I recently returned from a vacation to Lake Powell. It’s always an adventure to go down there since Lake Powell has more coastline than the entire Western Coast of the United States, and I’ve seen most of it from my little boat. (Yeah, I know, buying a boat is a stupid financial move. Don’t remind me.) This trip happened to contain more adventures than usual, including suturing lacerations in the wilderness and getting stranded in portions of the lake where there actually isn’t any accessible shore due to the vertical sandstone walls rising right out of the water for miles.
We enjoy camping and exploring and we were at the back of a flooded box canyon when I turned the key to start the engine and the key kept right on turning. The incident caused me to reflect on the importance of being a do-it-yourselfer. When I was a teenager, I often told my dad that when I grew up I was going to make enough money that I wouldn’t have to work on my own car. I feel the same way about my boat. But the problem is that I use this boat to go places where there is no one to pay to work on my boat when it breaks. It’s either fix it myself, or, well, I’m screwed. So I’ve taken to doing my own maintenance and repairs on the boat, at least most of the time. I carry a repair manual and a toolbox in the boat and have learned to do lots of little repairs.
In this particular instance, I was lucky that someone happened by a few minutes later who just happened to know how to hotwire the ignition. Now I’m proud to say that I too know how to hotwire an ignition. Until I get to the point where I can afford a houseboat with a helicopter on top, I’ll probably continue to pick up these little skills.
Just like with taking your boat 40 miles from the nearest marina, there are also times in your financial life when you may find you need to be a do-it-yourselfer. Perhaps you need a little higher return to reach your goals, and can’t afford the 0.5%-1% it might cost you to hire an investment manager. Perhaps you can’t seem to find someone you can trust for financial advice. Perhaps you just need to do a rollover away from a high-fee brokerage. Whatever the case, it’s good to at least have a repair manual, a tool kit, and a few MacGyver skills tucked away in your back pocket. You might take a look at these “repair manuals.”
Now I’m not going to overhaul the engine on that boat myself, and I’m not going to draw up my own revocable trust either. But assuming you can always trust others to do everything for you for a fee without knowing anything about it yourself is a recipe for disaster, both in boating and in investing. You don’t have to be a hard-core do-it-yourselfer to benefit from learning a little bit about insurance, investing, estate planning, asset protection, banking, and real estate. A little knowledge goes a long way, and the first stuff you learn tends to be pretty high-yield.
How have you “walked the line” in deciding what to do yourself, and when you need to hire an expert?
Image Credit: Justin Brockie, Via Wikimedia, CC-BY