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The Wooden Nickel:  Plumbing 101

The Wooden Nickel: Plumbing 101

August 02, 2023

A lot of financial professionals think very highly of themselves.  Many of us believe that we have superior knowledge and that we are paid to impart this knowledge to grateful clients.  We sometimes act as if we are special curators of information that regular people can barely grasp.

It’s not true.  We are important to our clients, and many clients are grateful for the knowledge we impart to them.  However, we are more like plumbers than oracles.  The knowledge we impart is readily available to all.  The reasons you might employ a plumber are the same reasons you would employ a financial advisor, so the comparison is pretty apt.

Why?  I’ll tell you!


You can do both plumbing and financial planning on your own.

Financial advisors and plumbers are not doctors or lawyers.  You should not practice law or medicine on your own.  But if you have a problem with a sink?  You can watch a video, go to the hardware store, buy tools and materials, and take all Saturday to fix it.  (Surely you’ll back to the hardware store to get a washer or nut you forgot, try again, and then on Sunday fix the leak you didn’t fix on Saturday).  You’ll learn a lot about how to fix a sink, something you may do once or twice more in your life. 

…Or you can hire a plumber.  If you do it yourself, you’ll save a lot of money and use up a lot of your free time.  If you hire a plumber, you can go do something else you enjoy.

Ditto for your finances.  You can watch Suzie Orman or Dave Ramsey, read a book on finances, tinker with your investments, try to build a financial plan, second-guess yourself, read more books, ask friends, buy some investments, and wonder if you got it right.  You’ll save a some money if you go this route. 

…Or you can hire someone like me.  Hiring a financial advisor might help you understand that you don’t want to do it.  You’ll get your questions answered and your advisor will hold you to the goals you set for yourself.


Plumbing and financial planning are very important.

A working toilet seems inconsequential in your life until you don’t have one.  Water is life; if you don’t have water then you don’t have a livable house.  Plumbing is boring, repetitive, and straightforward.  No need to get emotional about plumbing.  It is also critical to be working all the time, regardless of whatever else is going on in your life.

Your financial plan is similar.  A financial plan should not be exciting, based on guesswork or what some chucklehead is spouting on TV.  Financial planning, like plumbing, is not meant to be fun.  It’s boring, repetitive, and straightforward.  But it is critical to get it right and to update it when it isn’t


A great, trustworthy plumber is hard to find.

If you have a plumbing problem but you don’t know a plumber, you probably will first check with friends and family to get the name of a good one.  They have used this person before, and they were obviously happy with the outcome.  Plumbers you find from ads or websites could be great or not, but you must vet them first. That takes time and effort, and sometimes you are disappointed.

Same with us. I tell people that they should not trust a financial advisor because they saw an ad or that person won some award.  Instead, I recommend they should talk to people who trust me and find out what those folks say about me.  Check me out online, see what I post and what information I give to you for free.  Ads aren’t bad to bring awareness, but trust is earned over time.


Good plumbing is done before it is truly needed.

Ever get ready to host a party or houseguests and have something break at the last minute, usually over a holiday?  You then become desperate to call ANYBODY to fix your broken pipe or toilet.  It’s at that time that you might make a hasty decision or purchase.  It’s better to have a plumber do things correctly BEFORE the strain on the system, so that the toilet is ready when called upon.  Fixing small problems before there are big tests on the system is critical.

Ditto for financial planning. A financial plan is built with the tough times in mind.  We know there will be a recession or market downturn in the future…we just don’t know when.  Tomorrow?  Five years from now?  If you have a financial plan built on the idea that you know the plan will be under stress at some point, you will prepare for that stress.  You’ll be fortified with the confidence that you can weather the economic storm, whether it be internal (job loss, home repair) or external (inflation, recession).  You prepare for the storm before it starts, not in the middle of it. 


A good plumber will explain things to you.

I know that this should be obvious, but I don’t completely understand how a regular toilet works.  I see the machinery back there, with the floaty thing and the tank filling up, but I don’t entirely understand why all the water just doesn’t drain out of the bowl. 

I’m not an idiot, but I don’t deal with plumbing every day.  A good plumber will explain things like this to me in a way that’s easy to grasp.  That’s important for trust.  If I can generally understand what’s going on, then I will know I’m getting value for the work.

Similarly, our clients don’t 100% understand everything about investing and planning, but it’s incumbent upon us to explain to them what is going on in a way that makes sense.  Our clients are perfectly capable of understanding the big picture, but they have lots of other things on their minds.  They need to know that the plan makes sense for their situation, or they will not follow through to do the hard work of saving.  Our job is a lot of education about the world of money and about how the plan will work to help achieve their goals.



So there you go; neither plumbers nor financial planners are gurus on a mountain dispensing mysterious wisdom.  We are skilled at certain specific things to help get important jobs done for busy people.  Some folks like to do these tasks themselves, and I tell them if they like to do it, they should.  I cut my own grass.  I like to paint rooms.  I don’t like plumbing.  Many of us need plumbers and financial planners. 

Now will somebody please re-explain the toilet to me again?