September 16, 2014

Why I Don’t Fix My Own Car

Credit: Naypong
A question I’m sometimes asked that I don’t particularly look forward to is why someone should pay for financial planning and investment management services that they could do themselves. It’s certainly a valid question, but it’s also an awkward question for me to answer because it forces me to offer what feels like an arrogant response as nice as I possibly can. The gist of my response to, "Should someone be willing to pay a reasonable amount for financial planning and investment management services?" is usually something to the effect of “Yes.”

I’ve found that most potential clients who ask this sort of question are either very fee-conscious, they are do-it-yourself investors, or both. They may like me as a person, and they may even be impressed with my initial presentation or dialogue, but they are hung up on the irrefutable fact that if they devised the same financial and investment strategy that I’m going to work with them to develop, they’d be better off because they wouldn’t have to pay my firm’s fees. They are quite right if they devised the same (or even a better) financial and investment strategy, but what I really want to tell some of them is that I don’t fix my own car!

I don’t fix my own car not because I can’t or am not smart enough to learn how to, but because I work and have family and friends. Like many of you, I’m a busy man, and I simply cannot dedicate the amount of time it would take for me to be comfortable driving a car that I worked on. Not to mention, I don’t personally enjoy working on cars, nor am I a trained mechanic. I might pop the hood in an emergency or try to fix a blown brake light from time to time, but when it comes to something like a knocking sound in the engine or noticeably out-of-balance tires, I’m out. When it comes to something as important as my daily mode of transportation that happens to be worth several thousand dollars and could impact my family’s well-being, I want an expert mechanic whose sole focus is my car.

I hope you know me well enough to know that I’m not trying to be self-serving in anyway, but I have to say that when it comes to something as important as people’s financial well-being and their ability to fulfill their financial and life goals, I really wish they’d go with a “financial mechanic.” Whether you don’t understand finances, don’t want to understand finances, don’t have time to understand finances, are incredibly fee-conscious, or are a do-it-yourself investor, I really wish you’d let someone help you or at least occasionally offer a second opinion. Maybe from time to time you’ll want to fix a blown “financial brake light,” but when it comes to a knocking in your financial engine or an out-of-balance investment portfolio, wouldn’t you like some professional help?

Prudent, long-term investment advice can absolutely be a huge deal, but don’t underestimate the potential financial and emotional value of financial planning and wealth counsel. Figuring out a way for new parents to know they will be able to send their child to college is worth something. Figuring out how to implement a little-known tax strategy that saves real dollars is worth something. Having someone to convince you the sky is not falling some years and not to go all-in at the top of the market cycle other years is worth something.

As I said earlier, I’m not trying to be braggadocios in any way, and I’m not trying to pressure you into seeking financial advice from me or any other quality advisor out there, I’m simply trying to make a point. When I don’t feel well, there are some things I’ll try, but at the end of the day, if I’m still not well, I’ll go see a doctor. When it’s somebody’s birthday and I need a cookie cake big enough to feed a small army, I'll go see a baker. When something isn’t working with my car, I’ll go see a mechanic.

Do what you do, but please be careful if you fix your own car.


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