Michael is an Accountant & Financial Literacy Educator
Michael Durant, a Senior Tax Associate at Prager Metis CPAs LLC, returns to the podcast from episode 186 to talk about how he began working with financial literacy awareness programs, his recent hobby of playing chess, and how the pandemic has made many people pursue new hobbies!
• Getting into financial literacy awareness
• Playing chess against his brother
• Hobby charity auction at Prager Metis
• Why he feels that change happens from the top
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Welcome to Episode 440 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago, to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book, in general, goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and now listening to it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Michael Durant. He’s a senior tax accountant with Prager Metis in New York City, and now he’s with me here today. Michael, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Michael: Thank you. Thank you for having me, John.
John: Yeah, absolutely, man. This is going to be awesome. We’ve chatted in between, a couple of times, but it’s cool to have you be a part of this again. Financial literacy awareness is super key. I love what you’re doing, man. It’s awesome. I do have some rapid-fire questions, get to know Michael out of the gate here, ones I didn’t ask last time, and maybe I should have. Seat belts buckled, here we go. All right, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Michael: Game of Thrones.
John: Oh, wow. That was easy one.
Michael: So easy.
John: Solid, solid. Yeah, it was, hands down. All right, more socks or shoes.
John: How about a favorite cereal?
Michael: Oh, Fruity Pebbles just because that’s what I’m looking at.
John: Fruity Pebbles, nice.
Michael: That’s what I’m looking at.
John: That’s what you’re looking at. That’s awesome. I love that. Great answer. How about your first concert?
Michael: I’ve never really been big on concerts, but I did do — there was one, was it the World Concert that they hold in Central Park here, and they had a bunch of artists come. That’s the most memorable concert that I can think of, I’ve been to.
John: Yeah, totally. No, that’s awesome, man. That’s a great concert. Absolutely. How about when it comes to books, audio version, Kindle version or real book?
Michael: I prefer to read a real book, but time is of the essence. Sometimes you’ve got to hit the audio book while you’re doing other stuff.
John: Right. Double speed and just bam, bam. There you go. You just knock it out. I like that. How about, would you say more suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Michael: Jeans and a T-shirt. COVID has made me real comfortable.
John: There you go. Because I know you’re a suit and tie guy too, that’s why I wasn’t sure which one would work. All right, and the last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Michael: Ooh, I’m going to get hated for this because I know what the correct answer is. Under.
John: Under. Okay.
Michael: I hope that’s the one that the majority rule is on.
John: Against the wall. You’re just like, there you go. All right. People with cats usually are on the under. Most people are on the over. It’s all good. It’s all good. Just be careful if you invite people over to your house, they might switch it on you. People are really adamant about that one. That’s pretty funny. Yeah, let’s talk about financial literacy awareness and how cool it is. Just maybe back up for some of the people that didn’t hear Episode 186, of just what it is that you’re doing with that.
Michael: Yeah. At the beginning, I just started out of college. I started volunteering with organizations, going to high schools originally and some community organizations, and teaching young kids about budgeting, taxes, just understanding, hey, when that check comes, it’s not the $15 an hour you thought you were earning, it’s a little bit less, and importance of savings, importance of insurance, and just the things that we as adults learn way too late in life.
John: No, no, absolutely, man. There are a lot of adults that I’ve met that could go through some of what you’re doing. It’s amazing how our relationship with money is just, it’s complicated because of those reasons that we don’t really know about it or how it works or how to take care of it. You worked so hard to earn it, don’t lose it all, and just, yeah, how it works. I love that. It’s something that you’re still doing?
Michael: Yeah. I actually am giving a presentation tomorrow, based on insurance and wealth preservation for the New York Public Library.
John: That’s very cool, man. Yeah. The library’s putting it on and inviting people to come and then there you go. You’re dropping knowledge bombs on them. I like it.
Michael: Yeah, the public library, especially here in New York, always has great series going on, and this has been an ongoing one. This was a category that they didn’t really have someone presenting on, and they reached out and asked me to do it. I said, I could talk a little bit about it.
John: Right. How many hours do you want? That’s great because everyone that’s coming is at a lower level, and you’re able to just step it up just a little bit, stuff that they’ve never heard about, or reinforcing things that they had heard before but maybe weren’t putting into action. That’s super cool. Do you feel people in general are sharing their hobbies and interests more now than when we first talked?
Michael: Oh, I think so because I think the pandemic required everyone to find something else to do.
John: Right. Yeah.
Michael: I think a lot of my coworkers, when we talk, a lot of my friends, everyone has picked up a new hobby. Even if they had a hobby before, it might have been like, oh, it was a hobby that required, in the beginning, to be around a bunch of people, so now I picked up something different. For me, it was, I’ve been battling my brother in chess for —
John: Oh, okay. I love that you used the word battle. That’s intense. It’s only because you’re brothers, which is why it’s a battle.
Michael: He watches YouTube videos.
John: Oh, that’s cheating. He’s totally cheating.
Michael: Oh, yeah, he’s well-trained. He moves pieces like this is X opening wide open. Queen’s Gambit was a whole thing for him.
John: Oh, yeah. That was a great show. Absolutely. That was an awesome show. That’s cool though, man. That’s new for you? Or the battle part of it maybe is new.
Michael: The battle part is new. We always played board games together. During the pandemic, we spent a lot more time together, and so we started playing chess. I was winning for a long time. All of a sudden, he got really good really fast, and I couldn’t figure out why. YouTube. So far, I’m up three in a row right now.
John: Oh, okay. All right. All right. I think you should just retire. Just be like, oh, I lost the board, can’t play anymore. Sorry.
John: As the older brother, you get to control that side of things. That’s funny. Do you have an overall score? Or is it more of just an in-a-row thing?
Michael: It’s more of in-a-row thing. We’ve been playing for, what, it’s been 18 months now.
John: Right. That’s crazy. Yeah, that would be a lot of games. That would be pretty impressive. That’s cool though, man. It’s something new. It’s something different. It doesn’t require crowds or being at restaurants or bars or stadiums or whatever. Plus, it’s bonding time with your brother, which is always good.
Michael: Yeah. Sometimes we’ll just — the board is in the living room, on a coffee table, so I’ll move a piece. We have a little thing on the table that we use to keep track of whose turn it is. It’s the honor system. Sometimes we’re sitting there together. Sometimes it’s just, I walk past, move it, he’ll walk past, make his move. I’ll leave a little note, check.
John: Right. That’s great. I would probably take a picture of the board just to make sure he doesn’t rearrange a couple of pieces and be like, wait a minute, that’s not where that was. That’s awesome though, man. Yeah, that’s super cool. That’s fantastic. Also, to hear that your coworkers are also talking about their thing, is this something that just comes up naturally? Or does the firm have something specific that they do, tone at the top sort of thing, or just…
Michael: Yeah, the firm puts on a charity auction. In the past, the partners would showcase some of their skills, or anyone would showcase their skills. We’ve had people who are chefs who would donate a meal prepped by them, and do an auction on it. Zumba classes, painting lessons, our firm really promotes our activities. Then within, other people, there are, of course, the cliques that this group is into skiing, they’re skiing group and stuff like that.
John: I love that idea though, where there are people that work for the firm that have these “ands” that then other people auction on, to get. That’s a freaking cool idea, man. Because then you’re accidentally learning what everyone else’s “ands” are, and then they’re able to provide it to a coworker. I love that so much. That’s such a simple idea and really cool. I’d have to imagine that there have been some things that come up that you’re like, wow, I had no idea that she likes to whatever, or he likes to whatever, type of thing.
Michael: Oh, yes. One of my coworkers was an amazing artist. I had no idea. She donated her artwork for the auction, and it was like, wow.
John: Yeah. Right? You remember that. It’s like, well, what was her job? Well, I forget exactly what her job was, but she’s a painter. I know that much. That’s super cool, man. I love that. I love that so much. It’s just neat to see ways that organizations bring that out in people, and encourage that. It’s cool to hear that you’re somewhere that does that because not everywhere does. How much do you feel like it is a tone at the top sort of thing, or how much is it just amongst your peer group to share?
Michael: I think it definitely has to be a tone at the top thing. The industry that we’re in is changing. Accountants have been known for being stiff, and we’re blossoming. You’re seeing us in places. We’re getting movies and shows now where we’re starting to show up. I think the tone at the top really lets people be themselves. I think the pandemic helped celebrate that for a lot of people because it just opened people up, like, I want to be myself.
John: Yeah. Right. We’ve also been in each other’s homes now. We’ve seen the dogs and the cats and the —
John: — the pictures on the walls and the whatever. We’ve seen all that stuff. As we go to more in-person, let’s not act like we didn’t see that stuff. Ask about it. People love to talk about that side of things. It lights them up. When you talk about financial literacy, you get excited, for sure, and chess as well, now, well, more the battling part of it really. I have a brother as well, a younger brother, and really, you can make anything a battle between two brothers. Clearly, chess is a battle.
Michael: Also, we both take turns cooking. Well, we don’t take turns cooking. He mostly cooks, but occasionally, I’ll cook. It’s always like, he’s cooking, and then I’m Gordon Ramsay coming in. This is how you do it.
John: That’s hilarious.
Michael: I can’t wait for him to hear this.
John: There will be new battles all over the place. Or you come back and the locks are changed. You’re like, I shouldn’t have shown him how to do that. That’s super funny. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that maybe has an “and” outside of work, a hobby or passion, but they feel like it has nothing to do with their job or that no one’s going to care?
Michael: I think my words of encouragement will be just do it and showcase it. Don’t be afraid of it. I am very open about giving back to my community in this way. I tell my partners. When I get a new opportunity, I bring it to them. I tell my managers, “This is what I’m doing next week, guys.” Because, one, not only does it relate to my field of work. If you do what you love, it’s never work, right? Also, because I’m doing that next week, what are you doing next week?
John: There you go. Absolutely. It’s a can opener. It’s almost where reciprocity has to happen where you share, and the universe is out of balance, if they don’t share back. It takes almost a psychopath to not share back.
John: Or you’re just like, um, I think I have to say something now. It’s like, yeah, you do, so what is it, type of thing. Then conversations flow from that. I love that, man, where you’re just putting yourself out there. That’s great advice. Because at no point is someone going to say, “Oh, really? Well, you’re fired.” For some reason, in our brains, we think the worst is going to happen. It’s like, no, it’s not. Just share and then cool things happen, man. I love that. Well, it’s only fair that, since I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, that before we wrap this up that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Michael Durant podcast. You’re the host. I’m the guest. Whatever you want, man, I’m all yours.
Michael: Okay, I’ve got a few for you. Monopoly or Scrabble.
John: Oh, wow. Monopoly. Yeah.
Michael: Any particular version you like?
John: I have the Simpsons one. That’s particularly fun. The old school classic one is always great too.
Michael: I have a Game of Thrones monopoly.
John: Oh, okay.
Michael: I also saw the longest game of Monopoly, which is a double board.
John: Holy cow.
John: A double board. Oh, my.
Michael: It’s a world record of playing it.
John: Yeah, that would take forever. That would take forever. That’s a lot of deals happening on the side. That’s crazy.
Michael: I’m going to give you a couple of more games me and my brother have played. Uno or Spades.
John: I’m going to go Spades, I think. Yeah, because you can play with a regular deck, which is more common, and, yeah, it’s old school. Yeah, I’m going to go Spades on that. Yeah, for sure.
Michael: Okay, and we’ve also been in the physical fitness. Push-ups or sit-ups.
John: Ice cream and cake? No, I was kidding. I’ll say push-ups. I’ll say push-ups because I feel like there’s a lot of ab work when you’re doing the push-ups too because you’re kind of planking, so it’s a little bit of both.
Michael: Full body workout.
John: Yeah, yeah. I’ll say push-ups. Not how many I can do, but I’ll say push-ups.
Michael: We’ll leave that for the next podcast.
John: Right. Exactly.
Michael: Last one for you, of all the hobbies that you have learned about, because listening to your show, I’ve even thought about like, man, maybe one day, I want to pick up motocross or some of the other hobbies. Has there any that you picked up, especially during the pandemic, that you’re like, I’ll give this a try?
John: Yeah, so I — not because of anyone that I talked to on the podcast, but I picked up rowing during the pandemic, mostly because of an efficiency thing. I hate running. Every time I run, my brain is literally like, here’s 1000 things you should be doing instead. Rowing, in 20 minutes, you can get an intense row in. It’s full body, and it’s a great workout. You get your heart rate up, and it’s 20 minutes. It’s like, well, I’ve got that, type of thing. Plus, it’s kind of fun. You can get a video up on the computer, and it feels like you’re rowing in nature or whatever. Yeah, I picked up rowing. It’s something I never thought I’d ever do or ever thought of doing or cared to do, but yeah, pretty much for health reasons and just pandemic, it was like, might as well, why not? Rowing, man, that’s the new one for me. I wouldn’t quite put it on an “and” level because if you were like, hey, you can’t row anymore; I’d be like, all right, that’s fine. It’s not quite a passion, type of thing, but it’s a hobby outside of work, for sure. That’s a good question, man. That’s a good question, for sure. That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Michael, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? and for, yeah, just being a cool professional and shattering that stereotype of people have an outside-of-work interest. Thanks, man.
Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Michael outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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