do you feel like this helps develop a skill set that you use in your day-to-day profession?
Wray: You know what, I think it helps you be empathetic. When you’re dealing with people and they got their own problems in life, I think it keeps you from being quite so judgmental. I’ve been able to help a lot of people because we’ve navigated the whole foster parent arena. I get people now through our clients that were foster parents and there are tax implications to it sometimes whether or not you can claim the child as a dependent and what happens if you adopt and can you get an adoption credit. There’s things that you learn just because you lived it that maybe I wouldn’t have necessarily dealt with much. Most of my clients were businesses so you get the occasional individual who is, you know, “Hey, we’re adopting a kid. Do you know anything about that?” “Well, yeah, actually, I do.”
John: Right. No, yeah, because I mean, it has nothing to do seemingly with accounting or tax work but it totally makes you better at doing that and relatable because it’s not just any tax accountant that happen to read about it. It’s like, “No, no. I live it.” You’re able to relate to them so much better. That’s really cool. Is there something that you would talk about? I mean, I have to imagine over 27 years and 105 kids that you fostered that people know, but I mean, is it something that would come up in the office?
Wray: It comes up occasionally if you’re talking to clients. Most of my clients that, you know, the ones, I’ve been doing this for a long time, the ones that are specially are local and have known me for a while. They all know that I keep foster kids because they’ve probably seen me at different times with some random kid or they’ll get a Christmas card from me and they’ll go, “Wait a minute. Who’s this other kid? Who’s this brown kid in the picture?”
John: Right. Right. That’s great though that you’re able to share it. I guess the one thing that I always struggle with is, it seems to me like a lot of people, their default mode is to not want to share these passions and interests outside of work. Why do you think that is?
Wray: Somewhere along the way we get the sense that in our professional life, we got to look perfect. We got to present this certain image. The truth is, no, I mean, we’re all human and people want to see the real you.
John: Absolutely. Yeah. I think it is true. There is that perfection pressure to be that and we’re not. I mean, we’re just not, no matter who you are, no matter what level you are in your career, I mean, you’re not perfect. You’re still really good at what you do though. It’s interesting to me that for some reason being human isn’t considered being professional. It’s weird to me.
Wray: Yeah, like we think that everybody else doesn’t have problems and they don’t live a real life either, you know what I mean. We all deal with it.
Wray: I think quite honestly sometimes it probably helps people because part of being effective in helping people is, they’ve got to be willing to share their deep, dark, financial secrets. Tell me about the things where they screwed up because if they don’t give me all the information, I can’t always help them if I don’t know everything that they’re dealing with. I think sometimes when you put yourself out there and make yourself a little more real to people, it makes them more willing to open up to you and say, “Hey, I’ve got problems, too. Let me tell you about this Ponzi scheme that I fell for.” Then you say, “Hey, you can write that off.”
John: Right. Right. No, that’s an excellent point there. It’s like that reciprocity where if you open up, they feel like the universe is unbalanced until they open up back.
Wray: Yeah, yeah, because they think they got to look perfect, too. They don’t want to tell you about all the foolish things that they did in their life.
John: Right. Right.
Wray: We’re all human. We’re all real.
John: That’s interesting. No, that’s really cool. Before you got into foster parenting did you have another hobby or passion that people might had known about at work or like early on in your career?
Wray: No. I started out working Arthur Andersen. When you go work for one of the big accounting firms like that, that’s like your hobby, your life, your whole existence.
John: Especially back in the day, yeah.
Wray: Oh, yeah, because this was back in the ’80s. We worked 12 to 15 hour a day, seven days a week. You’re just like, “Yeah, okay.” I remember working one job where we were working that kind of schedule and the partner shows up at 11 o’clock at night and he thinks he’s doing everybody a big favor. “Hey, I’ll take you all out and buy you drinks,” and you’re just like, “Really? No, I just want to go home because I got to be back here in six hours.”
John: Right. Right. Yeah. That’s crazy. There wasn’t really a lot of time or back in the day, I mean, it just wasn’t considered a thing. I mean, work-life balance wasn’t even a word let alone sharing.
Wray: I’m a baby boomer but I can tell you the millenials, that’s one thing they get right more than we did is that they understand that they need to have a life outside of work.
John: Right. I guess, how important do you think that is for people to have?
Wray: Oh, I think it’s absolutely totally important. I don’t know if they always see it when you’re in your 20s and 30s, I probably didn’t. I thought I had to work hard and be successful. Do all these great things in my career. Then you get further down the road and you realize, “You know, what now?” You need to live a good life. You need to enjoy it. Make the most out of it. It’s not all about showing up at the job and being it a successful career. You’re better off to do something you love doing and figure a way to make plenty at that.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s plenty of ways that you can do your accounting work just for certain kinds of clients or certain kinds of industries or how you want to do it or you’re a lawyer consulting or all the billable hour types. There’s plenty of ways that you can use that technical skills in a way that makes you excited to go to work.
Wray: Absolutely. I mean, you need to enjoy doing it. The big buzz word now with young people is work like crazy and save all your money, live this minimalist lifestyle so you can retire by the time you’re 40. I said, “You know, you’re missing a lot,” because the truth of the matter is, when you’re 60, you’re going to go, “No, I want to get up and go to work. I want to have a reason to go do something every day.” You’re better off to spend your time finding a career that you love doing what you do so that you’re excited to get up in the morning and go to work because it’s fulfilling.
John: Because it’s with people that you’re genuinely interested in. Yeah, I mean, it’s cool to just work amongst people that you care about or for clients that you care about. I have to imagine that. I mean, out of all the clients that you’ve had, the ones that are also foster parents or the ones that are adopting, you probably have a little bit of a different connection to them than the other people. They’re all clients but it’s just a little bit of a stronger connection there which is cool. Yeah. I guess, how much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture where sharing is almost mandatory or encouraged versus how much is it on the individual to just be like, “Hey, you know, I got my little circle of friends,” and go from there?
Wray: You know what, I think most of it falls upon the individual. It’s incumbent upon the leadership within the organization to make it okay. You’ve got to make it okay for individuals to be real and to really reflect who they truly are in their life and let their personal life bleed over into their business life. Once it’s okay then the people got to be willing to do it.
John: Right. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s not necessarily like drama or distractions or things like that.
John: It’s just true passions because sometimes when I speak at conferences or to firm, people wander am I talking about, “No, no. If you broke up with the 7th boyfriend this month, no, that’s not something that we’re talking about here.”
Wray: That’s not what anybody wants to hear about. We’ve all worked with that person who brought a little bit of personal turmoil to work every day.
Wray: That’s not what we want to hear about. We want to hear about your successes. We want to hear about the things that are going and maybe some of its got challenges. Maybe it’s real. Maybe some of it is dirty every now and then. We don’t want to hear that your life just constantly sucks. We want to hear about the things that you’re passionate about and that you enjoy doing and that you find fulfilment from.
John: No. I mean, it’s that find fulfilment. That’s where it’s at, right there. Yeah. This has been really fantastic. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening, the things that, well, my passion maybe, I’m a foster parent, that has nothing to do with accounting like why should I share that? No one’s going to care.
Wray: Everybody does care. It doesn’t matter if they’re foster parents or even have a clue about it.
I mean, number one, everybody can get behind kids that have family problems and everybody can be sympathetic to that. The part of it is that, if you’re passionate about something, people are interested in hearing about it because you’re excited about it. It’s something that you want to talk. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a topic that they even know about. If it’s something that you’re obviously passionate about, be willing to share that because it’s uplifting. It’s helpful to people to know you as a real person.
John: That’s fantastic man. Yeah, because they can see you light up and then that energy transfers to them. That’s fantastic, man. Really cool. This was really fantastic, Wray. It’s only right for me to offer to you to be able to turn the tables on the rapid-fire questions since I’ve started you right out of the gate with them. If you have any rapid-fire questions you like to shot my way, I’ll be glad to answer.
Wray: Sure. Okay, John. Boxers, or briefs or commando?
John: Oh, wow. Okay. How about boxer briefs? Does that count? What’s the new fancy kind?
Wray: Oh, okay, yeah. Favorite pastime?
John: A favorite pastime? Probably watching college football. Yeah, even in the off-season, even a game that I know how it ends, I’m still just as excited as if it’s happening in real time.
Wray: Okay. Then that leads to a favorite team.
John: Oh, favorite team. Yeah, Notre Dame. That’s where I went to school. Yeah, that’s definitely my team. I love all college football for sure. No, but this was really fantastic, Wray. Thanks so much for being a part of the Green Apple Podcast.
Wray: Awesome, John.
John: That was really fantastic. If you like to see some pictures from Wray’s travels to Africa and foster parenting adventures or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. It’ll really help for the book that I’m launching in a couple of months. Thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.