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September 2023

By Jessica Lanning, JD, CFP®


This blog post is about when it’s time to concede that doing-it-yourself is no fun and it’s time to delegate.

About a month ago I declared myself a master of maintaining my 80-year-old friend’s swim spa — as if this is something for me that was even worthwhile in which to become an expert.

As with many DIY tasks, I found myself mastering this dubious skill excitedly but reluctantly — seemed silly to hire someone to take on a task I could easily do, would be fun to learn something new, and would be a good money-saving service for my friend.

Then I realized it was taking up more time than I cared to devote to the swim spa, which I rarely use.

Most of my clients are financial planner do-it-yourselfers until they’ve run up against a similar struggle.  “Wait,” they wonder.  “Is this really a good use of my time?”


The Do-It-Yourself Mentality Dies Hard

I come from a long line of do-it-yourselfers.  Only in recent years have I been willing to admit to my dad that I don’t change the oil in my own car, and I was probably only let off that hook because he doesn’t change his anymore either.  Whew.

The DIY mentality is seemingly sourced from good intentions:

  • Early childhood messaging from family members.
  • A need for self-reliance. “I can figure this out.”
  • A “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” culture.
  • Wanting to save money. “Why pay for that when I can do it?
  • A belief that “I can do it better than anyone else.”
  • A love for learning.
  • Self-expression and making something one’s own.
  • Being part of a community that values DIY efforts.

The beginning of learning something new is fun and exciting.  The confidence and self-reliance built is often admirable and inspirational.  This is all good stuff.

I figured managing a swim spa couldn’t possibly be that hard.  I managed a neighborhood pool when I was a teenager.  Heck, it would be fun!  And my dad and I can text about water quality now that we don’t talk about oil changes.

Besides, there was a pool store on the way to gym, and I could drop in, have my water tested, get advice, and buy supplies from a local, small business owner.  Perfect!


When the DIY Spell Breaks

Managing the spa was all going great until the wife of the hetero couple that owned this store was outed by her husband one day when I learned that my “conditioner” was off-the-charts high.

HUH?!  How come I’ve never been told this before?!  I had done nothing differently.  I had followed the advice perfectly.  And what the heck is conditioner anyway?

The solution to off-the-charts conditioner?  I had to drain the water completely, scrub the sides and make sure the spa was drained as completely as I could get it.

A swim spa has the same inferiority complex as a loveseat (“I’m not a small couch!  I’m a big chair!”). A regular hot tub spa has about 500 gallons of water in it.  The swim spa?  1300.  It’s a lot of water and a lot of waiting around for the pool to fill.

Draining, scrubbing, spraying, and refilling took the better part of two days. Ugh.

Suddenly I felt like no expert.  Let’s suffice it to say that chemistry never was my best subject, and I still don’t really understand pH, bromine, alkalinity, and all those other pretty colors that show up on the test strips.

I was no master swim spa water tamer.  I had to admit I really didn’t know what I was doing.  And while I solved the problem and restored balance to the chemicals, I was exhausted.


Moving to WTF

I fully appreciate how hard it is for anyone to admit that DIY is no longer serving them and acquiesce to delegating the task.

I also know that once you’ve learned something, it’s hard to trust that someone else will care as much or do as good of a job.

Solving this dilemma will be a process.  In my experience in working with prospective clients who are trying to make this transition, here’s what seems to help.

  • Appreciate the work you’ve done. Rarely have I seen a client do a really horrible terrible bad job with their finances.  Most of the time, they’ve done a really good job.  Give yourself a pat on the back.  Finding someone else to do the work does not mean you have failed. Not even close.
  • DIY finding the right person. If you can look at finding someone to do the work you no longer want to do full-time, become an expert in finding the right person.  That is a DIY project, too.  Use the same energy and enthusiasm with any DIY project in finding this person.  Concede that it might not go well, that it will take time, that you might have to fire someone and start over.  Accept the process.
  • Trust your gut. What I know about successful DIY’rs is that they have strong internal guidance systems that tell them what does and what does not feel right.  Trust it.  Trust that you will find the right person.
  • Take your time. Anyone trying to rush the process is not your person.  You need someone who “gets” you, who listens, and who can mirror back the services that you need.
  • Remain engaged. Somehow clients think that once they find the right financial planner that their job is done.    You will need to be an active participant in your planning.  What you’ve delegated is the exhausting, boring, tedious tasks that you don’t want to do.  You are going to stay in the big picture and ultimately make all the decisions. It’s still your money and your life.
  • Keeping asking where’s the Way to Freedom. This is the WTF part.  Remember that you are trading in DIY for freedom.  More time to do the things in your life that you actually really enjoy, grateful to have someone else keeping an eye on a ball that is better at it and is metaphorically excited to take two days to drain a swim spa.
  • Watch the pennies. Look, you didn’t want to hire someone because it costs you money.  Financial planners often save their clients money in places they didn’t realize – in taxes, in insurance premiums, in smarter investments.  Then there are the intangibles – they often save clients tons of time, reduce stress, and improve partnership/marital bliss.  Don’t just focus on what you paid.  Focus on what you got in return.  At the end the analysis is:  Is my life better with this person?  If so, keep going.

I would love to tell you that my friend hired that mythical sexy pool boy that comes by weekly, shows up half-naked and provides a lustful distraction for 10 minutes, but sadly we have different tastes in cute pool people and the right person hasn’t shown up.  But I have faith that the right one will.

If you want to explore hiring a financial planner, I have a slow onboarding process that allows prospective clients to put their big toe in the water of working with me and decide if they like it.  Please reach out.

Lanning Financial Inc. is a registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

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