Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Sound Publishing’s The Time of Your Life, Spring 2015.
To Marilee Hageman, there’s nothing like a stack of messy papers, bank statements and receipts.
“I’m kind of like a forensic bookkeeper, or a numbers detective,” Hageman said. “I love to reconcile accounts to the penny.”
Hageman, who lives in Kingston, recently retired from the world of professional accounting, but has a consulting business of her own where she’ll take on projects for individuals and small businesses.
Among her talents are processing cash receipts and accounts payable, preparing monthly financial reports, reconciling bank accounts, preparing payroll, preparing quarterly sales tax returns and B&O taxes, implementing computer accounting programs and updating employee handbooks. She charges a base rate of $40 an hour and is just beginning to build her client list.
A Seattle native, she began working as a bookkeeper in San Francisco in the mid-1960s. She didn’t have a college degree, but she’d been a bookkeeper for her father’s company in Seattle.
“I was making $290 a month and my good friend, who had moved to San Francisco, told me jobs there were paying $400 a month. So I went.”
One of her first jobs was for Walter Landor, a well-known packing company executive.
“He had an old ferry boat he moved from Seattle to Pier 5 in San Francisco,” she said. “That’s where his office was. We just got use to the rocking back and forth with the waves. Sometimes stuff would just slide off our desks. The chairs would float across the room and the file cabinet drawers would swing open.”
As she out grew a job, she’d move on to another one that was more challenging. She stayed working in California until 2000 when she moved to New York where she worked for an architectural firm in Manhattan as its bookkeeper. She moved up to a position as a controller, and then went to work for an accounting company where she added human resource skills to her repertoire.
She eventually moved back to California to care for her aging mother and. in 2007, moved back to the Seattle area.
“I didn’t want to live in Seattle,” she said. “I thought Port Orchard sounded like a great place. But I’d never been there.”
She began looking for house and ended up falling in love with a condo in Kingston. Soon she went back to work as an accountant for William Boeing Jr., who just died in January. She oversaw his personal accounts and his business interests until last October, a job that included a two- to three- hour commute each way.
“I’d get on the bus in Kingston at 6 in the morning and go to Bainbridge Island and take the ferry to downtown Seattle to the office,” she said. “And every night I’d do that in reverse.”
After four years of that commute, she decided to stay home and find clients on her own.
One of the most challenging jobs she’s had as an independent consultant was helping a friend with years and boxes of business papers.
“Her husband was a general contractor,” Hageman said. “He died very suddenly and she was left with 10 years of paperwork and and 10 years of tax returns that hadn’t been filed.”
It took Hageman about four months to reconstruct everything.
“Bank statements are like the skeleton,” she said. “They’ll tell you what you don’t know. It’s all about tearing it all apart and then putting it back together so it makes sense.”
Today, she has just a handful of clients and is building her business slowly. She’s experienced in QuickBooks Pro, Excel and Word. She’ll work on location or out of her home.
She hopes to be able to offer services to seniors — volunteering if needed — just to help them out.
Many times, seniors aren’t able, due to health or other reasons, to keep up with their mail, their bills and their bank statements, she said.
“I want to help them out when I can,” she said. “I love numbers that much.”
But she’s not all business. Hageman has many talents. She’s a member of the women’s singing group Lyrica in Port Orchard and also travels with that group.
She knits and sews and just recently made smocks for the students at her grandson’s day care. She has a daughter who lives in Massachusetts and a new granddaughter as well.
“I’m not all left-brained,” she said. “I have a creative side, too.”
To reach Hageman, call 360-509-2306, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.