The $1500 Sandwich

sandwich (2)
 

 

“I’ll do it myself.”

It is a beautiful statement. It speaks to human ingenuity, determination, and bravery. It underscores a belief in oneself, either to be or become what you need to succeed. The sentence can be rooted in frustration when others fail to complete the task at hand. We even hear it in more sinister tones when the villain of a story intends to carry out a nefarious deed.

Now imagine the task. It might be taking out the garbage, and the good-for-nothing husband forgets, leaving the hustling wife to shout, “I’ll do it MYSELF!” as she slams the door–and for good reason. Or the well-intentioned friend who politely but firmly waves off the offered help to move the 400-pound refrigerator into the kitchen. “Thanks, but I’ll do it myself.” Sometimes that sentence carries a little hubris.

Now imagine where this can go wrong. I watched an incredible video where a man with no tools films himself surviving in the wilderness for a year. He spends three days crafting a makeshift ax and a week to make basic pots. He spends hours sharpening a rock and days creating a kiln to fire his pottery. I watched him labor for hours for a bowl as I ate cereal from a bowI I spent a dollar on at the store.

I also read about the man who decided to make his own sandwich from scratch–every single ingredient. Six months and $1,500 later, he had himself a sandwich. He declared it “not bad”. Meanwhile, he had to grow a garden, gather salt from ocean water, make cheese, and kill a chicken. Hopefully his feeling of accomplishment made the sandwich taste a little better.

There are many things worth doing yourself. Quick, simple, low risk things make sense. Doing things you enjoy makes sense too.  Complex, difficult, and high stakes tasks do not typically land in that category unless you have the expertise to do it right. Why would I try to make my own pen when I can buy it? Or build my own car if I don’t love cars?

Simply put, do what you do best, hire the rest. Do what you love best, hire the rest.

A financial version of this: an acquaintance of mine managed his own retirement plan at work. In 1999, he was worried about Y2K causing a market meltdown. He concluded the best thing to do was sell everything and hold cash. The year 2000 came. No crash. The stock market rallied, and he was left behind. Kicking himself, he reinvested everything. Crunching the numbers (which I also wonder if he did correctly), he estimated that this single decision set him back a full 2 years of working. That is an expensive lesson. And meanwhile, all the time he spent researching could have been spent on something meaningful.

What stops people from asking for help? Sometimes it is the ego. People can be too proud to admit they need help. Others are too ashamed to open up their finances to someone else. Some, paradoxically, believe they don’t have time to get help (but they have time to work a few extra years instead!). Still others struggle with paying for advice—they figure the cost outweighs the benefit. All of these are real and legitimate reasons to decide not to get help.

The solution to each of these concerns is simple in theory: if people could see and feel what happens if they had help, they could decide if it was worth it.

The problem with financial planning and investments is the uncertainty. People can’t look into the future and know an advisor is going to make them better off. They can’t see or touch a physical item. They have to make a leap of faith.

And one of the things everyone understands is price. People see a large price tag and don’t understand what they receive. I would be hesitant to pay for help too!

But if a client can see the benefits from behavioral coaching, investment advice, and expert guidance they are likely more willing to pay for the help. If they realize the advice can help save them money & time, simplifies things, and make them feel more confident...the phrase changes. Instead of "I'll do it myself," it might become "Please take care of this for me."

Maybe I should put an apron on when I meet with clients and help them make their financial sandwiches.